92 Janet McIntosh on “Let’s Go Brandon,” QAnon and alt-right language (EF, JP)

John and Elizabeth talk with Brandeis linguistic anthropologist Janet McIntosh about the language of US alt-right movements. Janet’s current book project on language in the military has prompted thoughts about the “implausible deniability” of “Let’s Go Brandon”–a phrase that “mocks the idea we have to mince words.”

The three of them unpack the “regimentation” of the phrase, the way it rubs off on associated signs, and discusses what drill sergeants on Parris Island really do say. They speculates on the creepy, Dark Mirror-esque similarity between the deciphering of “Q-drops” and academic critique. Turning back to her work on basic training, Janet unpacks the power of “semiotic callousing.”

Mentioned in this episode:

“Let’s Go Brandon” in Anthropology News

Code Words and Crumbs,” Brandeis Magazine

“The Sinister Signs of QAnon,” Anthropology Today

from Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies, edited by Janet McIntosh and Norma Mendoza-Denton, Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Theodor Adorno, The Stars Down to Earth.

Hofstadter, Richard The paranoid style in American politics.” 1964.

Lepselter, Susan, The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny. University of Michigan, 2016

Trollope, Anthony. Marion Fay: a Novel. Vol. 29. Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, 1883.

Silverstein, Michael. “Language and the culture of gender: At the intersection of structure, usage, and ideology.” In Semiotic mediation, pp. 219-259. Academic Press, 1985.

Listen to the episode here.

Read the transcript here.

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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