He's bad, folks.
This week the world found a new icon to love.
In a clip that ended far too soon, an adorable, fluffy kitten looked confused and worried in the lower right corner of a very official Zoom call and spoke in the voice of a flustered middle-aged man. Unable to turn off the filter that rendered him feline, Arvel "Rod" Ponton announced, "I'm prepared to go forward with it," adding, "I'm not a cat."
What made Ponton's tech issues particularly endearing was that it wasn't just a standard work meeting. Ponton is a County Attorney for Presidio County, Texas and was appearing before Judge Roy Ferguson for a remote court hearing.
The context could not have been more serious. There's even a warning in one section of the screen indicating that recording the session could result in jail time — so we all owe a debt to the bravery of whoever decided to share it.
Filter turns lawyer into cat during Zoom hearing www.youtube.com
That sober atmosphere compounded with the silliness of the filter. And the evident innocence of Ponton's software struggle was likewise heightened by seeing his voice come out of a doe-eyed kitty. The Internet was immediately in love.
But wasn't there also something suspicious in the way those huge, shimmering eyes seemed to avoid the camera? Was that ingenuous mask hiding something sinister?
If, rather than just laughing at the spectacle, we had applied a little scrutiny to Zoom Cat or Cat Lawyer — as he's come to be known — maybe we could have seen what was coming. Because Zoom Cat just got Milkshake Ducked.
For those who don't keep up with internet memes from four years ago, Milkshake Duck was the star of a tweet from One Giant Hand comic artist Ben, better known by his Twitter handle @pixelatedboat. In June 2016 he articulated a common Internet phenomenon whereby a seemingly innocent, quirky character is discovered and quickly becomes beloved...only to be revealed as a secret villain with a dark history.
Someone who undergoes this transformation can be said to have been "Milkshake Ducked."
The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist— pixelatedboat aka “mr tweets” (@pixelatedboat aka “mr tweets”) 1465718859.0
The concept points to the Internet's power of instant fame is a double-edged sword that can confer infamy as easily as it does celebrity and frequently manages to do both in quick succession. It's such a recognizable occurrence that Australian dictionary publishers Macquarie named Milkshake Duck their "word of the year" in 2017.
Ken Bone is a memorable instance of the phenomenon. The undecided voter in the red sweater at the second presidential debate in 2016 became an overnight media sensation for his earnest passion for the democratic process. But when he did a reddit AMA using an existing account, users dug through his history to find some dirt — including an attempt to justify the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin (and also a comment in a NSFW subreddit in which he described pregnant women as "beautiful human submarines").
But the concept of something as wholesome as a duck who enjoys milkshakes being sullied by the taint of racism seemed to elevate that duality to heights of absurdity beyond the realm of possibility. That is, until Lawyer Cat turned out to have a history of (alleged) corruption and harassment...
Sex, Spice, and Small-Town Texas Justice: The Purple Zone Raid www.youtube.com
Back in 2012 Rod Ponton was elected District Attorney of the small town of Alpine, Texas. One of the first indictments he pursued when he took office was against a woman named Ilana Lipsen, who ran a smoke shop known as The Purple Zone.
At the time, Lipsen's shop sold a number of synthetic "potpourri" substances that occupied a legal gray area. She also says that she and Rod Ponton had a brief sexual relationship.
According to Lipsen's account of events, after they bonded over horses and spent a night together, she chose not to pursue a relationship with Ponton and became a target first of stalking and later of his prosecutorial powers. It's also possible that he was egged on by locals who reportedly viewed Lipsen as a corrupting influence in their town — some of whom expressed their feeling by hurling anti-semitic slurs in her direction.
This is more milkshake duck than the actual milkshake duck https://t.co/u7YKrzGrTc— Ken Tremendous (@Ken Tremendous) 1612927498.0
Eventually Ponton pointed the DEA in Lipsen's direction, resulting in a violent raid of The Purple Zone that turned up exactly zero illegal substances and resulted in her mother (who was not connected to the business) being arrested and her sister sustaining a nasty contusion while pinned beneath the butt of a rifle. All federal charges were eventually dropped.
Still, despite the lack of evidence, Ilana pled guilty to a state charge of Possession of a Controlled Substance under "Deferred Adjudication" — meaning the charges are erased if she completes probation — in exchange for charges against her mother being dropped. Talk about a messy break-up...
So, while Rod Ponton may not truly be a Cat Lawyer, he absolutely is a Milkshake Duck (and should probably be investigated for corruption and harassment).