Los Angeles-based artist and illustrator Matt Furie woke up one morning to find that one of his beloved creations, a green anthropomorphic frog named Pepe, had been denounced by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as a “symbol associated with white supremacy“. Furie was somewhat befuddled that his beloved creation had been hijacked by the so-called alt-right–a movement that has been defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization”.
The term alt-right was first coined by Richard Bertrand Spencer, head of the white nationalist think tank the National Policy Institute, back in 2008. Some members of the alt-right movement advocate for a return to “traditional western values” while others espouse the outdated, debunked notions of scientific racism. The movement gained traction after the election and subsequent reelection of President Obama, our country’s first African American president, and has only grown more emboldened by Donald Trump’s campaign for presidency.
Perhaps the most infamous breeding ground for alt-right ideologies has been 4chan’s /pol/itically incorrect board (reader discretion advised), which has adopted Pepe the frog as their de facto mascot after years of him lurking in the annals of the internet. /pol/ has been known by many well-seasoned internet explorers as a chaotic cesspit of zesty memes and competing ideologies, where arguments often devolve into nothing more than ad hominen shouting matches. But much more than the political discourse–if one could call it that–that takes place within its confines, 4chan, along with 8chan and Reddit, are known for the memes that their communities churn out.
Though often dismissed as silly and inane, memes have played a vital role in the age of the Internet. Their impact can be particularly seen on the 2016 US Presidential Election, which has more or less become a meme unto itself. To some supporters of alt-right ideologies, there is even undeniable proof that meme magic–the speculation that certain memes posses some type of magical, voodoo-like power–has manifested itself in real life and has had a tangible impact on our election and society.
Perhaps the most prolific believer in meme magic is 24-year-old Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Palmer Luckey. Luckey first came into prominence back in 2014 after he sold his virtual reality company Oculus to Facebook for a cool $2 billion. Since then, he has gone on to team up with alt-right poster boy Milo Yiannopoulos to make his mark on social media and the presidential election. He soon became a regular on the notorious subreddit, r/The_Donald, where he would ask for donations to finance an anti-Hillary billboard as the now-deleted user NimbleRichMan.
A Daily Beast article written in September alleges that Luckey privately financed the pro-Trump Political Action Committee (PAC) Nimble America, whose mission statement is to prove that “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real”. After facing massive backlash from tech and development companies who refused to work with Oculus, Luckey released a Facebook statement denying his involvement with Nimble America, though it largely contradicted what he’s said in past email correspondences with Gideon Resnick, the writer of the article.
But what exactly is meme magic anyway? I assume most of our readers have healthy social lives and therefore have no time to spend researching ludicrous theories on how Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency by way of memes was essentially prophesied thousands of years ago by ancient Egyptians. However, in order to properly delve into this absurd rabbit hole, we must first provide some contextual information on 4chan.
4chan is an image board in which anonymous users can make image or text posts on a variety of different boards that represent different interests, such as sports or television. Posts made by users are assigned an eight-digit number corresponding to the unique ID of their post. Because of the massive amount of traffic garnered by the site as well as the fact that users won’t know what numbers they get until after they post, there has been a common practice of placing bets on the last few digits of the post, with users hoping that their post would end in two of the same number (dubs), three of the same number (trips), or four of the same number (quads). When posts do end up having a repeating string of numbers at the end, users celebrate this so-called get and often hail the content of the post as a sort of divine prophecy, a sign from the gods themselves.
What’s the importance of this, you ask? Well browsers of /pol/ strongly believes that some supernatural power is speaking to them through posts with gets and will grant the wishes of users who get dubs, trips, or quads. Gets involving the number seven hold particular significance, which explains why the post below caused such astonishment and disbelief.
Another tradition practiced by members of 4chan is the usage of the expression kek, which is a corrupted version of the normie expression “LOL” (the origins of the usage of kek can be found here). They use this expression notably in reference to the trolling antics of Donald Trump, who they have adopted as their candidate of choice.
This is where Pepe comes in. To many 4chan and Reddit users, Pepe the frog is not simply just an internet meme–no, he is a modern-day reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian god. Things start getting a little strange right here. The frog-headed deity they are referring to is named… Kek (also stylized as Keku, Kekui). In the ancient Egyptian pantheon, Kek was the god of night and represented darkness, obscurity, and chaos. Night and darkness, however, lead to morning and light, gaining Kek the title of being “bringer-in of the light”. Sound familiar?
The hieroglyphic representation of Kek eerily looks like a person sitting behind a computer screen, perhaps perusing some ancient precursor of r/The_Donald or /pol/?
If one were to still have some skepticism about meme magic, well… it gets weirder.
An anonymous user of 4chan found an old track on YouTube with a peculiar cover: a green frog holding a wand. The artist’s name? “P. E. P. E.”, which stands for Point Emerging Probably Entering. The cover of the vocal extended version of the song features what appears to be a blonde-headed person walking towards a clock–possibly Trump walking towards Trump Tower?
The connections were too many to ignore or simply chalk up to mere coincidence and thus the Cult of Kek was established.
Trump hasn’t shied away from his association with the green frog and has in fact, embraced it. Him and his son Donald Jr. have previously both shared images on social media featuring the smug frog, though Donald Jr. later denied knowing about Pepe.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
Furie believes that the smug aura of this specific iteration of Pepe “encompasses the archetype” of a character like Donald Trump, who arguably embodies some of the worst aspects of American society. It’s only natural that his supporters would co-opt Pepe for their own nefarious purposes and that he would soon become synonymous with Trump among some circles.
Throughout his entire campaign, Trump has painted a bleak, almost apocalyptic view of the current state of the United States of America and the path our country is headed in. Trump’s vision of America is a country with third-world conditions, brimming with radical Islamic terrorists disguised as refugees that come to instate sharia law and maim innocent Americans with terrorists attacks as well as illegal aliens that steal jobs, rape women, and sell drugs to school children. Trump’s vision of America is one in which we see the traditional way of life destroyed, the conservative values that made our country great eroded by the constant winds of liberal whoopin’ and hollerin’. Trump’s vision of America is one that scares the living hell out insecure Americans who afraid of losing their country.
Though Trump’s vision of the current state of our country is largely a load of hyperbolic hot air, it has undoubtedly resonated with many people throughout the country who are upset with the changing times and who are upset at the failure of establishment politics to address our country’s burning issues–real or imagined. His supporters are fervent, arguably more so than any other candidate in the history of this country. They don’t care about his utter lack of temperament, his child-like responses to criticism, his unethical behavior that he openly brags about, or the laundry-list of issues that make him unfit for office–to them, Trump is God Emperor Kek, the “bringer-in of the light”. The sun has long set on Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America but we mustn’t fret– Donald Trump will fulfill the long-awaited prophecy of Kek, ushering in a new day and finally completing his campaign promise to Make America Great Again.