Opinion | The party of ‘freedom of speech’ is censoring themselves

By Livia LaMarca, For The Pitt News

For two years now, we’ve seen Republicans cry “My body, my choice” in response to the stay-at-home orders and mask mandates put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. A popular saying among the left, pro-choice crowd has become the new chant for the right, anti-masker agenda — as if wearing a cloth over one’s face is as invasive as a pregnancy.

As much as I hate to admit it, it makes sense that the political right has adopted such a saying. They claim to be, after all, the defenders of our first amendment rights — defenders of our freedom of speech.

So why is it that a year since Donald Trump’s presidency ended, and a year since the Jan. 6 insurrection, these supposed freedom of speech warriors are censoring themselves? “Let’s go Brandon”’ is not as powerful or impactful of a phrase as they think it is. In fact, it’s a display of the constant irony within pro-Trump groups.

The phrase “Let’s go Brandon” grew in popularity among right-wing circles because it’s a coded, clean version for “F— Joe Biden.” The phrase started during an NBC interview with NASCAR driver Brandon Brown in October. Behind Brown and the reporter, the crowd chanted “F— Joe Biden,” which the interviewer misheard as “Let’s go Brandon.”

The slogan quickly took off within right-wing groups and became yet another catchphrase that Trump supporters like to stick to the bumper of their cars.

Republicans like to proclaim themselves as defenders of our first amendment rights. However, like any political party, they tend to be hypocritical from time to time. For example, When Twitter banned Trump a year ago, Republicans seethed at the idea that “Big Tech” was infringing upon the first amendment. At the same time, Republicans have been fierce advocates against trans people using their desired bathroom, which is just as much, if not more, of an infringement on first amendment rights.

Being freedom of speech warriors is only one of the many titles Republicans have given themselves over the years. They also used to claim to be the party that advocates for “traditional familial values.” However, with the rise of Republican superstars like Matt Gaetz and cheating adulterer Trump, these traditional values Republicans once highlighted during the Nixon and Reagan eras seem to be deteriorating.

And even though these traditional values are breaking down, it is apparently still too controversial to say f— out loud. I’ll admit, the f-word might be too strong of a word to use, I suppose — it may corrupt the ears of little children around the country, after all. Oh no! For next time, it might be useful to invest in a thesaurus. There are quite literally thousands of different synonyms to replace the F in FJB.

Many Republicans claim that Democrats want to establish an Orwellian, “1984”-esque communist regime. They claim their Democratic neighbors are communists, socialists and Marxists without ever fully grasping the difference between the three. There is no Big Brother waiting to smite you for going against the Democratic agenda. You will not be hunted down and slaughtered if you criticize the president or call him names. If there was a Big Brother who did these things, most people would have died a long time ago.

The reality is, I think there really is not much else to defend when it comes to our freedom of speech — we already have it. With the exception of incitement, defamation and a few other kinds of speech that obviously should not be protected, most of what you say is protected under the first amendment. You could say the most heinous and disgusting things, but guess what? Hate speech is protected by the Constitution, and so is your right to cuss out the president.

So why not just say “F— Joe Biden?” It’s not a call to arms nor is it some kind of wicked battle-cry. And it’s definitely not some funny inside joke — especially because everyone’s in on it. I wish I could say that this catchphrase is one big Gen-Z meme created to get a laugh out of people, but of course it isn’t. Maybe we truly are living in some dystopian novel.

Representatives on the House floor are sporting “Let’s go Brandon” merch and Florida Republican Bill Posey went as far as to end an October floor speech with the popular saying and a fist bump. It’s not just in Washington either. A cryptocurrency called LGBcoin, or Let’s Go Brandon Coin, attempted to sponsor Brown, whose name started this charade.

There are many Democrats and non-Trump supporters who think this whole ordeal is ridiculous. At the same time, many Republicans seem to actually enjoy the self-censorship they are participating in. Republican ad maker Jim Innocenzi said this new saying is “done with a little bit of a class.”

I think many would say that there really is nothing classy about this whatsoever. But regardless of whether the public thinks it’s classy or not, this whole ordeal just screams idiocy and highlights the hypocrisy of the GOP. The party of “freedom of speech” once spoke freely and didn’t censor themselves on live TV. But now, months after the incident, pro-Trump Republicans are censoring themselves when that is the very thing they swore to fight against.

Honestly, if you want to criticize, ridicule or simply just cuss out the president or any other elected official — just do it. There is no need to censor your language or hide behind a thinly veiled joke in order to get your point across. It’s cowardly. Those that chant “Let’s go Brandon” are playing into the exact thing they are supposedly trying to protect this country from.

Just swear next time. It’ll save you from embarrassment.

Livia LaMarca mostly writes about American politics and pop culture. Write to her at [email protected].