Yankee Doodling the Media: How ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Became a Rallying Cry Against News Bias

Below is my column in The Hill on the growing “Let’s Go, Brandon” movement, which is a unique response to what many people view as a bias media. It is the modern equivalent of the adoption of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” by colonists in using what was a contemptuous expression as a rallying cry of defiance.

Here is the column:

Roughly 250 years ago, a political insult by British troops during the American Revolution was converted into a rallying cry by the colonials. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” was intended to mock the Continental Army as unsophisticated dandies, but the maligned militiamen turned it around to mock the British after defeats like Yorktown. The song is a lasting example of how symbols of contempt can become symbols of defiance.

In a curious way, “Let’s Go Brandon!” has become a similarly unintended political battle cry. It derives from an Oct. 2 interview with race-car driver Brandon Brown after he won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race. During the interview, NBC reporter Kelli Stavast’s questions were drowned out by loud-and-clear chants of “F*** Joe Biden.” Stavast quickly and inexplicably declared, “You can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go, Brandon!’”

Stavast’s denial or misinterpretation of the obvious instantly became a symbol of what many Americans perceive as media bias in favor of the Biden administration. Indeed, some in the media immediately praised Stavast for her “smooth save” and being a “quick-thinking reporter.” But the episode was reminiscent of a reporter standing in front of burning buildings during last year’s riots and calling them peaceful protests. Indeed, even the original profane chant seemed directed as much at the media as Biden — creating an undeniable backdrop to news coverage.

The three-word slogan is now emblazoned across tee-shirts, coffee mugs and even billboards. An anti-Biden “Let’s go, Brandon!” hip-hop song hit the top of the charts on iTunes; soon, there were four such songs with the same refrain. The top song was banned on sites like YouTube and Instagram as spreading “harmful false information.” Yet the effort to bar people from listening to the song only fueled the interest and the movement.

The media’s reaction has fulfilled the underlying narrative, too, with commentators growing increasing shrill in denouncing its use. NPR denounced the chant as “vulgar,” while writers at the Washington Post and other newspapers condemned it as offensive; CNN’s John Avalon called it “not patriotic,” while CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart compared it to coded rhetoric from Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and ISIS.

The more the media has cried foul, however, the more people have picked up the chant.

Then a Southwest Airlines pilot reportedly used the expression at the end of a signoff with passengers on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque. Associated Press reporter Colleen Long apparently was so irate that she demanded access to the cockpit and was almost expelled from the flight. She admits that “I was asking them to open locked cock pit and probably sounded insane!” Washington Post editor Cathleen Decker described the use of the slogan as a “vulgarity stand-in from @SouthwestAir cockpit.” Liberals called for an investigation and the firing of the pilot. CNN analyst Asha Rangappa even compared the pilot to an ISIS sympathizer: “As an experiment, I’d love for an @SouthwestAir pilot to say ‘Long live ISIS.’”

But what if the pilot had simply knelt in protest of the Biden administration as passengers boarded or deplaned?

Well, many of these same commentators have supported the NFL’s kneelers and insisted that any effort to prevent their protest was racist or a denial of free speech.

As I wrote previously, employees do not have a right to protest on the job, whether in Starbucks or in sports stadiums. Nevertheless, when then-President Trump condemned the NFL kneelers as unpatriotic, some Democrats in Congress called for his impeachment. When the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also criticized the kneelers, journalist Katie Couric edited out most of her comments.

The fact is that neither the Southwest pilot nor Colin Kaepernick have a legal right to protest at work. I also believe it is inappropriate for a pilot to use his position — and the captive audience on his plane — to proselytize or politic.

“Let’s go, Brandon!” is as much a criticism of the media as it is of President Biden, however. Many in the media have embraced advocacy journalism and rejected objectivity in reporting; in their view, readers and viewers are now to be educated rather than merely informed. Many reporters reject “both-sidesism,” the need to offer a balanced account of the news. Thus, stories like the Hunter Biden laptop scandal were killed before the 2020 presidential election by Twitter and most media companies. After Biden was elected, some media belatedly confirmed the authenticity of the laptop.

We live in an age of unprecedented censorship by private companies. The media has shown that you can have an effective state media without direct regulation by the state — because today’s media adheres to common narratives out of ideological or economic interests, without the threat of state coercion.

The Biden administration and the National Science Foundation are funding research on a new tool designed to give media an even more immediate response to “misinformation.” The $750,000 grant to Temple University tracks news reports as part of a “Trust & Authenticity in Communication Systems” initiative. But the effort to “rebuild the Nation’s news trust” is premised on flagging content that might result in “negative unintended outcomes” like “the triggering of uncivil, polarizing discourse, audience misinterpretation, the production of misinformation, and the perpetuation of false narratives.” Such algorithms promise even greater consistency in messaging and framing of the news.

