“Pepe the Frog is racist.”
If you understand those words, you are either 16-21 years old or you watch the news a lot. Or both. But I doubt a lot of people in the former category also fall into the latter one.
If you are one of the people that is fairly aware of cultural developments and keeps up with news to a fair degree you will have seen the all out slugfest that has been going on between Hillary Clinton and the so-called “alt-right.” But what IS the alt-right and why do they have a problem with Hillary?
The alt-right is oddly complex and multifaceted; it ranges from people who are fairly normal right-wing Trump supporters all the way to Neo-Nazi who believe that Hillary Clinton AND Trump’s campaigns are supported by the Jews, who (oh by the way!) want to take over America. Oh, you didn’t know that? Good! That means you’re a good person.
The alt-right “manifesto” of sorts can largely be found in 4chan’s /pol board. There is not a consensus on what the alt-right believes or a distinct leader they can all get behind. One thing everyone (including the alt-right!) CAN get behind is that the loudest voices in the alt-right come from the white supremacist and Stormfront crowds on /pol. For an example, Milo Yiannopoulos is one of the most famous public figures of the alt-right.
And this is where Hillary Clinton has stepped in. She has taken on the internet-savvy alt-right masses by challenging their god: Pepe the Frog. Pepe the Frog, if you’ve never seen him, is a large-eyed frog that appears in more 4chan memes than you could count in a lifetime. Pepe appears in memes that range from simple humor all the way to swastika-filled obscenities. Hillary Clinton’s website has thrown down the gauntlet to internet-connected youth and stated that Pepe the Frog is a racist meme, and has inseparable ties to white supremacy.
This may not seem like a huge deal, but if you spend any time on Twitter or Reddit you will realize just how huge Pepe is. You can’t move a finger in many parts of the internet without accidentally hitting a Pepe the Frog meme. Hillary Clinton has taken a bit swipe at part of the internet that many people care about deeply, no matter how right or wrong those feelings are. One quote on her website says that “conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who believes the government was behind the 9/11 (and that Newtown was “completely fake”), and Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, whose racism and bigotry is so egregious that Twitter banned him from using their site” appear in a Pepe photo that Roger Stone tweeted out on September 10th.
Hillary Clinton said that Trump was associated with a variety of alt-right entities; and not benign ones at that. Her intent was to show how Trump was linked to these fringe movements, but the the fringe movements took this another way entirely; they took this as an endorsement to be associated with Trump at all.
In Clinton’s mind the biggest move that linked Trump to the alt-right was his promotion of Steve Bannon of Breibart as his campaign CEO. Breibart has long been a platform for the alt-right; the articles contain a heavy leaning towards all things alt-right.
Clinton said that this merger meant that the Republican Party has been completely overrun by the racist internet barbarians. Now, one can understand why she would have an interest in saying such a thing, but how much water does such a claim hold? That answer is really hard to answer. Reddit threads with an alt-right bent such as r/TheDonald definitely show a merger between voters of Trump and the alt-right. However, among many of the working-class voters alt-right sentiment is not very high; you would be hard pressed to find many Midwestern middle-class, middle-aged workers who knew about or cared about the alt-right. The danger that the alt-right poses to the Republican Party at large may be hard to prove exactly, because the internet is a bit hard to quantify sometimes.
One concerning connection that most people CAN agree on is that the alt-right agree with Trump on issues of immigration, and thus are likely to favor a president who will take a hard-line stance against immigration and for border control. Many in the alt-right applauded ONLY Trump’s support of stricter immigration laws, but did not care much for his policies about anything else; they chose him because his is the biggest voice in the “American First” movement.
Here’s the problem with Hillary’s War: as of now, it will be really hard to make it succeed. Before Clinton mentioned them in a speech, many people had never heard of the alt-right. They gained a mass of accidental promotion at the hands of Hillary Clinton from people searching to figure out exactly WHAT this alt-right business was all about. We can applaud her for bringing attention especially to the very dangerous parts of the alt-right such as Stormfront and KKK sympathizers. While publicity may help the alt-right in the short run, long-term public opinion may be what brings down the racism and bigotry once and for all.
Although not everyone in the alt-right is a dangerous racist, you can’t deny that there are dangerous and evil voices calling loudly from the alt-right… Clinton may just have pointed out an entity that is not worth saving.
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