The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is joining forces with the artist who created “Pepe the Frog” in an effort to take back the popular internet meme from racists and use the frog’s likeness as a force for good.
Pepe artist Matt Furie reached out to ADL after a proliferation of hateful Pepe memes appeared on the internet and social media, prompting ADL to designate the frog as a calling card of racists in its online database of visual hate symbols. White supremacists and other haters had co-opted Pepe by creating a series of anti-Semitic and racist images of the cartoon amphibian in Klan or Nazi regalia, or depicting him as a stereotypical Jew.
“Pepe was never intended to be used as a symbol of hate,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “The sad frog was meant to be just that, a sad frog. We are going to work with Matt and his community of artists reclaim Pepe so that he might be used as a force for good, or at the very least to help educate people about the dangers of prejudice and bigotry.”
To that end, Furie will create a series of positive Pepe memes and messages, which ADL will promote on its social media channels with the hashtag, #SavePepe. ADL will encourage others to retweet and share positive images of the frog an in attempt to rehabilitate him and move his image out of the realm of hate speech.
“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. “It’s a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate.
“As the creator of Pepe, I condemn the illegal and repulsive appropriations of the character by racist and fringe groups. The true nature of Pepe, as featured in my comic book, ‘Boys Club,’ celebrates peace, togetherness and fun. I aim to reclaim the rascally frog from the forces of hate and ask that you join me in making millions of new, joyful Pepe memes that share the light hearted spirit of the original chilled-out champion.”
Furie is scheduled to speak at ADL’s inaugural “Never Is Now” Summit against anti-Semitism on Nov. 17 in New York City on a panel discussion looking at the manifestations and consequences of online hate.
In listing Pepe on the online symbols database, Hate on Display, ADL’s Center on Extremism noted that while the majority of Pepe uses have been non-bigoted, a subset of memes that centered on racist, anti-Semitic and other bigoted memes was created and perpetuated by white supremacists. Their use of Pepe was spurred, in part, by the contentious 2016 presidential election.