The Anti-Defamation League, on Tuesday, designated the cartoon character “Pepe the Frog”—an online favorite of white supremacists of the alt-right—an online hate symbol. Also known, as the “sad frog meme,” the character started innocently enough in 2005 as a character with the catchphrase “feels good, man” in the online cartoon Boy’s Club and did not have any racist or anti-Semitic undertones.
Donald Trump’s presence and rhetoric in the 2016 election, however, have emboldened the alt-right, which has appropriated the image as an anti-Semitic, racist meme. “Images of the frog, variously portrayed with a Hitler-like moustache, wearing a yarmulke or a Klan hood, have proliferated in recent weeks in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter,” the ADL notes. “In June, ADL added the (((echo))) symbol to the Hate on Display database after members of the so-called ‘alt right’ started using the triple parenthesis symbol to single out Jewish journalists and users on social media for harassment.”
Earlier this month, Donald Trump Jr. posted the above image of the “Pepe the Frog” meme on Instagram. While the image began well within the mainstream, the evolution of the character began as a dog whistle to white nationalists, but its use has become more and more explicit and if used in the context of the U.S. election, it is almost without question that the symbol is an act of bigotry.