Monday, September 12, 2016

This election is surreal. How is Pepe the Frog getting media coverage?

I'm going to skip the normal format for this one because it's just so stupid. Donald Trump Jr. and a few other people associated with the Trump campaign posted the following image on social media:

Apparently, to the media, Pepe the Frog is some kind of right wing boogyman now. Anyone that has any association with it is some kind of  white nationalist evil person. Anyone that uses Pepe in any way or even shows up in a Pepe meme is a horrible racist.

See what I mean? 

As always the media has no idea what they are talking about. Here's an example of the media in action, doing "journalism". It is always amazing to me how badly the media mangles internet culture. It's like they don't even do the most basic research on anything. There are multiple places on the internet that detail the history of Pepe the Frog in detail. But the media didn't consult any of them. Here's knowyourmeme for people who have read this far and are baffled. (link NSFW). Note that there is nothing there about it originating from racist white supremacists. 

My reaction to this issue. 

Pepe the Frog is a meme. A meme that is so popular that only people who spend no time on the internet outside of facebook and news sites can not know what it is. Go on reddit, any of the chans, tumblr or even Twitter any time in the last decade or so and you would have seen Pepe. It doesn't belong to White Supremacists. It belongs to millennials. Some millennials are racist, so they use Pepe to be racist. Others are Democrats so they make images like the one I posted above with Hillary Clinton. It's been used in almost every context imaginable. It is as close to a universal meme as Kilroy was Here was for the WW II generation.Trying to paint it as some kind of symbol of only racists is just insane. Let me repeat, Pepe is a millennial meme used by pretty much everyone of that generation in almost any context. 

Hearing the news media talk about Pepe the Frog is completely insane. Almost as insane as me writing about it. For a millennial like me (I barely qualify since I'm right at the dividing line and I am not that hooked into internet culture) it's amazing to me how out of touch the news media is with internet culture. I understand it myself but I would expect that most people younger than me would know that Pepe the Frog is used by everyone. For older Americans, they must be baffled as to why the news media is talking about a weird cartoon. For anyone not locked into internet culture, it must seem like the media is just making stuff up. How could a frog with a Mexican name be a symbol of all that is evil in the world? It makes no sense at all. 

So is Pepe the Frog racist? It really depends on the context. Since Pepe is a ubiquitous meme which has been used in every context imaginable, you have to look at the individual meme in question. Is the one that Donald Trump Jr. used an example of racism? I don't know if you noticed, but Dr. Ben Carson, a black man, was in the image. I know that Carson doesn't count as "black" because he's a Republican, but it is insane to me that people are arguing that an image that includes him in a positive light is an example of racism. And the meme also included Milo Yiamnopoulos, a fabulously gay right wing pundit who spends quite a bit of time lusting after black men. Not the typical poster child for internet Nazis. So I, as someone who actually knows something about internet culture, can say with authority that no the image is not racist. Unless you use the liberal definition of racist which counts anything a straight white male like Donald Trump Jr. does in any context. 

If the meme did anything negative at all it was to associate Donald Trump with Alex Jones. Jones isn't racist either but he is an idiot conspiracy theorist. Still,  it's beyond a stretch to call Donald Trump racist because his son posted something on social media. Donald Trump isn't his son and even  if he was, he didn't do anything wrong other then post a meme that involved Alex Jones. That isn't racist and this whole controversy is probably one of the most stupid things I have ever written about. The media should be ashamed of themselves. 

I think what is happening is this. Most of the people that troll the media are younger millennials. Using the context of their culture, they send memes at reporters on twitter and other social media. Since the media is notorious for not getting internet culture, they never visit places like Reddit or the various chans, so the only context they have ever seen Pepe the Frog is in a trolling context. These trolls, either are genuine racists or act like they are to ignite outrage from a clueless media. If the media had done any research at all they would have known that Pepe is just a popular meme and their real problem is people get a kick out of trolling them. Or, more predictably and inaccurately, they would think that the vast majority of millennials are just as racist as the trolls pretend to be. 

I also think that this is a desperate attempt by the news media to try and distract from the horrible time that Hillary Clinton had this weekend. Remember, the whole point of the meme was to make fun of Clinton's "Basket of Deplorables" speech that bashed Trump supporters as either committed irredeemable racists or mentally ill victims of brainwashing. That was a huge mistake for Clinton and she had the bad luck of following it up with a widely publicized collapse and pneumonia diagnosis.  It was about as bad of a weekend as I have ever seen for a politician and the media, ever for the Clinton's, wants to distract from it. 

And of course, they are going for the same old story that they have tried a million times and hasn't worked once. Once again they are claiming that Trump and all of his supporters are racists. This time they are targeting his family and Trump's younger millennial supporters. It hasn't worked in the past and it won't work now. Clinton had a terrible weekend and Pepe the Frog isn't going to change that. Indeed, this whole kerfuffle just makes the media either look completely out of touch (if you are younger) or completely insane (if you are older). And I sincerely hope this is the last time I have to write about Pepe the Frog...

EDIT: Shortly after publishing this post, I saw that Hillary Clinton had posted something about Pepe the Frog on her website. It's stupid as hell, but nothing could match the stupidity of taking a internet meme as evidence as some vast right wing racist conspiracy. This is the stupidest thing ever. 

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