Torture tracks: Songs that have been weaponized

British prisoner reveals Russians forced him to listen to ABBA 24 hours a day

Stars Insider

28/11/23 | StarsInsider


Did you know that a catchy pop hit or rocking head-banger could actually shatter someone’s sanity? When we think about the diverse uses of music, most people have no clue that some of their favorite songs and artists have been used as psychological warfare.

Most recently, Shaun Pinner, one of the British prisoners captured while fighting in Ukraine, revealed that he was forced by the Russians to listen to the soundtrack of 'Mamma Mia!' 24 hours a day, in addition to being stabbed, subject to electrocutions, and given only stale bread and dirty water to consume. After he was sentenced to death, he was moved to new accommodation where the music torture continued. “The conditions were better but they still played music—and this time it was Believe by Cher,” he told The Sun. Fortunately he was freed after Saudi Arabia brokered a secretive deal between Russia and Ukraine to release 10 foreign detainees, but he said, "The past six months have been the worst days of my life. I never want to listen to an ABBA song again or see a loaf of bread. I just am so lucky to be home.”

Music as torture began in part as a more “palatable” form of torture. But after hearing about the experiences of those who've been subjected to these songs, it’s clear that there’s little worse than having a beloved song break you.

The CIA reportedly commonly used music torture as part of its "enhanced interrogation program" in the early 2000s. The idea was to disorient prisoners, deprive them of sleep, slow and mute their own thoughts, and ultimately break their will so that they would offer information more easily. The method was often combined with stressful physical conditions, cold temperatures, manipulations of light, and prolonged amounts of time.

While many countries have now banned the use of music as torture, and artists have petitioned to remove their songs from playlists of pain, check out this gallery based on a list from Mic to see which tracks have been used as attacks.

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