A cartoon frog that is a favorite image of the alt-right, white nationalist and anti-Semitic supporters of President-elect Donald Trump has gone international, showing up in a tweet by the Russian embassy in Great Britain on Monday.
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The sarcastic tweet featuring a meme with Pepe the Frog reflects a Russian reaction to British public figures who want British Prime Minister Theresa May to aggressively counter Trump’s affinity for the Russians and President Vladimir Putin. The tweet was posted a day after Trump announced that he would be meeting with May in the spring.
The Russians are clearly unhappy with the idea of Great Britain pushing back against a future Trump administration’s desire to draw closer to Moscow.
Earlier this month, the British Defense Minister Michael Fallon expressed unease with Trump’s affinity for Putin and Russia and the prospect of it influencing U.S. policies on Syria and NATO. "They can't be treating Russia as an equal. Russia is a strategic competitor to us in the West and we have to understand that," he said.
Fallon has, in the past, himself been the target of the U.K.’s Russian Embassy’s Twitter account, which is known for its use of mocking anti-American memes.
Despite the embassy’s Twitter history and trollish reputation - and despite the fact a line can be drawn from the alt-right to their hero Trump to Putin and the Russian government - the choice of the Pepe image by an official Russian government account has still raised eyebrows.
The cartoon was officially designated by the Anti-Defamation League as a “hate symbol” after it was frequently used in anti-Semitic and other racist attacks online. Donald Trump Jr. was criticized during the presidential campaign for posting a photoshopped image of Pepe next to him and other members of the Trump team.
Originally, Pepe was merely a cartoon created by Matt Furie created for an online comic in the mid-2000s. After the image was coopted by white supremacists, Furie tried to “reclaim it as a force for good” together with the ADL, in a campaign #SavePepe last October.
At the time, Furie said that it was “a nightmare” and “completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate, and that racists and anti-Semites are using a once peaceful frog-dude from my comic book as an icon of hate.”
The attempt at rehabilitation hasn’t been very successful, however, and any institutional use of the image in the U.S. is immediately condemned, as the recent unfortunate decision by a social media manager working for the Wendy’s hamburger chain to use it to respond to a request to post a meme demonstrated.