JaVale McGee, you’re speaking my language with your platypus shenanigans

Yesterday, JaVale McGee, decent center for the Denver Nuggets, punked the media. He claimed via Twitter that he had bought a pet platypus, then tweeted an image of two adorable little platypi.

The JaVale McGee-loving media ran with the story. Indeed, multiple news outlets and blogs represented his monotreme acquisition as true facts. But the joke was on them! McGee later tweeted that in fact it was all a ruse. He sensibly pointed out that, while he expected fans to fall for it, journalists should have known better. And as he said, it only would have taken pasting the image into Google Images to reveal the hoax.

Now, deliberate fraud involving Orinthorhynchidae is one thing. It’s a jest, as one might expect in the court of a king. But I think McGee has a serious point, or as serious as a point can be, when derived from larks about venomous beaked egg-laying mammals. Journalists probably should not be falling for this stuff. Not without a phone call to McGee or his representation, or the aforementioned “let’s see what Google Images reveals” maneuver, which takes all of 15 seconds.

Personally, I kind of think that, self-hagiography aside, the blogging revolution has essentially given us the worst of both worlds. Professional bloggers were right to point out that elite journalism is a hotbed of influence peddling, patronage, and petty corruption. Traditional journalists were right to point out that far too often, bloggers don’t bother to actually get out there and get the facts, content to take wild guesses from behind their Macbooks. We could potentially have gotten the best of each. I would contend we’ve gotten the worst: professional blogging now has social circle capture and petty corruption to put the world of traditional media to shame, and reporters constantly fail to do even minimal due diligence or fact gathering. And without a functioning media, there’s no functioning democracy.

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34 replies
  1. 1
    kindness says:

    Lying with impunity is the new norm.

    Mitt Romney proves that every day.

  2. 2
    BGinCHI says:

    No way those things in the picture are anything but wolverines with duck masks on.

    It’s obvious.

  3. 3
    Keith says:

    Reminds me of Erin Burnett yesterday talking about the Zimmerman case. She was going off about how it seems kind of suspicous that the prosecution would be publishing a bunch of evidence to the case, like it is undermining the defense. Then her guest mentioned that the prosecution is *supposed* to do this (kind of like a scene from My Cousin Vinny), at which point, Burnett replied, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
    Casual journalism, folks. Just read the Drudge headlines, read Memeorandum, and you’re ready to head into the studio.

  4. 4
    Keith G says:

    They are so cute. Venomous or not, better keep them away from Tunch.

    Speaking of which, Cole (wherever you are), it’s time for a picture.

  5. 5
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Well, the picture would have fooled me. The platypi are cute! Who would think that someone would like about something so innocuous?

  6. 6


    Lying with impunity is the new norm.

    It’s not ‘lying’, so much as a consequentialist re-definition of ‘telling the truth’.

    It’s true if it gets you what you want, and lying if it doesn’t. Success confers impunity.

    Richard Cohen’s much-debated, and much-derided, column about Romney made this point.

  7. 7
    harlana says:

    @Keith: so Erin Burnett is cute but not smart. I’m thinking one of those platypi, exceptionally cute, would do a way better job.

  8. 8
    Suffern ACE says:

    Yeah it wasn’t true, but since I wanted it to be true, I failed to check so I could be the first to give out the good news.

  9. 9
    jl says:

    What, no echidna?

    No one ever thinks of the echidna, the forgotten monotreme.

    Does no one speak for the echidna? No, not one.

  10. 10
    middlewest says:

    American journalism was wildly dysfunctional well before “blog” was even a word. What’s changed is that we can go on the Internet and talk about it.

  11. 11
    BGinCHI says:

    @jl: First they ignore you, then they….etc.

  12. 12
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I actually recognized the platypi, having seen them previously at the source of one of my guilty pleasures [pootie diaries on GOS]. In fact, I captured a copy of that picture and incorporated it into one of my home-made screen savers [similar to a slide show].

    If you enlarge the picture enough, you can see that they have the cutest little feet! Squee!

  13. 13
    J.W. Hamner says:

    So it’s bloggers’ fault that reporters didn’t do reporting? Because they exist?

    You would have to really work to be less coherent. Cute baby platypuses though.

  14. 14
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Yes, this.

    That’s the REAL problem. The gatekeepers are being exposed. They no longer control the dialog, like they once did with letters to the editor. Now their detractors have virtual printing presses on their desktops, and it’s driving them nuts. They’re being held accountable, and they don’t like it one little bit.

