Several YouTube stars have ramped up the shock value of their stunts to get clicks – but a video by a Saudi group faking an encounter with a suicide bomber has been blasted as one of the most outrageous and irresponsible “prank” videos yet.
It starts with menace. A bearded taxi driver wearing traditional Saudi dress looks at the camera and says: “Now we’re going to look for a victim.” The video cuts to footage from a hidden camera of a young passenger exchanging greetings with the driver before settling in for a ride through a Saudi city. But the journey soon turns scary.
“Do you think about jihad?” the driver asks. He then unbuttons his robe to show off what looks like a bomb belt to the frightened passenger, who alternately cries, pleads and clings to the driver in apparent fear that his life is about to end. Eventually the driver tells the passenger to calm down and points out the cameras placed strategically around the taxi.
“We’re just joking around,” the driver says, “in order to show you what terrorism is like.”
Another young passenger subjected to the prank is clearly in fear for his life as he throws himself out of the car while it’s still moving. He is seen moments later apparently physically unhurt, but in some state of shock as the pranksters explain that it was all their idea of a joke.
In the final scene of the three-minute-long video – which has been watched tens of thousands of times – two passengers wrestle with the fake driver and get him to stop. One is seen dialling the police for help before it is explained to them that it was a hoax.
The video bears the logo of a Saudi group of YouTube pranksters Tube Up. But while various versions are still available online, the original video was taken down from Tube Up’s channel, according to reports. BBC Trending attempted to contact the group for comment.
Reaction on YouTube fits mostly into the category of “outrage”.
“This is stupid,” commented one. “Imagine if the boy was ill or had a heart condition.” Another viewer sarcastically said: “What’s more funny than religious extremism caused deaths!? Nothing!” before continuing with a string of expletives directed at the filmmakers. There were a few morsels of positive feedback however: “It’s wrong to terrify people like this, but maybe this will help brainwashed young men to realise what terrorism is,” said one comment.
Prank videos intended mostly to shock – featuring faked bombings and other violent crimes – have been something of a recent trend. In one of the most notorious examples last year, British YouTube star Sam Pepper tricked a man into believing his best friend had been murdered in front of him.
As you might expect, Saudi comedy doesn’t consist exclusively of fake violent prank videos here’s Trending’s recent roundup of some of the country’s most popular YouTube comedians.