I was thinking about recent discussions on Savage Minds, from Laura’s posts on anthropology and torture, to the petition posted by Oneman when I heard this story on NPR’s On the Media. It discusses how music is being used in interrogations at Guantanamo.
The piece is relevant to Laura’s posts in that the use of music is based on the Army’s own cultural theories about Muslims:
the music that was picked was picked partially because it was aggressive and loud, and it was also meant to be insulting to a Muslim. A lot of very devout Muslims don’t believe they, you know, are allowed to listen to music at all, let alone sort of Western music.
The broadcast, together with a followup piece, also touched on how musicians have reacted to the use of their music in interrogations. This includes efforts to sue the US Government for royalty payments as a kind of protest. The different attitudes of the two bands discussed by David Peisner is interesting. The bassist for Drowning Pool said:
kids in America pay to listen to music. You know, if the worst thing that happens to these guys who are detained that, you know, that they get blasted with loud music for a few hours, I don’t see what the harm is, especially if we might be able to prevent a future terrorist attack.
While the members of Rage Against the Machine “sent letters to the State Department and the Armed Forces to try and stop this from happening.”
I wonder how current debates on this blog would be recast if discussed in terms of music. Would signing a petition against the use of music in interrogation somehow restrict the artistic freedom of musicians? Would failure to sign such a petition meant that artists whose work was used by the military were somehow complicit? Is the really interesting anthropological question the theory of culture in which loud music is considered fun for American youth but torture for Muslims? These are complex issues and I thought it might be interesting to look at them from another angle.