US Jewish group assails frog meme as hate symbol

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US Jewish group assails frog meme as hate symbol

Washington (AFP) – America’s top Jewish activist group has classified recent variations of the popular internet meme Pepe the Frog — including as Hitler or a KKK member — as hate symbols.

The frog, which first appeared online in 2005 as part of the “Boys Club” cartoons by artist Matt Furie, morphed over the years into a meme with endless versions.

But in recent years images of the frog, depicted with a Hitler-style moustache, with a Jewish skull cap or a member of the Ku Klux Clan, have spread in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter, the Anti-Defamation League said Tuesday.

Pepe reworkings have notably been adopted on social media by the white nationalist “alt-right” movement, which has formed a chunk of Donald Trump’s support base in the race for the White House.

The frog made headlines this month after Hillary Clinton branded many of her Republican rival’s supporters “a basket of deplorables.”

Trump’s son Donald Jr. then posted on Instagram a modified version of the movie poster of “The Expendables,” which showed Pepe with Trump Sr. and other conservatives. They are all labeled “The Deplorables.” 

The Clinton campaign posted an explainer on what it called Trump’s “horrifying” use of the frog meme, calling Pepe “a symbol associated with white supremacy.”

On Tuesday Pepe joined the swastika and the “Blood Drop Cross” of the KKK as hate symbols designated by the Anti-Defamation League.

“Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the league’s CEO.

He added: “These anti-Semites have no shame. They are abusing the image of a cartoon character, one that might at first seem appealing, to harass and spread hatred on social media.”

The ADL stressed in its database posting on the meme that “the mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist.”

“The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted,” it said. 

However, “the number of ‘alt-right’ Pepe memes has grown, a tendency exacerbated by the controversial and contentious 2016 presidential election.”

Pepe the frog, which first appeared online in 2005 as part of the “Boys Club” cartoons by artist Matt Furie, morphed over the years into a meme with endless versions
Copyright AFP/File Kena Betancur

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