Oh Pepe, No!

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Oh Pepe, No!

Pepe the Frog — a multivalent green cartoon used in Internet culture as a vehicle for a wide range of emotions and ideas — has over recent months become particularly associated with racism, anti-Semitism and the alt-right.

And on Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League added Pepe to its “Hate on Display” database of symbols used to spread hateful messages.

The anthropomorphic frog, which is based on a 2004 comic by Matt Furie, is frequently shown as smug, sad, angry or rather gross. Like most memes, he’s frequently used in variations and remixes. Know Your Meme, a guide to image macros like Pepe, has collected some examples and a short historical summary.

By late 2014, the meme had spread from a handful of Internet communities into mainstream culture, much to the displeasure of groups that were originally using the image. Later, observers began noticing an increase in white supremacist themes in Pepe images — or a rise in Pepe usage by white supremacist accounts. Either way, an association was building.

This May, an “anonymous white nationalist” told The Daily Beast that the shift was intentional: a dedicated campaign to “reclaim Pepe from normies,” or members of the mainstream, by making Pepe so culturally unacceptable that only the fringe Internet would dare to use him.

Donald Trump had earlier tweeted an image of Pepe-as-Trump, and then his son posted an image on Instagram that included Pepe. This month Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a widely mocked “explainer” that featured both those posts and called Pepe the Frog “a symbol associated with white supremacy.” Now, the ADL has stepped up to label the frog a hate symbol.

ADL’s inclusion of Pepe in its database does not, as some online have suggested, mean that using Pepe memes is a hate crime. It’s a designation that carries no legal weight, and the ADL is quick to note that the mere use of Pepe the Frog doesn’t, by itself, indicate extremism or hatred.

Furie, the artist who drew the original frog, told The Atlantic he thinks the association with far-right ideology is “just a phase.”

“In terms of meme culture, it’s people reappropriating things for their own agenda. That’s just a product of the internet,” he said.

With that, let’s pause here to note a few things.

First, if the entire concept of the Pepe the Frog meme makes no sense to you, don’t try too hard to crack open the enigma.

Life is short, much of Internet communication is more Dada-esque than denotative, and mastering dank memes has an effort-to-payoff ratio that really, truly is not worth it. Suffice to say he’s a character used to express things online, through endless variations on a simple image.

Second, Pepe the frog is not usually racist. There’s nothing inherently hateful about the original image. “He’s just a chill frog,” as Furie told The Atlantic.

And as ADL acknowledges in its hate symbol database, “the majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted.”

But Pepe is certainly a meme that’s popular among racists. Its inclusion in the ADL database isn’t meant to make Pepe an amphibia non grata. Identifying whether Pepe is being used in a hateful way requires looking at the context, the ADL says.

In that, it’s no different from the many other symbols in the database that appear in innocent forms as well as offensive ones. Take, for instance, the numbers that have been associated with white supremacist movements — such as 88 or 14. They can be covert signals of white supremacy or, you know, just numbers, depending on their context. Similarly, the Celtic cross is “one of the most important and commonly used” white supremacist symbols, according to the ADL, but the “overwhelming” use is not extremist.

Third, let’s just acknowledge that it’s been a long, strange trip for Pepe from the Internet’s imageboards to NPR’s home page. We have no plans to write explainers on Harambe or Dat Boi anytime soon.

But the intersection of politics and the Internet is more fascinating in this election than ever before. Now that the presidential candidates from both major parties have invoked or criticized Pepe and a major civil rights organization has denounced him, there’s no denying that he’s news.

And if there is indeed a vast alt-right conspiracy to make Pepe the exclusive property of the Internet fringe, this piece might either be the ultimate case of normies killing the joke — or a reinforcement of Pepe’s odd status as subversive cultural icon that will actually keep him alive.

Feels bad, man.

Source: http://n.pr/2d3Db9O

Colombians vote on the historic peace accord with the guerrillas.

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Colombians vote on the historic peace accord with the guerrillas.