In other words, “Brandon” is going to get even more popular, because such efforts are not really working.

Censorship and media bias have never really changed minds or shaped lasting public opinion. You cannot get the public to hear “F*** Joe Biden!” but think “Let’s go, Brandon!” Biden’s popularity has tanked despite an openly protective and enabling media, with 71 percent of the public believing the country is going in the wrong direction, according to one poll. The reason is that the media is now singing from the same choir book, while most Americans have tuned it out.

That brings us back to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and the perils of mockery. Many Americans interpreted the false race-day account as an act of open contempt for viewers who were expected to simply believe what they were told was happening, despite seeing and hearing something else. Instead, they have now used that phrase as a rallying cry for defiance. It’s their way of telling both the president and the media to “mind the music and the step” because they are marching to a different tune.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

217 thoughts on “Yankee Doodling the Media: How ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Became a Rallying Cry Against News Bias”

  1. As a retired professional pilot, I have my doubts about the Southwest pilot story. He allegedly started his briefing by saying they were “headed east” (on a westbound flight) at 108 MPH. Well, a Boeing 737 won’t fly at 108 MPH

  2. Back when it happened I said that this stank like a fed op.

    https://amgreatness.com/2021/11/04/ten-months-later/

    Now it looks as if it probably is. This ‘bomber’ is another character that the feds seem unable to find. Hint, look in the Richard Jewell Building. His desk is probably in a closet. They claim the bombs contained homemade gunpowder and I would have believed it if Wray hadn’t previously claimed that a pipe full of sulfur mailed by some lunatic seeking attention was also a viable, potential bomb. They have been caught in too many lies to be believed.

    This seems to be another fed political stinker ‘bomb’ rather than the real thing. Didn’t the old KGB used to be able to do this deception crap better than our clowns?

  3. It looks as if the girl left her diary in a room later occupied by others.

    If nothing else, the Biden kids sure look careless with sensitive materials.

    As expected, the Daily Mail has much more.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10172455/FBI-raids-Project-Veritas-founder-James-OKeefes-New-York-home-Ashley-Biden-diaries.html

    I am sure the FBI mounts a nationwide hunt every time a girl loses her diary.

    More than a dozen agents investigated a garage door pull. They like big cases. I lost a sock around here somewhere…I wonder if they would….

      1. Merrick Garland and Christopher Wray should have been impeached and convicted yesterday for:

        Abuse of Power, Usurpation of Power, Denial of Constitutional Rights, Subversion, Dereliction, Defection, Treason, etc.

        These two Nazis should be in prison by now.

        The People are the new Sovereign; government is the subject of the Sovereign.

        This is nuts!

    1. “Left her diary in a room later occupied by others” = left her diary in her room, someone broke into her room thereby occupying it and stole the diary

  4. Yet another court loss for Biden. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) COVID-19 vaccine mandate is unconstitutional.

    Before the court is the petitioners’ emergency motion to stay enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s November 5, 2021 Emergency Temporary Standard (the “Mandate”) pending expedited judicial review.
    Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby STAYED pending further action by this court.

    https://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/21/21-60845.0.pdf

    1. They haven’t ruled the mandate unconstitutional. A temporary stay is not a ruling on the mandate or on the merits of the suit.

        1. I was responding to “The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) COVID-19 vaccine mandate is unconstitutional.”

          1. LOL that you consider it torture for him to make a fool of himself. He claims to be a lawyer, but either doesn’t understand the correct legal standard or doesn’t care that it wasn’t applied.

        2. It’s a loss for the integrity of these CA5 judges.

          They stayed a rule that doesn’t go into effect until January 4th, and did so without citing or applying the appropriate standard for emergency relief.

          1. ATS- Please tell the judges that–I am sure they will be delighted to act on your well spoken views about their loss of integrity.

            Oh yes, bring your toothbrush.

            1. YTS, if you want that done, do it yourself.

              Steve Vladeck (UT Austin law faculty, has argued before SCOTUS): “The Fifth Circuit has stayed enforcement of the Biden administration’s private-employer vaccine mandate — not because it actually applied the right test for such emergency relief, but simply by asserting that the mandate raises “grave statutory and constitutional issues.” This isn’t just the same *court* that has bent over backwards to allow #SB8 to go into effect (despite “grave constitutional issues”); it’s the same *panel* that reached out to prevent the district court from even *holding* a preliminary injunction hearing in the providers’ case.”

              Ted Frank (who has argued before SCOTUS) tweeted “Paging not-a-General Prelogar. The Fifth jumping gun like this, perhaps w/o jurisdiction, w/o any reference to appropriate legal standard, gives Biden the opportunity to go to SCOTUS very early in the process. I don’t see more than 3 votes to uphold stay; maybe not even that.”

