The Animal Whose Ear It Is


A common origin story for the American military’s use of music as torture begins like this: In December 1989, Operation Just Cause, an invention of President George H.W. Bush, sought to arrest Manuel Noriega, who was enclosed in the Papal Nunciatatura in Panama. Noriega despised rock music. For him, the English lyrics were meaningless sounds, a ‘roaring, mind-bending din’, smashing against his head.1 For eleven days and eleven nights, classic rock, hard rock, and heavy metal sounded on loudspeakers, aiming to disrupt Noriega’s communication with the outside world, as well as his psychological stability and ease…