“SHE SLAPS: Street Art Stickers by Women Artists from Around the World” traveling exhibition at SLU

The exhibition SHE SLAPS: Street Art Stickers by Women Artists from Around the World closes at St. Lawrence University this week. Here is the co-curator’s statement I wrote about the project:

SHE SLAPS features 536 street art stickers by 85 contemporary women artists from 20 countries around the world. Drawn from the private collection of Oliver Baudach, founder and director of Hatch Kingdom Sticker Museum in Berlin, Germany, the exhibition includes stickers individually drawn, painted, and/or printed by the artists, as well as silkscreen, offset, and digital designs that were printed in larger runs through commercial services. In the spring of 2019, Baudach also sent out a worldwide call-for-entries for new stickers to add to the SHE SLAPS exhibition and to St. Lawrence University’s Street Art Graphics digital archive.

The exhibition includes portraits of women and men, fanciful “character design” creatures, and various images and text that function as artists’ “tags.” Female personas represented in the exhibition range from dolls, punks, and riot grrls to femmes fatales and leading ladies. A handful of artists address political subjects, with one artist using photos of her cat Illchmann as a spoof on Grumpy Cat in order to comment on sexism, racism, and gun violence. The exhibition organizers also noted that the stickers in the show, with few exceptions, exclude images of violence, skulls, or military-related themes often found in stickers by some male artists.

Several artists contributed works that are part of an ongoing global campaign called Streetart Against Hate: To Live and Let Live, in which artists can download circular templates with text in different languages and design their own stickers (click on link to view photos from the #nohatefamily sticker campaign).

When asked, many artists in the exhibition indicated that identifying as a female affected their work, while others felt that gender and sexuality did not play a role. All of the artists indicated a strong sense of solidarity among street artists in general, however, whether male or female.

A grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the U.S. Council of Independent Colleges provided funding support to St. Lawrence University to catalogue stickers by women artists for the Street Art Graphics digital archive.

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As of today, there are 433 newly catalogued stickers in the digital archive, with a few hundred more in the works from a previous scanning job at Hatch Kingdom in 2017. Special thanks to SLU’s arts metadata technician, Arline Wolfe, and Tyler Senecharles ’20.

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In conjunction with the exhibition, the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery also hosted an informal discussion and sticker making workshop with the Boston-based, self-taught artist ANKANA. Over 35 students and a handful of older community members attended, drawing on USPS Label 228s and Hello-My-Name-Is stickers with colored pencils and markers. With the female-based SHE SLAPS show, it wasn’t surprising to see so many women show up for the workshop (I counted three men in the crowd), and women’s themes certainly emerged in the stickers everyone made.

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With the female-based SHE SLAPS show, it wasn’t surprising to see so many women show up for the workshop (I counted three men in the crowd), and women’s themes certainly emerged in many of the stickers everyone made.

Artist’s Statement

ANKANA, a.k.a the Harami Artist (she/her), is originally from Assam, India. Her earliest exposure to art came from seeing her grandmother’s creations and watching her father paint. Although creativity ran in the family, she was never encouraged to pursue art as a profession. Being surrounded by nature in her childhood heavily influenced her, and that influence permeates her work today. She experiments with ink, acrylic paint, watercolor, fiber, collage, and digital photography, creating surreal imagery with elements of fantasy, grounded in reality as she experiences it. Using detailed patterns and bright colors, her work centers on and celebrates nature and wom*n/femme in a positive way.

ANKANA started her sticker journey in 2017. In 2018, she participated in and helped organize the Priority Made Sticker show in Boston, Massachusetts. You can see her work on IG @beankana.

