On Copium Memes and Media Martyrdom

Grief and loss are difficult and even more if you live in the alternative reality of the president. Memes are one way of coping and they require our attention if we want to understand future strategies of the far right.

Jamie Cohen
5 min readJan 4, 2021


Pepe the frog in a MAGA hat inhaling “copium”
The Pepe the Frog “Copium” meme appeared soon after the election was called for Joe Biden

On the day of President Trump’s Inauguration, Jessica Starr was recorded screaming in angst at the thought of Trump becoming the United States’ next Commander in Chief. The New York Post went out of their way to make Jessica the face of the liberal “snowflake” — a pejorative term for someone melting down. Over the last several years, Jessica’s image has been used in far-right meme spaces and in the miasma of message boards where Trump supporters revel in their appreciation of a leader who would truly upset the opposition.

Today, in the wake of Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump, his ardent followers are the ones experiencing shock and dismay. They had spent the last four years believing that the President’s social media claims, delivered in their Facebook and Twitter feeds, represented reality. Many were primed to reject the outcome of the vote and accept his claims of fraud. Among the most devoted, including those who halfway mean it when they call him a “god emperor,” this does not end without a fight.

In the fantasy of the far-right followers of the President’s feed, there is still a chance to pull off a successful win for their leader, but only if they support the president en masse and undemocratically.

An image of Donald Trump protecting a smaller Pepe the Frog from flaming arrows. The image calls follower to DC on January 6

To enable this action, they’re deploying their favorite weapons: memes. As we near the end of Trump’s term, some of these memes may pop-up on your accounts. Before you can assess and, perhaps, respond, you have to understand their meaning.

For years, Trump supporters have used Pepe the Frog, the ubiquitous green frog of the internet, as a stand-in for their digital identity. Pepe, who began life as a chill stoner character that was easy to draw, was turned into a hate symbol by white nationalists. (This journey is chronicled in the



Jamie Cohen

Digital culture expert and meme scholar. Cultural and Media Studies PhD. Internet studies educator: social good, civic engagement and digital literacies