Metallica Told the US Government to Stop Using Their Music for Torture

February 14th, 2013

Liberty Mosh Pit

Excluding irregular examples like GG Allin, Demon Hunter, and Diamanda Galas, the vast majority of musicians would likely be deeply offended to find out that their music is being used as a form of torture. The inherent supposition is that torturous music is unpleasant to listen to by nature. Musicians may use abrasive or aggressive sounds in their tunes as a way to challenge listeners, but rarely do they expect the overall outcome to be considered a viable form of torture. To even suggest that a band’s songs could be used that way would likely be interpreted as insulting.

Not surprisingly, government officials ignored this reality, along with the moral issues that go with forcing a band to be complicit with something that its members might not be able to handle, when they chose to use Metallica songs as a way to “soften up” Iraqi detainees prior to the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” an Orwellian euphemism for torture. According to this Esquire interview with the anonymous Navy SEAL who allegedly shot Bin Laden, Metallica found out about the practice and asked that it be stopped. Check out Metallica’s video for One below, and let’s dig further into this issue after the jump.

The Moral Issues: Using Someone’s Music for Torture Without Asking

Musicians take their craft very seriously. Their songs are special and deeply personal to them. Therefore, when their prized creations are used to promote concepts, products, or activities with which they disagree or have a moral conflict, they tend to speak out against it.

Anyone who took the time to read Metallica’s lyrics would have known that they would not want their songs to be used as a form of torture. In a sense, to do so would be clearly disrespectful. Before the government forces a band to be complicit in torture by essentially pirating its music and using it as a form of weapons technology, someone involved should at least take five or ten minutes to review the band’s lyrics.

The Business Ethics Issues: Using Music for DOD Purposes Without Paying a Licensing Fee

Modern society believes that everyone should be paid to work, except musicians. Virtually everyone listens to music, and some people listen to it all day long. Almost no one pays for it anymore, though. This is a problem that ad revenue will eventually solve, but the mentality runs so deep that the government sees no issue in using various bands’ music as weapons technology without either asking or paying. The government pays weapons manufacturers for guns and bombs. It would pay DARPA if it came up with some type of technology that could be used in interrogations. Television and radio stations pay bands when they use songs for commercial purposes.

What kind of imperial hubris leads these officials to think that they can use any band’s song for any military purpose without asking? Obviously, soldiers have the right to blast Pantera in their headphones to get psyched up for battle, but the government crosses a different line when it uses a song as an official tool of war.

Metallica doesn’t want their songs used as a form of torture. I wouldn’t want my music used that way either. It’s insulting to even say that music could be torturous. In fact, lots of people like heavy metal after being exposed to it. The government needs to stop using musicians’ songs for military or commercial purposes without consent.

Also, it should stop torturing people in the first place. This is America, where we’re supposed to be above that sort of thing.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.