MILKSHAKING: Why are people throwing milkshakes at politicians?
In recent weeks, there has been an epidemic.
In the lead up to this week's European elections, multiple far-right United Kingdom politicians - including Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, and Carl Benjamin - have been the victims of a new form of political action. Specifically, they've been hit with milkshakes.
The milkshakings have come at different times. Tommy Robinson was milkshaked while confronting and interrogating a young man of colour, for example. Benjamin got the treatment while he spoke to the media. In various cities across the UK, the tactic has been repeated.
Much attention was paid to the fact that an Edinburgh McDonald's even refused to sell milkshakes during a visit to the city by Farage, citing advice from the police. Burger King wasted no time reminding customers they could buy their milkshakes there instead, leading to claims from some that BK were inciting political violence.
Wednesday saw the milkshaking protest take its most organised form yet, as Nigel Farage was left on the top deck of his campaign bus, as it had been surrounded by people carrying milkshakes.
Far-right commentators have attempted to paint the milkshakings as mock-executions, that serve to highlight weaknesses in the security of those who get milkshaked.
One particularly viral critique from a DUP MLA, Christopher Stalford, simply read: "Milkshakes today. Acid tomorrow."
This commentary implies that the specifics of such behaviour are meaningless. As if milkshakes have been chosen simply because the throwers couldn't get their hands on more dangerous weapons. It's like saying "Peaceful protests today. Riots tomorrow". There is no proven, or even hypothetical, link between trying to embarrass somebody and trying to kill them.
It cannot meaningfully be claimed that being hit with a milkshake is an act of violence. There is no threat of injury. It's very inconvenient, but in no way prohibitive. If you really had to, you could go about your day even though you'd just been hit by a milkshake.
In that sense, the milkshake is an ideal weapon for combat against the likes of Robinson and Farage, who big themselves up as tough guys prepared to fight for the protection of Britain from immigrants and EU influence. It proves a point when it transpires that these men are not even prepared to continue campaigning after being hit with a milkshake.
It's certainly not a nice thing to do to someone, but the act itself must be viewed in the overall context of today's political landscape.
People like Farage, Robinson and Benjamin are no strangers to violent language.
In the run-up to the Brexit referendum, Farage also said: "It’s legitimate to say that if people feel they’ve lost control completely, and we have lost control of our borders completely as members of the EU, and if people feel voting doesn’t change anything, then violence is the next step."
Following the Brexit referendum, Farage claimed victory for Leave "without a single bullet being fired". Sitting MP Jo Cox had been assassinated by Thomas Mair just weeks earlier. Mair was later found to have purchased far-right publications, and attended the meetings of various far-right groups.
With that in mind, nobody should be less surprised than Farage that angers have bubbled over to the point that people are chucking sweets.
Milkshake today. Acid tomorrow.
— Christopher Stalford (@CStalfordMLA) May 20, 2019
Robinson, on the other hand, is the founder of the English Defence League, known for their militaristic marches through English streets, as well their open anti-Islam sentiment. Robinson has said: "The last thing we want is a war in this country, but it is the inevitable outcome for the way the country is going. Now, the British people are not going to sit back and take much more."
He has repeated this sentiment on multiple occasions, elsewhere saying blaming all English muslims for the 7/7 attacks and pledging vengeance: "Every single Muslim watching this video on YouTube: on 7/7 you got away with killing and maiming British citizens... you had better understand that we have built a network from one end of the country to the other end... and the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League if we see any of our British citizens killed, maimed, or hurt on British soil ever again."
Robinson is now seeking to be an MEP for UKIP, a party led by Farage for years before he established his new Brexit Party.
The primary talking point around Benjamin, also of UKIP, however, has been his remarks that he "wouldn't even rape" Labour MP Jess Phillips, before following up with "Under pressure, I might cave". Benjamin has since defended these comments as a joke. Benjamin, a well-known YouTuber, has also been known to use racial slurs.
So far, the people targeted are the men responsible for shamelessly reintroducing violence to modern political discourse. For them to threaten violence in the streets in one breath and condemn milkshaking in the other is disingenuous at best.
Interfering with someone else's body is a serious business. So is interfering with someone else's safety. If we were to consider the danger posed by a milkshake compared to the danger posed by high-profile politicians talking about bullets, rape and war, there is simply no contest.
And besides, didn't your mama ever tell you, Tommy? It's no use crying over spilled milkshakes.