  15. 15
    EIGRP says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    [pootie diaries on GOS]

    I read that as “food diaries on GOS” and immediately wondered what platypus tastes like. How are they best cooked?


    Edit: I haven’t had dinner yet.

  16. 16
    Jebediah says:

    I call shenanigans. Those critters, as cute as they are, are definitely NOT platypi. Everyone knows a proper platypus is bright blue with an orange beak. And sometimes a fedora.

  17. 17
    pragmatism says:

    Javale is a nutbag and his momma is a better basketball player than him but he did good work. I’m all for making people stop and think.
    Javale’s weird bball season is catalogued here

  18. 18
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Nice false equivalence there, Freddie. Between the bloggers and the journalists, only one claims the authority to be telling the truth. There are some bloggers doing it, for sure, but journalism’s entire premise is that what they say is a fact.

  19. 19
    WereBear says:

    @Keith: (kind of like a scene from My Cousin Vinny)

    You’d think journalists would a least watch the movie.

  20. 20
    jl says:


    This baked platypus recipe looks delicious.

  21. 21
    RalfW says:


    I often find myself wondering if the early years of the collapse of the Roman Empire felt like this. Seeing journalists over and over again being punked, O’Keefe’d, or being ass-stupid as the story Keith relates, makes me think we’re not that far from the end of the American experiment.

    (And, of course, the Center of the American Experiment, a RW think tank that employs morans like Katherine Kersten are probably helping speed it’s end…).

  22. 22

    “…without a functioning media, there’s no functioning democracy.”

    Ahh, Grasshopper. You begin to understand.

    Seriously, it’s like the Powers can’t even be bothered to try to manufacture consent anymore. Just generate noise so nobody can think.

  23. 23
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    Since this is Balloon-Juice, home of pedants, I thought I should mention that technically it should be “platypuses” since the name derives from Greek, not Latin. (If it were from a Latin word, then it would be “platypi.”) Same reason, incidentally, that it’s “octopuses,” not “octopi.”


    To make up for the pedantry, here are twin baby platypuses making their zoo debut in Australia.

  24. 24
    Freddie deBoer says:

    @Mnemosyne: I actually looked it up and saw that it was platypuses, but I just liked the sound of platypi better.

    Incidentally– many, many professional bloggers are making truth claims about the world, and they certainly aren’t saying that it’s not to be taken seriously.

  25. 25

    “And without a functioning media, there’s no functioning democracy.”

    Oh I’d say it functions very well. In the same manner that an engine without a regulating mechanism functions very well at grinding down its component parts into slag.

  26. 26
    A Humble Lurker says:

    Crappy media is crappy, but cute platypuses is cute.

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    Though I love platypuses, my heart will always belong to the pudu. World’s smallest true deer.

    I blame Bob Harris.

  28. 28
    Heliopause says:

    Maybe I’ve watched too many nature shows, but platypi-pusses are difficult to keep in captivity and almost impossible to breed, so I would have been skeptical from the get-go. Of course, we shouldn’t have to rely on the off-chance that a journalist will have watched nature shows and therefore known this to be properly skeptical.

  29. 29
    Skalite says:

    Just a point (a.k.a. I’m going to be a dick now): Platypuses (yes, that’s the correct plural form, not Platypi) do not have venomous beaks (or bills, as they’re called). They produce venom in their hind legs injected through spurs directly above their feet. And only the males, females have no venom (nor indeed, fully formed spurs).

  30. 30
    AA+ Bonds says:

    A little bird told me that you can insert false facts into Wikipedia about celebrities and then have them reported as true across the globe by lazy people in the laziest sector of journalism

    I hear tell it is a lot of fun to do

  31. 31
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Running an incorrect story about JaVale McGee and a platypus sourced to McGee seems like extremely easy risk analysis. What could possibly happen, will he sue for defamation

  32. 32


    I always go with “platypodes” just to be ornery.

  33. 33
    Peregrinus says:

    @Sarah, Proud and Tall:

    I also like “platypodes,” since that would be the plural in Greek – “broadfeet.” (And yeah, I also say “octopodes.” You can’t imagine the stares I get from my students sometimes when I mention some of my particularities with English.)

  34. 34
    twiffer says:

    photo needs fedoras.

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