There’s a terrific short film directed by Iain B. Macdonald (a man rash enough to try once, or maybe twice, to make a movie based on one of my novels, though he did, of course, fail) titled Billy’s Day Out.
Billy is a little kid who’s being taken for a day out by his family, and on the way they stop to buy some fruit. It all seems very cozy and healthy, but eventually you join the dots (spoiler alert) and realize that they’re on their way to join a hate mob and throw the fruit at some poor woman who’s being released from prison, apparently after serving a sentence for killing a child. The movie’s not about whether the woman’s guilty or innocent, but about the way that a perfectly normal-looking family can so happily join a hate mob, and how something as innocent as fruit turns into a symbol of hatred. It’s the premeditation that’s so scary.
And once you start thinking about it, you realize that sometimes protestors must go to a great deal of trouble to buy flour or eggs or cream pies to throw at their victims, but then again sometimes people must surely be moved to just throw whatever they happen to have in their hand at the time.
Take the case of Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister who, at the beginning of May, was making an official visit to a high school, when somebody threw a Vegemite sandwich at her. It doesn’t sound premeditated, but then at the end of May, during another school visit, somebody threw another sandwich at her, containing salami this time. It looked exactly like this:
Gillard has some reputation in Australia as a left-wing feminist firebrand; and I surely didn’t know this, in certain parts of the Internet, the phrase “make me a sandwich” is regarded as a misogynistic slur against female Internet users. There are, I’m sure, worse slurs, although Julia Gillard doesn’t look like a woman who’d do anything she doesn’t want to. Here she is eating a meat pie: