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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, according to the release.
The ADL declared “Pepe the Frog” to be a hate symbol in late September.
“It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled 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 said Pepe was 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 the 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 said 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 attention because of its association with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his campaign.
A friend sent me this. Apparently I made the cut as one of the Deplorables???????????? All kidding aside I am honored to be grouped with the hard working men and women of this great nation that have supported @realdonaldtrump and know that he can fix the mess created by politicians in Washington. He’s fighting for you and won’t ever quit. Thanks for your trust! #trump2016 #maga #makeamericagreatagain #basketofdeplorables
The frequent references to Pepe have prompted not only the ADL but also Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign to point out its connection to fringe right-wing groups.
“In recent months, Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the ‘alt-right.’ They’ve decided to take back Pepe by adding swastikas and other symbols of anti-semitism and white supremacy,” Clinton’s campaign website says.
A prominent white supremacist confirmed the connection, saying: “We 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 depicts a nuclear explosion. Pepe then awakes and hides under his mattress.