“Let’s Go Brandon” emerged as a niche anti-Biden meme after a NASCAR race in Talladega earlier this year. Sports reporter Kelli Stavast, was interviewing winning driver Brandon Brown when she turned her attention to the crowd, who at the moment, were cheering some choice words for current president Joe Biden. “Fuck Joe Biden” became “Let’s go Brandon” when Stavast, on air, tried to suggest that the crowd was showing support for Brown. Stavast does not appear to be a rank partisan, and it’s a stretch to think she was purposefully covering for the president as a CNN or MSNBC reporter might have done. Nonetheless, the meme took off and embedded itself into popular culture. At sports stadiums, football fans chanted it to poke fun at both Biden’s staggering disapproval ratings and the media’s eager attempts to shine the best possible light on a president whose administration is clearly in free-fall.
The appropriate reaction to the innocuous meme would be to laugh and let it go. President Biden has yet to be asked about it directly, but his reaction should be to say people are free to chant or say what they like and that the presidency is a tough job, but he thinks it’s funny.
Unfortunately for Biden, his presidency is run by humorless Twitter scolds on Twitter, and the media is, once again, doing what they do worst: overreacting and shouting “hate speech”. Matters came to a head this weekend when a reporter for the Associated Press who was working on a piece about the “Let’s Go Brandon” chant claimed a pilot of Southwest Airlines used the phrase to sign off once the plane had landed safely. The reporter, Colleen Long, went as far as admitting to asking the flight crew if she could enter the cockpit to interview the pilot, and cops to the fact she “probably sounded insane.”
Other pundits reacted equally calmly. “Let’s Go Brandon” has become the MAGA version of ‘Sieg Heil,’” tweeted one CNN commentator. “As an experiment, I’d love for an @SouthwestAir pilot to say ‘Long live ISIS’ before taking off,” wrote another, who hilariously used to work for the FBI. “My guess is that 1) the plane would be immediately grounded; 2) the pilot fired; and 3) a statement issued by the airline within a matter of hours.”
There is now an open investigation into the pilot, the flight, the saying and the meaning, all being driven by a corporate media which has no idea how to cope with a harmless meme. These people seem to be unfamiliar with the Streisand Effect, the idea that the more you freak out over something minor, the more attention you draw to the minor thing, and the more people will join in the ensuing pile-on.
Cast your mind back to 2013, when an image of Barack Obama walking alongside Chinese president Xi Jinping sparked an internet parody, in which the two leaders were juxtaposed with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Comparisons of Xi and Pooh grew more common both online and off. In 2014, John Oliver made light of the similarities between the two. China responded by blocking HBO Go, the streaming service run by Oliver’s network.
China and its president were so incensed by the idea of the premier being compared to a yellow cartoon bear that they censored media companies and social media to stop the spread of the meme. Sound familiar?
China found the comparison of its premier to a lovable cartoon character so offensive that making it became a crime against the state. And as Joe Biden’s allies in the media continue to pour tears and ink into the “Let’s Go Brandon” joke, the same will happen here. Biden’s media allies may be able to minimize his dismal approval ratings, supply chain shortages, spiking gas prices and empty grocery shelves, but they are no match for a few sports stadiums having a little fun at the dear leader’s expense.
If Biden’s allies in the media think getting airline pilots fired over a meme will somehow improve the president’s disastrous approval ratings and convince the public that he’s doing just fine, they are as delusional as they are austere.