One of the weirder subplots of this very weird election has been Pepe the Frog's shift from endlessly Photoshopped 4chan frog to white nationalist rallying symbol frog. Even the Clinton campaign pegged poor Pepe as a signifier of white nationalism after Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comments. And now the Anti-Defamation League has weighed in, announcing yesterday that they are classifying Pepe as a hate symbol.

In the ADL's writeup of Pepe in their hate symbol database, the organization notes that Pepe was not born as a hate symbol, but "the number of 'alt right' Pepe memes has grown, a tendency exacerbated by the controversial and contentious 2016 presidential election." Pepe himself isn't racist, the ADL writes, but he's used in more and more racist imagery which the ADL included on their website, like Pepe with a Klan hood, Pepe with exaggerated black features and Pepe with exaggerated Jewish features.

Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League said that the group uses the hate symbols database as an education tool, and that it's helpful for placing what could be unfamiliar images to some people in the context of how they're used. Segal also dismissed the idea, seen here by one 4chan user, that listing Pepe as a hate symbol was some kind of victory for hate groups.

"The ADL did not make Pepe the Frog a hate symbol," Segal said. "He was a hate symbol before we characterized him that. Educating people about hate, and about it's images and ideologies is important. It's important to be part of the public discussion."

Untangling how we got here involves a deep dive into areas of the internet where the general public often doesn't visit. Pepe began his life in Matt Furie's surreal comic Boy's Club, and had been seen around Twitter, 4chan and 4chan's various more racist offshoots for a number of years. But a pair of internet Nazis told the Daily Beast that after Pepe became so popular with "normies" (people who don't spend many hours per day calling each other names on 4chan) that Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj were using his image, trolls and Nazis allegedly began an attempt to retake Pepe for the internet.

Even this is up for debate though, since after claiming there was a committed internet campaign to make Pepe unpalatable to Katy Perry fans, the same white supremacists who spoke to the Daily Beast told the Daily Caller that all of their claims were lies meant to screw with the reporter.

Regardless of what was true about how Pepe became a right-wing meme, he did come to prominence both as a stand in for Donald Trump and as a member of his crew, alongside nude red conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and a screaming Chris Christie.

Furie has given a number of interviews since Pepe was first pitched as a hate symbol. He told Select/All that "politics are for dorks" and that he can't really control the way the internet uses Pepe. He also told the Daily Dot that he thought Pepe's adoption by the online far-right would be temporary and that in his view, "It's not the first time Pepe has been reclaimed for evil."

Furie's view was echoed in part by the ADL's Segal, who said that Pepe isn't permanently in the hate symbol database.

"Just because Pepe the Frog is in our database now doesn't mean that the image can't be reclaimed. One of the things we've always encouraged is fighting bad speech with good speech, so I don't think this is necessarily the final destination of Pepe The Frog."

In conclusion, online is extremely bad.

UPDATE: Pepe creator Matt Furie emailed the following statement to Gothamist:

"I think the ADL is working with Clinton on this to re-affirm Clinton's stance that Pepe is 'almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists' which is not true. Once the election is over he will most likely be removed. He's just a chill frog and is used in many, many ways outside of this narrow hate context. Fuck that racist shit by the way."