In his frenzied attempts at keeping a gang of dogged Somali pirates from attacking his ship in Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks was missing one apparently crucial weapon: a Britney Spears CD.
According to merchant navy officer Rachel Owens, the “Work Bitch” singer’s oeuvre worked expertly (bitch) at keeping Somali pirates at bay while she was on duty on a supertanker off the east coast of Africa. “Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most,” Owens said.
Most reliable: “Oops!...I Did it Again” and “…Baby One More Time.”
“It’s so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns,” Owens said. “As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.”
As if there weren’t enough reasons to be wary of these Somali bandits, they clearly have horrible taste in music. How dare they insult our High Priestess of Perfection, Saint Spears? To quote a wise, prolific woman: “It’s Britney, bitch.”
Alas, this isn’t just a crackpot theory held by one Ms. Rachel Owens. Steven Jones, of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, confirms that the strategy works like musical cannonballs, as the Somalis loathe Western culture. “Pirates will go to any lengths to avoid or try to overcome the music,” he says. “I’d imagine using Justin Bieber would be against the Geneva Convention.” Heh.
But let’s not grab the hair shaver yet, Brit. As it turns out, Spears is in the company of a hallowed roster of respected artists who have had their music appropriated as weapons of torture.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” was at one point on the playlist of songs used at Guantanamo, with its aggressive patriotism intended to get prisoners to crack. In New Zealand, Barry Manilow records were blasted throughout a local mall to drive away loitering punks. Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet used the music of Beatle George Harrison and Spanish icon Julio Iglesias to “inflict psychological and physical damage” on prisoners.
The use of hard rock and metal music by the likes of Nine Inch Nails, AC/DC, and Rage Against the Machine as auditory assault on Guantanamo prisoners became so common after being authorized in 2003 “to create fear, disorient…and prolong capture shock” that several members of those groups launched a campaign in 2008 to stop having their music played for detainees.
After songs from Sesame Street and the “I Love You” theme from Barney and Friends were found to be aurally insufferable when played repeatedly at loud volumes, the children’s ditties also made their way into the rotation alongside the decidedly edgier fare. Brought to you by the letters "WTF," amirite?
Among other artists whose songs have been played to make prisoners uncomfortable: Eminem, Dr. Dre, Queen, Nancy Sinatra, and Spears’s pop compatriot, Christina Aguilera, whose “Dirrty” was used during interrogations of a suspected Sept. 11 hijacker.
Not every artist whose music has been used at Guantanamo is necessarily annoyed by it. “People assume we should be offended that somebody in the military thinks our song is annoying enough that played over and over it can psychologically break someone down,” Stevie Benton of the group Drowning Pool, which recorded interrogation favorite “Bodies,” said. “I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attach or something like that.”
With that in mind, rather than mock Spears over the fact that her music was considered so unpleasant to a particular group of people that it was actually used as a weapon against them, we say congratulations to her. Because the takeaway from this news, as we see it, is that Britney Spears has the power to save Tom Hanks. God bless her for that.