 

 

Symbols of Hate

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I found another alt-right sticker in Potsdam, NY, last week. This one was a heavy vinyl sticker compared to the lightweight paper “Pepe the Frog” white power stickers I found last January along the same block. In a December 30, 2016, Vox article called “The 2016 culture war, as illustrated by the alt-right,” author Aja Romano writes that the figure on this sticker represents:

“…the head of the Egyptian frog-god Kek superimposed over an image of his counterpart, the Egyptian snake god Kauket, in a seal inscribed with the Latin phrase ‘satis mentibus obvia,’ or, ‘resist closed minds.’ It’s complicated, but basically, through a series of meme-heavy coincidences involving 4chan’s use of ‘kek’ as a synonym for ‘lol,’ 4chan users profess to believe that Pepe (yes, the cartoon frog) is a reincarnation of Kek, an Egyptian frog-god who ruled over chaos and darkness, and that his coming is a sign that Donald Trump will save them all. Their satirical worship is what turned Pepe from a random internet meme into a racist and white nationalist meme symbol of hate. The ordeal understandably left [the original artist Matt] Furie outraged and upset, and he began a ‘take back Pepe’ campaign in October.”

I photographed the sticker and removed it from the street pole and will show this photo and the photos from earlier this year to the Potsdam police, as suggested by the Anti-Defamation League in NYC. For more information on racist and fascist symbols, see the ADL’s website Hate on Display: Hate Symbols Database.

German 103 writing assignment at SLU – fall 2018 – three examples

In the fall of 2018, St. Lawrence University students in Dr. Brook Henkel’s German 103 class again incorporated contemporary street art stickers from Germany for a writing assignment called “Politische Plakate und Aufkleber in Deutschland” (similar to what his students did in the fall of 2017). As before, I introduced the assignment by giving a brief talk with slides describing the ubiquitous sticker culture in Berlin, focusing on topics such as urban development, gentrification, police authority, surveillance, and identity politics. Students then came to the gallery where I work to look at three sets of original, unused stickers from my collection:

  • 34 political stickers that I picked up in May-June of 2017 at a squat/community resource center in Berlin called Infoladen Daneben;
  • 58 political stickers that Oliver Baudach sent to me in May of 2018 from Berlin’s annual May Day festival and from other sources (Oli is the founder and director of Hatch Kingdom in Berlin, the world’s first and only sticker museum); and
  • 47 political stickers that Oli sent to me in August of 2018.

Before coming to class, the students also read two short articles that I wrote about SLU’s Street Art Graphics digital archive and about Hatch Kingdom:

Brook gave me three of the best examples of writing that his students did, which I’ll share below. In response to the assignment, he wrote:

“In all of my German language and culture classes, I try to give my students a sense of the robust culture of democratic politics and activism in Germany today. In a country still shaped by memories of fascist dictatorship under the Nazis and one-party socialist rule in the former GDR, Germans are far less likely than Americans to take for granted the benefits of a free, open, and democratic society. I’m enormously thankful to Cathy Tedford, Director of the Brush Art Gallery, for the opportunity to bring this culture home, by allowing my students to engage with authentic cultural materials related to contemporary German politics and activism. In both the Fall 2017 and 2018 semesters, Cathy gave a presentation and organized a gallery visit for my Intermediate German students to learn about and study her extensive collection of German political stickers and street art. By looking through her collection, students encounter a range of themes, from environmentalism to feminism, anti-fascism, and the politics of immigration. This work challenges both their skills in German language as they work to read and understand the political messages, as well as their knowledge of contemporary German politics. They select several stickers on a single political theme and work to compose an essay in German that provides a cultural, political, and historical context for understanding the political stickers and then develops a close reading of their verbal and visual strategies. The assignment works wonderfully as an impetus for developing, at once, new cultural knowledge, skills in formal analysis, and more sophisticated writing in German. The students tend to recognize the considerable challenge of the assignment, but are always motivated to push their abilities, since the materials seem so politically relevant.”

He also wrote:

“The one change I think I will make for next year is to have them do some short readings in German in advance related to the main political topics represented by the stickers. It would be good to have them get a sense for the relevant vocabulary and political issues in advance. I still like the kind of exploration and ‘figuring things out’ that happens as the students go around and try to decipher the stickers––in a way, like they would if they were encountering them as street art in a German city. But I still see the need to dedicate a bit of class-time and assigned reading in advance to get them to engage on a deeper level.”

