Indignity Vol. 1, No. 34: Lazy-majesté.


Indignity Vol. 1, No. 34: Lazy-majesté.

Fuck You, ‘Brandon’

THE DISCOURSE ABOUT the Southwest Airlines pilot who allegedly said "Let's go, Brandon" on the intercom zoomed past cruising altitude so fast, there was barely time to form an opinion about the underlying incident before it turned out he might have just been saying "Let's go, Braves." It felt good, honestly, not needing to commit to an opinion. Should a pilot who did do such a thing be fired? Probably not? But it would have been a real dick thing to do? I didn't really care, and now it doesn't matter!

If you haven't yet read the first of the three to five articles you'll end up reading that explain this, "Let's go, Brandon" is a right-wing slogan that is understood among those in the know, for reasons too boring to rehash, to mean "Fuck Joe Biden." Now you are also in the know.

One of those explanatory articles included the supposed Southwest incident, so then all of them did, and the outrage-police police immediately jumped out of their armored vans, waving riot shields and clubs, to try to kettle and pummel anyone who may have called for the pilot to be fired. There didn't seem to be all that many serious offenders to be pummeled, but just like the real cops, the discourse cops can always find someone when they want to make an example.

Only one particular kind of example, though. While people were lamenting and defending whatever "Let's go, Bra—" [intercom cuts out] meant, other things had been definitely, clearly happening. The state of Florida was barring professors from testifying against the governor's efforts to block people from voting; the cops and multiple state legislatures have green-lighted vehicular assault against protesters. We're not yet 11 months away from a mob storming the Capitol building, howling for the election to be overturned. But the real money is in telling Republicans that liberal outrage has gone too far.

This isn't whataboutism so much as it is what it's all genuinely about. "Let's go, Brandon" doesn't mean "Fuck Joe Biden" at all, really. If it did, there wouldn't be much to this. I'm pretty sure I've said "Fuck Joe Biden" more than once in my own life. And so left-leaning people, drawn into the pilot discourse, noted the principle that no one should ever get in trouble for saying "Fuck the president," which felt like a fine and easy principle to go with here. Deference to our imperial presidency is an embarrassing thing, some mix of warmed-over monarchism and investment in the concept of the United States as the Policeman of the World, whose top cop must not be mouthed off to.

But the "Let's go, Brandon" fad feels like a different and related kind of cop behavior—the kind of cop behavior where the NYPD make a show of turning their backs on the mayor, or shut down a bridge out of refusal to get vaccinated. It's not anti-authoritarian so much as counter-authoritarian. The "Let's go, Brandon" people aren't mad at Joe Biden. They're mad that Joe Biden got to become president, because 81 million people voted for him, against their guy, because their guy was a crook and a goon and an asshole. They're mad that they almost stole the election anyway.

So, this way and that way, they are testing what happens if they just refuse to go along with the whole premise that their side could ever lose. What happens if you say it on the floor of the House of Representatives? What happens if sitting senators goof around with it? It's a game, the way everything Donald Trump said was a game. Part of the game is to make people get mad so they take it seriously and overreact. Part of the game is to be a little serious about it, maybe.

It's all secret and not at all secret. We went miles and looping miles down this road with the OK hand sign, which white nationalists decided to falsely claim was a white power gesture, to hoax the press into panicking about it, which led to a situation where white nationalists were throwing the OK sign to assert their identity as white nationalists, while still claiming the press was getting it all wrong. Along the way, conveniently or by design, the fuss captured people who were just innocently trying to say something was OK, or to celebrate a basketball three-pointer, as well as people who were not quite as far down the stages of meme manipulation as the white power people were.

In the current little dance between being blatant and being coy, "Let's go, Brandon" feels like some latter-day version of that Jesus fish logo, the ichthys. The ichthys was originally a covert signal among persecuted early Christians, a furtively drawn sign and countersign scratched in the dirt. Then 20th century evangelicals, the loudest religious voices in a Christian-dominated superpower, decided to render it in chrome and stick it on the backs of their vehicles—as if they, too, were being persecuted; as if they, too, needed to communicate in code to defy their dangerous enemies.

Yet there it was flashing in the sunlight, in no danger at all. It was a fake gesture of victimhood or grievance. That is, it was a gesture of dominance.


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