Pepe the Frog

Internet Memes have become one of the largest online forces that has emerged in the upcoming presidential election. One meme in particular has become so defining during this election that Hillary Clinton has taken the time to define it for many people not only in many of her speeches but on her website as well. The meme was given its own page on her website, which describes it as a racist meme taken the alt- right by storm. 

The meme was most famously used by Eric Trump in an Instagram picture that featured pepe as well as other supposed racists memes with the quote “The Deplorables.” While the post was mean to fire back at Clinton’s claims that Trump followers are part of a “basket of deplorables” the Instagram picture did more to spur controversy about Donald Trump already racist platform.

While the meme is in the media now because of people like Trump and Hillary, this is far from Pepe’s first wave of popularity. “Pepe is an internet symbol that has been around for years. He was a character in the comic “Boy’s Club” by Matt Furie, and he used to be known as “Feels Bad Man,” because he looked so sad. Feels Bad Man frog inspired many spinoffs over the years, but until 2015, he was a symbol of sad-sack, beta-male singledom for users of 4chan. That site is widely described as the “cesspool” of the internet. It is basically a locker room full of a bunch of single dudes commiserating over their social awkwardness.”

People such as my younger brothers have been using this meme in an innocent way for many years, so how do people feel now that the meme has evolved? Especially within younger communities that are too young to vote the alt-right takeover of pepe the frog can seem irrelevant and downright unfairr.

My youngest brothers, Eric and Tomas, are twins and attend public school they are both 12-years-old. They both have social media accounts but instead of face book like I had when I was in middle school they spend their time exchanging memes through the DM pages on Instagram. Because of their age not only are they too young to vote but are arguably to young to truly understand the social and political implications of this election. Eric in particular used to love using pepe and still does on occasion. “It’s just a meme I don’t know its means you’re like ugh just done with stuff just like the troll meme,” he said giggling uncomfortably clearly.



An Interview with an Abuela

The 2016 election cycle has revved the engine of the Internet and produced some memorable and ridiculous content. From the Ted Cruz, Zodiac Killer conspiracy to the Bernie vs. Hillary meme that compared the two candidates on the “issues.” Because of this massive political response online, many politicians have taken to their browsers to churn out hashtags and videos that they believe will get in touch with this young cyber community. Latino voters were one demographic that was specifically targeted: Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican-American, sold a “guaca bowle” on his website, supporters of Bernie Sanders, have long referred to him as #TioBernie on Twitter, and the Clinton campaign published a listicle titled “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela.” These attempts at online trendsetting have all been poorly received due to the fact that they’ve used stereotypes to make a joke and attempt to curry favors with Hispanic voters, what the Internet dubbed “Hispandering”. The Meme Team thought it would be interesting to interview a Hispanic voter that some of these ads were poking fun of.

Elba Orna, 82, is an Ecuadorean immigrant that moved to the US in her thirties to start a sewing factory and now resides in a one bedroom apartment in the Upper West Side. She intends on voting for Hillary Clinton. Orna just started using Facebook last year and has since only “Liked” a handful Catholic and healthy lifestyle pages. We showed her Hillary’s abuela post and a recent video titled “Abuela for President,” which shows a woman with a short grey wig talking about how she will enforce “mandatory cafecito breaks” if she is elected president. These were Orna’s thoughts:

(Orna jumped between English and Spanish, the interview has been somewhat translated and edited for grammar)

What were your initial reactions? Have you seen anything like this on Facebook before?

*laughs* No I haven’t, I use Facebook to mostly talk to family and see pictures of people I cannot see very often. I thought the video was funny but generalizing and I did not like the Hillary page. She is trying to call herself a Latina when she has never come close to living like an immigrant in her life. It was tacky.

How do you feel about how abuelas are portrayed in this article/video?

Even though some parts of the video made me laugh it was all about making fun of women my age. Yes, I care about my grandson eating right but I don’t drink coffee. There are many abuelas from all over South America that don’t do these things and I think it’s wrong to think that Latinas turn into neurotic chancla throwers when they age.

For the HIllary article, I thought it was in very bad taste. It is one thing to say that you support Hispanics, but comparing yourself to something that you are not to get votes is just in bad taste.

Has this changed your mind about voting for HIllary?

No I’m still going to vote for Hillary. I have supported the Democrats for as long as I can remember. Although I don’t agree with some of their positions on abortion because of my faith, I think they have cared about the Latino community of the United States much more than the Republicans. Especially with what Trump has been saying.

HIllary is a strong woman that I believe will continue to make this country a safe and successful place for immigrants to succeed in. Even though I did not really like her story.

