It is difficult to explain Pepe -- which is what writers write when they do not fully understand a subject. And so I won't try. To paraphrase Pauline Kael, I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who knows who Pepe is. Where Pepe fans are, I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m online, I can feel them. Her actual quote:
I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are, I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater, I can feel them.She said that 44 years ago, after Nixon won 49 states. In death, she takes a lot of crap from people over the quote. They say she was clueless. No, she was very self-aware. What she meant was she wrote film reviews for an elitist magazine -- New Yorker -- and simply was not in the world of Nixon voters. I admire that honesty, and that admission of her limitations. If you wanted movie reviews written from the perspective of someone who views film as literature (and it was in the 1960s and 1970s) then you read Kael. There is nothing snobbish about that. She did not look down at Nixon voters. She just did not know them.
Pepe is outside my ken. Places where young supporters of Trump go are not for a 63-year-old man.
Nor are they places for mainstream journalists or their online imitators. Yet they go there and get tricked. Jonah Bennett, the "National Security/Foreign Policy Reporter" of the Daily Caller (who looks to be all of 25) wrote a piece, "Here’s How Two Twitter Pranksters Convinced The World That Pepe The Frog Meme Is Just A Front For White Nationalism."
Spoiler alert: They tricked Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast into writing that Pepe is a Nazi symbol, and Team Clinton picked up on that, leading to Hillary to make history by becoming the first major party candidate to denounce a cartoon frog. Team Clinton put an "explainer" (Bennett's word) about Pepe on the her official web site.
In writing about how the pranksters got Nuzzi and Clinton, Bennett wrote:
Matt Furie created Pepe in the early 2000s and told The Atlantic the link between Pepe and white nationalism is exaggerated and really not much more than a phase, one out of many evolutionary stages the frog has undergone.
“I think that’s it’s just a phase, and come November, it’s just gonna go on to the next phase, obviously that political agenda is exactly the opposite of my own personal feelings, but in terms of meme culture, it’s people reappropriating things for their own agenda,” Furie said. “That’s just a product of the internet. And I think people in whatever dark corners of the internet are just trying to one up each other on how shocking they can make Pepe appear.”
For Furie, the Clinton campaign explainer is quite amusing.
“I read it, and I thought it was funny,” he said. “Like I said, I think it downplays the fact that Pepe is more than whatever is happening in the news today, especially to younger people and to teenagers.”Pepe the frog is outside my ken. Of course. Most of the world is outside my ken. The times I get myself in trouble online are when I think I understand what is outside my ken. Hell, I barely know what is inside it.
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