The 2019 European elections will forever be known as ‘the ones where people got milkshakes thrown over them’. And the election’s final day didn’t disappoint, with another Brexit Party activist (allegedly) feeling the cold sting of sweetened dairy.
Social media is awash with conflicting views on the latest incident. For many, it was a simple case of an unjustifiable assault on a political opponent. However, others have gone down a conspiratorial path and suggested the milkshaking was an inside job for election gains.
But the fuss made about this particular incident, including whether or not it was faked, says a lot about the current state of UK politics.
The official story
The official version is that an elderly veteran was attacked outside a polling station where he was representing the Brexit Party.
Piers Morgan told the story in his typical ‘angry man of the people’ style:
This elderly gentleman served in the British armed forces for 22 years.
Today he was manning a Brexit Party polling station when he was attacked & had milkshake thrown all over him.
All because he wants the result of a democratic referendum to be honoured.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 23, 2019
Reacting to the story, former footballer Joey Barton suggested that throwing milkshakes is a slippery slope:
Petrol bombs next week.
— Joey Barton (@Joey7Barton) May 23, 2019
And if Barton is right, what comes next? Nukes? One Twitter user had an answer:
I knew the milkshakes were just the beginning of a slippery but violent dairy slope
Actual footage from outside my polling station pic.twitter.com/3jukgmrUKO
— tattooed mummy (@TatMum_Blog) May 23, 2019
A Brexit Party PR stunt?
But others are sceptical of the official version of events. Instead, critics suggest it was staged to create sympathy for the Brexit Party. They are part of what is now being called the “milkshake truther” movement:
It's all so well crafted.
8am milkshake attack in an army town. Yeah, right.
Quick national media coverage, but no suspect identified.
Looks like carefully smeared yoghurt.
New photo op organised. Appeal to armeh veteran fetishists.
F@rage responds pic.twitter.com/8AixHIXBsw
— Mike Hind (@MikeH_PR) May 23, 2019
Even Tony Blair’s former director of communications during the Iraq War, Alastair Campbell, joined the conspiracy world:
Picture posted without any evidence of the actual act. Therefore no idea who, what, where, when whether, nothing re the circs. In my experience, chuckers and egg-splatterers film themselves because they are self-indulgent plonkers. Whiff of Bannon playbook here https://t.co/zFHaiCB4S1
— Alastair PEOPLE’S VOTE Campbell (@campbellclaret) May 23, 2019
Campbell’s take was particularly interesting considering his own dismissal of conspiracies when questioned about his role in the Iraq war:
if you had an intelligent I'd think about it now go away and carry on in your little conspiracy theory world
— Alastair PEOPLE’S VOTE Campbell (@campbellclaret) May 30, 2016
One truth seeker even conducted a milkshake “splatter analysis” to test the authenticity of the official milkshake attack theory:
Look at the splatter from a thrown milkshake over Farage, the force from the milkshake flying through the air with high velocity has caused the milkshake to go over Farage from top to bottom pic.twitter.com/d2eAdVIAA0
— Harvey (@harveyschmacker) May 23, 2019
But others just used the whole situation to take the piss:
This is my father. He was out canvassing for the Brexit Party when a Remainer appeared and threw their milkshake all over him. Please retweet so everyone sees how horrible they can be!!! 😪😪😪 pic.twitter.com/O7COeVmTfA
— Craig Mac Ádaidh (@Craigadd) May 23, 2019
Did this particular incident distract us from other important issues?
Many believe that the embarrassment of a milkshaking has shattered the far-right’s desire for an image of suited respectability. But some felt that on this occasion, the intense focus on the milkshake drama was counterproductive. And both those expressing sympathy for the man, and those suggesting he staged it, helped distract focus from other serious issues:
I'm not saying everyone's brains have melted but at the exact moment the prime minister of Great Britain announces her resignation half of politics twitter is going to be arguing about whether or not an old guy tipped a pot of yoghurt over himself or had milkshake thrown at him
— Alan White (@aljwhite) May 24, 2019
Others referred to the damning UN report on poverty in Britain:
Tweeting about this again. It’s sad that on the day after that UN report came out record nos of poverty, both big BBC political programmes spent a good portion of air time discussing how butthurt politicos get by having milkshake thrown on them…this a broken country…
— •𝗟𝗜𝗡𝗔• (@agirlcalledlina) May 23, 2019
Songwriter and comic Mitch Benn highlighted the scandal of some EU nationals being denied their votes on the very same day:
What’s the betting that precisely fuck all ever gets done about 2 million EU nationals being illegally disenfranchised, but the Old Brexit Guy Fake Milkshake Incident leads to a full public enquiry and multiple arrests?
— Mitch Benn 🇪🇺🔶 (@MitchBenn) May 23, 2019
The media’s disproportionate response
A neo-Nazi was jailed for life last week after being found guilty of plotting to murder the Labour MP, Rosie Cooper. We seem to have become a country where there would have been more horror & outrage if he'd thrown a milkshake at her.
— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) May 24, 2019
Others pointed out the selective moral outrage at certain aspects of British politics, while others seem normalised:
"Throwing milkshakes is contrary to the decent democracy we've built up in this country"
— chiller ★ (@chiller) May 23, 2019
A proven lie plastered on a bus, a fraudulent ‘Breaking Point’ poster, the trashing of electoral law, infecting a democracy with dark money – these are also acts of political vandalism and on a much grander scale than a flung milkshake. So, sure, let’s oppose all of it. Do you?
— Alex Andreou (@sturdyAlex) May 23, 2019
Milkshakes reveal a lot about our politics
Whether a conspiracy or genuine, the reaction to the latest milkshake incident reveals how messy UK politics has become – in more ways than one. But perhaps more concerning is that while people literally obsess over spilt milk, and rush to condemn the actions of the perpetrators, they are happy to ignore the very real violence of the far-right.
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