Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

By

Racist Internet Frogs-Benedict Mendes

As many of our generation know, Pepe The Frog is a popular internet meme that has been popular among internet users since about 2008. Very recently, this innocent product of modern day culture has been deemed a symbol of hate and white supremacy by many people. It has even been added to the Anti-Defamation League’s hate symbol database. Today, I will be dissecting that argument and trying to see if and how that is true in any way, and hopefully in the process I will redeem our web-fingered friend’s reputation a bit in the process.

 

So basically, the conclusion is that Pepe The Frog is a symbol for hate. I’ve broken down the argument into a few premises that represent the opinion of those who consider this frog as a hate symbol.

 

Premise 1: Pepe the Frog is popular on sites such as 4chan

 

Premise 2: Some users of 4chan create racist and anti-Semitic versions of Pepe the Frog

 

Conclusion: Therefore Pepe The Frog, and all memes made with him, are symbols of those ideologies

 

Well, let’s start with truthfulness, shall we? Premise 1 is true, Pepe The Frog is popular on 4chan and many other popular sites, there’s no disputing that. This bug-eyed amphibian is indeed an internet sensation. The second premise is also true, a small subset of 4chan users do create offensive images with Pepe The Frog, usually in some way altering his catch phrase “feels good man”. So the premises are true, but we still need to deal with validity. The formula is A=B, and B=C, so therefore A=C. Let’s see if this fits the formula. It’s pretty obvious pretty fast that this argument is not valid, most from the word “Some” in the second premise. If only some users are creating racist versions of Pepe then that does not necessarily mean that all things that include Pepe The Frog are indicative of racist attitudes. The premises also do not clearly state that those with such prejudices are the only ones making memes involving Pepe, nor that all of those people are active users of sites such as 4chan. Therefore it is not certain that all memes made with Pepe are racist and/or anti-Semitic.

 

Now, you may be asking, “Ben, why did you go through all this trouble to deconstruct an argument against a mostly outdated internet trend?”

The answer is: I don’t know, I’m probably wasting my life. Thank you for reading.

 

 

4 Responses to Racist Internet Frogs-Benedict Mendes

  1. JordanC says:

    Hi Ben, thanks for your post! I really liked your insight into the dubitably-problematic nature of our dear frog Pepe. In your analysis on the origins of the “Pepe the frog is a racist meme” argument it seems that you are saying not all Pepe memes are racist. As you’ve discussed, this is true. But to me at least, it would seem that it is still problematic to create Pepe the frog memes in our current climate. Originally, the swastika was a peaceful symbol in Hindu and other religions before being co-opted by Nazism. (I really wish I could find a less extreme example of this happening and in no way do I want to say Pepe is on the same level). On a much, much, much smaller scale is this not the same phenomena? Could it be, that if one is knowledgeable of the use of Pepe in racist content, one should take a break from the creation and distribution of “rare Pepes” even in an innocent setting? Hopefully that all made sense! Fantastic work Ben!

     
    • benedict says:

      Thanks for the comment Jordan! I appreciate your insight, and I see what you’re saying. In response, I would have to respectfully disagree that stopping sharing positive versions of our froggy friend should cease. Although your example,the Swastika, is a good one and a relevant one, I believe that since this is currently on a much smaller scale that ceasing sharing benevolent posts of Pepe would actually harm his reputation further. If we stop the sharing of positive, healthy versions of this meme, that means that the only option left is for the negative ones to be further distributed, leaving nothing to counteract the malevolent intent of those who would make Pepe seem racist. In short, if we stop sharing the good ones, there will be nothing to redeem Pepe from the bad ones. But I can see where you’re coming from and it’s a very arguable and valid point. Thanks!

       
  2. katherine says:

    Hey Ben! Loved your post – very relevant to our day and age. Since you did so much research on this topic, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me: when did racist Pepe memes start appearing? I honestly had not heard of them until people started telling me to stop using Pepe because of the racists. When did they start appearing? How? When? Why? I have so many questions!!

     
    • benedict says:

      Hi Katherine! I’m always happy to teach people about our slimy amigo!

      Racist Pepe memes began when the meme began. It really started off in popularity on Reddit, and as many of us know there’s a large faction of Reddit that enjoys dark and racist humour, for the fun of it that is (allegedly). These naturally were very popular within those small communities but were never really introduced to the larger Internet population, who stuck more to regular and sad Pepe memes. It’s just surfaced recently that many of the joke communist and racist Pepes have come into the light (many communist ones because of the rising popularity of Vladimir Putin). So in short, racist version of our good Toad have been around ever since the meme started, but have only started to gain notoriety quite recently.

      I hope this clears up some stuff for you, thanks!

       

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