The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! Oh, apologies. We regret to inform you that the duck is a racist.
The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist
— Pixelated Boat (@pixelatedboat) June 12, 2016
This is the gist of a joke tweet that first went viral in June 2016. It parodies a common occurrence online – of someone becoming wildly popular before being exposed as capital-B Bad. Milkshake Ducks are internet stars who quickly fall out of favour because of their offensive actions. There is no actual milkshake-drinking duck, but there are plenty of Milkshake Ducks. Ken Bone was one, and so was the Chewbacca Mask Lady. You become a Milkshake Duck (noun) after you are milkshake ducked (verb) by the internet.
Bone, who went viral for asking a question in a 2016 US presidential debate, was shunned after five days of fame when sleuths discovered his old comments on the forum Reddit. In them, he seemed to express approval for the 2014 leak of the actress Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos and suggested that the shooting of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 had been “justified”. The Chewbacca Mask Lady – a woman who went viral for a sweet video in which she laughingly wore a mask of the Star Wars character – was maligned after she began earning money for her fame while claiming God had made her go viral for “His glory”.
Milkshake ducking is now more common than ever. It embodies the ephemerality of internet fame and, like “fake news”, reveals our propensity to share things without scrutinising them first.
But the trend also exposes the internet’s inherent Schadenfreude. It is one thing for an online star to expose themselves as unworthy of attention because of their present-day actions and another for people to trawl through their online comments to find something they said in 2007, which they may no longer agree with in 2017.
For now, the whole internet loves milkshake ducking. We regret to inform you that it still doesn’t involve milkshakes. Or ducks.
This article appears in the 16 Aug 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear