A cartoon character has been declared a hate symbol after the character reportedly became a meme and spread virally on social media. The Anti-Defamation League announced Tuesday that it has added “Pepe the Frog” to its online “Hate on Display” database.
The organization said Pepe has been “used by haters on social media to suggest racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted notions, as a hate symbol.”
“Also referred to as the ‘sad frog meme,’ Pepe the Frog did not originally have anti-Semitic connotations,” the ADL noted in its announcement. “But as the meme proliferated in online venues such as 4chan, 8chan and Reddit, a subset of memes came into existence promoting anti-Jewish, bigoted and offensive ideas. And those have spread virally on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.”
The frog has been portrayed with “a Hitler-like mustache, wearing a yarmulke or a Klan hood” in recent weeks, the ADL notes.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, says in the announcement: “Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular Internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users. These anti-Semites have no shame. They are abusing the image of a cartoon character, one that might at first seem appealing, to harass and spread hatred on social media.”
Pepe the Frog joins symbols such as the swastika, the (((echo))) and the blood drop cross on the ADL’s Hate on Display database, which was founded in 2000 as part of the organization’s effort to track hate groups and aid law enforcement.