As the left sinks into psychosis, what remains? The answer is sugar, profanity, snacks and toys. Protest now resembles Clown Town, a dystopic toddler play barn near Finchley Central.
To mark the American President’s trip to London this week, the Donald-Trump-in-a-nappy balloon rose again. There was also a Donald Trump robot. It sat on a toilet in Trafalgar Square and farted. ‘The fart we couldn’t get from him,’ said its creator, Dom Lesson, ‘so we had to use a generic fart’. Meanwhile, a man mowed a penis shape into a lawn to protest against climate change. He was hoping that Trump might see it from his aeroplane.
The fashion, when faced with a politician you despise, is to attack them with milkshake. During the elections in May, milkshakes were thrown at Tommy Robinson in Warrington (-strawberry) and Bury (also strawberry), and at Nigel Farage in Newcastle (banana and salted caramel). On Tuesday, a milkshake was thrown at a Trump supporter, as a woman screamed ‘Nazi!’ at him.
Others have progressed to solid foods. Remain campaigners buy fairy cakes that say ‘Brexit Justice’. Leavers bake their own.
Why? Is it an inversion of a bread riot and so a reminder that things could be worse? Snack-themed insults follow Donald Trump everywhere. At the anti-Trump protests last year, I saw banners that said: go home wotsitface, wots-hitler and wotsit hitler. Many have returned this year. nazi wotsit was actually spelt out in Wotsits. ‘I think people need to be reminded of history,’ the owner of the wotsit hitler sign told me. ‘That is why I use that name.’ She was very grave, but I wanted to laugh and ask: if people had only stood outside the Reichstag in 1933 holding signs that said shitler made of pretzels, might the outcome have been different? But British leftists like calling Trump a Wotsit because he is orange-coloured like a Wotsit, and it is a class-based taunt of the kind that they depend on. The tragedy is: Trump doesn’t know what a Wotsit is. He calls them Cheetos. There is also a popular Jaffa Cake-themed insult: bugger off you nazi jaffa cake.
Much of the protest is toilet-themed, from the wreckage of the Dennis the Menace fan club. welcome to london, i pissed on your bed. Surely that is a lie? tiny hands, huge asshole. trump your name means fart. donald trump big poo poo. There was, inevitably, a man selling Donald Trump toilet paper from a shopping trolley last year, and the toilet paper returned this week, with a hefty mark-up, which I estimate at 600 per cent. Oh, Capital! ‘If you’re going for a dump,’ he said, ‘don’t forget your Trump. Wouldn’t it be funny if we could wipe Donald Trump’s face on our bum?’ Funny, yes, slightly. Meaningful, no. Toilets are not polling booths. They just feel like them.
Supporters say: it’s performance art without art, it’s circus without elephants, it’s satire. Britain has a long tradition of robust satire. ‘Our balloon is part of a proud history of political satire in the UK,’ says Anna Vickerstaff, who helped raise the Trump baby blimp. Even people I sometimes agree with say it’s legitimate to throw milkshakes at people if they are unpleasant, and it’s true that it’s hard to look at Tommy Robinson decorated as an angry creme egg without laughing. But I fret that I begin with laughing at the politician and end up laughing at the politics themselves. I thought Nigel Farage looked rather serious with banana and salted caramel milk dripping down his face. At last there was a reason for his previously inexplicable grievances.
‘If you can’t fight something with humour, how can you fight it?’ said Matt Bonner of Trump’s Babysitters, who designed giant Trump in a nappy. With debate of course; but that is less fun. ‘Humour is my weapon,’ said the creator of the Trump robot on a toilet. But you can’t campaign with humour, because the only people who will laugh are the people who agree with you. That is the psychology of comedy. I think, rather, that the infantilism of the rage directed at Trump and Farage and Robinson empowers them. They do not instigate this rage. They conduct it, and the more rage there is, the better for them. But I am a liberal with my talk of rational debate and polling booths. I can die under a rock.
Food protest is ancient, it is true. Someone once tried to hit the Emperor Vespasian with a turnip. In 1958, in Greece, so many politicians were attacked with yogurt that a law was passed to ban it. The Russian consulate in Odessa was hung with noodles in 2014 to protest about Russian interference in the Crimea.
Julia Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, was pelted with sandwiches by teenage boys in 2013. They sought to persuade her to return to the kitchen to make sandwiches, and in doing so they lost all their sandwiches. There is also a group called Al-Pieda who seem to exist to throw pies at the American pundit Ann Coulter. Yet she grows in strength. It is as if she eats them.
I think the act of food-tossing itself exposes its own weakness; in that sense it is art, a metaphor for itself. A milkshake is not a ballot paper. It is mere succour for infants. What makes people look more foolish than reaching for power while covered in milkshake? Trying to stop them with milkshake.
At the anti-Trump protest in London last year, one banner said: THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE. I paused at it, because this isn’t what democracy looks like. Milkshakes, Wotsits, Jaffa Cakes and farts? Quite the opposite. This is what losing looks like.