Do you think alright for politicians to use these sort of ads?

I can see how these things can be used to make someone laugh when they are on their phone, but they have to move past the stereotypes. Latinos are more than just a bunch of votes. Try to connect with us better. Talk about issue that we care about, don’t patronize us. Maybe try speaking Spanish sometimes.

Title: TKTK


Memes have dominated the 2016 presidential election, satirizing the candidates’ looks, dramatizing their controversial policies, and commercializing their battle cries (“I’m with Her!” “Grab ‘Em by the Pussy!”). Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been both their subjects and creators. Their over-paid marketing staff have embraced memes as a convenient, lighthearted way to clap back at their opponent (“Delete your account”), spread campaign messages, and pander to specific racial groups (“abuela” jokes for the Hispanic folks, Beyonce lyrics for the black, Pokemon Go references for millennials).

College students are the most enthusiastic consumer of memes. While they understand the advertising and entertainment values of memes, liberal and conservative students alike also notice the harmful ways in which meme culture has influenced politics in the past year.

Ann Park, a politics major at NYU, said that memes disproportionately benefit Clinton because Trump is more problematic and, therefore, so much more “memable.”

“Memes get people to focus on the shortcomings of the candidates instead of their strengths,” she said. “You can only  this is how it benefits Clinton
more people know about hillary’s emails than her

Aside from that, memes also helped cultivate enticing but flatly false rumors, Park said. On both sides of the political aisle, this claims rings true. News of Clinton’s pneumonia in September sent Dems and Republicans alike scurrying for explanations. Many thought she was in critical condition. Somehow somewhere, a body double theory miraculously gained traction.

Trump’s sniffing fits at the three debates (only marginally less embarrassing than his actual performances) inspired a string of hilarious memes insinuating that he’s not only a KKK offspring but also a coke addict. It was all fun until former presidential candidate Howard Dean legitimized the cocaine rumor by tweeting about it. It got people wondering if Trump’s actually doing coke (he isn’t).

“Memes are an innovative advertising tool, that’s for sure,” Park said. “But it absolutely should not be your main news source.”

For Ashley Powell, a junior at Hillsdale College in Michigan, the saturation of memes in this election cycle has diverged the public’s attention from the significance and viability of the candidates’ policies, which is far more important than their antics.

“They’re yet another manifestation of media bias,” she said, referencing the inundation of of anti-Trump memes posted by major news outlets. “I never see a compilation of anti-Clinton tweets on Huff Po or Buzzfeed, and I assure you there are plenty of those around.”

  • more to come

Memes, Millennials and a New Kind of Political Advertising

With the rise of social media, memes have become a new way for both activists and candidates to spread their messages.  However, this method clearly targets millennials who grew up with the technology that memes were born from.  Millennials have less trouble understanding and communicating with memes, which leads to the question of how people who are less connected to Facebook, Twitter and the Internet at large feel about the tactic.  The following is a Q & A with Tim O’Neill, a 61-year-old who lives in Johnson City, Tennessee.  O’Neill watches the evening and morning news and reads the newspaper, but he does not use social media at all.

How have you seen political advertising change in your lifetime?

Kennedy hired an advertising agency, and that was the first person that ever had their image polished or put out there.  That was the start of it, and, now, it’s all about the image.

What is the single most successful political advertisement you remember seeing in a presidential race?

Al Gore leaked that Bush junior had had a DUI, and they said that had a big effect on the election even though Bush won—even though Gore got the most votes.  One of the most effective ads of this season’s campaign was Bernie—he used a Simon & Garfunkel song—but it was more a unity ad than a negative, slam the opponent ad.

Which candidate do you think is “winning” when it comes to advertising right now?

Hillary has outspent Trump three to one.  Trump relies on getting his name in the press—his motto is any press is good press—but I haven’t seen any ads that have really rocked my world from either one of them.  The ads that he’s running are pretty disgusting—they’re so anti Hillary and so bitter.

What do you think about memes?

I think it’s a very powerful way to advertise.  It’s a very powerful way, but it can be a bit sneaky—you use a picture that’s not very flattering for a negative statement, try to use a flattering picture if you’re trying to push.  It’s a powerful way to spread propaganda.

How do you feel about memes compared to other types of political advertising?

It’s like a high tech bumper sticker.  I think, in some ways, it could be more powerful than somebody standing there talking.  I think you can deliver a more powerful shock factor this way than you can by somebody just talking.  Somehow the image and the print is more stark or more to the point—you don’t have to digest anything as long.

So you think it is worth a candidate’s time to advertise this way?

I think it’s probably well worth their time, and I think people tend to believe something written over something stated verbally.