Yesterday I wrote about the spate of milkshake assaults taking place in the UK. I predicted this would be the kind of stunt the left would find irresistible and, sure enough, that seems to be the case. The Guardian published an opinion piece titled “This Milkshake Spring isn’t political violence – it’s political theatre.”
Chucking a milkshake is not political violence at all; it is political theatre, of a kind shared down the ages and across countries…
As for Farage, he gets a programme on LBC, and a near-nightly showing on the BBC. Neither a cabinet minister nor, despite all his attempts, an MP, he has appeared on Question Time 33 times, the last just a few days ago.
So in comes the milkshake, to reduce men of pomp to figures of ridicule. For once, the news-satire shows won’t feature Farage as a guest of honour but as a butt of humour. The milkshake knows no triangulation. It has no truck with “legitimate concerns”.
In short: It works and they deserve it. The New Republic wrote a piece titled “Why Milkshaking Works” which serves as a kind of plea for understanding. Yes, it may be rude and it may even be assault but, on the bright side, it’s humiliating!
Throwing a milkshake at someone is rude at worst. It may also qualify as assault in some jurisdictions, especially in the United States…
What these critiques misunderstand is why milkshaking is so potent against Farage and his brethren: It humiliates them. Nothing animates the far right or shapes its worldview quite so much as the desire to humiliate others—and the fear of being humiliated themselves…
Getting doused in a milkshake robs far-right figures of the air of chauvinistic invulnerability that they spend so much time cultivating. They hunger to be taken seriously despite their racist views. They want to be described as dapper, to be interviewed on evening news broadcasts and weekend talk-show panels, and to be seen as a legitimate participant in the democratic process. Most politicians to the left of Enoch Powell would brush off milkshaking as a harmless stunt. For those seeking mainstream legitimacy, it’s another searing reminder that they don’t belong…
What the far right fears more than anything else isn’t a defeat at the ballot box or a temporary setback in policymaking. It’s the sting of shame that comes from being humiliated in public. I personally oppose violence in all forms, so I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to throw a milkshake at the nearest racist I encounter. But I don’t need to believe in it to recognize how effective it is at shaming the far right.
I wouldn’t do it, but it does seem to be quite effective. (Hint. Hint.) The rest of his analysis is nonsense. No one likes to be humiliated in public. Do you think tossing a milkshake on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Pete Buttigieg while they were out campaigning would be welcome or appreciated? I don’t think so. Maybe they’d be better at hiding it than Farage but no one wants this to happen with the cameras rolling. I say that even though I agree that ultimately stunts like this are likely to backfire with most of the public.
In any case, all the author is really saying is that these are terrible people and they deserve it. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that others see people on the far left are terrible people. What kind of public humiliation do they deserve? What sort of food item can be tossed at Bernie Sanders or Bill Clinton?
Fortunately, there are still a few people on the left who get it, if only by removing Farage from their minds. From the Independent:
When I blur Farage out of the equation (oh if only) and replace him with just any old human being, I can’t help but imagine the moment some unknown liquid from some unknown assailant hits you is pretty terrifying.
I wouldn’t want it happening to Jess Phillips or Caroline Lucas, so I’d be a hypocrite to condone it for Farage. After all, the idea that you can treat people badly just because you disagree with them is surely more an argument for his side than for ours?
The correct answer, of course, is that we don’t operate that way for anyone because it’s a bad idea, one the left would never endorse or defend it if one of their favorites being targeted. From the Sun:
The incident was not a prank, as some pretend, but a nasty assault that left Farage visibly shaken.
If he been a woman or belonged to any minority, it would have probably been classified as a hate crime.
The left’s double standards are breath-taking. Just imagine their outrage if a leading Remainer politician, like the high-profile Tottenham MP David Lammy or the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was attacked like this.
The indignation would be deafening…
As Brendan Cox, the husband of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox put it yesterday, “throwing stuff at politicians normalises violence and intimidation.”
Obviously, there’s a big difference between throwing a milkshake and murder, but he’s right that once you normalize the idea that you can do things to politicians you really dislike, we’re inviting the craziest of the crazy to escalate.