Brook Henkel’s writing assignment:

On Friday, December 1 in class, we will be meeting with the Director of the Brush Art Gallery Cathy Tedford to study her collection of German political stickers. Our goal for this class will be for each student to identify three stickers of interest that have a similar political theme (anti-fascism, feminism, gay rights, anti-racism, environmentalism, economics, migration, refugees, specific political figures, etc.). Based on your common interests with others in the class, you will begin working in pairs to discuss, translate, interpret, and analyze your chosen images.

Due next Friday, December 8, will be your fourth and final essay, which will describe the cultural and historical context for your selected images along with a close analysis of one of the political stickers. Your essay should have a three-paragraph format:

  1. introduction of the political, historical, and/or cultural context in Germany referred to by the stickers (Here, you might need to do a little research online. When describing past events and conditions in Germany, pay attention to the proper verb tenses of “Imperfekt/Präteritum” and “Plusquamperfekt” and use each of the following conjunctions at least once: “als”, “nachdem”, “bevor”);
  2. introduction and close formal analysis of one of the images; and
  3. a discussion of all 3 images in general and commentary on their collective message and strategy as visually striking combinations of text and image.

Note: When you’ve completed either a full first draft or are working to polish a final draft, you are free to visit the German Writing Center in the Language Resource Center on the second floor of Carnegie Hall, Sundays through Thursdays from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. An advanced student in German will be there to read your complete draft and help you identify and correct any grammatical or stylistic mistakes.

das Plakat(e) = a poster adhering to outdoor surfaces for advertising, art, protest, etc.

der Aufkleber = an adhesive sticker or label, also used in political street art.

Here are the three examples of student writing from the assignment.

Feminismus by Rebecca Shyne, SLU Class of 2021

Deutschland hat eine lange Geschichte mit Frauen in der Politik. Die Frauenbewegung begann 1888 bis 1918 während Wilhelminismus. Nachdem die erste Welle von Feminismus in den USA und in Australien begonnen hatte, mochte deutsche Frauen sich in die Politik engagieren. Frauen wollten mehr Gelegenheiten für Studien und Lernen. Leider, in der Zeit von 1933 bis 1945, gaben die Nationalsozialisten den Frauen nicht viele Karrieremöglichkeiten. Nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg wollte die deutsche Gesellschaft Frauen zu ihrer traditionellen Rolle zurückkehren. Bevor Frauen ihre Rechte zurück bekamen, wurde die National Organisation für Frauen gegründet. Durchweg die Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts, hatten Frauen ihre Rechten langsam bekommen. Als die Frauenbewegungen in Deutschland entstehen war, hat die Amerikanische Frauenbewegung am ersten entsteht. Die Gedanken von Frauen über der ganzen Welt und auch in Deutschland hatten ausgebreitet.

Das erste Foto spricht über Frauen und ihre Rechte. Es sagt in dickem Text „Gegen Rechte Hetze“. In der Mitte kann man eine Frau sehen. Sie heißt Ruby Rose und spielt die Rolle von „Rosie the Riveter“. Ruby Rose ist eine australische Schauspielerin, die in vielen Sendungen gespielt hatte. Auf ihren Armen hat sie ein paar Tätowierungen von einer Rose und Dinge über Liebe. Sie ist eine moderne Version von einer starken Frau, die beliebt und geliebt ist. Der Text auf der rechte Seite spricht über Frauen gegen Neonazis, rechte Hooligans, Parteien und Rassisten. Es ist eine Ankündigung für eine Kundgebung am Washingtonplatz in Berlin. Die Bilder benutzen rosa, weiß und schwarz in dem Foto. Der Stil der Fotos ist Punk und hat ein Rock-und-Roll Thema. Der Aufkleber ist auffällig und je mehr man sich es ansieht, desto mehre Auskunft man bekommen kann.

Die drei Aufkleber haben alle ein gleiches Thema: Frauen gegen schlechte Ideenlehre und Organisationen. Die Phrase, „sexistische kackscheisse“ spricht nur über Sexismus aber sieht wie der erste Aufkleber aus. Wir sehen rosa, schwarz und weiß für Farben auf beiden Bildern.

