It’s not easy being green.
No, being green has been linked to hardcore bigotry, and racism, and has alleged ties to groups like the KKK. That’s a pretty despicable crowd to be associated with. Even members of the infamous Klan conceal their faces under foolish looking, yet still terrifying hoods. If Pepe is a symbol of white nationalism, or racism of any kind, then surely sharing his image, especially on social media, must be akin to spray-painting a giant neon orange swastika, onto a bridge of a high-traffic overpass. A pure violation, and thus no healthy-minded individual would have anything to do with Pepe.
At the risk of being labelled the dreaded “R word”, I too chose not to share any Pepe’s during the 2016 election on my personal social media accounts. However I always felt very strongly that Pepe was an innocent victim in the highly polarized, political
climate thunderstorm of [current year].
Strangely enough, I never bothered to actually research Pepe’s backstory. It was easier to enjoy Pepe’s appearances from afar, than to put any work into researching the truth. Perhaps it was laziness, perhaps it was because I was afraid that if Pepe did turn out to have roots in white nationalism, then I might be guilty by association. The likely truth is that it was a little of both.
Post-election, I feel differently. I suddenly feel emboldened enough, or compelled to share Pepe on facebook – an action I know will stir the ever dwindling pot that is my online social circle. Before posting any Pepe’s however, I had to get to the truth, no matter how ugly it was.
The worst that could happen was that the people who said: “Pepe is a direct representation of white supremecy & hatred” would be right. I really, really, really didn’t want this to be the case, but if it was I would at least have learned something.
The research began, and within about 15 minutes I had my answer: Pepe is just a frog.
Pepe’s first appearance was in a web comic called ‘Boys Club’ created by Matt Furie. The most controversial thing about the character was the amount of pot Pepe smokes, and that he/it is said to take his/its pants off in one episode, revealing a green – ken doll style smooth area.
Here’s a quote from the original artist regarding Pepe’s recent infamy:
“As the creator of Pepe, I condemn the illegal and repulsive appropriations of the character by racist and fringe groups. The true nature of Pepe, as featured in my comic book, ‘Boys Club,’ celebrates peace, togetherness and fun. I aim to reclaim the rascally frog from the forces of hate and ask that you join me in making millions of new, joyful Pepe memes that share the light hearted spirit of the original chilled-out champion.” – Matt Furie
If you want to know how Pepe’s name got mixed in with white nationalism, of all things, you’d have to ask The Daily Beast – who published an article titled ‘How Pepe The Frog Became A Nazi Trump Supporter And Alt Right Symbol’.
The article does make a point to note the original creation, and the more likable side of Pepe, however in an attempt to illustrate how a 19 year old white supremacist was able to make a platform for a newer, much less tolerant form of Pepe, they ended up giving a 19 year old white supremacist an enormous platform to spread his newer, much less tolerant form of Pepe! Instead of giving this teenager, who’s brain has yet to fully develop, a massive stage on which to introduce his racist Pepe interpretation, the Daily Beast should have chosen to focus on the many more examples of the well-meaning Pepe, that 99% of us enjoy. By highlighting the fringe, they fulfilled their own prophecy. Kind of like how Pussy-Gate took something nobody would ever have heard of, and played it on every news channel, all the while chanting “We don’t want our children seeing this!”. Then don’t shove it in our faces!
The majority of the use of Pepe that I have personally seen are from the sub-reddit The_Donald: https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/
I have never personally witnessed any racist Pepe’s on The_Donald. I don’t doubt that there are racist Trump supporters, some of whom could be members of this, or similar online communities, and I don’t doubt that they use Pepe’s image to promote their ’cause’ (if you can call hatred & bigotry a cause). The Daily Beast recognized a teenager who outwardly stated his intent was to tie Pepe to white nationalism. If white nationalists were as prominent today as Nazis were in the 1940’s, then we might have a real problem. We may have to give up on Pepe, and let the haters rewrite his meaning in history, just as the Nazis did to the Swastika. Luckily for everyone, white nationalism, regardless of what the Daily Beast would have you believe, is made up of an incredibly small, fringe group of loony people, that unfortunately existed well before Donald Trump & Pepe the Frog came into the limelight.
As to how the media blew this up; We can pontificate all day as to why the fake story of the cartoon frog that was supposedly helping to Sheppard a racist into the white house became a talking point.
One thing however is for sure: Pepe = A-OK.