A Terrorist’s Worst Enemies: Morissette, Oberst, and Mick Fleetwood

If the CIA’s going to break the bad guys, they’re going to have to turn up the pain.

In this modern era of Geneva Conventions and Democrat-controlled Congresses, it's never been such a hassle to dole out purposeful torture. Waterboarding? Frowned upon. Weeks of constant interrogation? Discouraged. Stacking naked prisoners in a pyramid? Verboten, ever since a couple of soldiers got too cute with their digital camera. If he still hopes to practice this dark art, the modern sadist had better get creative. That means exploiting the few loopholes still left in international law. One of these is music: It is perfectly legal to inflict mankind's most nauseating melodies and hackneyed lyrics on those who would commit terrorist acts against America. Thus far, the efforts of the U.S. military have been uninspired. A BBC report this summer cited Defense Department documents indicating that interrogators had been subjecting intractable al-Qaida suspects to songs from David Gray, Billy Joel, Barney the Dinosaur, and Sesame Street. That's not torture. That's lazy parenting. This week marks the seventh anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and with Osama bin Laden still at large, the time has come to develop a torture technique that will finally extract his location from prisoners currently detained at Guantánamo Bay or by extraordinary rendition. Over the course of decades, the authors have studied American pop music, dredging from this cultural cesspool the foulest, rankest, and most annoying songs ever recorded. Together, these tunes form America's newest, most potent weapon in the War on Terror. The challenge, of course, was locating research subjects who could approximate fundamentalist Islamic behaviors. That is, paranoia toward other cultures, eagerness to offer opinions combined with hostility toward contrary opinions, as well as a willingness to live in poverty, grow aggressive facial hair, and disregard personal hygiene. Thus, Seattle made an ideal setting. In exchange for giving their informed consent to participate, subjects received free falcon tattoos, $40 drink vouchers to the Comet, and two tickets to Huey Lewis' 9/11 show at Tulalip Amphitheatre (because Huey Lewis is the new Hall & Oates). Following is a list of what proved to be the 10 most torturous tracks, with subject response noted below each: "Ironic," Alanis Morissette Subject laughed and sang along through much of the song's first two spins, explaining that he was being ironic, since in fact he hated the song. After it played on a loop for a half hour, subject, a yoga enthusiast, assumed what he said was a fish pose and fell asleep. Subject woke back up after seven minutes, sweating and screaming about having been trapped in a car with a spastic Canadian woman whose identical braided forms kept multiplying. "Two Princes," Spin Doctors Subject, who was young, bearded, dreadlocked, and dressed raggedly in corduroys, a dark blue neckerchief, and a vintage Stussy T-shirt, appeared at first blush to be a transient. But after the eighth iteration of this 1993 hit, subject informed researchers that his father was a corporate attorney in Chicago and could be convinced to pay a six-figure sum in exchange for subject's release. No further research was needed to prove that the Spin Doctors belong in heavy rotation in Gitmo's interrogation rooms. "I'm Alright," Kenny Loggins Subject's initial response was to cheerfully quote Bill Murray's character from Caddyshack, as this song appears on that film's soundtrack. However, multiple exposures saw subject wincing at the track's nausea-inducing bridge and doo-wop chorus rev-up. Later, subject shaved off his half-beard and confessed to plotting to poison the Red Door's beer. "I'll Be There for You," the Rembrandts Subject responded immediately and with extreme hostility. After hearing the first few notes, he screamed, "You MOTHERFUCKERS!" and lunged at the research team. Subject was tasered, then fitted with a straitjacket for the duration of the study. Much drooling ensued, as well as occasional weeping. "I forgot this song existed," he moaned. Finally, subject slammed his head against padded walls, breaking two vertebrae in his neck. Subject's family has taken legal action against the researchers, as well as NBC and the cast of Friends. (The Rembrandts could not be located for service of legal summons.) "One More Saturday Night," the Grateful Dead While ancillary research suggests most people really love Saturday nights, subject exposed to repeat plays of this song told researchers that a Saturday night with Bob Weir on lead vocals made him wish there would never actually be another Saturday night. In addition, subject acknowledged, in front of his bisexual, punk-rock girlfriend, that he once belonged to a fraternity, did keg stands, and followed Phish during the summer between his junior and senior years in college. "Goodbye Earl," Dixie Chicks Subject, who lately has attempted, with limited success, to make the case to his (even more limited) circle of friends that Charlie Daniels' entire career was a quasi-ironic ruse, hears Natalie Maines' bristling, feminist-gone-too-far vocals on this track and admits to thinking Hillary Clinton is an insufferable bitch, and that he wants to bend Sarah Palin over the hood of a cobalt-blue Camaro. "Tusk," Fleetwood Mac Yes, this song is tribal, and in subject's paradigm, anything tribal is "spiritual" and therefore "cool" (see the otherwise inexplicable popularity of Devendra Banhart). Cool, that is, until "Tusk" is spun for a third time. At that point, subject came to shocking realization that Lindsey Buckingham's solo career relegated him to competing with Kenny Loggins for prime space on movie soundtracks, and that he finally would have to confront the long-term consequences of his own cocaine use. Bright Eyes, 1997–2000 An excerpt from the transcript of subject's remarks: "This sounds like a 14-year-old girl warbling the words of her diary—after she's swallowed a bottle of Tylenol. I wish I were at her deathbed, just so I could suffocate her with a pillow." "Yellow Submarine," the Beatles Subject has long believed that the yellow submarine in this song was intended as a metaphor. But after multiple listens, subject eventually concedes that it's just "a really stupid fucking song," and that his support of Ron Paul's presidential campaign was actually "really fucking stupid" too. "Tainted Love," Soft Cell When experienced at random, subject regards this as one of his favorite "gay songs." When exposed to it repeatedly—including a live performance by a group of weeknight warriors at Suite 410—subject admits to really liking pepperoni pizza, pro football, and swimsuit calendars. mseely@seattleweekly.com

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