Protesting Use of Music in Torture: Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, REM, Pearl Jam and Others


Musicians, including R.E.M and Pearl Jam, launched a formal protest of the use of music used in conjunction with torture that took place at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities. And they’ve announced they are supporting an effort seeking the declassification of all secret government records pertaining to how music was utilized as an interrogation device.

Both Tom Morello and Trent Reznor–the music of Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails were used as part the torture of inmates–are involved in the campaign.  Says Morello in a statement:

Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured – from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts – playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the ear drums.

Morello, Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist, adds:

Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine.  The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me – we need to end torture and close Guantanamo now.

Also on board united in finding out about the abuse: Jackson Browne, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Steve Earle, the Entrance Band, Joe Henry, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., Rise Against, and The Roots. The campaign was organized by long time music fan and political organizer Trevor FitzGibbon.

These musicians  support the call under FOIA to release still-secret documentation from CIA, U.S. Special Operations Command, and FBI, among other agencies, pertaining to how the music was chosen and the specific role it played in interrogations of detainees at the base and other detention facilities. On Thursday morning the FOIA requests and documentation will be available at

The coalition of  rock musicians have  joined the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo which includes retired generals retired Generals Robert Gard, John Johns and former member of Congress Tom Andrews.

When music was deployed, it was constant, 24 hrs a day, thumping, excruciating  mostly Western rap or heavy metal played all over the prison—from cells to the shower room and ear splitting volume. This was done, to humiliate, terrify, punish, disorient, and deprive detainees of sleep, in violation of international law.

A 2004 Defense Department report on abuses at the military base in Cuba stated that the futility technique included the playing of Metallica, Britney Spears and rap music.

An investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee cited one detainee who was subjected to hours of the Drowning Pool’s “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.”

Other detainees have been quoted as saying they were blasted with hours of the music of Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and the Bee Gees played a loud volumes, as a sleep deprivation technique.

R.E.M. said in a statement:

We signed onto the campaign in complete support of President Obama and the military leaders who have called for an end to torture and to close Guantanamo. As long as Guantanamo stays open, America’s legacy around the world will continue to be the torture that went on there.  We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice – to now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific.  It’s anti-American, period.

The Roots said:

When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantanamo, shackling and beating people - we were angry.  Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure, we wouldn’t allow him to use it to torture other human beings.  Congress needs to shut Guantanamo down.

Tim McIlrath, lead singer of Rise Against said

Guantanamo Bay has been synonymous with torture and inhumanity since its inception.  Coupled with its complete ineffectiveness, the shameful legacy it will leave behind in American history is something Americans will have to deal with forever. Let us be the generation that erases this symbol of injustice and fear-mongering from the map so that we can begin to learn from our mistakes. has letter which can be sent to members of Congress.

20 Responses to "Protesting Use of Music in Torture: Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, REM, Pearl Jam and Others"
Millineryman | Wednesday October 21, 2009 09:04 pm 1

Good for them, now on to sign the petition.

Millineryman | Wednesday October 21, 2009 09:12 pm 2

FYI Lisa, at the link above for I found a device to send a letter to my Congressmand and my Senators, not a petition.

jcgrim | Thursday October 22, 2009 06:17 am 3

Excellent. Thank-you.

WarOnWarOff | Thursday October 22, 2009 06:19 am 4

Close Gitmo and *all* of these black holes, including Bagram.

JohnnyTable70 | Thursday October 22, 2009 07:00 am 5

How Colin Powell-esque of Reznor, Morello, Stipe, etc. to wait years before condemning the use of music as a torture device. It’s not like they can claim ignorance over the way music was used at Gitmo or that this was somehow a new tactic.

Twenty years ago this Christmas, when GHW Bush invaded Panama to kidnap and muzzle his drug mule Manuel Noriega, the US Army used loud rock music when Noriega was seeking refuge in a church (I believe it was a facility run by the Vatican, but that is not important here).

The use of music as a torture device was actually satirized by South Park (I don’t know the date the episode aired but it predates the Iraq war) when everyone is at an eclipse party at Mr. Mackey’s house and ATF agents try to torture everyone by blaring Cher.

dakine01 | Thursday October 22, 2009 07:02 am 6

This is probably a stupid question but would the gov’t have to pay royalties to the artists that are being used to abuse?

Seems like some folks could fund some pretty good charities from making the gov’t pay for the use of the music.

