‘First they came for the communists, and I didn’t throw a milkshake because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t throw a milkshake because I wasn’t Jewish. Then they came for me, and no-one threw a bloody milkshake…’ you get the idea.
To read through Twitter during the recent European elections was to be left with the impression that the only meaningful vanguard for our diverse and tolerant society was a plastic cup of diabetes-inducing blended sugary milk.
It seemed there was only one thing to stop the torrents of hatred and racism that were being poured from the sewer-like mouths of Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage. Our self-elected heroes, fearlessly wielding their milkshake Molotov cocktails and acting as our last line of defense, knew just the lactose-tolerant answer for our intolerant foes. It is this deluded belief that best represents why the left in Britain is currently achieving diddly squat.
My proof, well let’s look at the result. Aside from a few undignifying scuffles, and an admittedly amusing impact on Nigel Farage’s dry cleaning bill, nothing positive was garnered by such antics. Farage’s Brexit Party claimed victory in nine of the 12 regions and 29 of the 73 seats.
This all despite the spate of milkshakes hurled at Brexit Party candidates in the run up to the election. Even everyone’s favourite racist Tommy Robinson got ‘milkshaked’ twice whilst campaigning although, at least in his instance, the positive correlation proved unforthcoming.
None of this nonsense is new, what was far more significant, and depressing, was the reaction to it. For the left, the glowing reviews and mirth these imbecilic actions spread on social media spells real trouble. This became immediately apparent to me when I found many friends deeming all this milkshake malarkey not just an acceptable form of protest but a necessary one in the current climate, with each ‘milkshaking’ being followed by laughter and celebrations that spread quicker than a speeding milkshake.
Before I am outed as a secret flag-waving Farage-loving ‘fruitcake’, let me assure you that I find the man just as unpalatable and loathsome as the next person. I believe him to be an unscrupulous man who gleefully deals in mendacity in a constant act of self-promotion. A man who cares as much about the welfare of the British public as Vladimir Putin. There is nothing to be celebrated in members of the electorate resorting to this stupidity, however, and any notion that there is would be equally myopic and foolish.
When Paul Crowther, 32, threw his milkshake at Farage, it’s impossible to know what was passing through his mind. Perhaps he was conjuring images of the great political protesters of recent time, such as Mandela and Gandhi, or maybe he had enough of the unbearably smug shtick Farage ceaselessly oozes like a cancerous goop.
Either way, one thing I severely doubt he considered was the feelings and attitudes of those who support Farage. After all, why would he? Surely they are just as bad as him? Ignorant, racist, a plague on our society. It’s a damn shame there wasn’t a milkshake big enough for the rest of them, too. Problem is, though, they’re here, and they’re not going anywhere.
Maybe they’re not on your Instagram or Twitter feed, or at your after-work drinks, but they’re on your street, they’re in your pub, they’re on your bus, and they’re probably in your family too. What’s more, they may not have fully thought through their political opinions. After all, how many who often even share our opinion have?
They may not have considered the influence of biases and the reliability of their sources of their information, or scrutinised them at all. Again, how many have? They probably haven’t done any of this, because they’ve been too busy with work, their children, with life. Are they to be milkshaked, too? Who among us is worthy enough to deal out this viscous vengeance?
Hypothetical milkshake totalitarian regimes aside, the lesson from Brexit was clear. There are large swathes of the nation who feel unrepresented by the political elite, who feel distant from and disliked by a modern, multi-cultural society that seems to have little interest in their identity or culture. All this whilst thinking of themselves as British – read English in most instances – before anything else.
Most dangerous of all of, however, was they felt as though no-one listened to their views and concerns. Whenever anyone espoused something vaguely similar, they were deemed ignorant or racist, with no follow-up conversation or exploration. They were merely given a condemnation as brief as it was consensual.
Lo and behold, come the Brexit referendum and Nigel Farage and his ilk identified, targeted and manipulated these people with ruthless efficiency, and now we have the monumental balls-up that is Brexit.
However, as much we may dislike Farage and see him as a travelling snake oil salesman, we must always remember the large tract of the electorate he does represent and how they will feel every time he is attacked for espousing views they believe themselves to share. As melodramatic as it may seem, when Paul Crowther sought to silence Farage with his fattening weapon of choice, he was ultimately attempting to silence those very same people who went out and eventually voted for Farage and others of his party.
Politics is a social exercise. If we want to carve out a better society, we must convince others of the merits of our design. Yet too many of us now prize being right above actually engaging in real political discourse with others of a differing political perspective. Instead, we prefer to reside within the politically and comforting confines of social media, where political opinions are swiftly greeted with ego-boosting likes and re-tweets.
This trend was very much evidenced with the gleeful social-media fuelled schadenfreude around this whole milkshake debacle. A debacle where everyone quickly shared pictures of Farage looking suitably cowed and peeved, and where everyone agreed what a horrible racist he was, and how clever and moral they were for hating him and his views. Cue a healthy litany of virtue signalling and back-slapping, all of which resulted in the political football moving exactly nowhere. No ideas shared. No minds changed. No lives improved. 21st century politics, everyone.
If we want to change the world-views of those who support Farage, or even Tommy Robinson, we need to engage with those worlds instead of seeking to silence them. When we chase away or silence Farage, regardless of the means or the views he represents, and those who possess them, they don’t go anywhere. Instead, they simply become further isolated, further incensed, and less likely to interact healthily with those from differing political faiths.
The road this takes us down would be catastrophic to the extent that those of us born in the calm waters of modern Britain would find it difficult to even imagine.
A wise man once warned of the perils of wrestling with a pig, stating that you’ll both get dirty and the pig will enjoy it. Whilst I can appreciate the sense in that maxim, it’s even dumber to throw milkshake at said pig. It’s high time that the Paul Crowthers of this world put down the milkshake, rolled up their sleeves, and climbed into the pen.