              But yeah, I should definitely pay attention to a pseudonymous commenter who claims to be a lawyer but posts a lot of garbage. (sarc)

              1. You seem upset that judges don’t always do what you want them to do.

                That’s not an unusual problem. It is unusual to whine so much about it.

                1. No, I’m only disgusted with their being judges who can’t apply the right test for emergency relief and — wait for it — are staying a rule that won’t even go into effect for two months, when they’re asking for the government’s response and any reply from petitioners to be submitted just days from now and will presumably rule before January.

                  That you keep attempting to make it about me instead of discussing the legal issues suggests you’re disinterested in discussing legal issues on a legal blog. I feel sorry for your clients.

                  1. The legal issue is that they have expressed doubts that the Biden clown car has the constitutional or statutory authority to issue the mandate and they have issued a temporary stay and given the government a few days to respond. They should be able to respond quickly, or is it possible that Bidem and his crew didn’t bother to investigate the legality of the mandate before causing all the trouble they have already done?

                    If I were opposed to the court’s ruling I would focus first on researching and explaining why the mandate is necessary and legal and leave bitching about the court’s procedures for the fine print

                    1. Again: they used the wrong legal standard for emergency relief. And they stayed the rule right after refusing to allow the trial court’s stay of SB 8 to remain in effect, despite the fact that SB 8 raises more significant legal issues and is already affecting women, whereas this rule doesn’t even go into effect until January.

                      Are you truly a lawyer?

                      I’ll pay attention to discussion by lawyers who actually know what they’re talking about.

                      Additional legal discussion from Vladeck and Lindsay Wiley (another law prof, at AU but soon to move to your neighborhood to teach at UCLA) about vaccination mandates more generally:
                      “Why Carefully Designed Public Vaccination Mandates Can—and Should—Withstand Constitutional Challenge”
                      https://www.lawfareblog.com/Designed-Public-Vaccination-Mandates

                      Congress passed the law creating OSHA and giving it authority to regulate workplace safety. The vaccinate-or-test rule is clearly related to workplace safety, and justification even draws on some of the 5th Circuit’s own prior rulings. Unless you think that OSHA itself is unconstitutional, it’s hard to see what “grave … constitutional issues” are with this rule, nor do you say, nor did the 5th Circuit say. Whether it exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority is a different question and doesn’t merit emergency relief.

                    2. ATS- “Again: they used the wrong legal standard for emergency relief”

                      +++

                      And yet…there it is.

                    3. ATS-

                      I once argued that the judge was using the wrong hearsay standard to exclude evidence.

                      I was right and he was wrong.

                      But guess who won.

                  2. The legal issue is that they have expressed doubts that the Biden clown car has the constitutional or statutory authority to issue the mandate and they have issued a temporary stay and given the government a few days to respond. They should be able to respond quickly, or is it possible that Biden PP and his crew didn’t bother to investigate the legality of the mandate before causing all the trouble they have already done?

                    If I were opposed to the court’s ruling I would focus first on researching and explaining why the mandate is necessary and legal and leave complaining about the court’s procedures for the fine print

                  3. How long do you think it should take very large corporations to set up their administrative procedures, communicate to every employee, set up tracking mechanisms, and all the other things required to comply with the regulations? Two months doesn’t seem like a long time to me.

  5. Glory Be!

    Special Counsel John “Dudley Will-He-Do-Right” Durham Discovers The Headwaters Of The Mississippi River!

    Oh, and fraud on the FISA court, you say!

    What the —- good is the judicial branch which is corrupt and anti-Constitution from its headwaters to its Supreme Court Jesters?

    ‘Bout time for all this American putrefaction to come to a screeching halt!

  6. Young TS:

    You said “Copies are already available but were previously discounted as frauds. Apparently the FBI doesn’t think they are frauds.” The referent of “they” in your second sentence does not refer to the “diary.” “They” refers to the plural noun in the previous sentence: the images posted by others that were “already available but were previously discounted as frauds.”

    So don’t dishonestly say that your claim was that “the diary may be genuine.” Your claim was that the images posted by others and “previously discounted as frauds” “may be genuine” and the FBI “doesn’t think they are frauds.”

    The FBI did not imply that it doesn’t think the images posted by others and “previously discounted as frauds” “aren’t frauds.

    Unless the FBI or Project Veritas releases the entire subpoena, we do not know what the subpoena was for. And IF it was for the actual diary, THEN there is zero reason to take that as confirmation that images previously posted by others and discounted as frauds are accurate images. IF the subpoena was for the actual diary, THEN you still know nothing about the actual contents of the diary.

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