PePe: Harmless Frog or Symbol of Hate?

Posted: October 1, 2016 in Journalism, Politics
Tags: , , ,

To some, it is a cartoon frog, usually used as a kind of banter intended to be funny or at times offensive. But to many this innocuous drawing of a cartoon frog is a symbol of hate and the equally nefarious Alt Right. It seems everywhere you look these days, the mainstream media will buy into anything. I just thought I’d never see the day in a which meme could be vilified due to how it’s used or for its perceived representation. But this isn’t the first time the mainstream media has latched onto something like this. When they discovered that Gamergate had a female mascot. Naturally, they had to read too much into her, by assuming the green and purple stripes on her sweater symbolise rape culture. And in more recent times an academic article was penned using her as a way of trying to understand Gamergate.

Except for the writer of that hack job forgets that when there are two sides, perhaps you should at least learn the general opinion of the side you’ve already decided is some kind of monstrous bogeyman. If Bradley Glasgow can do it, so can you. It’s easy for people to assume the MSM is some kind of truthful entity. The truth is, so many sites report on rumours but fail to go the extra mile by verifying their information. Or at worse they target an individual then when they latch onto something remotely controversial. They try and drive that person’s career into the ground. As Oculus founder Palmer Luckey found out, simply for endorsing conservative views or rather specifically for endorsing Donald Trump. Oh and they do mention he is dating a female Gamergater. What a time to be alive when your love life is the source of international news.

But you might ask what is PePe? Pepe is a reaction face created for a comic series by Matt Furie and is often associated with another meme, Feels Good Man another reaction image. It seems the presumption that it is a symbol of hate purely depends on the context of use and who the poster is. Because for all intents and purposes, it is a cartoon frog. Nothing more nothing less. Rather like how Vivian James represents the gamer that just doesn’t give a shit and just likes playing video games. It’s almost like reading too much into things is a hobby now for some journalists.

In an interview for Esquire Furie describes Pepe’s inception as being completely harmless;

“The comic itself represents that post-college zone of living by yourself with a bunch of dudes and pulling pranks on one another. The vibe of the comic is very chill and mundane and absurd.”

He also admits he can’t stop those on the internet acting as they are;

‘It started off on 4chan as an inside joke, then it became more mainstream and the memes were being shared by Katy Perry or whomever. Then the 4chan guys started flooding the Internet with weird Pepe memes to kind of reclaim him as their own. And this is just what I’ve gleamed from the Internet. I had nothing to do with this at all.’

Like with most meme creators who have watched their creations flourish Furie acknowledges that there will always be those who use something for dark humour. In the end, you could almost say that the Alt Right Pepe is a just that, another branch of the meme taking on a whole new life as a mainstream icon and target for opportunist journalists who see everything as black and white.

Although you know the world has gone stark raving mad when even the Guardian has to post an opinion piece on this insanity. Below, the writer seems to have only just discovered the existence of dark humour.

This universality, however, was what also soon gave Pepe the Frog a dark side. Pepe appearances were not always innocuous, as people drew him in various sexual, tasteless or otherwise offensive poses and contexts. Some called such images “dark Pepes”.

I guess the writer also doesn’t understand why people enjoy it. It’s rather like how if it exists on the internet, then chances are there’s porn of it. If it exists on the internet, then chances are someone, somewhere has twisted it into something offensive. It’s just how the internet works.

Two developments gave it a very different path. The first was the rise of the so-called ‘alt-right’, a loose network of white supremacists, mostly online, who seek to infuse American conservatism with racism and antisemitism. Pepe the Frog became an unofficial mascot for many on the alt right.

For those who wonder what the Alt-Right actually is. It’s amorphous, and those that subscribe to it aren’t necessarily supporters of white supremacy. It’s more like how some perceive the Regressive Left, a group that is also conveniently obsessed with race and gender. Rather like looking at a coin really.

This does not mean that all uses of Pepe images should thus be considered racist or antisemitic.

And yet you have the audacity to say that when the ADL has placed this reaction image as a serious proponent of hate. The thing that leaves me speechless though is that the Alt Right only has traction because of how the press engages it. It’s easy to place your enemies in one basket and it’s also easy to recycle the same dried up old arguments. Or in this case the assumption that even a harmless drawing can become someone’s hate symbol.

The key thing to remember is that like with most fictional entities when someone writes or draws in a certain way chances are they will represent it differently. After all, there are many inceptions of PePe. The reason the mainstream media has latched onto him is that they have played hook, line and sinker into their oppositions hands. Because by reporting on this cartoon frog, you may very well find more people end up voting Trump or even using these offensive PePe images. Why? because it gets a reaction. Negative publicity, in this case, can do more to help your opponent than actually be a hindrance to them.

So to summarise, Pepe, is a cartoon frog, adopted by the Chans, drawn thousands of times. And due to an excessive usage by Trump supporters, this frog has garnered the attention of the mainstream media. It just begs the question, which one will be next. Will Feels Man become a symbol of depression for the Labour Party after it probably fails to get elected at the next election? Who knows? because at this point, the media can’t go any more insane. Can it?


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s