'Sesame Street' Songwriters Not Happy That Their Music is a Torture Device


It was recently found that songs from the popular children’s television show, Sesame Street, are used to torture prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Specifically, it was found that Sesame Street music has been used since 2003 to torture prisoners. The news has alerted some to the torturing practices which are done by U.S. forces. An article in Business Insider reported that a former detainee at Bagram and Gitmo told Al Jazeera that the children’s music was played very loudly and it was “probably some of the worst torture ever.” Waterboarding, previously looked down upon for its’ controversial manner, has led the U.S. Government to resort to other means of torture which would allow for a similar (if not harsher) approach. For some, it may be shocking that the music we grew up with is being used as a torture device, though the songwriters must be even more disturbed.

Songwriters like Christopher Cerf, who composed much of the music for Sesame Street with the intention that it would be used for educational purposes, found it absurd that his music was being used in this way. No doubt, for any songwriter or musician discovered that his or her music is being used to coerce prisoners into providing answers, it must be pretty disheartening. Cerf was quoted as saying, “I didn’t really like the idea that I was helping break down prisoners, but it was much worse when I heard later that they were actually using the music to do deep, long-term interrogation to inflict enough pain on prisoners so they could talk.” It was reported by Al Jazeera that the music was used in addition to beatings and shackles placed around the prisoners ankles and wrists. 

It was found in 2009, that 58% of Americans favor waterboarding when it comes to gaining information from airline terrorists. However, a poll taken after the killing of Osama bin Laden found that there was a decreased level of terrorism against the United States by at least 31%. Gaining information from terrorists is not something which should be questioned, what should be questioned is the method in which those answers are obtained. There are some who wonder what using this music shows about torture techniques. To people like this music's songwriters, it must be difficult to understand why this music is so torturous.