Is it worth crying over thrown milkshakes?

Nigel Farage was doused in milkshake while campaigning in Newcastle(Photo: ITV)

One of my favourite bits of stand up comedy ever comes from the brilliant Harry Hill. He's in full swing as he advises the audience about the importance of how you name a business telling the fictional story of a man called Geoff who wants to open a cape shop and decides to call it "Geoff's Capes".

People wrongly assume that the shop belongs to former Olympic shot putter and World's Strongest Man Geoff Capes and so come in looking for weightlifting equipment. At first he sends them away but soon Geoff starts stocking a few bits of weightlifting equipment just in case.

Some time later Geoff finds that the shop now only sells weightlifting equipment and the only capes you can find are a few out the back. Eventually, people start to assume this weightlifting equipment shop is actually owned by Geoff Capes and so our Geoff bulks himself up, grows a beard and adopts a Cornish accent...and all this, because he called his shop "Geoff's Capes".

This week, Nigel Farage had a milkshake thrown at him while campaigning for his new political party in the upcoming European elections. He's not the first person to have this happen. it's apparently becoming a "thing". Last week, it was UKIP's most useless satirist Carl Benjamin and before that, EDL Founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon better known as Tommy Robinson (a name that I imagine only narrowly beat out Billy Bulldog and Brit Britainson in his latest selection of pseudonym).

I'll be honest, Carl Benjamin, Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage don't represent my personal views. I disagree passionately with a lot of what they say, do and represent.

I'll be really honest, there's a bit of me that struggled to stifle a smile when I saw the picture of them covered in milkshake. Beyond political disagreement, I find some of the rhetoric used by these men offensive and dangerous. I fear some of the policies they represent are about exclusion and division. And it doesn't take too much searching to find examples of actions and speech that leave a lot to be desired, even for those who might support some of their political aims.

It's why I'd never vote for them.

It's why I'd never join whatever party they're currently attached to.

It's why I'd actively campaign against their ideology.

But I wouldn't throw a milkshake.

During the 2016 US Presidential election, then first lady Michelle Obama gave a speech at the Democratic Convention in which she famously uttered the words "When they go low, we go high." The words echoed around the globe and the context into which she spoke was one in which many "low" words were being spoken.

Former First Lady, Michelle Obama.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Two years later, the election had been lost and Michelle Obama was appearing on the Today show. In the meantime former Attorney-General Eric Holder had raised eyebrows and heckles by suggesting that the new Democratic motto should be, "When they go low, we kick them."

When Obama was asked if she felt her words still applied, this is what she had to say: 

"Fear is not a proper motivator. Hope wins out. If you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbours? Do you want them angry, do you want them vengeful? If you think of the values that we try to promote to our children, which motto do you want them to live by?...We want them to grow up with promise and hope, and we can't model something different if we want them to be better than that."

Maybe this is why I wouldn't throw a milkshake. Maybe it's because, in the face of people who speak and act "low", I still want us to "go high".

This isn't about a war of words. I hear something bad so I say something good. It's not about measured tweets or mindful Instagram posts. It's not even about a few hundred words on a blog or website. In the face of something that stirs me, the call must be to action - in the first instance, to voting.

If I don't like what someone stands for, I can vote for someone who stands for something else. And here's the best bit, if enough people agree with me, and do the same thing, that person who stands for what I oppose won't get elected this time.

And it's not just voting. I can join a political party, donate to their cause, campaign locally or even stand for election. And if I don't like any parties, I can stand as an independent.

If I want something more "active" I can protest. Make signs, bang drums, blow whistles. If I want to let someone know how strongly I feel about them, I can actually turn up and let them know. I can come up with brilliant chants and shout loudly. I can raise my voice and I can heckle with all my might.

This is how we "go high". It's not passive, it's not weak, it's not soft or ineffective. It's loud and active, strong and powerful. It takes time and effort, it requires energy and passion. But it's not throwing a milkshake.

Throwing a milkshake feels "low" to me. Throwing a milkshake might feel good, or look like direct action. Throwing a milkshake might raise a smile or feel like a "win". But, in the end, I wonder if throwing a milkshake doesn't look more like the kind of desperate outburst that I'd associate with those being covered rather than those who oppose them.

I wonder if throwing a milkshake isn't a bit like a guy called Geoff who simply wanted to start a cape shop but ended up in a place he didn't want, looking and sounding like someone he never was.

In the face of a divided and angry political landscape, not all heroes will wear capes, but I'm pretty sure none of them throw milkshakes.

Matt White is a Northern Irish TV producer living in Essex and working in London. Follow him on Twitter @mattgwhite