The creator of 'Pepe the Frog' is trying to reclaim the symbol from the alt-right

Matt Furie, the creator of the widely known “Pepe the Frog” meme, is joining forces with the Anti-Defamation League to reclaim the symbol from the alt-right and make it a “force for good,” according to a press release

Furie and the ADL plan to start a social media campaign by creating “a series of positive Pepe memes and messages” and promoting them with the hashtag #SavePepe.

The ADL declared that “Pepe the Frog” was a hate symbol in late September

“It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labelled a symbol of hate, and that racists and anti-Semites are using a once peaceful frog-dude from my comic book as an icon of hate,” Furie said in a column for Time magazine. 

While fiercely condemning the “racist and fringe groups” that use Pepe to propagate divisive views, Furie stressed that the Pepe is meant to “celebrate peace, togetherness, and fun.” 

 

The meme, which originated from a 2005 cartoon, has been hijacked by the alt-right movement in the past several months. Members of the movement have used the meme to convey often racist and anti-Semitic messages.

The messages prompted ADL to add ‘Pepe’ to its “Hate on Display” database, which documents anti-Semitic hate symbols. 

“The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted,” the ADL stated in its database of hate symbols. “However, it was inevitable that, as the meme proliferated in on-line venues such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, which have many users who delight in creating racist memes and imagery, a subset of Pepe memes would come into existence that centered on racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted themes.”

The meme has gained more attention, in part, because of its association with Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump and his campaign. 

The frequent references to “Pepe” have prompted not only the ADL, but also Hillary Clinton’s campaign to point out its connection to fringe right-wing groups. 

“[I]n recent months, Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the ‘alt-right.’ They have decided to take back Pepe by adding swastikas and other symbols of anti-semitism and white supremacy,” Clinton’s campaign website reads. 

A prominent white supremacist confirmed the connection, noting that “[w]e basically mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda, etc. We built that association.”

 

According to the ADL’s press release on the #SavePepe campaign, Furie will speak at its “Never Is Now” summit against anti-Semitism on November 17 in New York City. The panel will focus specifically on online hate campaigns.  

Furie published a new “Pepe” cartoon on Monday detailing his “alt-right election nightmare,” which depicts a sad “Pepe” morphing into a frog that resembles Donald Trump and then a monster. Pepe appears trapped in the mouth of the monster. The next panel depics a nuclear explosion. “Pepe” then awakes and hids under his mattress.

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