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Popular Songs That Have Been Used To Torture Prisoners

Jess Hardiman

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Popular Songs That Have Been Used To Torture Prisoners

While music tastes will vary from person to person, there are a few songs out there that are pretty much universally detested - like anything by James Blunt, some might argue, or THAT song that launched Crazy Frog into our lives against our will.

But there are even a number of tracks deemed so painful to listen to that they are reportedly widely used in a torture setting, from pop and heavy metal right through to... theme tunes from kids’ TV shows. 

As outlined by the New Yorker a few years ago, the concept of music accompanying war is nothing new, dating right back to when ‘trumpets sounded at the walls of Jericho’ in the Bible. 

But the outlet explains how, in recent decades, it’s been ‘weaponised as never before’ - with detainees at Guantanamo, for example, ‘stripped to their underwear, shackled to chairs, and blinded by strobe lights as heavy metal, rap, and children’s tunes assaulted their ears’. 

Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay. Credit: Alamy
Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay. Credit: Alamy

According to the Guardian, songs reportedly used by the US military in detainment camps include material by ‘Metallica, AC/DC, Drowning Pool and Deicide, hip-hop superstar Eminem, Bruce Springsteen, British singer-songwriter David Gray and the makers of children's TV favourite Barney the Dinosaur’ - the latter of which is apparently the ‘most overused torture song’, with the outlet explaining it is an example of ‘futility music’, which is ‘designed to convince the prisoner of the futility of maintaining his position’. 

Investigative news organisation Mother Jones even compiled a ‘Torture Playlist’ to list out some of the specific tracks used in ‘American Military prisons’ to ‘induce sleep deprivation, “prolong capture shock,” disorient detainees during interrogations – and also drown out screams’. 

Based on ‘a leaked interrogation log, news reports, and the accounts of soldiers and detainees’, the selection included everything from Eminem to Christina Aguilera. 


The ‘songs that guards and interrogators chose’ were: ‘F*** Your God’ by Deicide; ‘Die MF Die’ and ‘Take Your Best Shot’ by Dope; ‘White America’ and ‘Kim’ by Eminem; the theme song from Barney & Friends; ‘Bodies’ by Drowning Pool; ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica’; the commercial jingle for Meow Mix cat food; a chapter from the Feel This Audiobook, as read aloud by Janeane Garofalo and Ben Stiller; the theme song from Sesame Street; ‘Babylon’ by David Gray; ‘Shoot To Thrill’ and ‘Hell’s Bells’ by AC/DC; ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by Bee Gees; ‘All Eyez On Me’ by Tupac; ‘Dirrty’ by Christina Aguilera; ‘America’ by Neil Diamond; unspecified songs by Rage Against The Machine; ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean; ‘Click Click Boom’ by Saliva; ‘Cold’ by Matchbox Twenty; ‘Swan Dive’ by (hed)pe; and ‘Raspberry Beret’ by Prince. 

Then there's Bruce Springsteen's 'Born In The USA', which was apparently what former US Army translator Shaker Aamer was subjected to on loop while in Guantanamo Bay for 14 years.


He told NBC News how guards would play rock music into inmates' cells as prayer time approached, with the Springsteen hit 'among the regular choices'.

Aamer said: "Guantanamo is built on how to destroy a human being totally, how to damage him mentally, physically, spiritually."

He added: "Their goal is to scare you, to make you submit, make you understand that if you refuse to comply with the orders it means you are going to get this punishment all the time."

We recently reported how the CIA also used to play a Westlife song at full volume on repeat during interrogations to try and ‘psychologically destroy’ a man. 


The American Civil Liberties Union published a report titled Out of the Darkness in 2015, which detailed a torture programme the CIA used while interrogating Suleiman Abdullah in Afghanistan. 

The report said a track called 'My Love', from the band’s Coast to Coast album, was played at full blast for hours on end.  


The report explained: “The CIA used the music of an Irish boyband called Westlife to torture Suleiman Abdullah in Afghanistan. 

"His interrogators would intersperse a syrupy song called 'My Love' with heavy metal, played on repeat at ear-splitting volume. 

"They told Suleiman, a newly-wed fisherman, that they were playing the love song especially for him." 

The report claimed Suleiman was subjected to techniques that had been specially designed to ‘psychologically destroy’ him.  

The report went on: “The music pounded constantly as part of a scheme to assault prisoners' senses. 

"It stopped only when a CD skipped or needed changing. When that happened, prisoners would call to one another in a desperate attempt to find out who was being held alongside them." 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Music, World News

Jess Hardiman
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