News Revelations

It’s not easy being Pepe the Frog, hate symbol

(RNS) Little green frogs are supposed to turn into handsome princes, not ugly hate symbols.

Yet that is what happened to Pepe the Frog, a humble though popular comic book character, when he was kissed by the alt-right and turned into an anti-Semitic and anti-black internet meme. The Anti-Defamation League, a hate-watch group, added Pepe to its list of approximately 150 hate symbols in September.

Now, the ADL has announced a new social media campaign designed to turn Pepe, created by artist Matt Furie, back to the “sad frog-dude” Furie intended him to be.

“Pepe was never intended to be used as a symbol of hate,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the ADL’s leader, said in a press release announcing the campaign. “The sad frog was meant to be just that, a sad frog. We are going to work with Matt and his community of artists reclaim Pepe so that he might be used as a force for good, or at the very least to help educate people about the dangers of prejudice and bigotry.”

Furie will create a series of positive Pepe-themed memes for social media that the ADL will promote with the hashtag #SavePepe. This is the first time the ADL has worked to rehabilitate a hate symbol.

“Before he got wrapped up in politics, Pepe was an inside-joke and a symbol for feeling sad or feeling good and many things in between,” Furie wrote in Time recently. “I understand that it’s out of my control, but in the end, Pepe is whatever you say he is, and I, the creator, say that Pepe is love.”

Pepe has been used on social media by presidential candidate Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., who depicted the green frog as one of the “Deplorables,” a reference to a comment by Hillary Clinton about Trump voters. Pepe has been altered in the darker regions of the internet to feature a Hitler mustache, a swastika and various anti-Semitic and African-American stereotypes.

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About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

5 Comments

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  • So many layers to the stupid…

    Where to even start… the fact that the majority of uses of the cartoon frog are for non-racist purposes??

    The fact that when a presidential campaign declares a cartoon frog a symbol of antisemitism, rather than being laughed out of existence they are taken so seriously the ADL puts the cartoon frog on a list of hate symbols drawing an equivalent between a frog meme with the swastika??

    The fact that the ADL is no trying to “reclaim” a meme from racists despite the fact the meme is still overwhelmingly used for non-racist purposes (and thus is already as “reclaimed” as it’s going to get)??

    The fact that the ADL chose the cartoon frog to try to “reclaim” despite the fact their list includes actual symbols of racism that should probably be reclaimed?? (I’m sure Hindus and Buddhists would appreciate this kind of effort going towards the Swastika)

    The fact that a meme’s inadvertent creator thinks he can exert any power whatsoever over the meme he’s created?? Or the fact that the ADL thinks the meme’s creator has this power??

    The fact that for every anti-racist pepe meme that this place puts out ten racist memes will be created by trolls just to taunt this initiative, thus the whole campaign to “reclaim” this meme will just increase the percentage of racist pepe memes rather than decrease it, thus actually helping to fuel a problem that didn’t actually exist until the attempted fix.

    Or maybe the fact that this entire meme/hatesymbol nontroversy really has nothing to do with religion and therefore makes me once again question if this news website is actually interested in covering the topic it pretends to??

    Just… so much stupid…

  • Good luck with that.

    I can understand the creator of Pepe being upset at what has happened to a simple cartoon character. Why in the world would white supremacists pick a frog? I don’t understand their deranged minds, and that’s probably a good thing.

  • How did the Latinos get dragged into this? Pepe is the nickname for Pedro, a common Hispanic name. I’ve found Latinos to be very accepting of other races. They intermarry easily with the whole spectrum of races and ethnic groups.

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