The water cure is the name given to a form of torture in which the victim is forced to drink large quantities of water in a short time. Deployed by the Spanish Inquisition in the middle ages it was also used in the French legal system, where it was known as ‘being put to the question’. The ‘ordinary question’ involved forcing of one gallon of water into the stomach in an attempt to extract confession. The ‘extraordinary question’ involved two gallons.

This method was also widely used during the Philippine-American war at the turn of the last century. A military witness gave the following description of this form of torture: “He is simply held down and water is poured onto his face, down his throat and nose from a jar. That is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious… The usual procedure is then to revive him and repeat the process. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it. His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.”

Clearly here we have the roots of the modern practice of ‘waterboarding’, one of the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ favoured by intelligence operatives because it leaves no detectable marks on the body. This form of questioning seems to have fallen out of favour more recently, not simply on account of the legal, ethical and humanitarian issues involved, but because it turns out to be a rather inefficient means of obtaining information. The victim is either prepared to confess to anything in order to put an end to his torture or has a tendency to die before reliable answers to questions can be extracted.
It is not clear what questions, let alone answers, would be at stake in one of the latest trends to emerge in the digital hyper-sphere, competitive water drinking. Under the sobriquet ‘Aaron Drinks Water’ we can find on YouTube a series of almost 6000 videos in which Aaron films himself drinking water. At the end of one of his recent videos we see him repeating: “I’m going to die. I’m definitely going to die”.

Aaron is part of a small online community called The Drinkers. They post short videos of themselves drinking water. The point seems to be not so much the number of views, as the majority of these videos have precisely zero views, nor the volume of water consumed in each instance but rather the frequency of posting. Members of this self-regulating community adhere to only two informal rules. One is that water is the only liquid that counts. And the second is that 500 millilitres is the agreed measure.

When Aaron first started he was apparently drinking 250 millilitres per video. His number of postings was accordingly rising rapidly until other members of the community gently put him right, convincing him that it was unfair to other posters. He now drinks 750 millilitres in every video in order to compensate. “Currently I record six videos a day. In each video I drink 750mls of water. I record them on my phone and upload them on YouTube. Currently I have the second most videos and I upload the most.”

Water drinking is a trend started by Jon Harchick, now known as the godfather of The Drinkers. The sheer number of videos he posted was what initially inspired Aaron. “For some reason it intrigued me… that he had thousands of videos, often with no views. So I decided to start my own channel and drink more than other water drinkers. I think it’s symbolic of the commitment, it’s symbolic of how if you do something every day it’ll add up to something.”

Harchick himself claims to have been inspired by Andy Warhol. He initially started making videos of his excreta being flushed down the toilet. “It was just literal shit posting.” But YouTube terminated his channel after only 30 views. He then came up with the idea of filming himself drinking water. Since then his videos have been viewed over 2,000,000 times. His original target was to post 1000 videos and then stop. But he was inspired to keep going when other people like Aaron started joining in. Has now made over 7000 videos and is planning to keep going until he hits 10000.

There are concerns about the pressures of competition and the risk of water intoxication. “If you drink too much water it can be dangerous. So I try not to encourage competition too much… Sometimes a drinker might be concerned with their statistics and feel the obligation to force water down their throats when they’re not thirsty – for the sheer numbers.”

Jon is clearly not immune to the spirit of competition himself. In a new development, he posted a video recently of himself drinking bleach. He reports that detractors had repeatedly asked him why he didn’t drink bleach instead. One day he just decided: “Well fuck it, why not?” He diluted what he thought would be a safe amount of bleach in water and then drank it on video. Despite vomiting profusely several times on the video, he lived to upload it.

If he had only waited a few months he could have avoided risking the rules of the game. In the last few weeks it has been announced that a start up selling canned water under the name of Liquid Death has raised $1.6 million for the launch of their new product. It claims to be friendlier to the environment as it comes in an easily recycled aluminium can, which you can order online for only $1.83 per can, rather than a plastic bottle.

If you want to know more about Liquid Death, you can view their promotional videos on YouTube. But as this is a product that like Campbell’s soup does exactly what it says on the can, why don’t we just let them describe it for themselves:
“Our proprietary Thirst Murdering™ process begins with Liquid Death forming a rope of veins that will wrap around your Thirst’s head and strangle it. Once Liquid Death reaches your Thirst’s brain, all of your Thirst’s memories will be replaced with repeating loops of its own head imploding. Which is exactly what happens next by it causing your Thirst’s head to implode and its brain to squirt out of its ears.

Once your Thirst has been murdered, the soul of your Thirst will begin to escape and float towards the ceiling. At this point, drink a second sip of Liquid Death to rip its soul back down and force it to begin gluing its own body parts back together so that it can crawl inside you and eventually grow into a fully formed Thirst once again.”