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We can argue about the finer points of the 2016 election until we’re green in the face, but one thing is for certain: No issue has been more important, or more divisive, than frogs.
One frog in particular has hogged the spotlight, though: Pepe. The 4chan-born meme amphibian’s name was shouted during Hillary Clinton’s watershed speech on the alt-right movement. He has repeatedly resurfaced in neo-Nazi guise, despite creator Matt Furie’s insistence that this is just a phase. Clinton’s campaign eventually had to issue a statement on Pepe, Donald Trump Jr. denied a relationship with him, and the Anti-Defamation League declared him a hate symbol.
But we all know Pepe isn’t the only meme frog out there. We also have Dat Boi, Foul Bachelor Frog, and the #TeaLizard himself, Kermit. The humble leader of the Muppets contains multitudes, but he always seems to be on the right side of history. And as he calmly sips his tea, he projects a certain confidence in our stupid world.
Well, this time something is Kermit’s business: the future of the United States. Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, has been tirelessly reporting on Trump and his Pepe army, and he’s sick of a one-sided fight. He’s enlisting Kermit.
And almost as soon as Marshall declared his allegiance to Kermit over Pepe, a hashtag was born.
Activists quickly took up the cause.
Then, perhaps to support Marshall’s claim that Pepe “embodies sadism, cruelty, and the lust for domination as touchstone of public life that are the makings of autocracy,” the alt-right sought to quash the Feel-Good Kermit Rainbow Rebellion as it began to trend.
Marshall, for his part, saw it as mere desperation from people who know they are about to lose.
Incredible to think that just a month out from the vote that will put either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House, a seismic shift in the frog meme landscape could swing the decision either way. Will Pepe resort to draconian measures to keep his followers in line? And can Kermit be an effective surrogate in smacking down Pepe talking points?
Good luck explaining this election to your grandkids.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'