In the days before CGI unicorns, nothing said ‘fun’ on children’s TV better than a custard pie. It was the go-to way to humiliate a clownish stooge. It may have just been a simple picnic plate and shaving foam, but it was comedy gold.
Then, of course, we all put away childish things and found subtler ways of giving our foes their comeuppance. Or did we?
The first to receive a milkshake was former English Defence League firebrand Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), two times in swift succession, both times strawberry. Then one man UKIP shock-jock Carl Benjamin took not just one, but four, for the team across the south and west of England.
Finally, as predicted by many, the man of the hour Nigel Farage took a dousing in Newcastle – a Five Guys banana and salted caramel shake costing £5.25 since you ask.
Burger King even joined in the fun when Farage was due to appear at a rally in Scotland:
Though they back-pedalled fairly swiftly and stressed that they don’t condone ‘that sort of behaviour’.
I’ve noticed my social media feeds are currently ablaze with sophisticated-sounding justifications for milkshaking: they say it’s a way of scratching the surface and showing these people’s ‘nastier side’, when they don’t laugh it off. Or it’s a symbolic response to the violence inherent in their political rhetoric (you what?). Most malicious of all: it’s okay ’cos they’re ‘fascists’, so different rules apply.
I’m not a fan of any of the current victims, personally. Still I’m really uneasy that ‘is it okay to attack someone with a milkshake?’ is even a question. If you’re planning on a spot of milkshaking yourself – or just egging on those that do (sorry!) here are some questions to consider:
1. Do you want to make them look like a victim?
People use victim status all the time to get sympathy. There’s nothing like being ‘persecuted’ to help your cause. You’re helping them take the high moral ground. Really, why?
2. Where did the Nazis come from?
At the end of World War 1, Germany was humiliated by the nations it had fought. They had land taken from them, they had to sign a war guilt clause taking full blame for the war and they had to pay back billions in reparations – this meant their economy wasn’t able to recover.
Now, when you’re feeling humiliated, what is the thing you are desperate to do? You want to recover your self esteem. That’s what Germany did, courtesy of the Nazi party (founded 1920) – although there were other, far less deadly ways they could have responded. You could say that we helped create Naziism through our tactics of humiliation. And that’s the point: humiliation only hardens hearts – however good it make us feel. That’s not to say those who have been milkshaked will become Nazis, but the chances it will lead to more empathy is pretty low.
3. Who gets to play God?
Question: so who exactly deserves to be publicly humiliated? Answer: those nasty fascists of course. And who decides who is and isn’t a fascist – a slippery term that people lazily sling at their opponents? Ultimately you are judge and jury over who deserves humiliation. ‘The same way you judge others, you will be judged,’ says Jesus (Matthew 7:2). Better pack those waterproofs…
4. Who are you putting this little show on for?
Remember Fathers 4 Justice? They campaign for divorced fathers to have more access to their children. So if you wanted to stage a demonstration, you’d want people to think ‘men are equally mature and responsible as women and a good influence on children, right? How did they get this message across? By climbing on the roof of the deputy PM, dressed as Batman and Spiderman. Do you see where I’m going with this?
As philosopher Marshall McLuhan said, ‘the medium is the message’. It’s like going to France to evangelise… in English.
Do you want to change the mind of people you don’t agree with? Then you have to see the world through their eyes, learn their language and use it to communicate with them. Otherwise they will look at you and just see a ‘mindless hooligan’.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says ‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.’ (Matthew 5:38-39)
Lots has been written about ‘turning the other cheek’, but it doesn’t just mean rolling over and letting others walk over you. Jesus seems to be saying that there are better, smarter ways of responding. Ways that don’t land you in the gutter with your oppressor.
When Jesus stilled the storm on the lake, he didn’t rage at the lake with a voice as loud and violent as the storm itself. Instead, he simply said ‘peace, be still!’
Yes, evil and injustice need to be stood up to. However, the Kingdom of God offers other, counterintuitive, ways to bring down the walls of Jericho – ways that avoid acts of humiliation and violence. Remember, even the most extreme politician was originally made in the image of God.