Why force feed?

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    NE: Your original reply, like I said, seemed to be addressing Israel specifically, and hence my subsequent question regarding other countries. In each subsequent response, you kept on adding extra details, which just befuddled the subject. Had you simply been concise, there would have been no confusion.

    More importantly, I realize now that I think you understood my original question to mean “I understand the whole hunger strike business, but why should any government be compelled to take action against it?”

    As you wrote

    and anyway, this kind of detail is not necessary to answer the question. Recognizing that hunger strikes cause this kind of reaction is a fact. And recognizing that fact was the basis of the answer to your question, which, if I may remind you, was:

    If a prisoner wants to commit suicide by starving him/herself, why stop them?

    In reality, my question was more “Why does a hunger strike accomplish anything?” (I understood that once it has an effect it’s more prudent to force feed him than to give in to terrorism.) And that’s why I wrote, “That’s the first time in three posts that you wrote that”, because on this point you wrote nothing more than it creates an arresting image, and hence my reply that you weren’t answering anything.


    With all due respect, SDD, if that was really your question it was very poorly worded, and for me to realise that your intention was entirely different, I would have to be telepathic. The key tenet of your question was ‘Why stop them?’, which in no way even alludes to the general question, which incidentally I have repeatedly answered, of why are people so taken in by them. You have to admit that, reading the OP, that your alternative question in no way comes across. I mean, seriously.


    NE, correct, it was poorly written.

    I thought it was obvious that force feeding is a better option than surrendering to terrorism.


    SDD, I applaud your honesty, and apologise for my intransigence. I agree that it is obvious force feeding is better than allowing the terrorists to get their way, either by getting freed or by dying and achieving their propoganda aims. And it is a much better question, regarding why people are swayed by this kind of action, and I hope I have adressed this, if in passing, in some of my earlier posts. Now that we are, if not on the same page, then at least in the same book, perhaps you can tell me if you agree with my earlier excessively detailed reasoning as to why these actions are so successful, PR wise.

    But, whilst I am on the subject, I think this is emblematic of a more general issue, which is particularly pertinent with regard to Israel’s current situation, and with many left wing ideological standpoints.

    Basically, this issue is that in many cases, simply being the underdog, the sufferer, the one being damaged as opposed to damaging, can lead people to believe their cause is just, or at least has more merit.

    The reasons for this, I can only surmise. Most likely, it is because a natural human inclination is to feel pity, and by extension solidarity, with those suffering, or suffering more. So Israel, no matter what the merit of its actions, will always cone of worse when faced with picture of death and destruction, something it cannot just choose to avoid. And logical arguments are much more easily swept aside with somebody with a sense of moral outrage. It is far easier to apply logic to less emotive cases. But trying to argue that there is a situation were Israel can justifiably engage in actions they know will kill children, comes up against an emotional barrier it is very hard to break down.

    I myself have called up a radio station, only to be beaten down by the presenter repeatedly invoking the fact that children were dying. To anybody approaching the issue rationally, I came of better, but to many, and I would guess most of his listeners, all they heard was one perosn decrying the death of children, and another defending their killers. And logic has little sway over such imagery.

    A similar, if not identical, principle can be applied to hunger striked. What people hear is that people are starving themselves to death over their cause/conditions/imprisonment, etc. A logical approach would not lead to placing any blame on the heads of the government in question. But firstly, a natural human instinct is to feel empathy for one starving to death, which in turn leads that person to assume such drastic action must be taken by a prisoner wronged, as opposed to a prisoner making a dramatic statement. And in what might otherwise be a fifty/fifty argument, or even more in favour of the jailer, the emotion sways it for the prisoner.

    Also, most people, especially Westerners reading their morning paper, with no strong feeling either way, or with an existing bias, would simply take the fact that they’re protesting as a sign of the justice of their actions, simply since they are putting themselves through suffering. Illogical, but since when do people read their morning papers with a critical mind or a logical one? It’s all about the outrage, who shouts louder and shocks hardest.

    Basically, people like to think individuals, that is to say, your average human being, would only act in such an extreme way if they were acting with integrity. They feel they themselves would only feel compelled to act in such a way if dealt with wrongly, so these prisoners are, in a sense, like them, and therefore likely to be right. And this is even more applicable when the individual prisoner is facing off against an institution, which people are much more willing to accpet as capable of evil. It is precisely this mentality that drives the postivie PR such movements achieve. Not the whole reason, but a good part of it.


    NE: As far as your second point is concerned, I don’t think it’s humans’ inclination to feel pity, as much as it is their inclination to feel angry, patronizing, and even jealous. It is well-established that “We process negative data faster and more thoroughly than positive data, and they affect us longer. Socially, we invest more in avoiding a bad reputation than in building a good one. Emotionally, we go to greater lengths to avoid a bad mood than to experience a good one.” In short, it’s easier to have negative emotions than positive ones. Finding others’ faults is especially comforting, as it makes us feel better about ourselves.

    Anger clouds judgement. An angry party–or any party with a bias–can choose to ignore logic. Does everyone who gets conniptions over Israel’s killing babies start crying when they hear about Syria’s civil war, killing men, women, and children? Journalists are not particularly concerned about Palestinians. Perhaps some special individuals care about them. Your average BBC host wouldn’t give a flying darn if they all suddenly perished in an earthquake, so long as there’s no way possible in pinning the blame on Israel. This isn’t about pity. It’s about a grudge.

