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Hang the DJ: Pop culture in psychological warfare


While tackling the issue of psychological warfare is beyond a pop media examiner's ken, taking a look at the uses of pop culture in psy-ops, including music and Howard Stern, fits right in. Yes, Howard Stern.

The role of audio in psy-ops is as old as Tokyo Rose, if not older, but it is back in the news because artists like REM and Pearl Jam have submitted requests through the Freedom of Information act to find out if their songs are being used to overstimulate subjects at military detention centers and in turn, make them more "amenable" to interrogation.

It's been well-reported that bands like AC/DC and Metallica were interrogators' favorites, and the use of the Barney theme caused an uproar with parents, but more surprising was the inclusion of the very benign David Gray. I do feel bad for Matchbox Twenty because poor Rob Thomas was just proclaimed "uncool" by Rolling Stone and now this? Also, aside from the fact that he did write a timeless classic with "American Pie," I feel like including Don McLean might be the universe punishing him for "Leader of the Band."

In an odd twist, during the Waco siege, as troops were blasting Van Halen's "Jump" on loop, Koresh hopped onto the roof and started playing Eddie's riffs on his red stratocaster. The one "I don't feel that bad for the guy" example is General Noriega, who was forced to listen to Howard Stern on loop, though having to endure Robin Quivers pretending to laugh all day might be punishment enough for basic dictator offenses.

Like with any hot-button issue, the dark humor emerges. The Chicago Tribune  invited readers to submit their favorite "Interro-Tunes," and The Captain and Tennille's "Muskrat Love" won. Stevie Wonder's, "My Cherie Amour" appeared on the list, as did Dylan's "Everybody Must get Stoned, which already sounds like it's on a loop.

After trying to resist temptation to get in on the act, I couldn't help myself when I remembered the songs of Chris DeBurgh, specifically, "Don't pay the Ferryman" or "The Lady in Red." And again, while delving into the mechanics of the methods is not in my skill set, I do recall that after playing "If I didn't love you" by Squeeze for nearly a day in my dorm room, a group of girls finally banged on the door and demanded that I hand over the cassette. Apparently, they found it to be torture.


  • Beddy9 5 years ago

    They play this weird re-mix of "She's a Little Runaway" in my spin class, so now whenever I hear it I wince with the pain that is uphill, indoor cycling.