Die anderen Aufkleber benutzten die Farben ebenso, wie weiß und rot. Alle Bilder vertreten Frauenbewegung in moderne Gesellschaft. Frauen sind wichtig, bedeuten viel, und sollen eine Stimme in unserem täglichen Leben haben. Die Geschichte von Frauen ist nicht besonders gut oder einschließlich. Ohne Frauenschilderung, wurde die Welt von Männern geherrscht. Es ist wichtig, dass Frauen eine Stimme in dieser Gesellschaft haben.

Flüchtlingspolitik by Jayden Ladison, SLU Class of 2021

Als die Flüchtlinge im Sommer 2015 anfingen nach Deutschland zu reisen, hat Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel für sie eine Politik der offenen Tür geschaffen. Bevor diese Politik geschaffen wurde, hatten Deutschland und die Europäische Union die „Dublin-Politik” angewandt. Leider nachdem die Politik der offenen Tür eingesetzt wurde, hatte sich in Deutschland ein konservativer Standpunkt gegenüber Flüchtlingen entwickelt. Es gibt jedoch einige Hoffnung. Einige liberalen Demonstraten begannen mit Aufklebern, um die Akzeptanz von Flüchtlingen zu fördern.

Das erste Bild ist ziemlich klar. Es ist ein quadratischer Aufkleber. Der Hintergrund ist weiß mit einem dunkelen Flüchtlingsbett mit einem roten Kreuz darüber in der Mitte. Oben sind die Worte: „Wohnungen für alle!“ und darunten sind „Keine Flüchtlinge in Lager!“ Unter den Wörtern ist eine Informationswebsite im Rot. Es gibt ein paar Wortspiele darin. Das Wort „Lager“ bedeutet Camp und Magasin auf Deutsch, und so kritisiert mit einem Satz der Aufkleber viel über die deutsche Flüchtlingspolitik. Erstens, kritisiert es der Zustand der Gemeinschaftsunterkünfte in Deutschland. Die Gemeinschaftsunterkünfte sind nicht so gemütlich. Sie sind meistens renovierte Kaserne, die oft überfüllt sind. Die Betten sind auch nicht so komfortabel wie auf dem Aufkleber gezeigt wird. Dieser Aufkleber setzt sich eindeutig für bessere Bedingungen in den Gemeinschaftsunterkünften ein. Der Künstler des Stickers meint, dass Flüchtlinge wie Stock oder Dingen behandelt werden. Auch, die zweite Definition von „Lager“ ist für diesen Aufkleber wichtig. Der Künstler sieht auch Ähnlichkeiten zwischen den Flüchtlingen heute und jüdischen Menschen im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Der Künstler könnte vielleicht über die neue konservative Ideologie Deutschlands besorgt sein. Dies zeigt, dass Deutschland Flüchtlinge als „andere” behandeln wird, wie sie die Opfer des Holocaust behandeln. Der Aufkleber argumentiert, dass Deutschland nicht vergessen soll, dass die Flüchtlinge auch Menschen sind.

Der erste Aufkleber ist seinen Ansichten nicht allein. Viele Aufkleber wie diese sind in letzter Zeit beliebter geworden. Der zweite Aufkleber hat eine ähnliche Nachricht wie der Erste. Beide argumentieren, dass Deutschland für Flüchtlinge offen sein sollte und verweisen auch auf die Nazi Partei. Zuletzt der dritte Aufkleber wendet diese Idee auf der ganze von Europa an. Der zweite Aufkleber ist ein bisschen bunter als die anderen zwei, aber alle Aufkleber benutzen neutrale Farben. Grau, Weiß und Schwarz hebt sich von den bunten Aufklebern ab, die sie häufig umgeben. Es macht auch ihre Botschaften ernster. Alle diese Aufkleber zeigen, dass Flüchtlinge in Deutschland und Europa Willkommen sind. Wenn mehr dieser Aufkleber auftauchen, kann sich die Einstellung der Bürger Deutschlands zum Besseren ändern.

