The Blaine That Nobody Noticed
Thomas, Mark, New Statesman (1996)
To those who flew burgers on a remote-controlled helicopter at David Blaine or fired golf balls at his glass case, I salute you! Earning millions by not eating while convincing people that it was a spiritual event is not magic. Surely a magician surprises and shocks an audience with skill. If Blaine had not eaten for 44 days and then pulled a rabbit out of his jacksy while shouting "TA DAA!", then fair enough.
The crass banality of using a hunger strike to earn millions didn't fully strike me until activists climbed Tower Bridge with banners in support of Simon Chapman. Arrested in June during demonstrations at the EU summit in Salonika, Chapman faced the prospect of 25 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. He decided to go on hunger strike--without a Sky/Channel 4 deal and without being watched by millions.
With the exceptions of "alternative" outlets such as the Indymedia website, nobody initially covered his plight. If Chapman had been a British plane-spotter accused of spying, the Daily Mall would have had him on the front page, clamouring for justice, before you could say "ogling planes is a bit of an odd hobby". But Chapman is an anti-capitalist protester, and so it was just about impossible for papers such as the Mail, Times and Telegraph to break their logic that anti-capitalist equals violent thug. Even the Guardian, despite a few good articles, managed to run only 125 words on the concerns of Chapman's doctors on day 38 of his hunger strike, while in the same issue giving Blaine prominent coverage with an accompanying Christlike photo. …