During a wave of terror in the 1990s here in northern Colombia’s cattle country, rancher Alberto Muñoz’s brother was slain after refusing to make extortion payments to Marxist guerrillas targeting farmers for kidnappings and shakedowns.

But Mr. Muñoz said that on Sunday he will reluctantly vote for the peace accord President Juan Manuel Santos signed with his brother’s tormenters, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Polls show a majority of Colombians will approve the 297-page deal in the referendum vote. But like Mr. Muñoz, many remain wary of the FARC and are irritated by what they see as substantial benefits the rebels enjoy under the deal.

“All of us are going into this with a lot of uncertainty,“ Mr. Muñoz, 60, said at a livestock auction in a swath of ranchland where landowners were at the epicenter of a fierce war between rebels that sometimes trafficked drugs and paramilitary groups that were centered on that trade. “I don’t want future generations to live what we lived through,” he said.

While the deal ends half a century of conflict, it also paves the way for the guerrilla group to disarm and convert into a political party with 10 guaranteed seats in congress. It allows the FARC’s leadership to avoid jail time and grants stipends to demobilized combatants, concessions that have roiled sentiments in this politically polarized country.

Rancher Efraín Mejía isn’t ready to forgive. He recalls the hefty ransoms he had to pay to free himself and his brothers from rebel captivity. He says the rebels killed some of his workers, stole 1,300 head of cattle and forced his family off three farms.

“I can’t accept it. They ruined me,” Mr. Mejía said of the vote Sunday. “The day I see the FARC entering the senate, I will be devastated.”

The Santos administration acknowledges that the deal, negotiated over four years in Cuba and signed on Monday, isn’t perfect. But Mr. Santos says it doesn’t promote impunity because it forces FARC members to admit crimes before special tribunals, which would then sentence them to some form of confinement and make them compensate victims. The United Nations and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which prosecutes war criminals, have backed the deal.

Ending the conflict and demobilizing 7,000 FARC fighters, Mr. Santos said, will improve security and economic opportunity in once-violent regions.

A woman holds balloons and a candle on Thursday during a rally organized by supporters of the “no” vote for the upcoming referendum on the peace deal. ENLARGE
A woman holds balloons and a candle on Thursday during a rally organized by supporters of the “no” vote for the upcoming referendum on the peace deal.

“I know we have reached the best possible deal,” he said in an interview. Mr. Santos also said that if “No” wins on Sunday, there will be no new negotiation, something his opponents are calling for.

“There have been a lot of rumors and myths and lies about what we are negotiating,” said Mr. Santos, whose detractors have said Colombia could be turned into a communist state if “Yes” wins.

The “No” campaign, led by former President Álvaro Uribe, faces an uphill fight. Most polls show that more than 60% of prospective voters favor the agreement.

“This agreement generates a sense of resentment among the Colombian people, not forgiveness,” Mr. Uribe, whose father was killed by the FARC, said in an interview at his Bogotá office. “There is no adequate punishment, and without punishment there is no justice.”

That sentiment rings home among many ranchers in this region.

“In what developed country does the government sit down to negotiate with terrorists? Would the U.S. negotiate with Islamic State?” said William Botero, who had a “Colombia Votes No” sign on the back of his pickup truck.

Though Sunday’s vote isn’t necessarily binding, government officials privately acknowledge that high voter abstention or a preponderance of “No” votes could hurt the accord’s legitimacy as Colombians embark on an uncertain path toward peace.

A poll released Tuesday by Ipsos found that more than half of 1,500 respondents said they plan to vote in the plebiscite, with 66% saying they will approve the accord. But two out of five participants said they knew little to nothing about the terms of the accord.

Reinaldo Copete, 35, coordinator of a counseling center for victims, is among those here voting “Yes,” though, he too has his doubts. Noting that his family was forced from their village during the conflict, Mr. Copete said he finds it unfair that rebels receive aid and training while poor people struggle to get by.

“In Colombia, we say it’s better to be a criminal than a victim,” Mr. Copete said. “It pays better.”

Source: http://on.wsj.com/2d3xBEG