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In November 2020, a week after JOE BIDEN was declared the winner of the presidential election, a Chinese illustrator named YANG QUAN posted several cartoons on his Weibo microblog account depicting the president-elect as evil and seemingly all-powerful.
“The sleeping king ascends the throne, the devil is resurrected,” reads the Chinese caption on one illustration of Biden atop an Iron Throne-esque chair made up of automatic weapons as a hellish blaze surrounds him. Yang has posted many other images in the 20 months since — often with pro-China, nationalistic messages.
Those images were largely forgotten…. until this past week, when they went viral in the United States as Democrats co-opted them as part of a meme dubbed “Dark Brandon.”
Yang’s images were shared by, among others, White House aides, Sen. CHRIS MURPHY (D-Conn.), the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and thousands of Biden fans celebrating several of the president’s legislative objectives passing through Congress.One administration official turnedan illustration — of Biden’s yellow eyes aglow — into the cover photo on their personal Twitter account.
Far from the portrayal Yang set out to create, it’s been fashioned into a boast, depicting Biden playing five-dimensional chess, a master of the political dark arts.
“‘Dark Brandon’ is the Malevolent kind of Biden we need,” wrote Mel Magazine last month.
Biden is no stranger to being memed. During the Obama years he was portrayed as the bumbling “Uncle Joe,” always blurting out something off key and obsessing over his aviators and Corvette. As president, he’s been castigated as elderly and frail and in over his head. The phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” a euphemism for “F— Joe Biden,” became the soundboard for countless gifs and graphics.
The Dark Brandon meme is drawn from that. It grew on Reddit, Twitter, and TikTok over the past few months – sometimes ironically as a way of mocking Trump superfans. But it took the leap into normie-discourse this past weekend as the massive reconciliation package was poised to pass the Senate; Sinister Biden suddenly became the all-powerful president.
“Foolish mortals, you have awoken Dark Brandon,” one TikTok video went to the tune of “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
“No more bourgeois malarkey,” went another.Several users posted “Dark Brandon” explainer videos,too.
The White House leaned in, posting photos of Biden with red laser eyes — a look that has more often been used in the past by right-wing activists and crypto currency evangelists.
“Dark Brandon is crushing it,” deputy press secretary ANDREW BATES wrote on Twitter.
The “Dark Brandon” Reddit channel went wild over the White House’s embrace.
The president’s opponents weren’t impressed. In fact, they thought it was all a bit reckless.Republican National Committee spokesperson EMMA VAUGHN, criticized the White House for posting “Chinese propaganda to celebrate the fact they raised taxes during a recession and gave away billions of dollars for electric vehicles that depend on China for parts.”
The meme represented a rare moment of internet virality for a president who White House officials acknowledge doesn’t draw from a Twitter-heavy base of support.
And while the White House often repeats the “Twitter is not real life” mantra, the internet love was welcomed in some Democratic circles after several months of trying to defend an administration with approval numbers in the thirties.
“Being a Joe Biden supporter hasn’t been very fun over the past year, and Dark Brandon is fun!” said one Democratic digital strategist close to the White House. “It’s a sign the vibes are improving — this couldn’t have bubbled up unless there are some actual genuine W’s to point to.”
Even White House staff secretary NEERA TANDEN joined in. Responding to a tweet reading: “Lasers shooting out of Joe Biden’s eyes is an official Statement of Administration Policy,” Tanden wrote, “This is an official position.”
She later tweeted: “just kidding,” which is precisely the thing one would write under pressure from Dark Brandon.
With help from Philem Kine.
MESSAGE US — Are youthe Chinese illustrator YANG QUAN? We want to hear from you! Alex does not speak Chinese but he knows people who do. And we’ll keep you anonymous if you’d like. Or if you think we missed something in today’s edition, let us know and we may include it tomorrow. Email us at [email protected].
This one’s from Allie. Which president invented the swivel chair?
(Answer at the bottom.)
PAYING A VISIT:The president and first lady JILL BIDEN visited flood-ravaged Kentucky on Monday to assess damage and visit with affected families. The pair, along with Gov. ANDY BESHEAR and first lady BRITAINY BESHEAR, also met with first responders. During a briefing at a Kentucky elementary school, Biden pledged federal help to rebuild, saying “I promise you we’re staying.”
