Defense & National Security

And the Oscar goes to…Mos def!

And the Oscar goes to...Mos def!

“And the Oscar goes to…Mos def!” is one of the many YouTube comments posted on the controversial video of rapper Mos Def, who is being referred to by his born name Yasiin Bey, voluntarily submitting himself to the force-feeding procedure carried out regularly on protesting prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. (See the video below.)

The video of the Brooklyn native was released on July 8, just two days before the official start of Ramadan. Reprieve, a London based charity purporting to work for the protection of prisoner rights around the world is behind the video, which, not surprisingly, has been met with an array of reactions.

Some argue that the procedure is painless, claiming they had received it themselves or administered it — a self-identified nurse, for instance, claims to have performed assisted feeding daily, and a father claims he feeds his son that way. Bey begins by flinching and moving within moments of the tube touching his face, and eventually struggles heavily- had he been still and remained calm, he wouldn’t have been in pain. One commenter described this argument in great detail:

This is absurd. As a [registered nurse], we have to do this all the time. It is a little feeding tube, significantly smaller than a [nasogastric] evacuation tube (and 1/6 the size of Big Blue we used to use for stomach pumping). As long as the patient’s head is CHIN DOWN, the tube slips in easily with the patient swallowing to facilitate passage. This was done as a dramatic propaganda film…. in reality it is non-traumatic (we have it done to each other in training and have even self-placed tubes).

Others disagree, claiming the same care afforded to loved ones and provided by doctors and family members can’t be guaranteed for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Basically, the government-employed medical personnel at Gitmo don’t kiss the boo boo and hand out lollipops for good behavior. Another nurse agrees with the commenter quoted above, but adds that if a patient actually resists as much as Bey did in the video, the procedure should be stopped to avoid hemorrhaging.

The real question is: What should be done? The Gitmo staff in no-win situation – as are we. Say the force feeding procedure is typically as torturous as it is to Bey, who is in tears by the time he has to call it off. What choices are there when prisoners are starving themselves short of letting them go?  What would cause a bigger media and human rights field day- the painful force-feeding of prisoners, or prisoners dead of starvation that could have been prevented?

An actor that plays on our emotions is not making a serious effort to confront any of these questions. Is the black text fading oh-so ominously into the white backdrop the YouTube generation’s version of a slowly parting red velvet curtain? How about the following nine seconds, where the audience is left with nothing but room tone and time to indulge in the melodrama before Bey actually begins speaking? Are these theatrics, tactfully employed by Reprieve, are transparent effort to gain our sympathy? As a college student I’ve taken introductory a video editing course and I recognize the techniques.

While it may be true that force-feeding is tortuous all this video proves is that the procedure hurt one person. Director Asif Kapadia sacrificed the intellectual integrity of what might have been a legitimate message by failing to offer any context. If he had presented studies, people may not have been enticed to tune in, but since he put a celebrity in orange and slapped some cousin of Helvetica on the screen, a watered-down version of a legitimate message went viral. Was this enough for Kapadia? Maybe the director is perfectly satisfied with the outcome. Should he be?

Caroline Mahony is an editorial intern with Human Events.

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