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The tale of the Milkshake Duck and the hijab in Canada

Editorial Staff

Yesterday, Australian wordsmiths Macquarie Dictionary announced that "Milkshake Duck" was its word of the year. Immediately, out of Canada, a story appeared that demonstrates exactly what it means.

If you don't spend your life reading social media, you've probably no idea what a "Milkshake Duck" is. We asked around the office. No one knew and no one cared.

But, it turns out that the phrase (hey, Macquarie Dictionary, it's not actually "a" word, is it?) has some meaning. But it's all invented and the guy who invented it is now getting his fifteen minutes of fame, although thanks to Macquarie Dictionary it's both blown out of all proportion and it's going to last a lot longer. Having said that, his fame is for his alter-ego posting identity: the Australian behind it wants to remain anonymous.

It was a tweet wot started it, guv. Posting as "pixelated boat" in mid 2016, he said "The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist." It didn't catch on. So he kept posting stuff with the words "Milkshake Duck" in them. Eventually, the internet being what it is, people started reposting it.

It's a bit cryptic and so people started to explain it. It is, apparently, when someone does something that makes them instantly popular in the internet and then something unpleasant is revealed about them and they go from hero to villain even faster than they went from zero to hero.

An interview on ABC (Australia) news last night explained it to people in the street and one young woman immediately got the point: "oh, you mean like that man who was a hero for helping people at the bombing, then it was found out he was stealing from people?" she said, in not only an impressive grasp of the topic, rapid reference to the news and, mostly, using the word "like" correctly.

Entirely co-incidentally, another example was, at that very moment, unfolding almost exactly half way across the world.

Last week a young Muslim girl in Toronto claimed that a man came up to her and tried to cut off her hijab (head-scarf) with a pair of scissors. Canada was outraged. The police started to investigate a hate crime, which in a country known as being the least hate-filled on the planet caused national shock. The 11 year old girl, Khawlah Noman, held a press conference, her mother sitting beside her. Crying, the girl said she was afraid to go back to school. Her mother said "this is just not Canada."

It turns out that her mother was right. "The Investigation is concluded," Toronto police said yesterday in an almost terse statement. "After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described in the original news release did not happen."

No milkshake, duck, as the English would say, in Derbyshire.

But there is a serious point to it. The instant fame afforded by the internet and perpetuated by lazy media who think posting copies of tweets is the same as journalism, creates targets. It is inevitable that there will be people who say "he doesn't deserve that" and find ways to redress the balance. Some may want to cause distress. It's human nature to ask "how come something that ordinary has gained to much attention."

But it's when the story goes viral before there has been any fact-checking that is at the heart of the issue. If the internet, in the form of twitter, facebook etc. wants to "blow up" over some "meme" or other, let it. But the proper media needs to be measured in its response and not jump on every passing story, without research, just to grab eyeballs via a hashtag, etc.



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