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President Biden’s Dark Brandon Meme: Political Messaging in the Digital Age

‘Just Like We Drew It Up’: What’s behind Joe Biden’s Super Bowl post?

The image that emerged on US President Joe Biden’s official social media platform could easily be mistaken for a scene from a hybrid horror and science fiction film: President Biden depicted against a murky backdrop, with vibrant red laser beams projecting from his eyes, and a prominent United States flag brooch adorning his lapel.

Despite its surreal appearance, this was no creation of a meme page or a troll account; it was indeed shared on President Biden’s own social media page early one Monday. Coming amidst the backdrop of Israel’s ongoing conflict in Gaza, which has resulted in a devastating loss of lives and U.S. backing, the image sparked criticism of President Biden from certain segments of social media users.

Here’s what we know about President Biden’s post:

What was the post about?

President Biden’s post followed the victory of the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Taylor Swift, a prominent figure in the entertainment world who has previously voiced criticisms of former President Donald Trump—Biden’s primary rival in the 2024 election—is romantically linked with Travis Kelce, a player for the Chiefs. Swift’s presence at National Football League (NFL) games this season has not only boosted the sport’s visibility but has also fueled conspiracy theories among some factions of the far-right. These theories suggest collusion within the NFL to orchestrate a Chiefs victory, creating a backdrop for Swift to endorse Biden’s candidacy.

Despite the Chiefs’ win, Swift has not publicly endorsed any presidential candidate. Nevertheless, President Biden took a jab at the conspiracy theory with a tweet, humorously suggesting his involvement in orchestrating the moment.

President Biden’s tweet garnered various reactions on social media, ranging from digital eye-rolls to expressions of disappointment and outrage.

Several users questioned whether President Biden’s account was compromised, while others speculated about the involvement of an intern in posting the image. Some initially mistook the post for the work of a parody account.

Many criticized the timing of President Biden’s post, deeming it insensitive given the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Amid calls for an end to civilian casualties in Gaza, the Biden administration continues to supply weapons to Israel.

Given the gravity of the situation in Gaza, some viewed President Biden’s post as inappropriate, according to Ahmed Al-Rawi, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University.

However, Al-Rawi noted that President Biden’s primary focus might be his domestic audience rather than the global one.

What is the Dark Brandon meme?

The alt text accompanying President Biden’s post simply reads, “dark brandon,” referencing a meme originating from October 2021.

During a race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, a crowd’s chants about President Biden were misinterpreted by NBC’s sport reporter Kelli Stavast as “Let’s Go Brandon,” which she reported live on television.

Subsequently, “Let’s Go Brandon” became a euphemism for criticizing President Biden, providing Republican politicians with a veiled way to attack him online. The phrase also found its way into song lyrics.

The meme evolved, leading to various iterations of President Biden’s image with laser beams emanating from his eyes, commonly known as “Dark Brandon.”

The Dark Brandon meme even made appearances at the venue for the third Republican presidential primary debate in November 2023.

Has President Biden made similar posts in the past?
Despite its origins as a mocking tool against President Biden, the meme has been appropriated by Democrats and President Biden himself. He has acknowledged the Brandon phrase in a lighthearted manner since 2021.

In April 2023, President Biden jokingly donned dark sunglasses, embracing the “Dark Brandon” persona during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

President Biden’s campaign made its debut on Truth Social, former President Donald Trump’s conservative social media platform, in October 2023. The verified @BidenHQ account, featuring the Dark Brandon profile picture, made a post welcoming followers with the caption, “Well. Let’s see how this goes. Converts welcome!”

Ahmed Al-Rawi views the meme’s appropriation as part of a broader political strategy, noting its effectiveness in rallying support among President Biden’s base. However, he also acknowledges potential insensitivity, particularly in regions impacted by U.S. policies.

Memes have become integral tools in political communication, used by leaders worldwide to engage with younger demographics and navigate the digital landscape reshaping political discourse.

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