Over this past weekend, a shocking story made its way across social media. A pilot for Southwest Airlines was accused of saying the phrase “let’s go Brandon” over the intercom as part of his sign-off. This was said to have drawn audible gasps from some of the passengers on the plane,
For those who don’t know the etymology of the “let’s go Brandon” meme here is the backstory
“Let's Go Brandon refers to a viral video of NASCAR racer Brandon Brown speaking to NBC about winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series while the crowd chants "fuck Joe Biden," which the newscaster claims is a chant of "let's go Brandon" instead, seemingly as a form of damage control. The video went viral in October 2021 following numerous reports of people chanting "fuck Joe Biden" at sports events began surfacing around September in protest of President Biden and often to show support for Trump. In early October people started using the phrase in place of "fuck Joe Biden" to criticize and joke about the President.”
The meme has since taken off with Extremely Online conservatives (and those who want to appear hip to the youths with their jazzy slang terms), with both The Daily Wire and Donald Trump’s official site even selling merchandise with the phrase.
In response to this story of a pilot potentially risking his job and career to make a stupid internet meme joke, everyone on Twitter took time to soberly reflect and question if such a story could really be true.
Just kidding, a bunch of people accepted the story as gospel truth and took the opportunity to show their whole asses
The first thing I noticed when the story first started circulating is that nobody was attributing the story to anyone. It was being passed around, but no source was cited. The originator of the story, Colleen Long, eventually took credit in a tweet thread that has to be seen to be believed
To recap — this whole controversy started when Long, who was working on a story about the “let’s go Brandon” meme, heard what she interpreted as the pilot saying the offending phrase and was so incensed that she tried to enter the cockpit of a plane mid-flight because by golly she was going to speak with the manag...er I mean pilot.
Friends, I don’t think we’re dealing with the most reliable narrator here.
On Monday morning, several media outlets began circulating a TikTok video that was allegedly the same incident that Long described but upon further inspection the video was found to be from October 12th at the latest, with Long reporting her incident took place on October 29th. Ironically, the outlets that promoted the video were doing so to prove the veracity of Long’s story but instead of proving her case, it led to speculation that the pilot was saying something entirely different. Judging from the audio provided (which again does not detail the incident that Long describes) it sounds as if the pilot is saying “let’s go Braves”, alluding to the Atlanta Braves who are currently competing against the Houston Astros in the World Series.
Guess where Long’s plane departed from.
Tell me which scenario sounds more plausible; a pilot making a dumb inside joke that maybe 10% of the passengers would understand, or a pilot ribbing a planeful of passengers from Houston by saying “let’s go Braves?”
This story reminded me of another tweet that sadly did not go as viral as the ones above.
Let’s say that the pilot was indeed enough of a dumbass to say “let’s go Brandon” to a planeful of passengers. This would be the textbook definition of a small deal — let Southwest reprimand him, dock him a week’s pay, and we all move on. Instead, we get comparisons to ISIS, the Third Reich, 1 / 6 rioters, domestic terrorism, and a group of people who seem convinced the pilot was going to run the plane into the ground while screaming “Trump 2024!” over the intercom. And of course, the obligatory calls to boycott Southwest Airlines and for the firing of the pilot.
I don’t know if the pilot said “let’s go Brandon” or “let’s go Braves” or if he said anything at all. In a way it doesn’t matter — the story here isn’t so much what the pilot said but how certain sections of Twitter went straight to DEFCON 1 when this was more of a DEFCON 4 situation. Not every story needs to trigger a full-blown social media meltdown, but such are the incentives of social media. There can be no small deals, no lukewarm takes, every post must be crafted to make the maximum amount of impact because that is what’s rewarded. Because, as we all know
That is the real cause of the toxic swamp that is Twitter — when you’ve only got 280 characters to signal that you’re a member of the “right” tribe with the “right” opinion, you have to make every character count.