How This Frog Meme Became A Symbol Of Hope And Hate

Memes are some of the
most easily recognizable images of our generation. They’re funny, relatable,
and, most importantly, they’re versatile. But sometimes this versatility
creates something darker. This is Pepe the Frog, one of the most popular
internet memes of all time. It’s now considered a symbol of hate, according to the Anti-Defamation League. But it wasn’t always like this. The cartoon frog that currently
sits beside the swastika and the Iron Cross was born here, a nonpolitical comic about four roommates who enjoy being lazy
and playing video games. So, how did we get here…from here? The green frog first debuted in 2005 in the comic “Boy’s Club” by Matt Furie. It featured Pepe along
with his three roommates all living together and hanging out. The humor was generally gross or crude but was completely nonpolitical in nature. Then, in 2008, Pepe made his first steps to internet stardom. This panel was posted as a reaction image on the internet forum 4chan. And it became a trend almost instantly. More and more users began
sharing Pepe on 4chan. And some were even putting
their own spin on it. Pepe became a versatile meme. It was happy, sad, smug, and angry. It represented a relatable
range of emotions. And this relatability spread its influence to other social-media networks
over the next several years. In 2015, Tumblr reported that it was the No. 1 most reblogged meme of the year. But at this point, Pepe was
being shared a little too much, and the inside joke was beginning
to lose its comedic value. To keep the joke alive, people
began creating “rare Pepes,” novel versions of the meme
that hadn’t been made before. This phenomenon generated a mock economy, where the less frequently
the meme was posted, the more valuable it was. With new images constantly being produced, Pepe grew stronger and
reached mainstream status. And once Pepe became mainstream, everyone was in on the joke. Now, it was rumored that there
was an alt-right campaign to reclaim the meme from the “normies” by associating Pepe
with white nationalism. But this was later revealed to have been an elaborate
prank to mislead journalists. In reality, Pepe was just so versatile that it was inevitably
drawn as everything. This sometimes included
racists and even Donald Trump. On October 13, 2015, Donald
Trump retweeted this post. It linked the video “You Can’t
Stump the Trump (Volume 4)” and tagged the notable
right-leaning publications Breitbart and the Drudge Report. And under the video
was this image of Pepe. Before this, only fringe
users on social media posted versions of the frog as
Klan members or SS personnel. But this post was the catalyst that fueled the far right’s claim of Pepe. More racist frogs appeared,
particularly on Twitter, which spurred the movement #FrogTwitter. Much like how the echo
is used by anti-Semitics to signify Jewish names,
members of the alt-right began adding the frog emoji
to their Twitter handles in solidarity with white nationalism. And the more curious people
got about the racist Pepes, the stronger the connection grew. When journalists asked
about the “green face” they often saw “Trumpsters”
and alt-right people use, they were met with white-nationalist
Pepes as a response. So they began picking up on this trend, and when they saw someone use Pepe, whether in or out of racist context, they would respond by
saying something like this. Then, in 2016, Pepe’s alt-right career came to a boiling point. Hillary Clinton delivered
a campaign speech in which she referred to half
of Trump’s supporters as: Hillary Clinton: A basket of deplorables. Narrator: This led to
the creation of a parody of the “Expendables” movie
poster where the characters were replaced with conservative figures, known as “The Deplorables.” And in that lineup, with Trump and notable
conservative leaders, was none other than Pepe the Frog. Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr., who both appeared on the
poster, reposted the image, stating that they were proud
to be one of the deplorables. Shortly after this parody circulated, Clinton’s campaign website denounced Pepe and called it “a symbol
associated with white supremacy.” And in September 2016,
the Anti-Defamation League officially added Pepe the Frog to its database of hate symbols. Since this designation,
we’ve seen Pepe worn by self-proclaimed white
nationalist Richard Spencer and sold as merchandise by Alex Jones, host of right-wing
conspiracy outlet InfoWars. But Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe, has publicly stated his
dislike for Pepe’s evolution and has made efforts to
take back his creation from the alt-right. In 2017, he released a one-page comic where he officially killed
off the lazy green frog. Furie has also been
involved in legal disputes with both The Daily Stormer and InfoWars, which effectively prevented
them from using Pepe to promote their ideology any further. But Furie’s fight against the alt-right hasn’t stopped other
groups from using the meme. This time, however, Pepe
has become a symbol of hope halfway across the world. In 2019, protesters took
to the streets of Hong Kong to rally against police brutality and Hong Kong’s extradition bill. They held signs, graffitied walls, and messaged stickers with a peculiar, yet familiar face: Pepe the Frog. So, how did this lazy green amphibian become the face of yet
another political movement? Simply put, Hong Kongers thought
it was just a funny face, and most didn’t know
about its alt-right ties in the United States. In the eyes of Hong Kongers, Pepe existed as a Hello Kitty character. It looked strange and
was eye-catching enough to grab attention. But, most importantly,
it was versatile enough to become anything they wanted it to be. For these protesters, Pepe symbolized the
youthful nature of rebellion and had nothing to do with the far-right movement in the West. In a New York Times
interview by Daniel Victor, a young Hong Konger noted that symbols can mean different things in countries with different cultures. In the end, she encouraged
other Hong Kongers to explain to Americans what
Pepe really means to them. We live in a world where information spreads almost instantly and the meaning of images
changes just as fast. It’s about culture and context. Pepe is the best modern example of this. But it wasn’t the first victim. The swastika, for example,
is actually considered sacred in certain Eurasian religions. It’s a significant image meant to symbolize good fortune and well-being. But Nazis rebranded this
symbol during World War II and made it an icon of hate instead. At least for Pepe, there is hope that it won’t be a hate symbol forever, because Furie reminds us that “in the end, Pepe is
whatever you say he is, and I, the creator,
say that Pepe is love.”

