My milkshake makes for a forlorn Farage

In a landscape of British politics mired by political violence. The throwing of milkshakes at fascists, has proved a step too far for the liberal left wing and far right alike.

Photo: Sky News

Milkshake: often frustratingly unavailable at McDonald’s, the title of Kelis’ 2003 Neptunes produced smash hit, and if like me you are lactose intolerant: a sure fire way to devastate your insides. More recently though, it has become the weapon of choice for those who want to show their disdain to right wing speakers visiting their towns. Last month the founder of the English Defence League Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (who goes by Tommy Robinson as bigotry apparently constitutes a stage name) had a milkshake thrown over his head by a 23 year old man named Danyal Mahmud whilst campaigning in Warrington, Cheshire to become a Member of European Parliament. This bid would prove embarrassingly unsuccessful.  Former UKIP leader and Brexit party founder Nigel Farage suffered a similar fate as he was trapped on his campaign bus amidst fears of 3 hooded men suspected to be carrying milkshakes in Rochester, Kent just days after he was doused with a milkshake in Newcastle. Naturally, debate about whether or not publicly humiliation of politicians is justified ensued and it is something of a nuanced argument. Personally I do not have a strong view either way. In a moral sense I can accept that there are more constructive ways to exercise disapproval. On the other hand, as an avid lover of comedy, seeing grown men who have reached positions of power with divisive and violent rhetoric having their dignity doused by a banana and salted caramel twist is quite amusing. What there can be no leeway about though, is the fact that the throwing of milkshakes has been the tipping point for a wider discourse around the consequences of political violence is completely asinine. 

Following his own dairy enthused trauma Nigel Farage took to Twitter to state “Sadly some remainers have become radicalised, to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible. “For a civilised democracy to work you need the losers consent, politicians not accepting the referendum result have led us to this.” In principle, this statement resonates but the application of it is hypocritical. If Farage or anyone else were truly looking for a true example of someone become radicalised to the extent they were willing to undertake acts of violence to achieve political aims, they would be better suited referring to Farage’s own comments in 2017. At an event in Southampton he promised he would “don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines” were Theresa May fail to deliver Brexit in the style he envisaged it. Daniel J Hannah would surely be shocked to hear of a so-called politician threatening to use firearms against the government to reach his aims, without even the customary precursor of punching some to let us know what was coming. Since that is apparently the natural progression. Perhaps another example to draw from is the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016 by Thomas Mair. A white supremacist who believed that Cox’s pro-European beliefs were a betrayal of the white race. The consistent stream of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric spewed by Robinson and Farage was fundamental to the killing of Cox but did nothing to stem the tide of their bigotry, a strange reprieve from the right wing’s apparent commitment to circumventing political violence. 

What can be reasoned from this is that the semantics surrounding “political violence” are too myopic, and it is allowing those who are actually the biggest perpetuators and profiteers to frame themselves as the victims. Political violence, in a literal sense, is violence perpetuated by citizens or governments to achieve political goals. Even if throwing milkshakes at politicians did constitute “violence”, anyone expressing concern due to it being part of a wider ‘spectrum’, should be looking at the parts of the spectrum which have life and death implications that are actually happening. Rather than listening to those who only have something to say when it impacts them on a minuscule caramel flavoured scale. 

We need to garner a wider understanding of what political violence actually is, because it is happening all around us and is mainly fuelled by the sort of people bemoaning trivial acts of public protest. Post 9/11 the acceleration of Islamaphobia across the Western world has been momentous. In one of the most extreme examples, in March of this year 50 Muslims were gunned down during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand by alleged perpetuator Brenton Tarrant. Terrorist acts like this are heavily stoked by right-wing rhetoric much like the vitriol spouted by Yaxley-Lennon and Farage, which partially leads people like Tarrant to “take matters in to their own hands” and literally kill people. In doing so they hope to cause division with a view of stemming immigration and civil liberties. The political agenda behind such acts was highlighted perfectly Australian Senator Fraser Anning’s idiotic assertion that “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.” Framing this incident as the climax of a laissez-faire border policy, whilst insane and racist in equal measure, solidifies the political motif behind the majority of modern terrorist. This is an extremist political goal and the literal epitome of political violence, not throwing milkshakes at people. 

In the week following the Christchurch massacre the U.K., never one to be outdone for racist nonsense, saw a 593% rise in hate crimes against Muslims. In a solidarity vigil I attended, I remember the poignance and sadness I felt at hijab wearing women my age telling me that they were terrified of using public transport for fear of being assaulted. Acts like this rely on the perpetuator’s belief that Muslims do not belong in their society, which is a political opinion. The reality of attitudes like this being so pervasive is what makes the false victimhood of political elites so sickening. When your words and actions in the public domain literally make it impossible for marginalised groups to feel safe, being hit with a milkshake is a minimal consequence. 

Article written by Martyn Ewoma. See more from Martyn here


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