Pepe the Hate Symbol

By: Jo Rochelle

If you’re reading this, it’s too late — for Pepe the Frog, anyway. Due to recent racist, anti-Semitic, and other bigoted appropriations of the sad frog, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has included him in its database of hate symbols.

Haters will say it’s fake, but Pepe first sprung from the mind of artist Matt Furie in 2005, primed and ready to be a lean, mean, meme machine. In his 11 years of life, he has undergone a number of reincarnations, each one more dank and rare than the last. However, newer subsets of Pepe memes have been cropping up in places like 4chan and Reddit that centered around bigoted themes. The ADL, founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, took action and added Pepe to its Hate on Display™ database on September 27, 2016. The CEO of ADL, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, released a statement on the matter. “Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular Internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users…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.”

It’s important to know that, like Harambe (God rest his soul), Pepe’s legacy lives on. Not all Pepe memes are bad or contain hate messages. According to the ADL, “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.”