A new book indoctrinating children into the alt-right has been shelved – not because its message is hateful and xenophobic, but because the self-published picture book revolves around a racist frog named Pepe. A clear copyright infringement of the neo-Nazi meme “Pepe the Frog.”
The Adventures of Pepe and Pede follows a frog and a bug as they take down a bearded alligator called Alkah (hmmm…. could they be referencing…. Allah?) To do this, they throw “buds” from the “honesty tree,” thereby defeating Alkah and his mud-covered minions, and quite literally draining the swamp.
“With law and order now restored, this land was great again,” it ends.
After the book caused controversy in author Eric Hauser’s hometown of Dallas, he was fired from his post as middle school assistant principal. “The book was worse than I thought,” Chad Withers, a teacher in Hauser’s district, told Motherboard. “The story itself is despicable, racist, and xenophobic. I was disgusted by it. I’ve never seen anything before that was so obviously targeted propaganda to children.”
Hauser himself, however, maintained the book did not promote the “alt-right,” nor themes of bigotry and hate. Rather he told the Dallas Observer Pepe and Pede was meant to “break down the barriers of political correctness and embrace truth.”
Pepe and Pede was slated to be published in hardcover this November by Post Hill Press, the Simon & Schuster imprint behind books like Go the F**K to Jail: An Adult Coloring Book of the Clinton Scandals.
It was the ultimately image of Pepe, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Pepe the racist meme, that got the book cancelled.
Ukrainian freelance artist Nina Khalova was hired to illustrate the book. As Gault uncovered, Hauser specifically requested that Khalova create the alligator’s minions based off cartoons of women in burqas. Because she lived in the Ukraine, Khalova was unaware of the dark political implications of the project. At the end of the day, Hauser’s fatal mistake was asking Khalova to create the character of Pepe by directly copying an image of Pepe the frog. “I want the frog to look very similar to this frog,” Hauser directed, attaching a picture of Furie’s Pepe.
This made intellectual property lawyers Louis Tompros and Don Steinberg’s job pretty simple. Hauser admitted to copying Furie’s work nearly immediately and sales of the book were brought to a halt. The $1,521.54 profit earned so far was redirected to benefit the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“It’s important for everyone to stand up against hate, whenever and wherever they can,” Tompros, who took on the case pro bono, told HuffPost. “Matt Furie was willing to do that by fighting back against the alt-right’s efforts to claim Pepe as a symbol of hate. We knew that we had the ability as intellectual property lawyers to help in that fight, so we did.”
Glad that it got shelved, but it’s a sad state of affairs when something like this can find a publisher in the first place. What is Simon & Schuster thinking?