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen by Kamryn Ransom, SLU Class of 2021

Meine drei Aufkleber haben alle ein ähnliches Thema rund um Umweltbewusstsein. Mein Hauptaufkleber sagt: „Dem Klimawandel ist es egal, ob man ihn leugnet.“ Das Sprichwort auf dem Aufkleber ist ein Versprechen der Alliance 90 / The Greens. Die Alliance 90 / Die Grünen oder „Grünen“ sind eine grüne politische Partei in Deutschland. Die Partei­vorsitzenden sind Annalena Baerbock und Robert Habeck. Der Hauptsitz befindet sich in Berlin. Es wurde 1993 gegründet und konzentriert sich auf ökologische, ökonomische und soziale Nachhaltigkeit. Bevor das Bündnis 90/Die Grünen gegründet wurden, waren Die Grünen und das Bündnis 90 die grünen Parteien in West- und Ostdeutschland gewesen. Mein erster Nebenaufkleber sagt: „Ackergifte? Nein Danke!“ von der Landwende. Die Bürgerinitiative „Landwende“ wurde im 2001 als Reaktion auf eine massive Herbizidvergiftung gegründet. Das Ziel der Kampagne “Ackergifte? Nein, danke!” ist die Verwendung aller synthetischen Ackergifte zu verbieten. Ackergifte sind chemische Tötungsmittel, die gegen Pflanzen, Pilze, Insekten und Mikroorganismen auf den Äckern ausgebracht werden. Darunter sind hochgiftige Wirkstoffe, die Bienen töten und Menschen gesundheitlich schädigen. Mein zweiter Nebenaufkleber ist ein Bild von Groot von Marvel und sagt „Plant More Trees.“ Die Künstlerin ist eine Straßenkünstlerin aus Düsseldorf namens Matraeda. Matraeda verwendet geometrische Formen in ihrer Kunst.

Ich werde meinen Hauptaufkleber analysieren. Der Aufkleber ist ein grüner Kreis mit einem kleineren rosa Kreis. Im Vordergrund steht eine Sonnenblume. Unter der Sonnenblume sagt: „Darum Grün.“ „Warum grün“ steht für die Alliance 90 / The Greens. Die Mitte des rosa Kreises sagt: „ Dem Klimawandel ist es egal, ob man ihn leugnet.“ Auf Englisch heißt es: „ Climate change does not care if you deny it.“ Das Sprichwort war der Titel des Artikels auf ihrer Website am 27. August.  In dem Artikel heißt es, dass die Menschen sozial und politisch umdenken müssen, wenn wir nicht alle zum Scheitern verurteilt sind. Alliance 90 / The Greens versprach eine echte Alternative im Kampf gegen die Klimawandel-Leugner. Auf dem Aufkleber heißt es, dass der Klimawandel stattfindet, ob wir nun daran glauben oder nicht.

Alle drei Aufkleber sind durch Umweltprobleme miteinander verbunden. Die Aufkleber enthalten alle die Farbe Grün und ein Naturbild; eine Sonnenblume, eine Biene und ein Baumcharakter. Der Hauptaufkleber ist das Gesamtbild des Klimawandels. Bei den beiden anderen Aufklebern stellen sie dar, wie sich der Klimawandel auf die Umwelt auswirkt. Die drei Aufkleber zeigen die Wichtigkeit der Natur. Bienen liefern uns viele Nahrung und Bäume lassen uns atmen. Als ich ein Kind war, wurde mir die Wichtigkeit der Umwelt gelehrt. Uns wurde eine Geschichte erzählt, die Wichtigkeit der Natur zeigte. Die Botschaft der Geschichte war einfach. Nachdem wir weg gewesen waren, wurde die Natur immer noch hier. Ohne die Umwelt werden wir nicht leben. Deshalb ist mein Hauptfach Politik- und Umweltwissenschaft.

AAC&U poster presentation 10.12.2018

AACU poster-FINAL

Competing Narratives

Two small paper stickers found along the same NYC block this morning:

The captain of chaos sticker on the top gets a big “NO.”

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The sticker on the bottom is from a #WalkAway” campaign, created by “former liberal” Brandon Straka.  According to Wikipedia, “The campaign’s stated goal was to ‘[encourage] others to walk away from the divisive left, but also [take] back the narrative from the liberal media about what it means to be a conservative in America.’ As of November 2018, the video had over 400,000 views on YouTube and 1 million on Facebook.” As of today, the video had 440K views on YouTube and 2.6M views on Facebook (I’m purposefully not linking to the videos).

Doing this particular research lately feels like going down another rabbit hole, but if you want to learn more about the #WalkAway sticker, check out this article by Abby Ohlheiser from The Washington Post, “The #WalkAway meme is what happens when everything is viral and nothing matters” (July 2, 2018). Strange times here in the USA.

NYC and Brooklyn political stickers, January 2019

A sampling:

Karla Ann Coté is a photojournalist and videographer who documents protest movements, among other subjects. She was at the Women’s Unity Rally in Foley Square in NYC on Saturday, January 19th.

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After seeing a “white power” sticker in Potsdam, NY, recently, I found another weird sticker in Brooklyn that states “Q-Anon Is Real” or, with what looks like a Jewish Star of David on the lower left, more likely “Q-Anon Israel.” “Q,” like “Pepe the Frog” in the Potsdam sticker, is also linked to U.S. President Donald Trump. I remember seeing pictures of people at Trump rallies wearing “Q” T-shirts and holding “Q” signs.

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According to The Washington Post, “Q” is “a government agent with top security clearance, waging war against the so-called deep state in service to the 45th president. ‘Q’ feeds disciples, or ‘bakers,’ scraps of intelligence, or ‘bread crumbs,’ that they scramble to bake into an understanding of the ‘storm’ — the community’s term, drawn from Trump’s cryptic reference last year to ‘the calm before the storm’ — for the president’s final conquest over elites, globalists and deep-state saboteurs.” Yipes!

The number 11:11 must signify something, but Wikipedia only states that numerologists and New Age philosophies believe that seeing the two numbers indicates “chance or coincidence and is an example of synchronicity.” Others say it signals “a spirit presence.” I’ve done a few different Google searches using “11:11” + “Israel,” “Judaism,” “Jews,” and “conspiracy” but I can’t figure out how the words and numbers in this sticker make sense.

For more information about “Q,” visit:

Stanley-Becker, Isaac. ‘We are Q’: A deranged conspiracy cult leaps from the Internet to the crowd at Trump’s ‘MAGA’ tour. The Washington Post, 1 August 2018.

Sommer, Will. What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained. Daily Beast, 6 July 2018.

“White Power” Stickers in Potsdam, NY

Last weekend, I found four copies of a “white power” sticker stuck on street poles and signs in a small town called Potsdam near where I live and work (a place that gets few stickers, if any). Potsdam and Canton, ten miles down the road, are both college towns in rural, northern New York with four universities and several thousands of students. Canton is the St. Lawrence County seat. Our closest big city is Ottawa, the capital of Canada. I call this part of the state purple after NY Congressional District 21 voted twice for Barack Obama in the U.S. Presidential elections in 2008 and 2012. The “North Country,” as it’s called, like other rural parts of the country, shifted to red in 2016 and voted for Donald Trump.

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I recognized the “Pepe the Frog” image on the right fairly quickly (thanks, social media!), but the other two cartoon figures were new to me. I posted a photo of the sticker on Facebook and received several links to articles that have helped me make sense of the images (see bibliography below), as well as suggestions for follow-up. Two of the four stickers had already been defaced when my posse partner Bill and I found them. We defaced a third one by scratching it off with a car key and removed the fourth sticker intact.

After prompts from people in the community, I decided to contact the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and report what happened under the organization’s category of “witnessing a hate incident.” A staff member called me back to ask where exactly the stickers had been placed. He also said I should report the incident to the local authorities as suspicious activity involving the defacing of public property. He indicated that it would be useful to track the stickers geographically across the state to see if others show up.

According to the ADL’s extensive Hate on Display Hate Symbols Database, “Pepe the Frog is a popular Internet meme used in a variety of contexts. In recent years, it has also been appropriated by white supremacists, particularly those from the ‘alt right,’ who use it in racist, anti-Semitic or other hateful contexts.” A website called Know Your Meme (KYM) also has a long list of examples of the original and early uses of Pepe the Frog as an Internet phenomenon and the more current appropriation of the cartoon image by right-wing groups to send hateful messages.

