What began as a harmless protest became abject… As UKIP disseminated its racist election leaflets, people who aren’t racist decided to start sending the leaflets back to their Freepost address, sometimes with bricks attached, so as to cost UKIP more in taking receipt of them. People took it further, and began to send UKIP shit, blood and cum. This can’t be condoned, but only because it puts the health of postal workers at risk. It seems however to be the only form of protest that can be legitimately mounted against UKIP, and it has a powerful, theoretical underpinning.
Dirty protests occupy a particularly powerful position in our culture and cultural memory. They are so visceral that we can imagine the shit-smeared walls of a prison without ever having been there, without even having seen photographs. Dirty protests go alongside hunger strikes. They are the final recourse of people so silenced that the only way they can speak is by turning their protests back on their own bodies and their own space; that is, by utilising their own bodies (often, all they have left). They draw attention to the rejection and ejection enacted by the society that has radically Othered these protestors, by using what is rejected and ejected from their own bodies to confront this society. Whilst we haven’t been degraded as an electorate to the extent that the political prisoner confined to her cell has, UKIP is beginning to hold an analogous position in our public life to the gaoler of the political dissident. The hegemony of the media has created a UKIP-as-prominent-and-‘credible’-Party, since racism, xenophobia, transphobia, misogyny and homophobia – most of which is covered by the ‘common sense, straight talking’ discourse and ‘everyman’ image that Nigel Farage wields – sells papers. For all that the media exposes in showing up another ‘unsuitable’ UKIP candidate, it simultaneously silences protest against UKIP by effacing the voice of any real opposition. Politicians in thrall to the media and Farage’s ‘common sense’ dare not call UKIP what it is. The UKIP-media machine has mechanisms with which to deflect any criticisms; often reducible to the catchphrase: ‘No! You’re the racist!’
However, it is UKIP that has been spreading shit: spreading shit about the ‘immigrant scourge’, and giving shit to the immigrant populace; so, how else to speak out against UKIP in return but to send them shit?
These metaphors stand, and have stood throughout the history of racial hatred in this country, and, in modern, times particularly since the lie propounded by Enoch Powell – in his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech – of the ‘wide-ginning piccaninnies’ shoving excreta through an old lady constituent’s letterbox (a constituent who was never traced…!) Thus, what we see is this shit, this cum, this blood, these ejected, rejected parts of the body, revealing the oppression, the Othering, the hatred which is inherent in UKIP’s ideology. Rather than being a case of protesters ‘going too far’ or being childish by using the Freepost address to send shit to UKIP, the protest instead reveals itself to be the only appropriate response to UKIP’s hatred of the Other. In the practice of psychoanalysis, Jacques Lacan says that a message is received back by its sender in ‘an inverted form’. Is not the metaphorical shit spread by this ideology here being returned in an inverted, real form; that is, as the return in the Real of the symbolic/imaginary shit made up about the ‘minority threat’, here concentrated into this form of protest?
In her ‘Essay on Abjection’, in Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva describes abjection as ‘loathing an item of food, a piece of filth, waste, or dung … blood and pus … body fluids, this defilement, this shit’. For Kristeva, these things which are ejected from our own body, or which remind us of things ejected from our own body, make us feel sick in order to protect our sense of an individuated self, a free and autonomous ‘I’. These abject substances remind us of the borderline we sit on between life and death, and disrupt our sense of subjectivity, and so we must ‘permanently thrust [them] aside in order to live’.
UKIP conceives of immigrants in the same way. To UKIP immigrants represent a borderline between the ‘I’ of the ‘pure’ white Anglo-Saxon Briton (an imaginary construct, just like the individuated subject) and the Other, precisely because they have come to reveal the lie of this homogeneous society. Thus they must be radically excluded in order to reassert the borders of that subjectivity. All this is obvious. But it highlights the legitimacy of the dirty protest in the face of UKIP, to which we cannot speak in the socially legitimated discourse that it pretends to protect; that of ‘free democracy’.
For Kristeva, if we put aside the questions of health and cleanliness that the unfortunate postal workers who have been undeserving intermediaries in this protest have faced, we see that in fact it is ‘not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules’.
Sending shit to UKIP confronts its supporters with the borderline position of their own bodies, and with the fact that what they reject from themselves is yet an inescapable part of them. In that sense it makes a mockery of the borders that they attempt to close to preserve a homogenous subject called the British. It draws attention to the very meaninglessness of the project they are attempting.