A HOLE IN OUR BAGEL ITEM: Last week, we reported that former Biden Covid Czar JEFF ZIENTS is an investor in Call Your Mother, the D.C. Jewish deli now expanding to Colorado in the spring of 2023. In fact, Zients was an investor. As the Washington Post reported, he divested from the company. We apologize for the error. We still want the bagels.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: The new New York Fed report that shows consumer inflation expectations came in with a huge plunge. White House Chief of Staff RON KLAIN retweeted a CNBC clip detailing the news, reiterating: “It’s [sic] biggest drop ever.”
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: This piece by WSJ’s CATHERINE LUCEY that contrasts the president’s Delaware visits to how many media interviews he’s granted since he’s started the job: “In his first 18 months in office, [Biden] traveled to Delaware 46 times and to Camp David 18 times. He played 15 rounds of golf, conducted 17 formal press conferences and gave 20 sit-down interviews, according to former CBS News White House correspondent MARK KNOLLER, who tracks presidential data.”
Lucey writes the figures “underscore a media strategy that has relied more on prepared remarks and brief question-and-answer sessions with reporters than on formal press conferences and interviews.”
A SERIOUS AMOUNT OF PERSONNEL NEWS: OSAREMEN OKOLO is leaving the White House where she has been a policy adviser for the Office on Covid-19 Response, our DANIEL LIPPMAN has learned. Okolo, who was previously an alum of the Senate HELP Committee and office of Rep. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-Ill.), is heading to Harvard University to begin her PhD in the history of science.
Lipman also has learned that:
— VERONICA VALDEZ is now White House liaison at the Defense Department. She most recently was special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs. LEO CRUZ is now deputy White House liaison at DOD. He most recently was special assistant to the under secretary of Navy.
— ZEPPA KREAGER is now senior adviser to the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. She most recently was White House liaison to the U.S. Agency for International Development. JENNIFER SOSA replaced her as White House liaison at USAID. She most recently was deputy WH liaison at DoD.
— CAROLINE MCKAY, who was chief of staff to the White House Counsel and deputy associate counsel, has left the White House. McKay was integral to setting up the counsel’s office, where she worked on judicial nominations, including Biden’s Supreme Court pick.
— JENNIFER SOKOLER has replaced McKay as chief of staff. She is a former counsel in the Supreme Court and appellate practice at O’Melveny and Myers. The White House has also added a deputy chief of staff position for the office, which has been filled by CAROLINE SABA.
ADDITIONAL UKRAINE AID: The White House announced another $1 billion in aid for Ukraine Monday, as the Russian invasion drags onto its seventh month. The new aid package will include more rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, ammunition and other equipment from the Department of Defense, AP’s LOLITA C. BALDOR and ELLEN KNICKMEYER report.
NOT ANTICIPATING AN INVASION: COLIN KAHL, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said Monday that the Defense Department has not changed its assessment that China will not invade Taiwan in the next two years, despite Beijing’s recent moves to launch unprecedented military drills around the island in response to House Speaker NANCY PELOSI’s visit to Taiwan last week. Our LARA SELIGMAN has more.
Biden told reporters today he’s “not worried” about China retaliating after Pelosi’s visit. “But I’m concerned that they’re moving as much as they are. But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are.” Our KELLY HOPPER has more details on that here.
One year after Afghanistan, spy agencies pivot toward China (AP’s Nomaan Merchant)
Biden’s policies have not revived Scranton. But few there blame him. (WaPo’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
Biden Is on a Roll That Any President Would Relish. Is It a Turning Point? (NYT’s Peter Baker)
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with LAWRENCE O’DONNELL” tonight at 10 p.m. EST
As an undergraduate student at Stanford, ZEV KARLIN-NEUMANN, speechwriter and communications adviser to the Domestic Policy Advisor, spoke at the university’s 2010 convocation.
He offered great advice for the students, like: “Lean on friends and family, develop your passion, engage in your surroundings, find and make meaning in your time here. Above all, love to learn and learn to love.”
And he ended his speech by welcoming the incoming freshmen and getting them excited for what’s ahead: “Everyone is very friendly – the gals are quite attractive – and it’s a very good life.”
THOMAS JEFFERSON invented the modern day swivel chair. Jefferson had sought to enhance the windsor chair — which has a wooden seat and backing with lines like a comb, according to this summary by Untold History. He added a spindle and voila! The swivel chair was created.
Here’s an animated rundown of how it happened from Untold History: