Pepe the Frog, the cartoon character that has become a popular Internet meme, created by artist Matt Furie in 2005 as a cute creature with the catch phrase, “feels good, man,” has since evolved into memes featuring racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted themes, the Anti-Defamation League reported.
According to the ADL, although the Pepe the Frog character did not originally have racist or anti-Semitic connotations, Internet users appropriated the character and turned it into memes that placing the frog in a variety of circumstances, some of which proliferated in on-line venues such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, which have many users who promote racist memes and imagery, and so subset of Pepe memes came into existence.
“In recent years, with the growth of the “alt right” segment of the white supremacist movement, a segment that draws some of its support from some of the above-mentioned Internet sites, the number of ‘alt right’ Pepe memes has grown, a tendency exacerbated by the controversial and contentious 2016 presidential election,” ADL reported. “Though Pepe memes have many defenders, not least the character’s creator, Matt Furie, who has called the alt right appropriation of the meme merely a ‘phase,’ the use of racist and bigoted versions of Pepe memes seems to be increasing, not decreasing.”
ADL cautioned that “because so many Pepe the Frog memes are not bigoted in nature, it is important to examine the use of the meme only in context. The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist. However, if the meme itself is racist or anti-Semitic in nature, or if it appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes.”