Or force them to desist in the use whatsoever, regardless of willingness to pay.

bonkers | Thursday October 22, 2009 07:08 am 7

OT sorta:

For anyone questioning whether “more and better Democrats” efforts like Blue America are worth it, here’s your answer:!-EPIC-WIN!!

Grayson and Franken questioning wingnuts has become my favorite spectator sport. A Congress with many more people like this in it would solve many problems such as Guantanamo.

Adie | Thursday October 22, 2009 07:10 am 8
In response to dakine01 @ 6

It’s not a stupid question. Next we’ll be treated to a long diatribe wailing over “What Is Art?!/That’s not art!” Let’s not let the humbugs of the world get away with it. Close Gitmo. Open the door of disclosure. What happened there and elsewhere? How do we ensure it never happens again?!

RevBev | Thursday October 22, 2009 07:14 am 9
In response to dakine01 @ 6

My thoughts exactly (so, Not stupid;)) And I love the idea of a civil case for royalities, litigation, and lots of discovery.

twolf1 | Thursday October 22, 2009 07:24 am 10

JohnEmerson | Thursday October 22, 2009 07:25 am 11

Pro-torture musicians like Toby Keith are really in a bind now. I’d confess to pretty much anything after a few dozen reps of “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue”. But is that how Toby wants people to think of his music?

Lisa Derrick | Thursday October 22, 2009 08:54 am 12
In response to JohnEmerson @ 11

I wonder how pro-torture musicians would feel…And Dakine, if there is no ASCAP or BMI licensing fee paid at Gitmo, I do believe thee is a violation of licensing and the msuicians would be entitled to royalties, unless the govt claimed imminent domain, and that also rises some issues too.

Synoia | Thursday October 22, 2009 09:12 am 13

As any parent of teenages knows, pop music is always torture. /s

cherokeeamerican | Thursday October 22, 2009 09:15 am 14

An Evangelical “Christian’s” Night-time Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep
Pray to God my soul to keep
I voted for Bush the Texacutioner
Who put more people to death than an executioner

The highest execution rate of any governor in history
How he was elected president is still a mystery
The biggest serial killer since Timothy McVeigh,
mocks Karla’s pleas for clemency during her final days

I hold stoutly to my world view
Despite being contradicted by what is proven true
I believe the earth to be only 4000 years old
“Intelligent” design is the view I hold

Even though evolution explains how life changed and adapted
verified by countless experiments not retracted
the scientific facts should be stricken as inadmissible
teaching creationism to our children is permissible

Take some parts literally, others out of place
And I can use the Bible to judge the whole human race
Pat Robertson said 9/11 was a punishment from God
That innocents died instead of him he didn’t find odd

For lifestyles of feminism, liberalism, and being gay
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said over 3,000 people died that day
That God will punish them for their remark
Pride has hidden from a judgmental heart

“After the last tree standing is felled”
“Christ will come back” I heard James Watt tell
you see evangelicals don’t care about generations
because they won’t have to be here to face elimination

“compassionate” conservatives fantasize about journeying through the air
As Left Behind: The Series plays out below everywhere
While pollution they caused brings about ecological collapse
It doesn’t bother them that people will die perhaps

by Cherokee American

RootieKazootie | Thursday October 22, 2009 09:44 am 15

Any truth to the rumor that John Tesh, Barry Manilow and Michael Bolton are trying to block the release of the songs/artists used for torture?

frederic | Thursday October 22, 2009 10:25 am 16

Pearl Jam is torture… terrible music

Inkberries | Thursday October 22, 2009 10:59 am 17

Good for them!

tydance | Thursday October 22, 2009 11:06 am 18
In response to JohnEmerson @ 11

I’m sorry, but if you consider “Courtesy of the Red White & Blue” torture, please move to a different country.

fatster | Thursday October 22, 2009 09:22 pm 19
In response to dakine01 @ 6

Oh, you nailed it!

NaderPaulKucinichGravel | Saturday October 24, 2009 12:37 am 20

There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution

Our so-called leaders speak
With words they try to jail you
They subjugate the meek
But it’s the rhetoric of failure

Props: Tom, Trent, Marilyn, Michael, Eddie, and David.

Ventura Sheehan Perot Paul Nader McKinney
Kucinich Kaptur Grayson Gravel
Gonzalez Clemente Choate
Carter Baldwin Anderson

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