Islamic State get torture tips from watching Teletubbies and Game of Thrones
Two newspapers lead with news of Mohammed Emwazi, although both continue to refer to him as Jihadi John. As Emwazi tells people he is now ‘the murderous loon formerly known as Jihadi John’, the Daily Mail says Emwazi is a victim only of his own free will. No news there. But the Daily Star has something. It says
This suggests that being a jihadi is not a fulltime job. There is considerable downtime. And that means lots of telly. Although Teletubbies and Game of Thrones could be passed off as research for new ways to maim, torture and murder people. (Top Gear is too right-wing.)
Maybe the TV shows are a form of torture? Spooks and goons have used TV music to unhinge minds, so why not the whole shows?
In 2003, we learned that the CIA used music to extract information from internees in Iraq. Rick Hoffman, a veteran of US psychological operations told the BBC that tunes from Sesame Street and Barney The Dinosaur were harnessed to break the will of Iraqi captives. In 1989 American troops surrounded General Noriega’s residence and blasted, among other horrors, the songs of Rick Astley. In 1993 police hit David Koresh’s compound near Waco with Tibetan chants.
These sounds are billed as torture light “futility music”.
Former prisoner Haj Ali said hearing David Gray singing “Babylon… Babylon… Babylon… over and over again. It was so loud I thought my head would burst. It went on for a day and a night.”
Songs can get into your head and stay there.
In Touching the Void, the film based on Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ epically disastrous attempt to ascend Siula Grande (6,344m) in the Cordillera Huayhuash in the Peruvian Andes in 1985, Simpson’s tired mind is assaulted by Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring. He thinks “Bloody hell, I’m going to die to Boney M”:
Psychologists call it an “earworm“. It is a thought that will “arrive without permission and refuse to leave when we tell them to”.
But how can you get them out of your head? Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University has an idea:
“The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge. If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head. Something we can do automatically like driving or walking means you are not using all of your cognitive resource, so there is plenty of space left for that internal jukebox to start playing. Likewise, if you are trying something too hard, then your brain will not be engaged successfully, so that music can come back. You need to find that bit in the middle where there is not much space left in the brain. That will be different for each individual. It is like a Goldilocks effect – it can’t be too easy and it can’t be too hard, it has got to be just right.”
And now on ISTV: