Robert Knight: Play It Again, Uncle Sam!


ACRU Staff


October 25, 2009

This column originally appeared on on October 23, 2009.

At last.

For years, I thought I had no redress for hours of pain and excruciating discomfort that occurred in numerous settings.

From the aisles of Safeway to malls, drug stores, gas stations, restaurants, department stores and even in doctors’ offices, I and countless others have endured what no one should.

I’m ready to file the largest class action suit in American history on behalf of all those who have been assaulted by repetitive, mediocre and often scatological rock and rap music in public places.

Unexpected help came this week from a group of rock musicians who are shocked, shocked, that their art might have been used to torture terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, which they are demanding be closed immediately. The National Security Archive at George Washington University sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to federal agencies including the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense asking what, if any, music was used to persecute hapless prisoners.

Thomas Blanton, executive director of the archive, said: “At Guantanamo, the U.S. government turned a jukebox into an instrument of torture.” Heck, anyone with a quarter in a small eatery can do the same thing.

I’m going to make the centerpiece of my suit the charges raised by Jayne Huckerby, research director at New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.

Ms. Huckerby, who studies the use of music in interrogations, said the CIA employed loud music to “humiliate, terrify, punish, disorient and deprive detainees of sleep, in violation of international law.” Did you hear that, apartment dwellers, parents of teenagers, hapless neighbors and dorm residents who needed sleep? You qualify as plaintiffs!

Rage Against the Machine and Eminem were apparently among the bands chosen for their ability to inflict pain. Rage is listed in the coalition along with Metallica, Jackson Browne, Billy Bragg, REM, Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. Oddly, Sesame Street is also mentioned as a possible torture choice, which will surprise all but parents who have been snowbound at times for weeks on end with toddlers. Britney Spears and the Bee Gees also may have been employed as torture agents, but it’s not clear why the tormentors didn’t just stick with tried and true stuff like AC/DC.

Rage guitarist Tom Morello, who is part of the campaign, said, “The fact that music I helped create was used as a tactic against humanity sickens me. We need to end torture [Yes! Yes!] and close Guantanamo now” [oh].

It’s not just the screeching, clawing, disembodied instrumentals that exquisitely assault the eardrums. It’s also the drivel that passes for lyrics.

Here’s a sample from Rage’s hit “Bulls on Parade,” which you can get as a ringtone on your cell phone:

“Either drop the hits like de la O or get the f— off the commode With the sure shot, sure to make the bodies drop Drop an don’t copy yo, don’t call this a co-opt Terror rains drenchin’, quenchin’ the thirst of the power dons That five sided fist-a-gon The rotten sore on the face of mother earth gets bigger….”

I’d say that not only the Guantanamo detainees but all of us who have been forced by happenstance to listen to this kind of stuff have a strong case.

Also mentioned was “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen, who has gotten away for years with his “Born in the USA” hit, which hurls a stink bomb at his country while sounding like a patriotic anthem. Here’s how it begins:

“Born down in a dead man’s town The first kick I took was when I hit the ground You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much ‘Til you spend half your life just covering up

[chorus:] Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A.

I got in a little hometown jam And so they put a rifle in my hands Sent me off to Vietnam To go and kill the yellow man”

Now if that doesn’t make you proud to be an American, or talking like a canary if you’re a detainee, you’re NOT LISTENING AND WE’LL HAVE TO TURN UP THE VOLUME!

I think we’ll win this suit.



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