Without context, The Adventures of Pepe and Pede looks like a fairly standard children's book. Its cover features a smiling frog with its left arm around a friendly looking centipede, and its pages are filled with Wishington Farm's anthropomorphic animals talking to each other.
With context, however, the self-published book, written by Denton ISD assistant principal Eric Hauser, is anything but standard. Pepe the Frog is an animated character, created by Matt Furie for an unrelated comic strip, that's become the symbol of Donald Trump's fans on Reddit, 4Chan and Twitter. Pepe is often used on posts authored by U.S. ethno-nationalists.
"There is a large group of people that are trying to silence this book," Hauser tells the Dallas Observer. "I've been called all sorts of things, from being a white supremacist to you name it."
Hauser says the use of Pepe has drawn fire, and he acknowledges that the book has political overtones.
"One, this book has a character named Pepe — and Pepe is very popular for many things," he says. "Also, this book has a lot of conservative overtones, but I will tell you this: I wrote the book as attempt to break down the barriers of political correctness and embrace truth, honesty and teamwork."
The Anti-Defamation League notes on its website that "because so many Pepe the Frog memes are not bigoted in nature, it is important to examine use of the meme only in context. The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist. However, if the meme itself is racist or anti-Semitic in nature, or if it appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes."
In Hauser's book, best friends Pepe and Pede celebrate a new farmer's arrival at the farm by imposing law and order on a bearded alligator character named Alkah. Pepe and Pede hurl "blessed buds" toward Alkah and his "minions," "raining truth" upon Wishington Farm.
Pepe and Pede are innocent characters, Hauser says.
"I'm not concerned with using those characters because there is nothing wrong with those characters. They're not bad characters," he says. "I disagree with the [alt-right or white supremacist] label. I think that label was put on Pepe in an attempt to silence conservatives. They put that label on Pepe in an attempt to silence them when that's not what Pepe was about."
To Hauser, Pepe is just a "lovable character."
"I like the Pepe and Pede because it's alliteration; that's a literary element. It helps the story flow better, and it adds to the literary complexity of the story," he says.
While threads on Denton-focused social media have criticized the book, Hauser said he isn't worried about backlash from parents or students at his school, Rodriguez Middle School.
"I don't want people to be upset, but I'm not worried about it because I've not done anything wrong," he says. "There's nothing bad about this book ... but people are always going to have opinions."
Hauser won't say whether he's been contacted by Denton ISD, which did not return a request for comment for this story, or his school about the book.
"I can't discuss that," he says. "That's just not something I can go into at the moment."
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