100 Replies to “How This Frog Meme Became A Symbol Of Hope And Hate

  1. Just because some incels on 4chan use it doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. It will only be a symbol of hate if you let them turn it into one.

  2. Collective laziness of humanity — when 2 very different groups from 2 opposite ends of the world in 2 different political situations, use Pepe which could already mean just about anything


    Tech Insider,

    Hong Kong was using it to show America and the world that they will NOT bow down to socialism and globalism. They wanted to get the attention of the free world. They wanted to let us know what China was doing to them. How do you do this, you ask?
    Easy, just send memes to the biggest non-socialist in the world…Donald J. Trump!

  4. Hey man, like, I dont know why Insider is getting flak for this man.

    Like they specifically state our good ol' boy has majorly stayed out of political context until recent years, as news media reported on it as a white supremacy symbol over and over. They're just writing it all down man, it's not like they think our boy is bad. They add some icing on the cake at the end too.

  5. Clinton was an idiot for that blatant honesty in rightfully calling those people deplorable.

    That works for the garbage people side tho. They eat that shit up.

  6. ADL will go down as the most stupid people on planet earth by saying this frog is up there with the nazis, that version of this frog is like transforming any other meme into a nazi symbol, and also tech insider will also go down in trustworthines just by trusting that this version of pepe is now deemed a hate symbol by some weak minded people in the ADL.

  7. When the world now revolves around memes. This is not the future of meme i hoped for.
    I just wanted to laugh in my room by myself.

  8. The ADL is a joke.
    Edit: this video is too.
    Americans: use Pepe to fight far left communists. Get labeled a hate symbol.
    HKers: use Pepe to fight far left communists, get labeled love

  9. It's hilarious that emotion driven collectivists try to discredit a meme they don't like with their shrill cry that it's a white supremacist hate symbol, 4chan trolls them by agreeing that 51% of Americans are card carrying Nazis, and this trolling is taken as a confirmation.

    For some real insight, Tech Insider should make a video analyzing the meme, "The Left can't meme."

  10. 50 years from now we look back how silly we were to not eradicate the far right vermin. But just like nazi's back then, we will eventually.

  11. Ironically, some HK protesters are supporters of Donald Trump, believe that he would save them from the evil China. The world is complicated

  12. This is like what happened to the svastika but inverted. It came from Asia meaning something good, and it ended beinge a symbol for hate (nazi hate).
    Fcking weird humans and uncreative nazi bastards.

  13. Hong Kong are fighting against communist China extradition laws and want to remain more western (if you know your history then you know why) and use Pepe to represent that, similar to the people using it for political reasons in the West. Funny how the left use HK as an example of people rebelling against the evil government, yet it’s the type of government the left would most prefer!


  14. Can somebody please explain me that all stuff around Trump's tweet? My English is average and I just didn't get why it was so important.

  15. If you think pepe the frog is a hate simple because racist use them
    YOU! are part of the problem
    suddenly they have power in numbers
    they can take something you like and make it theirs, make it white power or whatever
    next thing you know frosted flakes is the official breakfast of the KKK

  16. So basically:

    Funny comic -> 4chan meme -> popular meme -> racist meme -> dead meme -> hope meme


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