In Defense of Pieing

In Defense of Pieing

When they go low, we go pie.


Nobody keeps track of the victims of pie violence, but in Germany, their numbers seem to be climbing. In 2016, a member of the guerrilla movement Torte für Menschenfeinde (“pies for misanthropes”) snuck up on the left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht before a rally to protest her anti-immigrant turn, smearing her face and her good name with chocolate cream. More recently, an operative by the nom de guerre of Julia Pie slung a giant cupcake frosted with shaving foam at right-winger Beatrix von Storch. Pie—the person—was fined €150, but refused to pay on principle. She served two weeks of prison time for the infraction instead.

The conditions for cake warfare in Germany are good: The country’s parliamentary democracy allows for a broad range of political targets, and ammunition is rich and plentiful, with an abundance of Black Forest cakes, linzer tarts, and apple, pear, and cherry strudels. Yet these criteria aren’t the be-all end-all of Tortalerkrieg. Around the world, and across a range of culinary and political traditions, we’d all do well to treat the haters among us to a little more sugar.

Pieing is a particularly fitting form of political action in our troubled times. It is as ridiculous as its victims are malicious. It is guaranteed to go viral, especially when set to music, like a mazurka or a nice waltz. Pieing is safe for work, suitable for children, and highly unlikely to cause long-term damage to its victims (besides, perhaps, Pie-TSD.) It’s more Marx Brothers than Engels; more slapstick than ice-pick. It combats hateful speech not with no-platforming, but with butter, cream and sugar. What, dear liberals, could be more civil?

More fundamentally, political pieing scratches an itch that simple comedy or outright violence can’t reach. In its fruity excess and flaky glory, it is a punishment that befits the crime of treating democracy like a farce. In a global political moment when tin-pot Twitter personalities seem to have installed themselves into every high office, pieing can take on the clowns in a language they might understand.

In words Michelle Obama might appreciate: “When they go low, we go pie.”

Patriots won’t be surprised to hear that pieing is as American as, well, you know. It was popularized by Laurel and Hardy’s classic skits, then reemerged as a symbol of the counterculture in the 1970s, when Tom Forcade—the man best known for starting High Times magazine—walloped Otto Larsen, the chairman of Lyndon Johnson’s commission on obscenity and pornography. Forcade’s followers successfully pied William F. Buckley, Phyllis Schlafly, Howard Hunt, and Andy Warhol; the anarchist Biotic Baking Brigade, the famous “pieman” Aron Kay and compatriots in the International Patisserie Brigade and Al-Pieda later defiled the faces of Ann Coulter, Bill Gates, Milton Friedman, and the king of Sweden. PETA, for its part, has stayed true to its principles, enlisting a supporter to throw a pastry filled with tofu at a Canadian minister to protest seal hunting.

The French have a particular penchant for pieing. They even have a word for it: entartage, which translates roughly to “entartment.” Among the most high-value targets of entartage is the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, whose misadventures have been compiled into a delectable series of YouTube videos (the pies change; the expression on his face does not.) Lévy, who was instrumental in convincing France to invade Libya and has gone on the record defending director and child rapist Roman Polanski, was struck for the first time in 1985 and has subsequently been pied in bookstores, universities, airports, and the Cannes Film Festival. In 2017, activists in Belgrade threw cake to avenge his position on the war in Yugoslavia. His repeated misfortunes inspired a popular song by the singer Renaud titled “L’entarté,” or “the entarted.”

More recently, an Australian teenager named Will Connolly took a deconstructionist approach when he cracked a single raw egg on the back of MP Fraser Anning’s head after the politician declared, not 24 hours after the shootings in two New Zealand mosques, that immigration from Muslim countries was to blame. The politician retaliated by punching the kid twice—which earned the teen more admirers still. “This egg has united people,” Connolly told reporters. Fans of his have raised over $50,000 through crowdfunding for legal fees—and “more eggs.” Connolly plans to send the money to the families of the victims.

The targets of pieings often have reactionary tendencies, but they’re not necessarily all on the right: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was egged in early March by a Brexit supporter (given Corbyn’s muddled position on the European Union, he ought to be pummeled from multiple fronts, and with mincemeat). Generally, though, the entarted share certain qualities: smugness, vanity, wealth, and entitlement. And for every face, there is a pie. It is a culinary fact that Ted Cruz’s face was reverse-engineered to accommodate a heaping portion of bananas Foster. Ivanka’s Daddy’s-little-grifter pout just begs for a sliver of key lime.

As for Jordan Peterson, the options are multiple and tantalizing. A manly pork pie for his masculine, man-bearded face? A feminizing cherry glaze to soften his edges? Maybe his self-serious aura can only really be tempered by Kiev cake—a delicacy made popular by the Soviet Karl Marx Confectionary Factory (now Roshen) that should remind all of us, in every buttercream-filled bite, of the repression, deprivation, and intellectual narrow-mindedness that state socialism can loose upon the world.

It’s a real shame Richard Spencer got out of the fascism racket before anyone had a chance to get to him with a tray of Zwetschgenkuchen. What was so satisfying about him getting punched on camera? Not pain. No: The sucker punch landed while Spencer was explaining to a reporter the significance of the white-nationalist meme of Pepe the frog. That’s behavior only a pie can dignify.

Critics of pieing have denounced it as a form of violence, which seems excessive, particularly if the assailant has read up on her target’s dietary restrictions. There are nonetheless legal risks to take into consideration when planning an action. In 2011, a Spanish politician named Yolanda Barcina suffered a blow at the hands of a former local deputy mayor and two other men who were protesting a new railway; they were all fined and imprisoned, in part because Barcina claimed to have suffered bodily harm on account of “the hardness of the French meringue.” The year prior, a Michigan State student hit Senator Carl Levin in the face with a Dutch apple pie and was arrested on assault and battery charges. Jeremy Corbyn’s attacker got 28 days, in spite of his attorney’s accurate defense that he acted in “frustration and anger borne out of the political situation we find ourselves in.”

If you can spare the time, the risk, and legal expense, do take a moment to consider the merits of pieing; there is no greater use of privilege—and indeed, no more patriotic way to express your political convictions—than to deliver to your most reviled pundit or politician a freshly baked treat. You don’t have to hurt anyone. You don’t even have to chase politicians off stage, boycott their appearances at your local college, or drive them out of restaurants on their evening off. Just sit patiently until they’re done eating—and be sure to save room for dessert.

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed the article you just read. It’s just one of the many deeply reported and boundary-pushing stories we publish every day at The Nation. In a time of continued erosion of our fundamental rights and urgent global struggles for peace, independent journalism is now more vital than ever.

As a Nation reader, you are likely an engaged progressive who is passionate about bold ideas. I know I can count on you to help sustain our mission-driven journalism.

This month, we’re kicking off an ambitious Summer Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $15,000. With your support, we can continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism you rely on to cut through the noise of conservative, corporate media. Please, donate today.

A better world is out there—and we need your support to reach it.


Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

Ad Policy