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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Columns

‘Pepe the Frog’ meme isn’t just a hate symbol



September was fueled with multiple racially charged incidents that have continued to divide the country.

These incidents include the dorm vandalism at San Jose State University where two students scrawled swastikas on a residence hall, the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and now the designation of a popular meme, Pepe the Frog, as a hate symbol.

For as long as there have been symbols meant to represent a positive message, some group or person has been able to turn it into something offensive. By designating Pepe the Frog as a hate symbol, the Anti-Defamation League is allowing the alt-right to win.

Pepe the Frog made its debut in 2005 when Myspace user, Matt Furie, uploaded the drawing for his comic series, “Boy’s Club.” The meme grew in popularity, spreading to sites like 4chan, 8chan and Reddit, where the anthropomorphic frog became fair game.

It wasn’t until recently that Pepe the Frog took a sinister turn as 4chan users began to try to take back their overly used meme.

Shortly after Hillary Clinton said that half of Donald Trump supporters fit in a  “basket of deplorables” during a fundraising event in New York, Pepe the Frog resurfaced in an unpleasant way.

Donald Trump Jr. fired back at Clinton’s comments with a manipulated poster of the film “The Expendables” featuring Pepe the Frog sporting a familiar fringe. Trump senior, his sons and other well-known Republicans also have their faces superimposed onto the poster.

A slew of racist memes followed, all featuring Pepe the Frog. They showed him with the blood drop cross of the KKK, sporting a Hitler mustache and wearing a Schutzstaffel uniform.

The worst thing about the ADL’s decision to designate Pepe the Frog as a hate symbol is that hate memes have been around for years. If all racist memes were to be labeled as hate symbols, 50 percent of them would be made obsolete.

The Nazis are known for turning symbols with positive meaning into something negative.

They did it with the the swastika. The word “swastika” was derived from the Sanskrit word “svastika,” meaning “good fortune” or “well-being.” The symbol first appeared in Neolithic Eurasia.

Some thousands of years later, because of what it represents, it is one of the most hated images in the world.

Are we really going to give the alt-right this symbol to twist and use any way they like? Branding Pepe the Frog as a hate symbol is handing him to the alt-right — gift-wrapped.

The best way to fight racism and bigotry is to take it head on. Pepe the Frog has and always will be a symbol for devoted slackers and stoners all over the world.

There will always be millions of hateful memes floating around the internet because sometimes people just don’t know when to stop.

Although Pepe the Frog isn’t necessarily a character to look up to, what he means to people — and social media — won’t change because bigots have decided to create terrible memes.

Racism doesn’t come to mind when one thinks of Pepe the Frog. Because of that, he should not be considered a hate symbol.

We all love Pepe the Frog, and you know what?

It “feels good, man.”

Senior staff columnist Caprice Carter is a communication junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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