Morale: Weaponizing Bollywood


June 14, 2016: Loud music can be incredibly annoying and sometimes extremely dangerous if if the aggrieved is an Islamic terrorists or a desperate tyrant armed with nuclear weapons. This odd but important phenomenon was reaffirmed recently when it was reported that British commandos in Libya, working with local forces resisting ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) efforts to establish a presence there, suggested that loud Indian movie music be played near ISIL positions. This would annoy the Islamic terrorists and persuade them to either attack (and be killed) or retreat (and allow the Libyan forces to advance). If nothing else it makes the much hated (by most Libyans) ISIL gunmen (most of them foreigners) uncomfortable.

It’s not just ISIL that hates music. Conservative Arab Moslems have a particular distaste for all music and especially “Bollywood” (hit tunes from Indian movies) music. Early Moslems were particularly hostile to Hinduism (for reasons too complex to explain here) but young Moslem men in Arabia and throughout Asia find Bollywood films, especially the many musicals and their memorable melodies, irresistible. The images of pretty young women dancing with handsome young men added to the appeal but all of this stuff was strictly forbidden by Islamic radicals, like those running al Qaeda and ISIL. Worse, when this music is used as a “weapon” some of the young men on the receiving end find they do like it but have to conceal that lest they be accused of apostasy and executed. No one expected Bollywood sound tracks to be weaponized, but commandos are known for coming up with clever solutions. Nevertheless music as a weapon has been around for a long time.

Religion doesn’t have to be involved for pop music to be annoying. In February 2016 South Korea resumed using large loudspeaker systems to play South Korean pop music and uncensored news across the DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) and deep into North Korea. This was done via eleven loudspeaker systems that were installed on the DMZ in 2010 but were not turned on until August 2015. That annoyed the north so much that they made concessions and negotiated a deal to shut the loudspeakers down again a month later. But in 2016 North Korea fought back and in addition to protests used their own loudspeaker system to try and drown out the South Korean music and news. That had limited success because the North Korean equipment was weaker. The northern broadcasts featured praise for North Korean leaders and the superior lifestyle of the north and that made little impression on any South Koreans who heard it. The southern broadcasts could be heard as far as 10 kilometers in the day and over 20 kilometers at night. The southerners turned on their loudspeakers for two t0 six hours a day and at random times.

These broadcasts, using less powerful equipment, had gone on for decades until, by mutual agreement, they were halted in 2004. The North Korea attacks in 2010 led South Korea to install new, more powerful, speaker systems in response. These new speaker systems are more powerful than anything the north has been able to install and the broadcasts, especially at night, had an impact. So much so that North Korea undertook a nationwide propaganda campaign. This effort required people to attend mandatory meetings where local officials lectured them for hours on the dangers of the messages from the loudspeakers. These meetings backfired because many North Koreans had not heard about the South Korean loudspeakers being turned on again or what the news they were broadcasting was. So after the mandatory lectures many more North Koreans sought to find out what the loudspeakers were blasting into the north. Many of the North Korean troops and civilians who heard the music and news broadcasts liked it. North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un himself likes the K-Pop (South Korea pop music) so much that he ordered the creation of two all-girl pop bands and called K-Pop a North Korean invention. No one believes that because all-boy and all-girl pop groups are a specialty in South Korea and have achieved worldwide fame. Say whatever you want, but you can’t stop the music or the news when the loudspeakers come on.

Some Islamic countries, especially those in the Persian Gulf, were so upset with the growing use of blasphemous pop music as a weapon that they have tried to get the UN and Western countries to ban the practice. They have not been able to muster enough support in UN, yet, but they have had some success getting Western nations to go along. Thus in 2006 the U.S. Department of Defense forbade American troops from making music videos by taking their combat videos (often taken with a GoPro camera on their helmet) and adding a pop music sound track and then posting them on the Internet. The Department of Defense order was made so that Arab feelings would not be hurt. These videos showed Islamic terrorists getting killed to accompaniment of rap or heavy metal music. Arab media depicted this as a sign of American barbarism and anti-Arab attitudes.

Yet American troops first discovered this type of “combat video” in Iraq and Afghanistan where Islamic terrorists took video images of attacks on American troops and added a music or spoken audio track. In some cases, the audio was Arab rock and roll, the kind of music that would get wannabe jihadis ("holy warriors") all fired up. U.S. troops had their own video cameras, and were collecting a lot of combat videos. So, copying the enemy practice, they added pop music to the videos and began passing them around. Despite the Department of Defense ban the troops continued to make and distribute these videos but without the usual screens identifying the unit involved, or images that make it possible to easily identify who the troops are. The troops are not terribly concerned about Arab morale, especially after a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan.


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