If the lefty media pundits who set the conversational agenda want to avoid fueling this social media fire from the right, they need to calm down. If reading the words “Let’s go Brandon” drives you up a wall, well, that’s the plan.
The phrase sprang to life after NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast’s fateful effort to interview auto racer Brandon Brown, who had just won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race. During the interview, a crowd behind Stavast could be heard loudly chanting “F— Joe Biden,” a phrase Stavast interpreted for her audience as “Let’s go Brandon.” Conservatives argued that Stavast’s “correction” was further evidence that the national media was out to protect President Joe Biden at all costs.
But the motivation behind uttering “Let’s go Brandon” rapidly moved beyond just expressing solidarity with other conservative opponents of the president. More important is its aim to provoke a reaction from Democrats — the more outrageous and sputtering, the better. If the lefty media pundits who set the conversational agenda want to avoid fueling this social media fire from the right, they need to calm down. Fast.
“Let’s go Brandon” went viral in no small part because media outlets leapt at the chance to clutch their pearls over an f-bomb directed Biden’s way and to pontificate on the supposed deeper meaning behind the spread of the phrase.
Slate called the meme the new “right-wing rallying cry,” and NBC’s “TODAY” show referred to it as a “battle cry.” Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart compared the slogan to secret messages used by Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan. Washington Post reporters Ashley Parker and Carissa Wolf dedicated an article to exploring how “Let’s go Brandon” symbolizes a broader socioeconomic and cultural alienation among conservatives. On CNN’s “New Day,” senior political analyst John Avlon went further, calling the phrase “not patriotic.”
Why does the phrase “Let’s go Brandon” get so many liberal-minded people so upset? In part because the phrase plays into the growing tribalization of politics, in which in-jokes like this rankle those on the outside and elicit knowing chuckles from those in on the gag. In the search for what the chant really says about America, our media ecosystem pointedly ignores the fact that it means nothing beyond its ability to provoke a reaction.
“Let’s go Brandon” is hardly the first intellectual property right-wingers have snatched to better tweak liberal noses. During the 2016 presidential campaign, for instance, Trump supporters using the generally unpleasant message board 4chan transformed Pepe the Frog — biden funny biden a nonpolitical character from a comic series created by cartoonist Matt Furie — into a symbol of right-wing hate. Before 4chan’s work, Pepe had no far-right associations. After Donald Trump’s embrace of the frog, it had no other associations, much to Furie’s enduring frustration.