David Blaine and the history of deliberate starvation in Britain

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 18 September 2003

I was reflecting the other night on how unedifying it has been watching the British spoilsport mentality on such high profile display with people taunting the admittedly ridiculous David Blaine.

But I am even more disappointed that the 'disapproval' doesn't stem from what I think are two very strong political objections to the stunt. Firstly, there is the obvious knee-jerk reaction that says that there is something morally questionable about paying someone the alledged television rights figure of £5 million to starve themselves, when the money could be spent on distributing food, aid and medicine to people who are genuinely starving through no choice of their own.

But I also think there is a second reason to find staging this stunt in the UK distasteful. Should things go to plan, David Blaine will step out triumphantly after 44 days of starvation just after the twenty second anniversary of the end of the IRA Maze Prison hunger strikes which claimed the lives of 10 prisoners including Bobby Sands. It is quite incredible to think that in the UK 'hunger strike' has gone from a mechanism of political protest to 24/7 interactive entertainment from Channel 4 and Sky One in less than quarter of a century.

24 Comments

I have to say that at least Blaine isn't showing us his lame "packet tricks" that anyone could buy from a magic shop...of course now he's put himself down even lower as simply someone who performs stunts. Maybe he'll get into body piercing next and show us how he can pierce his cerebral cortex with a slug from a shotgun. If only we could be that lucky.

Saying the stunt is distasteful in light of political hunger strikes is like saying an expedition to reach the North Pole insults the Eskimos who live in such conditions, or insults people who get lost in snowstorms - i.e. it's a bit silly and drastically misses the point.

Some people are saying that it's obscene to make a spectacle of starvation when so many people are actually starving. Strange, people seem pretty quiet most of the time about the obscenity of ubiquitous over-consumption in developed countries, when so many people are actually starving.

I think that although he has a right to do this it's annoying, and in some cases I can understand why people wan't to do things to him to make him stop.
I myself live around this area, and find the crowds unbearable. If I could I would stop him.

i think David Blaine is wicked. His magic is GOOD and he is Sexy. i want him to do his next stunt in London (Hackney). so all you haters get lost, and leave him alone.

i think he is soooo weird!! y would u want 2 sit in a box starvin wen u could be sitting at home eating the house out!!

I think david blaine is a tw+t, I am english and i feel very patriotic now because the whole country can get together and hate david blaine.
Like when diana died or when England win the world cup we can all get together and do something that we all feel the same about. The american culture has this thing when they all have to thrust their ideas in our face. that kind of outrageous thing is quaint, stupid and downright AMERICAN. Its like mcdonalds, the americans put fast food resturaunts all over the world and drown out communities individual traditions. Now we all wonder why islamic countries hate the west?

Ashley - I think your hatred toward Americans is somewhat distasteful. You should find a way to attack the issue, not the entire country. I also think your celebration of Princess Diana's death is atrocious. I'm sorry you feel your country needs tragedy in order to come together to celebrate your patriotism.

what is wrong with most of you people? The guy did what he did and he has something to be proud of. The cause counts, despite the fact that all of us do things because of our selfish nature. David must've gained an incredible life experience. It is still encouraging to see people like him doing something for themselves as well.........as.... Good luck - this would be a better place if all of us could spend at least a day in a glass box, thinking about life. Makes you appreciate life more, does it not now?

Ashley you need serious help, We don't push are views in your country. Quit complaining.
You don't see us americans whining about euro style cloathing and music taking over from Europe culture. Either your jealous of us americans or you pay to much attention, What ever it is lay off. And worry bout your own country. Also Just cause one person protests something does'nt mean there all alike.
You don't see us all judging england as a bunch of snaggle toothed ugle deformed people like some of your own british sitcoms do. No we know your not all like that. We know that it's just TV. Get my point?
Don't go judging people cause you don't like something.

Uhm ashley, Are you aware that islamic people have told the citizines of iraq if they don't eventualy become islamic there gona be punished very cruely? And were the one's who are pushing are views?

I'm sorry the last reader didn't leave their name, but it sounds like they should either read the report on the common mis-perceptions promoted by the U.S. media at http://www.pipa.org/ or produce the evidence.

But that's just the opinion of one 'snaggle toothed ugle deformed person'

David Blaine you just keep giong with what YOU love best. Show us your Mind, Body and spirit, for me i am very interested in Magic. Your Mother would have been very proud. GOD IS LOVE. David remember me i gave that Jimi Hendrix record in London, you made it through that you make it through anything, postive life. May all your dreams come true David. I hope your next challenge so well. I love and respect you. I want to see more of your magic, we need you here David to keep the magic alive. PEACE AND LOVE Bridget.xxxxxxxxxxxx

I just want to say that david blaine is a nut case and he isnt magic

NO WAY

Blaine..
I think you have done the best things ever...
showing us how much more we all can achieve putting our minds to it...I know there are lotz of magicians out there who could do magic tricks...but what you do is for real...Magic tricks aren't the only thing that made you famous...ur a person of ur own and i believe in you...I especially love the way you talk...you sound like a magiciaon let alone u are one..I do hope to meet you some time..but for now i luv u lotz...just wish I was old enough to marry you;)...well wish ya all the best in all you other stunts...keep it real..peace!
~Sana

These haters must have really busy interesting lifes if they spare there precious time to go and see and talk about how pointless Blaines stunt was. I think his making history for magic and he has a reason for these things, he chooses not to be another statistick. ACW BRIGHTON

I don't think David is weird. You might think that there are people starving in the world. Not his problem! Do some people honestly think with £5 million your gonna wipe out world hunger! If you do then you are the ones who are weird!

I used to think that we get only what has already been written in our faith but thanks to David Blain that now my perception of life has chaged .We get what we try .

i want to know the origin!!!

I think david is an amazing man. would any of the jack asses in london do that?

"would any of the jack asses in london do that?"

I think you are missing my point - it is precisely because it is within living memory that deliberate self-starvation was used as a political protest mechanism in the UK that David Blaine's stunt was so offensive.

I just wanna say I think David Blaine is the best guy on this earth. Hes done one thing I really love and that is wind up all the United Kingdom. You see these footballers being paid to kick a bit of leather and air about WOW how exciting seeing as the whole thing is fixed. David Blaine yes may be earning money out of this thing but at least hes doing summat amazing. Then some tw*t earlier said about getting together to hate David Blaine, that proves how sad this country is. We never ever say well done to sumone doing summat amazing theres always some to$$ers who have to diss them. Well I live in england and I have to say I am disgusted by the way Blaine was treated while in the box, it just proves how jealous, overpaid, fat scum in this country react when someone does summat not only to amaze people but also does summat them fuck in scummers couldnt do themselves

Ditto to the last poster. David Blaine is both an amazing man and an amazing ham. Amazing perhaps, but maybe not great. For 5 mil would you do what he does? You'd probably try. And as for the American-bashing going on... it seems to me the reason Brits are so fond of perpetuating the ugly American stereotype is to avoid appearing even more egocentric and ethnocentric themselves. Try traveling somewhere in the world other than Europe. It turns out Brits are more belligerent chronic drunkards than the Irish and the Aussies combined, and more xenophobic than Japanese and cosmopolitan Americans. And the only thing they hate more than Americans is eachother (and the French, who share the EXACT same ethnic heritage).

oh yeah, one more thing... as for the legitimacy of this starvation stunt (now long since passed), the timing is atrocious, but the stunt itself is otherwise admirable

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