Investors in Pepecoin (PEPE), the meme cryptocurrency du jour, have started a Twitter war against crypto exchange Coinbase after its newsletter warned of its volatility and associations with the alt-right.
On Wednesday, Coinbase pointed to the surge in interest in memecoins — not seen since the cryptocurrency bull run of 2017 — in its weekly newsletter. It warned that these often volatile projects are bad long-term investments and can even be a rug-pull. What’s more, the surge in trading has contributed to exorbitant gas fees on Ethereum.
“PEPE, which was issued around three weeks ago with a comically huge supply of 420 trillion tokens, has been leading the memecoin activity,” read Coinbase Bytes.
“The token is based on the Pepe the Frog meme, which first surfaced on the internet nearly 20 years ago as a comic-strip character. Over time it has been co-opted as a hate symbol by alt-right groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).”
- Pepe the Frog was created by Matt Furie in 2005 and first appeared in his comic book strip Boy’s Club.
- By 2016, versions of the meme frog depicted as famous hateful figures were circling online, such as Adolf Hitler and a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member.
- The ADL added Pepe to its database of hate symbols that same year.
However, it should be worth noting that the ADL has clarified that most Pepe memes are not racist, and that innocent versions will not be subject to the hate symbol designation. “The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist,” the group said.
Coinbase suddenly ‘at war’
Soon after the newsletter’s release, Crypto Twitter was awash with criticism. Members of the Pepecoin fan club took offence at Coinbase referring to its 420 trillion token supply as “comically huge.” Others were more concerned with the alt-right label.
Some said the crypto behemoth had lost their business. “I will be closing my personal and business accounts with Coinbase and moving them to Gemini,” one user posted. Others took it further.
“Why are you and Brian Armstrong lying to the world, calling PEPE a hate symbol? This is unacceptable. Your corporation will be destroyed if you do not address this immediately,” another user wrote.
At press time, the hashtag #DeleteCoinbase is trending on Twitter with 75,000 tweets. Digital artist Beeple has chimed in, naming his latest piece of art COINBASE VS PEPE ARMY.
To Coinbase’s credit in the Pepecoin debacle, it’s worth noting the Coinbase Bytes newsletter contains the disclaimer, “The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Coinbase or its employees.”
Pepe creator fights alt-right associations
Alt-right trolls have a history of hijacking iconic symbols, like the ‘ok’ sign. Pepe the Frog gained a reputation for racism and antisemitism through similar means.
Feels Good Man, a documentary focusing on Pepe’s chequered history, detailed how Furie launched the Save Pepe campaign in 2016, alongside the Anti-Defamation League, as a means of reclaiming the iconography from the alt-right. However, Furie decided to killed off the iconic green frog in 2017.
Furie successfully removed images of Pepe from the far-right website The Daily Stormer. In 2019, Furie was also awarded $15,000 in damages by a US court in a suit against Infowars and Alex Jones, for using Pepe the Frog in Infowars’ merchandise. The artist told the press he only pursued legal action because he didn’t want his art to be used in hateful propaganda.
At press time, PEPE is down over 60% since Friday’s high of $0.0000042.