Just say no: Why the Welsh national movement should shun Pepe the Frog

Dylan Llŷr

Welsh nationalism has long had to fight off false and lazy insinuations that it is linked to fascism.

Indeed, Professor Richard Wyn Jones has written a whole book on the history of this malicious tactic, and why the accusation is baseless.

But Welsh nationalists still need to be vigilant. Anything that can be twisted to suggest a whiff of extremism will be pounced on, so it’s important not to give opponents such opportunities.

It’s therefore distressing to note a handful of Welsh nationalist Twitter accounts and Facebook pages that are propagating imagery popularised by the self-described ‘alt-right’.

Some of these accounts feature Pepe, the cartoon frog who became the symbol of internet Trumpism, in their profile images.

Much of the content posted by these accounts is standard Welsh nationalist fare, and many sensible people will readily agree with a lot of it.

But amongst the ordinary complaints about Wales’ woeful infrastructure and neglect by Westminster, there is some worrying stuff.

Specifically, there’s more than a whiff of toxic masculinity. A very small number of these accounts are also outright racist.

Even some of the memes that are ostensibly quite benign are versions of running jokes from proto-fascist cyber-swamps like 4chan and certain corners of Reddit, so they’re a problem by association.

This might not be a problem if these memes were left to fester in the darkest corners of Twitter and Facebook, but I have noticed some prominent members of the national movement – who might just not know any better –  liking and sometimes even sharing this content.

Anti-establishment

In some instances, the use of memes with links to the far-right could be due to naivety by the account owners. They may simply not have realised that such a connection exists.

But we also know that the far-right has a record of creating groups and accounts that seem mild at first in order to attract followers, before gradually turning on the extremism.

With that in mind, the fact that most of the content is benign shouldn’t necessarily comfort us.

The ‘alt-right’ is anti-establishment, and so is Welsh nationalism, so one can imagine how the former could consider the latter a fertile recruiting ground.

In truth, of course, the two are anti-establishment in very different ways. But while the overlap is, hopefully, minimal, it would be a stretch to deny that it exists at all.

I haven’t named any specific accounts or groups since the whole point of this article is to recommend that we shun them and deny them a platform.

They aren’t numerous by any means, so this is written in the hope that we can nip things in the bud.

Avoiding racist accounts goes without saying. We also ought to avoid those that depict favoured ideologies as masculine and their opponents as effete.

Certainly, If you see a frog avatar that isn’t Kermit, that’s a very reliable sign that the account in question should be avoided like the plague. We can do without this stuff. We need to.

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