    And your calling up a radio station–commendable, but I’m not surprised to hear what happened. Radio host aren’t there for debate. They’re there for their show. There is no earthly possibility in them ranting about something, then answering for a caller and say, “You know, you’re right.” They, not unlike politicians, make it in their business because of their abilities to bluff through anything. If they could, they’ll offer a few buzz words like “Israel murdered babies” before quickly disconnecting; if the caller is more persistent than that, they may have to resort to screaming and cutting the caller off mid-sentence.

    In regard to whether this could explain the effectiveness of a hunger stike:

    According to all my psychological studies and research, the human mind is capable of ignoring logic, twisting logic, or even blinding themselves to logic. Hence, a biased party can ignore all logic and say, “Israel are murderers because they’ve killed Palestinian babies.” Wrong, irrational, but possible. However, I have never heard of fabricating logic. “Israel are murderers because their Palestinian prisoners starved themselves,” isn’t an irrational statement. It’s incoherent.

    However, you said “it is simply because if somebody is dying, passively, for a cause, people automatically take more attention in that cause, and/or feel that cause obviously is worth dying for, and is as such nobler, in some twisted way. We are not talking of rationality here, as PR never is, but of human psychology, particularly group psychology.” that the people dying for the cause strengthens other’s aspect on their commitment.

    Let’s get the story. They committed a crime and were imprisoned. They then went on a hunger strike. That can be understood in two ways. 1. As long as they’re not allowed to do X, they don’t wish to live. 2. It’s all a publicity stunt–a way of drawing attention to themselves, the purpose of which is that the public should see that they think X is more important than life. The difference between the two is: would they do the same thing if they hadn’t been imprisoned and there was nobody watching?

    If the second way is correct, then all they’ll accomplish is others realizing their conviction to the cause. It won’t cause them to think the imprisoners are murderers, which I think is the understood effect of a hunger strike–to somehow cast the blame on the imprisoners. Do you disagree?

    Number 1 is almost disproved by the fact that they didn’t commit suicide before they were imprisoned. Perhaps it’s salvageable; they were hoping to solve the problem without committing suicide; now that that’s impossible, revert to Plan B. If so, it would be a little closer to casting the blame on the imprisoners: If X is worse than death, than the hunger strike is nothing more than continuing a pre-existing tragedy, the death inflicted on them by their imprisoner. However, I still don’t buy it.



    SDD: For once, I am going to have to keep this relatively short. for on the whole I entirely agree. I would just like to pick you up on two points.

    You open your quite admirably worded reply by explaining, in great detail, as to how the human mind is inherintly biased and can therefore ignore logic in making a judgement about a situation where blame can be apportioned. Is that a good summary?

    But, whilst your general point about people enjoying finding fault in others is pertinent, what I attempted to address was why an otherwise relatively unbiased person would be swayed by a hunger strike too.

    I addressed its effect on already opinionated people by saying it provided a focal point. And with already opinionated people, it isn’t really difficult to explain at all. If they would already be of the opinion that Israel is unfairly treating Palestinians in general, then they will almost definitely believe that they are imprisoning them unfairly, and that therefore any protest they make about their incarceration is justified. That’s easy to understand.

    But what I attempted to explain above is that when somebody without any particularly strong pre-existing opinions about the situation hears of a hunger strike, why aould they ignore logic and support them? Your post may perhaps also pertain to them, but you seem to focus on the biased. And to that I explained that since one party is both the underdog and displaying what appears to be the courage of their convictions, a natural response is for this to sway them.

    Perhaps you said this yourself, but the central point of your message didn’t seem to suggest this.

    And secondly, the final section of your response appears to do exactly what we have both agreed is unecessary, and provide a logical breakdown of the facts.

    It’s not that I have any fault with your reasoning. It’s just I, and from the first part of your answer, yourself too, appear to agree that we are dealing with an emotional, not logical repsonse. Perhaps you are dealing with the logical part of the question. But it is my view that these protests are not based on logical arguments, and in the most part on emotion alone.

    The only part of the issue where I believe logic is employed is in prbably one of their most common arguments. That is, as I have alluded to above, that since virtually all of the protesters were already of the belief that these prisoners have been wrongfully incarcerated, a belief that itself probably isn’t logical, but at least stems from a wider, if flawed, ideological viewpoint (Which I would be happy to elaborate on, but would rather keep this ‘succint’), they are easily swayed as to the justice of their protest. Since they are already set in their mindset as to the righteousness of these prisoners, their protests simply serve to focus the mindset and provide a further rallying point. At no point does logic come in, simply that this, like the Flotilla, Gaza, Har HaBayis or whatever issue you care to mention, is simply a platform from which they can shout, protest and perpetrate violence. This is especially, but not exclusively, pertinent to Israel.

    And as a quick footnote, I would like to add that, continuing on from what I have said about them simply using it as a platform, a death of a prisoner is a bigger story than force feeding a prisoner, even though both generate strong reactions, and therefore, force feeding is preferable. Imagine how much stronger the current Israeli protests would be if the prisoner had died, and was not just being forcibly fed?

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