Weapons of Social Control

Posted: March 7, 2010 in Classical Music, Culture, Education, Tacky, Torture

The last time I blogged about torture I included a link to a discussion of various technologies authorities are now using against the citizenry. As miserable and reprehensible as such practices are in the U.S., we might just be eclipsed by what’s going on in the United Kingdom. The first paragraph below gives a clear sense of the story told in the article, which is very well written. Please read the whole thing.

In recent years Britain has become the “Willy Wonka” of social control, churning out increasingly creepy, bizarre, and fantastic methods for policing the populace. But our weaponization of classical music — where Mozart, Beethoven, and other greats have been turned into tools of state repression — marks a new low.

While this weapon of social control and others discussed in the article fall short of torture, they undoubtedly represent a culture in retreat. We don’t like our kids (or our poor and homeless), and if we can drive them away and out of sight using, of all things, classical music, then the problem is happily disposed of for those who remain.

As the article suggests, something uniquely British is at work, though the lessons are easily learned by Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders (is it something about the English language or former English colonies?). Specifically, the dystopian prophecies of Orwell, Huxley, Wells, and Burgess are becoming in varying degrees reality. One wonders if authorities aren’t in fact mining those writers’ novels for ideas to implement.

As a lover of classical music, I’m appalled that it is now used as a deterrent. I admit having been less bothered when some few years ago Barry Manilow’s music was played outside stores to drive away loiterers or high-volume rock music was beamed at the Noriega compound, but now my ox is being gored. What ought to be taught in schools as one of the pinnacles of cultural and artistic expression will be associated by youth (later adults) subjected to this treatment with tyranny of the state. Of course, music used as a tool of propaganda is nothing new, nor is apparently its use as a weapon. See here and here for fuller discussion. No doubt we get the culture we deserve for tolerating whatever authorities do in the name of safety and control.

  1. Music as torture seems less troublesome than water-boarding, isolation, physical or psychological pain, to say nothing of the lopping off of hands, feet, etc.
    Personally, yes, Barry Manilow or high volume noise would wrack my nerves but not to the same extent as being punished for telling the truth and rewarded for lying.
    Consider this, Brutus. For all those driven away by classical music, some thanks to exposure may learn to love it. Rich and complicated music requires attention and in my case repeated, focused listening. Lock me in a room and stream in Beethoven and I might learn a deeper appreciation of it. Of course that applies only in the abstract. Stream Beethoven matched with videos of my loved ones suffering deprivation, lies, violence, mutilations, and near drownings and I will probably (should I survive at all) look for a different composer when seeking transcendence.

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