Fantagraphics Books and Matt Furie, the creator of the eternally chill comic book character Pepe the Frog, condemn the illegal and repulsive appropriations of the character by racist fringe groups linked to the alt right movement and the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Furie’s character has been categorized as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League as a result of these uses, creating significant emotional and financial harm for the creator.
Most media reports now routinely default to a narrow description of Pepe as a representation of white supremacy, ignoring the mellow, positive-vibed frog that he is in the hands of his creator, Matt Furie, within the pages of Furie’sBoy’s Club comics (as collected by Fantagraphics Books). Yet the myriad copyright violations of recent weeks have resulted in Furie’s name now turning up in Anti-Defamation League database search results.
Having your creation appropriated without consent is never something an artist wants to suffer, but having it done in the service of such repellent hatred — and thereby dragging your name into the conversation, as well — makes it considerably more troubling.
Fantagraphics Books wants to state for the record that the one, true Pepe the frog, as created by the human being and artist Matt Furie, is a peaceful cartoon amphibian who represents love, acceptance, and fun. (And getting stoned.) Both creator and creation reject the nihilism fueling Pepe’s alt-right appropriators, and all of us at Fantagraphics encourage you to help us reclaim Pepe as a symbol of positivity and togetherness, and to stand by Matt Furie.
We encourage reporters and others citing Furie as the character’s creator to also note that he condemns these illegal representations of his character. Matt is available for interviews through Fantagraphics. We encourage fans and others who support Furie to block, report, and denounce the illegal uses of the character by individuals and groups pirating him to foment hatred.
This is all in obvious contradiction to what he said less than a month ago, when he said he was “never bothered” by the appropriation of his cartoon and, in much contrast to MuhEmotionalDistress, said his feelings about the alt-Right’s use of Pepe were “neutral:”
Serwer: Prior to this year, did the ubiquity of its use and people using him in different contexts, did that ever bother you?
Furie: It’s never bothered me, in fact it’s been kind of inspiring to me, just seeing how mostly kids and teenagers, and kind of the youthfulness of Pepe, is what I’m attracted to, and it’s been an inspiration and something that I’m proud of.
Serwer: How do you feel about the way it’s been adopted by the so-called alt-right?
Furie: My feelings are pretty neutral, this isn’t the first time that Pepe has been used in a negative, weird context. I think it’s just a reflection of the world at large. The internet is basically encompassing some kind of mass consciousness, and Pepe, with his face, he’s got these large, expressive eyes with puffy eyelids and big rounded lips, I just think that people reinvent him in all these different ways, it’s kind of a blank slate. It’s just out of my control, what people are doing with it, and my thoughts on it, are more of amusement.
What happened? Most likely, Furie realized his career would be harmed unless he could show himself being 100% on the SJW bandwagon. It’s likely someone “helped” Furie come to that conclusion.
The accusation that the alt-Right is committing “copyright infringement” by using Pepe is laughable. You can’t spend a decade saying it’s okay for people to remix your creation and then decide to retroactively revoke your permission and declare the uses “illegal.”
This episode brings to mind a quote by Theodore Dalrymple:
“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”