There once was a cartoon frog named Pepe. His creator, Matt Furie, had no idea that Pepe would become a star. Frankly, I doubt he would have, left to his own devices, for as cartoon frogs go, Pepe is far from being the cutest. But back in 2016, in the heat of the presidential election, Pepe became noticed by the white supremacist/white nationalist group that calls itself ‘alt-right’, and life for poor Pepe would never be the same again.
Pepe’s life began in 2005 as a figure for Mr. Furie’s comic strip called Boy’s Club, a comic “about life in your early 20s”. Then in 2010 he became an internet meme, a benign, if sometimes bawdy figure beloved by pop stars and teenagers alike. Pepe was a happy little frog until …
One day in 2016, when …
Pepe was kidnapped by white supremacists who have portrayed him wearing a Hitler moustache with the message “Kill Jews Man”, posed him in front of a burning World Trade Center, dressed like an Orthodox Jewish person with a yarmulke and payot. He’s also been spotted wearing a Nazi soldier’s uniform and in a KKK hood and robe. Pepe was turned into a white nationalist icon, and white supremacist Richard Spencer even wears a Pepe lapel pin. In September of 2016, the Anti-Defamation League added Pepe to its hate symbol database.
Pepe’s creator, Mr. Furie, was not pleased. “To have it evolve into what it is today, it’s a nightmare. It’s kind of my worst nightmare … to be tangled in forever with a symbol of hate. I’m a lifelong artist. Hate and racism couldn’t be further from something on my radar. I try to focus on positivity and nature and animals.”
In May 2017 Furie, frustrated by the escalation of Pepe’s use as a symbol of hate, racism and Islamophobia, killed poor Pepe off.
But the story doesn’t end there. An assistant principal for Rodriguez Middle School in Little Elm, Texas, has written a children’s book. The author is Eric Hauser, and the book is titled The Adventures of Pepe and Pede.
The setting is a farm called Wishington. The antagonist is a bearded alligator named “Alkah.” Astute readers will recognize Covfefe cliff. Pepe and his centipede sidekick Pede start the book ecstatic that the old farmer has left after eight years of oppression. But Alkah and his minions have entrenched themselves in a pond that very much resembles a swamp — and are threatening to spread throughout all of Wishington Farm. Pepe and Pede have one weapon to vanguish the gator: buds from the honesty tree.
Mr. Hauser self-published his book on August 1st, and it was picked up by Post Hill Press, a conservative-leaning publishing house. The book has ten reviews on Amazon, 3 good(5-star) and 7 awful (1-star). A few of the comments:
“What a disgraceful ‘author’ for spreading hate by targeting children.”
“This book has no place in the hands of a child.”
“If your kids need to learn how to be racist, or how to steal someone else’s work in order to profit, then this is the book for you! Of course, if you’re considering buying this book for your kids there’s a good chance they already know at least one of those things…”
“A horrendous load of racist garbage. Any adult who puts this book in a kids hands should abort themselves.”
And the only favourable review …
“It’s sad that the alt-left, fueled by an election loss, is now attacking a core principle of free speech. It is truly sickening and sad. In regards to IP, who owns the name Pepe and am I not allowed to make an original artwork of a frog? Ridiculous.”
Mr. Hauser was terminated from his position as assistant principal within days of the release of the book. The school district said Hauser’s book had become “a distraction to the learning process.” Hauser says he resigned. Either way, he is no longer employed by the Denton Independent School District.
And now we come to the good part of this story. The book is no longer available. Matt Furie took legal action and when Hauser was threatened with litigation, he admitted to copyright infringement, and agreed to stop distribution of the book in all forms. And it gets even better. A statement issued by Furie’s law firm:
“Under US copyright law, Furie is entitled to all of the profits that Hauser made by selling his infringing book. Instead, per the agreement – and at Furie’s insistence – Hauser will be required to give all of his profits to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.”
It is not a lot of money ($1,521.54), since the book was self-published and only on shelves for about 3 weeks, but it is a step in the right direction. It is, for a change, a win for common sense and decency – something we see far too little of these days.