A Synchronicity And Meme Magic
You may have already heard of the Pepe the Frog meme, a rather (in my opinion) uninspiring meme created in 2005 by a Matt Furie. Described by the ever-colorful Encyclopedia Dramatica, Pepe is a “retarded cartoon frog that has plagued the chan imageboards (and later the world)”, if you find him as uninspiring as I do, it’s hard to see why Pepe has become some popular. However, while the Encylopedia Dramatica attributes Pepe’s success to “the autistic basement-dwellers who won’t stop shitposting it”, A.T.L Carver attributes Pepe’s success to far more arcane reasons (see first link at the end for more). Reasons which I’m going to unpack here as well include my own additions, because it is all really quite uncanny.
In (Not So) Fair 4Chan Do We Set Our Scene
For those of you who avoid the dank 4chan (and similar) areas of the internet, the first thing you need to understand about 4chan is that anonymity is preferred. The second is that there are different boards on the site dedicated to a wide-range of topics, and that basically anything goes. Lastly, you need to know that Pepe somehow became the unofficial mascot of the /pol/ chan (‘politically incorrect’ board).
It’s hard to make any concrete statements about 4chan and the users who make up the site, there’s just far too much diversity of opinion on there to really label it one way or another. It is equally possible to see posts from alt-right and self-described Nazis as it is from communists, or indeed anything else. However, one thing they all seem to value is the right to say whatever the hell they want. In many ways, 4chan is the epitome of chaos.
However, as you will see, the association between Pepe and /pol/ would come to be a match made by Eris.
When Trump announced his candidacy Pepe became connected with Trump, but it wasn’t long before this link took a more bizarre and esoteric twist.
”Dubs” and “GETS”
The next thing that you need to understand about 4chan is that while the site is mostly anonymous, each post is assigned a 9 digit (it was 8 digit) ID number after posting. Because of the sheer volume of users on the site, this makes it impossible to know if you’re going to get what is known as “dubs”. “Dubs” are basically when you get the same two digits at the end of your post ID number. So for example, ‘#569823055’ would be a “dub”. The same principle applies with “trips” and “quads” (three and four of the same digits at the end of a post ID).
Because of the randomized nature of “dubs”, it became common to bet on “dubs”, in other words, to make a post essentially stating that it was going to be a “dub”, and when these bets were successful, they were “GETS”.
This may all seem pretty random right now, but bear with me, it will all start to become clear as I go on.
Now, 4chan is a heavy traffic site with around 900,000 – 1,000,000 posts per day. It’s a behemoth of a site, and it’s this traffic that needs to be kept in mind when considering the probability aspect of “dubs” and “GETS”. The chances are…well, people try to work it out all the time and invariably end up arguing about it, but it’s fairly high. It’s not something you can exactly plan, and so when “dubs” reoccur around a subject or personage, significance tends to be assigned.
At some point during Trump’s campaign, users noticed a higher percentage of “dubs” and more frequent “GETS” on posts involving Trump. But the real breakthrough in this omen-via-4chan-ID-number came on 06/19/16 when post ID #77777777 made the declaration that “Trump will win”. This became known as ‘The Prophecy of Kek’.
You’re probably wondering who this ‘Kek’ is.
Before going any further in this direction, it’s worth pointing out that the use of the word ‘Kek’ on 4chan and similar boards predates the election by about six years. Originating from Korean World of Warcraft players, ‘kek’ came to replace the ever-ubiquitous ‘lol” in these venues. Interestingly this happened either around the same time as, or shortly after the beginning of the Pepe trend on 4chan.
However, it didn’t take long for some enterprising 4channer/s to discover that there was an Ancient Egyptian frog-headed god of primordial darkness. Counted among the Ogdoad, Kek was one of eight primordial Old Kingdom deities that were considered ancient even by the time of the composition of the Pyramid Texts (officially 2400-2300 BCE, although that is debated). Kek was the ‘bringer of light’, the chaotic darkness that heralded the new dawn – or at least that’s how the denizens of 4chan have taken him to be. For the users of 4chan, all of this added up to one thing: Trump was ‘god’s chosen candidate’.
Only it wasn’t the god that most people would think of when reading that statement.
For the ‘Kekists’ of 4chan, Pepe/Kek’s power was further reinforced around 9/11/2016 when Clinton fainted on camera. In a campaign that was marked by criticism of pandering by the press, a showing of any weakness from Clinton was welcomed by the opposition. A day later, the Clinton campaign site denounced Pepe as a symbol of white supremacy, and around the same time, some 4channer/s found what could be considered the anthem of Pepe.
Produced by a band called SHADILAY and predating the campaign (and Pepe) by many years, the CD for the song P.E.P.E (an acronym standing for ‘Point Emerging Probably Entering’) depicted a frog on its cover. Moreover, as one 4chan user pointed out, the clock on the album artwork looked a little familiar.
Spot the “dubs”? What is the probability of that?
Speaking of probability, around two years ago, a new Pepe became far more common: smug Pepe. So named because…well, he looks smug, postings of smug Pepe were met with the response of “Why so smug, Pepe?” The first known meta discussion about smug Pepe took place in August 2014, and various theories have been put forth since then for the rise of smug Pepe.
Looking back, it’s almost like ‘Pepe’ knew something, right? Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
Another strange synchronicity (?) surrounding a frog god that is worth mentioning here is
the inclusion of the ‘frog god’ card in the 1994 collectable version of the Illuminati game.
