Torture playlist sounds a belated note of sanity

Yesterday I posted an article on the Guardian Arts Blog directing its readers to a “playlist” assembled by the left-wing magazine Mother Jones. I had hoped to provoke a conversation examining the contents of a very grim chart, uncovered by the investigative journalist Justine Sharrock, who had been painstakingly assembled from a collection of “a leaked interrogation log, news reports, and the accounts of soldiers and detainees”.

What I instigated, instead, was some kind of free-for-all where dozens of readers began nominating songs for alternative lists. I was surprised and a little bit shocked by their reaction. It wasn’t as if there nothing to mull over on the original list. As Sharrock says, “music has been used in American military prisons and on bases to induce sleep deprivation, prolong capture shock, disorient detainees during interrogations—and also drown out screams.” The contents of “playlist” revealed, to me at least, a lot the attitude and mores of the US military interrogators.

As you might expect, the contents of the “chart” makes for ghoulish listening. Eminem’s White America sits alongside Deicide’s Fuck Your God, patriotic songs, like Don McLean’s American Pie  and Born in the USA are twisted beyond their original meanings; children’s ditties sit grimly next to heavy metal anthems. Most bizarre of all is the entry of Raspberry Beret by Prince (although one suspects that it must be a song of choice for “red cap” regiments) . All of which, I saw, fit for intelligent and in-depth comment.

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