Heat Street Editor and former British Conservative MP Louise Mensch has written an article agreeing with the establishment media and Clinton campaign’s claims that “Pepe the Frog” is a “white supremacist” icon. Mensch apologized for another Heat Street article by Ian Miles Cheong, who defended the innocent green frog meme last week.
Under the title “Hillary Clinton Is Absolutely Right, ‘Pepe’ Meme Is Antisemitic – An Apology,” Mensch apologized for Cheong’s defence of the cartoon frog, claiming that the piece was “inaccurate.”
“We apologize for publishing it,” she wrote, adding an editor’s note on Cheong’s story: “This article was wrong and we should never have published it. Pepe the Frog is antisemitic.”
Heat Street, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, boasts in its motto: “Free speech celebrated. No safe spaces.”
Quoting Cheong’s claims that “no single group or ideology has ownership of the meme,” Mensch argues: “That is untrue. While Pepe, once a harmless frog meme, may have started out as a widely used meme, the frog is now a symbol of the Nazi Jew-baiting of the alt-right.”
Her hyperlinked evidence of this blanket statement is… a Google Drive folder titled “Pepe” that contains a dozen Nazi-themed Pepe alterations. A “Trump/Pepe” image, with no Nazi imagery, is included. Nine of the 22 images in the folder do not feature Pepe illustrations at all.
That is the entirety of her argument: one dozen Nazi variants out of thousands of Pepes across the Web. “Below I show some handful of antisemitic Pepe / Trump memes, they are everywhere,” she writes, before linking to the Drive folder again. She makes no case for the implicit suggestion that using a Pepe meme without Nazi or anti-Semitic imagery (i.e., the vast majority of Pepe memes) is automatically an embrace of Nazism and anti-Semitism.
Cheong, the managing editor of Gameranx and a prominent player in the GamerGate controversy, has since retracted the claims of his original piece, stating that he was “wrong about Pepe.” Cheong reiterates Mensch’s claims that “It has, in fact, become an anti-semitic meme.”
I was wrong about Pepe. It has, in fact, become an anti-semitic meme. https://t.co/E9bYyC4hY6
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) September 19, 2016
Mensch has not yet added an editor’s note to another Heat Street article contradicting the far left’s “white nationalism” narrative. Last week, contributor William Hicks posted a piece sarcastically calling pop stars Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj white supremacists for spreading Pepes on their social media accounts.
This article was likely pushing back on the political left’s claim that Donald Trump’s son is a racist for posting a Pepe on his Instagram. Mensch is now putting the full force of her editorial authority behind that left-wing narrative.
“Pepe is a cartoon frog who began his Internet life as an innocent meme enjoyed by teenagers and pop stars alike. But in recent months, Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the ‘alt-right,’” wrote Elizabeth Chan on behalf of the Clinton campaign last week, in an explainer that attempted to link the Internet meme with white supremacy. “They’ve decided to take back Pepe by adding swastikas and other symbols of anti-semitism and white supremacy.”
The explainer based its comments largely on a Daily Beast interview with notorious troll and self-proclaimed parody account, Jared Taylor Swift, who made satirical comments about reclaiming Pepe “from the normies.” Swift and a fellow troll, “Paul Town,” later told the Daily Caller that they gave the Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi the most ridiculous quotes they could think of — and she printed them, falling entirely for the troll. With no evidence but Nuzzi’s discredited piece, mainstream media reporters have uncritically declared the frog to be an icon for white nationalism on air, including NBC’s Katy Tur and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Mensch fails to state that the creator of Pepe the Frog, Matt Furie, is actually a Democrat who expressed support for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, after his favorite candidate, Bernie Sanders, dropped out of the race.
“It’s weird that people are saying he’s been ‘a longtime white supremacist meme,’” said Furie, who denied that his frog had anything to do with white supremacy. “If anything he’d be part of the Green party. He’s a frog, why would he support white supremacists? That doesn’t make any sense.”
But she doesn’t need to analyze or even acknowledge any of that information. She has a folder with 12 Nazi Pepes in it, and that is enough for her to shut down any other interpretation.