I'm not a cat. I'm a monster.
This post is really more of a question than a comment. You’re probably familiar with the hilarious video that made the rounds on the internet of Texas attorney Rod Ponton logging into a civil asset forfeiture zoom hearing as an adorable kitten, and struggling to disable the zoom filter:
It was the hardest I had laughed in quite some time, and I surmise many others felt similarly. Mr. Ponton had, without intending it, provided many many people with some much needed light and levity in what has otherwise been a very dark season.
Subsequent to this blast of publicity, it emerged that Mr. Ponton is also notable for other reasons that are distinctly less adorable. Of note that some people have overnight begun to grab on is this Reason article detailing how he once had romantic involvement with a woman he later targeted as a law enforcement official. It would course not surprise me if there will be more information to come, but already the reaction is (at least in my view) pretty standard.
To wit, we’re deeply uncomfortable (myself included) with holding opposing truths about people and about experiences as existing at the same time. The video was much funnier when Mr. Ponton existed as a blank slate onto which we could project our own imaginings, and not a complex, faulty human being with a past who has apparently sometimes done bad things (a description I can imagine applies to just about everyone). In other words, the reality seems to be that Mr. Ponton could both be someone who brought (however inadvertently) a good deal of absurd joy to many people and simultaneously be someone who has in the past done bad things.
So here’s the ‘more of a question than a comment’ part: we see this all the time — with celebrities and politicians for example. Right now, R. Kelly is on trial for various sex offenses (related: Soulless, by Jim DeRogatis, about Kelly is quite good), yet continues to have a cadre of fans. Actor Rob Lowe recorded a sex tape of himself and a 16-year-old girl in 1988 (otherwise known as production of child pornography, an offense with significant federal mandatory minimum penalties today), yet went on to have a successful career as an entertainer (and to be clear, I’m not suggesting he should have been imprisoned).
There is also a sexual thread here, with Mr. Ponton — and I’m really curious about the relationship between sexual acts, stigma, power, celebrity, and our inability (or at least profound difficulty) in reckoning with the profound messiness of humanity, and our need to have heroes and monsters. I don’t necessarily have any answers, like I said up top — more just a lot of questions.
That’s a lot of thoughts for a video of a cat entering its appearance at a civil asset forfeiture hearing. Maybe it would be better if we all just laughed and moved on, understanding implicitly that Mr. Ponton’s got skeletons in his closet because we all have skeletons. Is it possible that he targeted his former lover? Of course. Is it possible that he recognized that error and took steps to make amends? Also possible. Is it possible he’s unrepentant and has done worse things? Also a possibility.
Anyway, when I send the cat video to my parents and friends, I’m not going to send them this dissertation on it as well. Life’s too short, let the people who are not terminally online laugh. If you have thoughts, let me know.
Edited because I inadvertently called Rod Rob in the opening paragraph. Whoops.