Perspectives: Gitmo’s Greatest Hits
Canadian electro-industrial pioneers Skinny Puppy reportedly sent the United States government an invoice for its use of the group’s songs in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to “musically stun or torture people.” Skinny Puppy isn’t the first group whose music the military has wielded as a weapon. U.S. forces blared Van Halen’s hit “Panama” to provoke Manuel Noriega’s surrender in 1990 and Metallica provided the soundtrack to P.O.W. coercion in Iraq. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In The Name,” two songs highly critical of the American military, have reportedly both been played at Guantanamo Bay, with the Boss’s hit used as the compound’s wake-up call for years. Hollywood commemorated “music torture” in 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty with a scene featuring the song “Pavlov’s Dogs” by New Jersey hardcore band Rorschach.
Human rights concerns aside, this use introduces an intellectual property law issue. A determination of whether holding cells would be considered “public” is needed to assess if the government would owe public performance royalties to the artists whose songs have been used to torture.
And then there is the troubling notion that America needs to import its music torture from Canada. Perhaps misbehaving Canadian singer Justin Bieber could prove his extraordinary ability to the U.S. government and deflect calls for deportation with a live concert series at Camp Delta.