There's an icy new trend sweeping Europe, and it's called "throwing milkshakes at far-right politicians' smug faces"—otherwise known as "milkshaking." Maybe it's time we bring the fun stateside.
The week of May 17th, an Edinburgh McDonald's ceased milkshake sales in preparation for a public appearance by Brexit leader and far-right politician Nigel Farage. Sure enough, during his subsequent Monday engagement in Newcastle, Farage got nailed with some higher class Five Guys fare. He later hid out on his campaign bus out of his newfound fear of milkshakes. Here he is, absolutely dripping:
Nigel Farage Dripping
Farage isn't frothing alone, though. In recent weeks, anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson and U.K. Independence Party candidate/ rape "joke" enthusiast Carl Benjamin have both been barraged with tasty dairy treats. Here they are, also absolutely dripping:
Tommy Robinson Dripping
Carl Benjamin Dripping
These recent milkshakings come fresh on the heels of international acclaim for " Egg Boy," the brave Melbourne lad who cracked an egg on right-wing senator/Christchurch-shooting-apologist Fraser Annings' big, bald head. Absolutely dripping:
Fraser Anning Dripping
And one from the back.
None of this is to say that throwing food at terrible people is a new phenomenon. In fact, the tradition dates back to at least the Middle Ages, when prisoners were put in stocks and pelted with food as a form of
public shaming. Over the years, the trend has made its way into politics, becoming a mainstay form of protest (especially in Europe).
But isn't milkshaking political violence? And shouldn't violence be kept out of politics, especially if we want to foster civil debate?
Well, maybe technically, but calling milkshaking "political violence" is an exaggeration. While throwing a milkshake at someone might fit the legal definition of assault in most places (especially America, where police officers would likely deem it "assault with a deadly weapon" to justify why they murdered you), the action is more in line with the ethos of "nonviolent protest."
The difference between violent and nonviolent protest is not a distinction of physicality. Rather, the difference lies in the intent of the action. Violent protest includes any political action performed with the intent to inflict bodily harm on another person. This holds true regardless of whether or not the form of protest is violent in and of itself. For instance, Richard Spencer's calls for " peaceful ethnic cleansing" are violent, regardless of what words he chooses to couch that violence in.
Alternatively, despite the physicality of milkshaking, the goal of the act is public humiliation and drawing attention to the ridiculousness of the target and their awful ideas. No reasonable person would argue that milkshaking actually results in bodily harm, so the question isn't so much whether or not milkshaking is violent; the question is whether or not public humiliation should be considered a valid form of political protest.
The answer is a resounding, enthusiastic "yes!"
The careers of politicians, especially far-right politicians who push exceedingly antisocial ideologies revolving around nationalism and authoritarianism, live and die by their public image. The more ridiculous their ideas, the more they need to seem "put together" in order to successfully peddle their garbage. A dapper man in a suit can convince a lot more people that he can solve their problems than a disheveled man covered in milkshake.
A civilized marketplace of ideas is a nice sentiment, but it can't exist when some of those ideas are inherently violent. Violent ideologies have no place in civilized society, and the best way to respond to them is not with civilized debate—which suggests such arguments are made in good faith (they never are)—but with outright humiliation. This public humiliation states loud and clear that such ideas are unwelcome in our society, and those who push them will be shamed and excluded until they change their ways.
And let's be honest: It's not like there's any difference between the way far-right supporters would respond to throwing milkshakes and the way they'd respond to any other kind of active, nonviolent protest. Colin Kaepernick received death threats for kneeling. The owner of a restaurant received death threats for asking Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders to leave. When the far right inevitably laments the death of "civil discourse," let's not forget which group has monopolized real political violence this decade. If far-right adherents want to start responding to left-wing politicians with milkshake-throwing, that would be a welcome change.
So whether you skimp on Wendy's or splurge on Shake Shack, just make sure to get your milkshake to go.