Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Log 385: Al Jazeera continues to make good documentaries about subjects that seem to be taboo to other networks

English: An Israeli M60 Patton destroyed in th...
English: An Israeli M60 Patton destroyed in the Sinai. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When the cease fire came into effect, Israel h...
When the cease fire came into effect, Israel had lost territory on the east side of the Suez Canal to Egypt – , but gained territory west of the canal and in the Golan Heights – . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Syrian T62 Tank at Yom-Kipur war עברי...
English: Syrian T62 Tank at Yom-Kipur war עברית: טנק סורי נתוש(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Drowning Pool
Drowning Pool, US rock band whose music
 was used in torture in Guantanamo

I don’t know if I am repeating myself, but the fact is, the Arab TV network, Al Jazeera, which can be bought for $3 a month in Canada, produces some of the most stimulating and pointed documentary programmes now available anywhere.
Today I watched a programme called Songs of War, which follows a man who for 40 years has been composing music to help children learn to read and write, for the famous programe Sesame Street.
Christophere Cerf, a mild-mannered middle-aged man, was shocked to learn that some of his songs had been used in Guantanamo Bay to breakdown prisoners so that they were be more amenable to interrogation, used in fact, as torture.
He set out to discover how music, which he had always thought of as a beneficent fore in human life, could have developed this dark side.
He sought out people who had been employed by the U.S.military machine as experts in the use of music as torture, and was told how it had become regular practice to subject prisoners to extremely loud music for hours at a time, to keep them awake and contribute to their sense of isolation as they were bound, shackled and subjected to music so loud and so pervasive that, as one would say, “you can’t hear yourself think.”
This, said one former army interrogator, is the ideal state in which to interrogate anyone. It is not just the music, but its use along with the sense of having been captured, hidden behind face masks, forced to wear gloves, deprived of every sensory experience usually available, that works the magic and strips a man to the bone, as it were.
The object, said one interrogator, is to disover the truth, to ensure that the prisoner will tell the truth, and by subjecting him to conditions that strip him of all his previous sense of huanity, that can, presumably, be achieved. Or at least that is how the military view it all.
Christopher Cerf discovered that the effects of music in its various forms had first been examined at McGill University, and is still being researched at the University of Montreal, one of whose researchers testified in French in the film on the way that the brain handles music.
A young former guard at Guantanamo, who had been so disturbed by what he saw and was involved enforcing, that he quit the army, began to talk publicly asbout his experiences, and was, when Cerf met him, unemployed and homeless, told of how prisoners were kept in one position for hour after hour, forced to sit on cold concrete floors while being bombasrded with music of all sorts, sometimes with two songs at once, creating a dissonance that the human brain finds difficult to deal with.  Later he interviewed a band called Drowning Pool whose music had been used at Guantanamo, but who had been forbidden from speaking about it publicly.
Cerf put himself throught he experience of interrogation in which, although it was only a simulated exercise and could not approach the prisoner’s real sense of isolation and dismay at simply being a prisoner, nevetheless caused him to begin to think like a helpless person, wondering whether, if he were to change his position for example to lie down, whether “they” would come and beat him. “So,” he concluded, “if it made me think like that, one an imagine the impact on a real prisoner.”
Others to whom he talked --- experts employed by universities in most cases --- said how music had been used as an instrument of war almost as long as war has existed. But the military men agreed it had not been used to any great effect until the Korean war, and in Vietnam, where battalions equipped to deliver music as ---- to quote one man, “acoustic artillery”,  had been broadcast back and forth by the contending armies.  In one street protest in Pittsburgh, he discovered that people had experienced something of the intense, painful results of broadcast signals which gave them a taste of what torture by music is like.
This is the sort of anti-estabishment documentary in which Al Jazeera has become expert in the last few years, and others that are being broadcast at the moment include a three-part series  about a war that took place  40 years ago, a war known to the Egyptians as the War in October, and to the Israelis as the Yom Kippur war. This is a war in which Syria and Egypt attacked Israel. It lasted only for three weeks, and was won by Israel, largely, according to what was revealed in the first two episodes, because of mistaken decisions taken by the Egyptian leadership under Sadat. I don’t know whether most other people were as ignorant of the facts as I was, but this series has rescued me from my assumption that the Arab forces were a hopeless sort of rabble unable to withstand the Israeli efficiency. They were, on the contrary, very much in the war with serious intent, and with a good deal of military effectiveness, even though eventually they lost.  A series like this, presented with every asppearane of objectivity and factual precision, is a real contribte to knowledge.
I suggest that anyone interested in keeping track of these documentaries --- not always easy, because Al Jazeera’s advertised schedules sometimes seem out of whack --- could keep tabs on the progrmames Wtness, Al Jazeera World, People and Power, Empire, and even the daily programme Inside Story which gathers experts from across the Middle East (and beyond) to discuss an issue of immediate relevance.  All of these programmes screen excellent shows that are a real contribution to public information.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment