December 13, 2008

If You're Going to Torture, Do It Right

Justin Katz

Mark Patinkin humorously suggests that interrogators using rock/pop audio to soften up their subjects could be more effective if they'd change the soundtrack:

The Associated Press reported this week that the military has been attempting to break down terrorist detainees by blasting music into their cells.

This has created controversy, with some musicians objecting to their work being used to apply pressure. Human rights activists have also protested, saying the practice should be out of bounds.

I don't disagree. I find it a bit much that prisoners are subjected to this for months at a time.

Today, I would like to help with a compromise.

The reason I call the military amateurs is they are using the wrong music.

This sort of thing is actually a hell-week torture in some fraternities: make the pledges carry around a radio playing the same annoying song over and over again. I can tell you from experience that, after a while, the effect just fades away; a painfully repetitive playlist might actually enhance the effect. Recalling my own college days, I'd suggest that the Chipmunks' "Christmas Time Is Here" be included on the list. Even the brainless lead-in is enough to inspire shivers, but the saccharine end result of a commercialized Christian holiday would surely pinch the insecurities of a captive Islamist.

The issue does make me wonder, though, whether foreign enemies — whether state supported or terrorist — have any programs to inure soldiers and spies to the worst of American metal and cheesepop. A bit of creativity and the right attitude, and a master could turn the weapon around on his captors.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's currently a script in development, somewhere in caverns of American comedy writing, that grants the protagonist an indefatigable (and karaoke-derived) power to enjoy every torture method known to man. After a light day of embarrassments and beatings, he would recline in his cell and belt out "I Think I Love You." As the camera turns toward the moon above the prison, the voice of the head guard would pierce the night: "Would you just shut up?!"

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Barry Manilow.
But that was too easy.
Personally, if I were interrogating Taliban, nothing would break these jackals down like a good run of "South Park" and "Family Guy." Even the American cultural Taliban could find things to appreciate about "South Park" if they look closer (starting with Cartman's voice).

Posted by: rhody at December 13, 2008 11:40 PM

I love South Park and especially Family Guy. I think that they should play Barbra Streisand 24/7! Memories...

Posted by: Will at December 17, 2008 12:40 AM
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