Correction appended: Oct. 29, 2013
You thought Somali pirates got dealt a bad hand by being blasted with Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I Did It Again”? Here are five other songs that have been used to torture people. (Royalties, anyone?)
1. “I Love You” by Barney the Dinosaur
There is no official data on how many American parents have already lost their minds owing to an overdose of this cuddly monster, but American interrogators would surely know the figures, since “I Love You” is cited as one of the most “overused” songs in their arsenal. A U.S. operative told Newsweek in 2003 that he was forced to listen to the song for 45 minutes during training. “I never want to go through that again,” he laconically stated.
2. “Panama” by Van Halen
International law prevented a Navy SEAL team from hunting down Manuel Noriega in December 1989, after the Panamanian dictator took refuge in the Vatican embassy. However, it didn’t prevent the Americans from blasting the papal emissaries with some good old rock ’n’ roll. After several days of being blasted by Van Halen, the Clash and The Howard Stern Show at deafening levels, representatives of the Holy See eventually handed over Noriega.
3. “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem
It is hard to fathom the horror of hearing Em’s nasal voice declaring “May I have your attention please?” for a hundredth time straight, but that was Benyam Mohammad’s experience while detained at a secret U.S. prison in Kabul. He told Human Rights Watch that interrogators played Eminem and Dr. Dre continuously for 20 days, while depriving them of food and water. “Plenty lost their minds,” he said. “I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.”
4. “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow
Road spikes and boom gates did nothing to deter teenage hoodlums from congregating along the seaside promenade in the Sydney suburb of Brighton Le Sands, where they would abuse residents and generally cause mayhem. Then shop owner and city-council member Gary Green came up with a plan: pink lights and Barry Manilow. “Pink light … makes the skin look blotchy and shows up spots,” Green told the Australian media outlet ABC. “I don’t know why but Barry Manilow popped into my head … Maybe it’s because Brighton is the Copacabana of south Sydney?” The pubescent nuisance was driven away. What happened to the sanity of other Brighton residents’ is, however, unknown.
5. “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen
Detainees at Guantánamo have said that the Springsteen hit has been played for years on end as a wake-up call at the compound — a weird choice, one would think, considering the song’s highly U.S.-critical lyrics. The same goes for Rage Against the Machine’s anti-American banger “Killing in the Name Of,” which has also reportedly been played at Gitmo. The band’s guitarist Tom Morello is one of many musicians who have endorsed a demand that the government disclose the titles of all songs used as a method of punishment and who have protested such use.
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the shop owner and city-council member. He is Gary Green, not Martin Corben.