What is Kekistan? The Internet’s Most Controversial Political Meme Explained

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 11:45 am, May 29, 2017
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You might have seen them: black and white bars across green background with KEK in the middle. You’ll spot them in Twitter bios, usually alongside a frog emoji. A common sight at recent free speech rallies and protests, the flag of Kekistan is an unapologetic product of 4chan.

Described as some publications, and even the SPLC as “Neo-Nazi social engineering,” they are anything but. You should know what Kekistan actually is, and what it means to be a supporter of the group—not just what other people disingenuously purport it to be.

The meme first surfaced on 4chan’s /pol/ board based on the idea of “meme magic.” Meme magic is the tongue-in-cheek idea that if you meme on a subject hard enough, it will become reality. It’s been used, ironically of course, to explain the popularity of Donald Trump, who was “memed into the Oval Office.” It’s not serious.

Kekistan is a portmanteau of “Kek” and the names of central Asian countries that end in the suffix “-stan.” Drawing its origins from World of Warcraft, the word “Kek” is an in-game translation of “LOL.” Kekistanis, the ethnic members of the fictional country, are essentially shitposters who’ve been driven into exile by censorious social justice warriors.

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Kekistani lore also includes use of the term “Shadilay,” a reference to a 1986 Italo disco song by the Italian band P.E.P.E. that even included a frog on the album artwork.

Expanding on the concept of meme magic, Kekistanis draw power from the ancient Egyptian god Kek, who is a frog—a perfect tie-in to Pepe the Frog, the popular 4chan meme. Kekistan was taken to the mainstream by its “followers” on social media. YouTuber Carl Benjamin, better known as Sargon of Akkad, played a big role in spreading the word in a series of tweets and video appearances, in which he described the people of Kekistan as a “disparate and dispossessed group of people.”

Professor Jordan Peterson even went on the Joe Rogan Experience to explain the concept of Kekistan to him.

While there is little doubt that 4chan’s /pol/, where the meme originated, harbors unabashed racists, Kekistanis are not proponents of real racism–and simply mock claims of “racism” and “cultural appropriation” as brought up by the progressive left. Kekistanis do not seek to legitimize hate speech, but render it powerless by watering it down to the point of mockery.

When Richard Spencer, the so-called “founder of the alt-right” used the Kek meme to support his ideals, many self-described Kekistanis stood against him. While Kekistanis deplore violence against Spencer and support his right to free speech, most of them would do so for any other peaceful speaker. YouTuber Jeff Holiday, a proud Kekistani, had words for Spencer.

Consisting of a disparate group of individuals, Kekistan means a lot of different things to many different people. As with any popular online movement, there are undoubtedly some racist trolls within its ranks, but Kekistan is at its core a politically incorrect reaction to the suppression of free speech. The enemies of Kekistan are social justice warriors and proponents of political correctness—oppressors of the Kekistani people, in other words.

Like any other dispossessed group of people, Kekistanis will fight back—but they’ll do it through memes.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.