‘Milkshaking’ is on the rise in Brexit-divided Britain. But is throwing milky treats the best form of political protest? Hayden Donnell investigates.
With just hours to go until polls opened in the European elections, Nigel Farage cowered in his campaign’s Brexit bus, surrounded on all sides by gangs of milkshake-throwing youths. Just weeks earlier, his life had been perfect. His Brexit Party was ascendant in the polls. A virulent breed of his beloved racism was on the rise across the country. UK Prime Minister Theresa May was awaiting another of her ritual humiliations, and in danger of being replaced by a Brexiteer.
Then on May 2, a 23-year-old man threw his McDonald’s strawberry milkshake over the pseudonymous Islamophobe Tommy Robinson (real name: Stephen Yaxley-Lennon). It was the second time Robinson had been ‘milkshaked’ in two days, and the viral video inspired a spree of copycat incidents. Far-right candidate Carl Benjamin, the awful YouTuber better known as Sargon of Akkad, was targeted by milkshake throwers “at least” four times. Farage himself was coated in a salted caramel concoction bought from Five Guys for £5.25. The media dubbed it ‘milkshake madness’. Now the Brexit bus was Farage’s only refuge.
For Britain, the question now is whether it has enough milkshakes. But in New Zealand, we ask: is throwing milkshakes the most effective way to carry out debate with those with abhorrent views? The answer is, of course, no. Milkshake throwing is not the best way to counter bad speech. History has shown that hate is only countered effectively by a barrage of other, less milky projectiles. What follows is an evidence-based assessment of the most effective novelty protest projectiles.
On December 14. 2008, journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw both his shoes at US President George W Bush in protest at the Iraq War. It was the most infamous shoeing incident in history and gave rise to a popular mass movement across the Middle-East in support of al-Zaidi.
Nevertheless the shoe-throwing incident was mostly unsuccessful. Bush left the Oval Office after two terms, and has spent much of his retirement as an amateur outsider artist specialising in painting nude self-portraits, Vladimir Putin, and dogs and cats. Recently he has received an unearned bout of public affection, as people favourably compare his mostly murderous regime to the Trump administration. A messier projectile could be preferable.
A classic messy substance. National leader Don Brash was pelted with ground goo at Te Tii marae on February 5, 2005. The protest was arguably successful. Brash went on to a narrow loss at that year’s general election. However it’s not flattering for our country that a man who ran Iwi/Kiwi billboards came within a few percentage points of becoming prime minister.
Milky treats are undoubtedly one of the funniest novelty items you can throw at a politician. But, as mentioned, they are not the most effective.
Despite its leader being coated head-to-toe in lactose, the Brexit Party still bossed the European Election polls. Robinson and Benjamin looked like outside shots to win seats, but if there was justice in the world they wouldn’t win more than four votes given their dearth of any redeeming qualities. It seems being drenched in fruity dairy is politically survivable. The question is: what isn’t?
No foodstuff has a higher political body count than eggs. Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych got hit by an egg on the campaign trail in 2006, and immediately fell to the ground as if shot. It was a physical manifestation of a metaphorical truth. He was thrown out of office in 2014. Meanwhile, British Labor leader Ed Miliband was hit by an egg in 2012, and was never heard from again*.
No egg has been more brutal or effective though than the one slammed into racist Australian senator Fraser Anning’s head by Will Connolly. The 17-year-old was renamed Egg Boy after smashing a chicken ovum into Anning’s pale, hairless scalp in March. Anning lost his seat at the recent Australian general election, and was forced to return to a life of amateur racism. Connolly and his egg should be given the credit.
What dildos lack in ubiquity, they make up for in sheer power. When protester Josie Butler sconed Steven Joyce with a Nine Inch Squeaky Pecker on February 5, 2016, New Zealand’s timeline with split into two eons: Before Dildo (BD) and After Dildo (AD).
In BD New Zealand, the TPP was about to be ratified and Steven Joyce – while obviously no bedfellow of the Faragistas – was the powerful Minister For Everything in the Key government. In AD, John Key has resigned. Joyce is out of parliament and mostly just tweets about gardening. The TPP was killed and replaced with the watered-down CPTTA. Most importantly, during the BD era, Lightbox was not home to the greatest show ever made, the first episode of which focuses on the fate of the dildo. AD, it was. And yet dildos are still not the most powerful political protest implement.
On June 3, 2009, ACT Party candidate John Boscawen took part in a debate as part of a by-election in the Mt Albert electorate. No-one remembers the issues being debated. Few remember what candidates were involved. Everyone remembers one fact: Boscawen had a lamington on his head.
The Stuff report on the incident was succinct, but packed with vivid detail and spelling errors. It quoted student magazine writer Stacy Knott, who described how the lamington got onto Boscawen’s head. “The guy just came up and put it on his head,” she said. Then something unexpected happened. “[Boscawen] kept talking,” Stuff reported. He continued speaking even after the “lamington fell off his head.” The protester who put the lamington there resumed his seat. Only at the end of Boscawen’s speech was there any acknowledgement of the lamington. “National Party candidate Melissa Lee wiped his head when he sat down,” Stuff said.
Perhaps Boscawen allowed the lamington to sit there because he knew it was already over for him. Having a lamington on your head is a humiliation so profound, it changes everything about your identity. Once the lamington plops down, the old you will die. You will be reborn as Lamington Man or Lamington Woman. In the same way the Elephant Man was cruelly defined by his deformities, a Lamington Man or Woman will forever be defined by their lamington.
That’s how it was for Boscawen. It’s impossible though to stop yourself wondering how many of history’s great dictators and despots could have been derailed by a well-placed lamington. Would a coconut-encrusted baked good have made people realised how ridiculous their ideas were? Would their words have been eternally refracted through the lens of a brown or pink cuboid slice? And when they finally entered hell, would they have done so with a lamington still attached to their skulls?
If Boscawen is anything to go by, the answer is yes. Stop buying milkshakes and get baking.
*this is true
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.