Posts Tagged ‘Guy Fawkes’

BBC Documentary on Artist’s Fightback Against Fascist Appropriation of Pepe the Frog

October 23, 2020

Next Monday, 26th October 2020, BBC’s Storyville documentary follows artist Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe the Frog, as he tries to wrest his image back from the Alt Right. The programme’s on BBC 4 at 10.00 pm, and is entitled ‘Pepe the Frog: Feels Good Man’ The blurb for the programme on page 75 of this coming week’s Radio Times runs

Pepe, a cartoon frog drawn in a deliberately crude and garish style, has become a symbol of the “alt-right”; its use is shorthand for a social media poster proudly announcing themselves to be a troll at best and a full neo-Nazi at worst.

But the little green guy was originally part of a harmless cartoon strip drawn by illustrator Matt Furie and, rather than conceding that sometimes artists lose control of their creations, he’s fought back. We watch as Furie takes on both anonymous troublemakers and the big beasts of the American right-wing media – the big problem being that, arguably, if you engage with them at all, you’ve already lost.

Another blurb on page 77 says

The story of how a cute cartoon character morphed into an international hate symbol after being hijacked by the “alt-right”. This film in the Storyville strand follows Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe, as he fights tooth and nail to wrest back his amiable amphibian from the dark forces that appropriated him.

The Pepe meme as a symbol of the Alt Right must have been around for at least a decade now, and it’s been scrawled by noxious extreme rightists all over the place, from the internet to real objects. It also seems to be connected to the slogan, ‘Free Kekistan’, which is also mouthed by the Alt Right and their supporters. I think one of the issues raised against Sargon of Gasbag, Paul Joseph Watson and Count Dankula when they tried to join UKIP was that a crowd of people, claiming to be their supporters, got drunk and started waving Pepe the Frog flags and shouting ‘Free Kekistan’.

I realise that Furie’s got an uphill battle on his hands to win back ownership of his creation from the trolls, racists and Nazis. There have been countless other creators, writers and artists, who’ve similarly lost control of theirs over the years. The Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta is a case in point. Unfortunately, after the film the rights don’t belong to the strip’s creator, the legendary Alan Moore. Rather they belong to the film company, which is very much the kind of exploitative global corporation Moore despises. It’s because of this and similar issues over creators’ rights that has left Moore very bitter about aspects of the comics industry. However, the meaning of the Guy Fawkes mask as an image has remained the same, and has been very much used as such by protestors demonstrating against forces and ideologies like global capitalism, racism and official persecution and injustice. It isn’t as though it’s meaning has been co-opted and perverted by those forces.

This could be a very interesting programme indeed. And no matter how difficult it is, I wish Furie all the best in his struggle to get Pepe back from the trolls and Fascists.


The Guido Fawkes Blog: Less Guy Fawkes, More Reichstag Fire?

May 4, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece about the suspension of two more Labour MPs following allegations of anti-Semitism against them. The source of these allegations is the Guido Fawkes blog, run by Paul Staines. Mike asks the obvious question about whether these can be believed, considering the source.

This is a very good question. Some suspicion is warranted, especially considering the extreme Right-wing beliefs of the owner. Staines’ blog is a kind of gossip magazine, that has run all sorts of stories about politicians over the years. This hasn’t just been against Labour. He’s also attacked Conservatives, to their equal annoyance. Looking through an old issue of Lobster years ago, I found Staines’ name mentioned in a list of people, who attended a dinner held by one of the quasi-Fascist groups on the Tory fringe. The guest of honour at the meeting was the leader of one of the Central American death squads. These squads were responsible for some truly horrific atrocities, crimes against humanity that are almost indescribable in their obscenity. Assuming that the Paul Staines mentioned then is the same Paul Staines in Guido Fawkes, there’s a large question over his motivation.

I’ve posted much stuff critical of parliament and the operation of governmental institutions, because I actually care that they don’t represent people nor their interests. If Staines still has the same beliefs he had thirty years ago, when he was schmoozing with such people, he doesn’t. He cares about the freedom of big business to make a killing. Literally. This is less the ‘Guy Fawkes’ iconography of left-libertarianism, like ‘Anonymous’, and far more the attack on democracy of authoritarian right-wingers like the Nazis. Blogs and political gossip like Guido Fawkes have often been accused of undermining democracy by reducing the public’s respect for politicians. Normally, I’d agree with that. But in the case of Staines’ wretched organ, I think that’s a very dangerous thing indeed.