Rosa Doherty

No matter how much I loathe Nigel Farage, I can't support the milkshaking of him

Rosa Doherty says we must resist the urge to lash out

May 30, 2019 13:30

A lot of us have, at some point in our life, lashed out. It is not something we like to admit, usually because it happens in the context of our ugliest moments, and it can also happen in our most childish. But whatever place it comes from, at the heart of it is an inability to express oneself.

When Jeremy Corbyn was attacked by a Brexit supporter who egged him while he was visiting a mosque some people in our community celebrated. They used the Labour leader’s failure to tackle antisemitism as a defence. They were wrong. The man who attacked him was rightly jailed for 28 days.

If you’re a parent you might recognise this loss of control when you confiscate a tablet as your infant enters the peak stage of over tiredness, or when you have to play referee in a sibling dispute. If you’re a teenager it might be when your body is raging with the imbalance of hormones.

But as adults we are expected to conduct ourselves differently. While those who celebrated the attack shamed our community, it was the kindness and compassion of a rabbi who tended to Mr Corbyn that showed us at our best.

It is a myth that this ‘lashing out’ is the reserve of children or people who are unintelligent; it can happen to the smartest, most accomplished communicators when a build-up of emotions takes over and you are not in control of your feelings.

So no matter how much I loathe the politics of Nigel Farage and the people who spread hate like him, I can’t defend or celebrate the milkshaking of him, in the same way I can’t condone egging of Jeremy Corbyn. While far too many appear to see it as some sort of or hilarious resistance to fascism, I see it as an inability to control one’s feelings and express them appropriately.

I can’t help but think about where that feeling of celebration comes from and how it has become normal to celebrate physical attacks on our opponents, trivial as they may seem.

Our political discourse is in such a state that this is how we’ve come to express the fear, anger and anxiety that figures like Farage arouse in us. It is emblematic of the fragile place our society has become. It is easier to drown our opponents in milk or cover them in egg than it is to battle them in the market place of ideas.

Earlier this month, the former leader of Ukip was repeatedly questioned by a member of the public on Question Time about whether he knew of anywhere operating on World Trade Organisation rules that did not have a trade agreement with another country.

His failure to answer the question exposed his lack of knowledge and his ideas.

We’ve seen a Channel 4 News investigation reveal how millionaire Arron Banks spent approximately £450,000 on Farage to fund his lavish lifestyle the year following the EU referendum in summer 2016.

Mr Banks is currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency over the source of his funding for the Brexit campaign. And the Brexit Party has since banned Channel Four News from its events.

And yet for some reason we give more attention to a milkshaking. It won’t stop those people celebrating nonetheless complaining that the ‘mainstream media’ has not done enough to challenge him.

And by doing that, people like Farage are handed a victory. His ego will survive the humiliation of a spilt milkshake, and he will be seen by his supporters as a victim. More importantly it will change no minds - in fact it will entrench views that need changing.

We are quick to blame figures like Farage for the division they have sown in our society but how responsible are we for how we challenge them?

When I think about the times in my life I have been overwhelmed with an inability to express myself and acted on impulse, nothing good came from them. It achieved nothing but a momentary release of feelings that I failed to be in charge of.

It doesn’t matter how emotionally vulnerable I felt, how bullied or scared I was, on the occasions I have failed to use words to express myself I’ve felt nothing but embarrassment and shame.

It is easy to have little sympathy for people we dislike. It is easy to treat them with contempt. But what separates decent people from those who spread hate and division is the ability to do just that.

“When they go low, we go high,” said the former first lady Michelle Obama when she called on Democrats to remain civil when facing Republican attacks. This has been altogether lost from the way we do politics.

Lashing out does nothing. The relief it provides is temporary — but, more importantly, it is useless.

May 30, 2019 13:30

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