There have been all kinds of conspiracy theories that have sprung up around this particular version of the Illuminati game that you can check out online on sites like this. Basically, the theory is that certain key events were predicted by the 90s version of the cards, and looking back, you can compare the images on the cards with photos of real events or personages. A word to the wise though, some ‘predictions’ are far better than others.
The Cult of Kek: Memeing With Intent
As time went on, Kek seemed to gain more of an intentional following, and a cult of sorts has formed around the personage of this frog-headed god/internet meme. One of the main stories in this cult was the production of Kek statues for sale in which the hieroglyphs at the base of the statue seem to show a figure seated before what appears to be a computer screen with what looks like a DNA strand behind it.
Although the hieroglyphs indicate that the statue is in fact depicting Heqet, a goddess of fertility that also has the form of a frog, that ultimately doesn’t matter to the Kekists who have purchased it. For them and everyone else who doesn’t read hieroglyphs, the symbolism is clear, and in a world of meme, that’s all that really matters. A cursory search of Pepe and Kek-related goods on Amazon also reveals an awareness by participants in the various 4chan-originated memes and meme wars. Among Kek/Pepe-related booty to be found on Amazon are books on Kek’s cult, and more significantly, books on Kek/Pepe internet meme magic.
Customer reviews also speak to this awareness.
It would seem that Kek/Pepe is not just a meme or a sigil, but a hypersigil and symbol of a deity.
New Fronts Opening Up
A common mistake for a lot of people is to assume that the majority of 4chan users just want to see the world burn. After all, why would they intentionally wage a magical meme-war on the behalf of a candidate like Trump otherwise? But what you have to understand here is that they simply don’t see it that way. They saw a far greater threat in Clinton because of her establishment connections and her polices that went against the general sentiment of anti-globalism to be found on the board. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they see themselves as having saved the world.
And so we have a movement of people adept in a very democratized magic, with anti-globalist sentiments who, aware of their own power, are looking to take the fight elsewhere to continue their take-down of globalism. I don’t mean to make them out to sound noble here, any quick glance at the /pol/ board will show some truly shitty opinions. Because on a site like 4chan, literally anything goes. The reasons of individual users for participating in this take-down are undoubtedly numerous and varied, some terrible, and some noble. But that’s not important here, what’s important is that there is a common ground upon which many people from many walks of life and of many different political ideologies can unite and fight. Ironically, in their desire to tear down what they perceive as being the walls of PC globalist culture, they may well end up contributing to the erection of far more walls for us all.
As for the new battlefront for the Cult of Kek? Well, France has an election coming up, and Marine LePen fits the anti-globalist sentiment.
Where Liberals Went Wrong
Of course, it’s all too easy to point to the ‘bad’ and denounce the evil. That is not what I’m doing here, ‘denouncing’ people has proven to be particularly ineffective in all of this, and why denounce when you can learn, regroup, and plan?
In the run-up to the election, many liberal-leaning witches and pagans opted to try and work against the Trump movement. However, from what I saw of these attempts, they were typically carried out by exclusive groups defined by either connection to a network (i.e., who they know), a paywall (if they could pay to participate), or a combination of both.
By contrast, the meme magic of 4chan users was democratized in that everyone in that hub of emotion and chaos that is 4chan could participate, and most importantly, spread it far beyond those cyber borders. There is something admirable about this, and something that those who worked along the lines of creating a government that is more of and for the will of the people would do well to acknowledge and understand. You need to know what that will is before trying to work for it – outside of your own political bubble that is. Because if that was your magical intent, then who’s to say your efforts didn’t ultimately help the opposing side? And this is an important point about this election, there were enough people whose will was simply ‘not Clinton’, that in a two party system, any magical work based in the will of the people would have supported Trump by default.
Magic users tend to think of themselves as being something of an exclusive club, and as a community we privilege some lineages or types of practice over others. We also give regard to the attainment of position in the hierarchies of our groups and often don’t take those who haven’t been through those more traditional routes as seriously as practitioners.
On the other hand, for the 4chan users/Cult of Kek people, there were no entrance grades for participation. No old-school networks or paywalls required. You didn’t even have to be known to people by name, and in a schema like that, you will always have the benefit of sheer numbers.
Because remember, even though not all of those 900,000 – 1,000,000 daily posters to
4chan participate in the meme war stuff, even a small percentage of that is still significant and likely dwarfs the efforts of the opposing side.
As I said at the beginning of this section, there are some powerful lessons to be learned here.
The first and foremost is that we need to look at ways to democratize our own magical campaigns. We don’t need a small number of specialists, we need a lot of people – even if they only know the absolute basics. Remember, many hands tear down walls, not just a few. This also means that we need to reassess our ideas of hierarchy within magical traditions, because if we want to have any hope of competing, this is something we need to do
Secondly, as always we need to take the time to understand the opposition. How many of us even did that to even a rudimentary level? This kind of intelligence-gathering is essential if we’re going to get anywhere.
Lastly, we need to look at our attitudes towards more democratized forms of magic such as chaos magic. Because in the case of Pepe the Frog, it was chaos magic that quite frankly ruled over the far more complex ceremonial attempts of others. There’s a lot to be said for symbols/sigils employed in an environment of intense emotion (chaos) and posted ‘for the lolz’ (or ‘keks’). As I’ve said before on this blog, we need to do what is necessary as opposed to sticking to the methods of whatever tradition we adhere to. This is the kind of time we live in, and we’ll get nowhere if we do not adapt.
Because the Cult of Kek has realized its power, and we’re still struggling to get our fucking shoes on and get out the door.
More here from Vice.