In the past few years, Pepe has been linked directly to Donald Trump (and to the French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen) on websites and platforms such as 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter. The KYM website states, for example, that “On October 13th, 2015, Donald Trump tweeted an illustration of Pepe as himself standing at a podium with the President of the United States Seal. Within 16 months, the post gathered upwards of 11,000 likes and 8,100 retweets.” In January 2016, Russia’s London-based embassy tweeted the news of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s meeting with President-elect Trump with a Smug Pepe meme.

In the fall of 2016, after Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “deplorables,” Donald Trump, Jr., posted an image of “The Deplorables” on Instagram. The image plays off Sylvester Stallone’s action movie The Expendables and depicts (with the help of Photoshop) Trump’s sons, Trump, Sr., and other Republican politicians Mike Pence, Ben Carson, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie, as well as the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Breitbart commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, both of whom were banned from Twitter for inciting hateful rhetoric. Pepe the Frog is also depicted on the image (with Trump’s hair!).

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Neither “Kek” nor “Pek” featured on the sticker are listed in the ADL database, but the ADL staff member said that the organization would update the list at some point and add the two cartoon figures. I can’t figure out what “77” on the sticker means, though the two numbers add up to 14. The ADL database states that “14” is “numerical shorthand for a popular white supremacist slogan known as the ‘14 Words’: ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’” (“88” is another example of a number symbol that stands for “HH” or “Heil Hitler.”)

I’m not going to go into a rabbit hole to make sense of Kek and Pek right now, but check out the articles by Quincy Frey and Jay Hathaway listed below and The Cult of Kek online. I did learn that “Kek” is 4chan slang for laughter or amusement, however, and “Pek” is the purple pigeon or as Nazis call it “trash dove.”

One last thing. I did a Google image search of the sticker and found that Amazon sells them online ($19.95 for 20). Yipes!

In 2018, activists declared July 17 as #PrimeDayofAction, a protest that coincides with Amazon’s “Prime Day” on July 16. It turns out that Amazon and other similar companies are being criticized for selling and profiting off of hateful racist and fascist merchandise. A 30-page report, called Delivering Hate: How Amazon’s Platforms are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia, and How Amazon can Stop It, was created by the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race & the Economy, and states:

“This report is a contribution to a growing body of work identifying Amazon and other technology companies’ ties to hate organizations. We are indebted to the ongoing work of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to track hate organizations at Amazon and throughout our society. Color of Change has been tracking hate groups’ use of payment service providers and Amazon as a selling platform. You can see its work at http://www.bloodmoney.org. SumOfUs has been calling on Amazon to stop advertising on Breitbart News after many other major companies have done so. You can learn more at https://actions.sumofus.org/a/amazon-stop-investing-in-hate.

To identify hate symbols, this report relies on the ADL’s Hate Symbols Database. To identify hate groups and leaders in hate movements, including publishers and record labels, it relies on the Hate Map project of the SPLC. To identify racist bands making hate music, this report relies on ‘Music, Money and Hate,’ a 2014 report from the SPLC.”

I will write to Amazon and ask them to remove the alt-right stickers from their website. Stay tuned!

Selected Bibliography

Beran, Dale. 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump. HuffPost, 20 February 2017.

Couts, Andrew. Clinton campaign releases official statement of Pepe meme. The Daily Dot, 13 September 2016.

Frey, Quincy. Right Wing Dove Squad: How Trash Doves Became the Symbol of the Alt Right. Medium, 13 February 2107.

Gonzalez, Catherine Lizette. Activists Demand Amazon Stop Selling White Supremacist Merchandise. Color Lines, 17 July 2018.

Hathaway, Jay. A meme war is raging over the future of Trash Dove. The Daily Dot, 15 February 2017.

 Neiwert, David. Is that an OK sign? A white power symbol? Or just a right-wing troll?. Southern Poverty Law Center, 18 September 2018.

Neiwert, David. What the Kek: Explaining the Alt-Right ‘Deity’ Behind their “Meme Magic”. Southern Poverty Law Center, 08 May 2017.

Nuzzi, Olivia. How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol. The Daily Beast, 26 May 2016.


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