When Memes Go Bad: Why Pepe the Frog Is Now Considered a Hate Symbol

Memes have the potential to make people laugh, but when they're used for evil?

One of the effects of the President-elect running on a platform with... ahem, questionable racial ideas is that the extreme racists in our society are emboldened, like those in the Alt-Right sphere, which is defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as:


"The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that 'white identity is under attack by multicultural forces using 'political correctness' and 'social justice' to undermine white people and 'their' civilization. Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew 'establishment' conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value."

It has been argued that it's the core support for Donald Trump's entire campaign.

In an effort to illustrate how much of this is out there on the Innerwebz, the Anti-Defamation league maintains a database of hate symbols called "Hate on Display" — including those that are pretty much only seen on the web. 

In the past few months, two symbols used on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels made it into this ... hall of fame. 

The first is the (((echo))) symbol, used by racists on Twitter and Facebook to identify what they call "Jewish controlled institutions" or Jewish users, frequently tied to comments and articles about Donald TrumpFor example, writing (((banker))) to imply that the word "Jewish" should be added to it.

The second one added to the database recently? Pepe the Frog, a.k.a. Sad Frog.



The Pepe meme/image didn't start off as a hate symbol — it was created by artist Matt Furie in a 2005 cartoon called "Boys Club," but made it this year because it's been used with various racist modifications. Here are just a few of the less-offensive ones:

Not all versions of Pepe are racist, but enough variations have appeared to make it into the database. 

And for a pretty comprehensive roll call of hate groups, take a look at Southern Poverty Law Center's extensive list.

Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • There are 2 different approaches to governing free speech on college campuses.
  • One is a morality/order approach. The other is a bottom-up approach.
  • Emily Chamlee-Wright says there are many benefits to having no one central authority on what is appropriate speech.

Is there an optimal time of day to exercise?

Two new studies say yes. Unfortunately, each claims a different time.

Bronx, N.Y.: NYPD officer Julissa Camacho works out at the 44th precinct gym in the Bronx, New York on April 3, 2019. (Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday via Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • Research at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences declares evening to be the best time for an exercise session.
  • Not so fast, says a new study at UC Irvine, which replies that late morning is the optimal workout time.
  • Both studies involved mice on treadmills and measured different markers to produce their results.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett breaks down what qualities will inspire others to believe in you.
  • Here's how 300 leaders and 4,000 mid-level managers described someone with executive presence.
  • Get more deep insights like these to power your career forward. Join Big Think Edge.