Pepe the Frog may be a character in Matt Furie’s comics. In 2008, fans of the comic began uploading Furie’s work online. In one comic, Pepe responds to an issue about his bathroom habits with, “Feels good, man.” That reaction image and catchphrase took on a lifetime of its own on the web, meriting a Know Your Meme entry by 2009. Alternate iterations of Pepe, including sad, smug and angry Pepes, followed. Pepe memes are ubiquitous across 4chan, Reddit, Imgur, Tumblr, and other social media and image-sharing sites. It all seemed in good fun, but in late September, Pepe’s green visage was designated a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL’s online hate symbol database is meant to assist enforcement, educators, and members of the overall public identify potentially hateful images, explained Oren Segal, the director of the organization’s Center on Extremism. He said that in recent years, hate symbols have proliferated online. Now, with things like Pepe the frog, anti-Semitic images are originating and circulating almost totally on social media.
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In some instances, Pepe wears a Hitler mustache, and his signature message is replaced with “K** Jews Man.” In others, Pepe poses ahead of a burning World Trade Center, dressed as an Orthodox Jewish person with a yarmulke and payot. He’s also been spotted wearing a Nazi soldier’s uniform and during a KKK hood and robe. In May, the Daily Beast spoke to a supremacist who said there had been a concerted effort on the location 4chan to “reclaim Pepe” from normal people in late 2015. Pepe had gone mainstream: He’s been tweeted by Katy Perry, who said she features a “Pepe file” on her computer and has made multiple appearances on Nicki Minaj’s Instagram. therefore the supremacist group remixed him with Nazi propaganda for amusement. It originated on /rk9/, the 4chan message board related to a number of the smallest amount savory elements of the web. Last fall, people thereon board purposefully framed two innocent individuals for the Umpqua junior college shooting. It’s allegedly where Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger announced his shooting before it happened — during a post with a Pepe meme.
Nazi Pepe made its thanks to Twitter, where people that regularly tweeted messages supporting white nationalism and anti-immigrant views quickly absorbed it into their Internet repertoire. people that identify with those movements add the frog emoji to their Twitter name.
Two weeks then, the ADL made its official designation. Segal, the representative for the organization, said that while the ADL was researching harassment of journalists on Twitter — particularly the utilization of the triple-parenthetical (((echo))) around names to designate Jewish people — they began to note Pepe’s face arising more frequently. He said people on his staff were conscious of Pepe’s original, inoffensive incarnation, but it had been clear that the frog had become related to anti-Semitic opinions online.
How The Stigma Is Changing
“When we felt that [Pepe] was reaching that time of the hateful version becoming more widespread, that’s a criteria for adding it to our hate symbols database,” he explained. To be clear, not every instance of Pepe is hateful, Segal explained. It depends on the context. Using Pepe to explain how it feels once you eat your friend’s french-fried potatoes or to precise concern about getting your life in order: not hateful. Photoshopping Pepe ahead of a degree camp: hateful.
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Hopefully, he says, the Pepe meme are going to be ready to move past this dark point in its history and return to only being fun. If enough people share positive — or a minimum of non-hateful — Pepe memes, to the purpose where few people encounter Nazi Pepe online, it wouldn’t be a hate symbol anymore. “The hate symbol database is not the final stop for this meme,” he said.
That came as an enormous relief to Furie, the artist who created Pepe. He has been understandably devastated by the turn his creation has taken. “To have it evolve into what it’s today, it is a nightmare,” Furie said. “It’s quite my worst nightmare … to be tangled in forever with a logo of hate.”
“I would like to help the ADL and do my part by flooding the web with positive Pepe memes,” he added. He’s not even a very political guy. before the ADL’s hate symbol announcement, he had never heard of the alt-right or the nascent supremacist movement that’s sprung up around Trump. Though he’d heard of Pepe getting used as a meme as far back as 2008, he never made the memes himself. He says he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton.
“I’m a lifelong artist,” said Furie, who lives in Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood. “Hate and racism couldn’t be beyond something on my radar. I attempt to specialise in positivity and nature and animals.” Furie stopped drawing Pepe about six years ago, though he did revive him recently for a really special drawing on his Tumblr. It depicts the frog wearing a “Make Pepe Great Again” hat, urinating on a green-faced Trump. Reclaiming your own work from anti-Semites: Feels good, man.