A few years ago, back in the halcyon days of the Cameron/Osborne double act of everyday cruelty and incompetence, some bright spark set up a “slap George Osborne” webpage, where you could – surprise, surprise – slap an image of Osborne’s face to your heart’s content, complete with a comedic slap sound for good measure.
I am not a perfect person and I may (historical accounts differ) have spent more time on that page than would seem strictly necessary for a grown-up with a job and responsibilities. And now, more than ever, there are plenty of politicians and personalities who make me want to headbutt myself into unconsciousness against my TV screen whenever I see their gurning, smug faces. If there was a “smush butter into Tommy Robinson’s hair” page for instance, I’d never get anything else done.
I too would be tempted to part with even the most delicious of dairy-based drinks if it gave me the opportunity to wipe that deceitful “man of the people” smile off his face with a smear of banana milkshake.
But I wouldn’t. And here’s why.
Look, I know that nobody ever died of a milkshake to the head. And I can’t bring myself to feel much pity for a man whose rhetoric makes me want to claw my own ears off.
But when I blur Farage out of the equation (oh if only) and replace him with just any old human being, I can’t help but imagine the moment some unknown liquid from some unknown assailant hits you is pretty terrifying.
I wouldn’t want it happening to Jess Phillips or Caroline Lucas, so I’d be a hypocrite to condone it for Farage. After all, the idea that you can treat people badly just because you disagree with them is surely more an argument for his side than for ours?
I suppose it’s not dissimilar to the line of thinking that says you can draw conclusions about a country based on how it treats its prisoners: perhaps we ought to apply a similar rule and take the moral high ground when it comes to how we treat racists, xenophobes and politicians (oh my!) too. It’s possible to combat their arguments, surely, without assaulting their person – even in a comedy “custard pie” sort of way.
And anyway, all this sort of action really achieves is a flurry of publicity. Which means we have to put up with Farage doing TV interviews and talking about “radicalised” Remainers roaming the streets, ready, presumably, to lob a chunk of brie at anyone over the age of 65, just in case they voted Leave. It plays into a narrative that says we’re all sore losers, and does nothing to change hearts and minds.
And when politics is so knackering and depressing at the moment, we all have to save up what energy we have for engaging with it for the things that might actually matter, like voting, obviously. Or talking to the people in our lives who disagree with us and trying to change their minds (whilst acknowledging that we also have to be open to having our minds changed too).
Even the much-maligned petition signing and protest marching are surely more constructive ways than the equivalent of the two sides just shooting nerf guns filled with gunge at one another.
What’s most pointless of all about food-based attacks on politicians like Farage though, is that the punishment very much doesn’t fit the crime.
On the one hand, nobody should have to walk around in fear of having things thrown at them, but on the other, a temporarily milky face is also just not a satisfying redress.
I’d far rather see the Brexit Party nosedive in terms of its expected votes on Thursday. I’d far rather see Farage unemployed and ignored by every media outlet currently so keen to provide him with a platform. I want him irrelevant, not just slightly damp and embarrassed.
So, no, I wouldn’t throw my milkshake on Farage. But I wouldn’t share it with him either.
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