The Anti-Defamation League has officially declared Pepe the Frog, the cartoon frog beloved by celebrities and 4chan alike, a hate symbol. The ADL claim it’s because the meme has been co-opted for anti-Semetic purposes on Twitter and elsewhere online, particularly by white supremacists.
“Images of the frog, variously portrayed with a Hitler-like moustache, wearing a yarmulke or a Klan hood, have proliferated in recent weeks in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter,” the ADL said when explaining their latest move.
Pepe began life as a humble character back in 2005 in the Boy’s Club series, created by comic book writer Matt Furie. He later became popular online as the ‘sad frog meme’ on 4Chan, adding “feels good man” to the frog. Variants of the image constitute as a ‘rare Pepe’. He’s since become an icon for the “alt-right”, an online movement associated with right-wing ideologies as much as Internet memes.
Recently, Hillary Clinton’s campaign website reported Donald Trump retweeting images of himself as Pepe from a white supremacist group. They showed that “in recent months, Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the ‘alt-right.’ They’ve decided to take back Pepe by adding swastikas and other symbols of anti-semitism and white supremacy.
“Now white supremacists have given Pepe the cartoon frog some Trump hair – and the candidate’s own son says he is ‘honoured to be grouped with’ him,” the post continued.
The chief executive of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt told the Guardian: “Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users. These anti-Semites have no shame. They are abusing the image of a cartoon character, one that might at first seem appealing, to harass and spread hatred on social media.”