The Slatest

The Joe Biden Fortnite Grand Canyon Hologram Tweet, Explained

Earlier today, you might have seen this tweet (or some variation of it) make its way across your screen.

There’s a good chance you’ll recognize some subset of these words. You’ll almost certainly be familiar with Joe Biden and the Grand Canyon, for instance. Maybe you also play Fortnite and listen to Travis Scott. Or perhaps your soul has withered away to the point that you already had Lis Smith’s Politico Live appearance circled on your calendar.

But the tweet as a whole exists at the outermost reaches of political-cultural surreality, beyond the point where any healthy individual should be able to process and understand the totality of the references. So we’ve created this convenient guide to the Democratic strategist fever dream you see above. Let’s Pokémon Go to it!

The Tweet

“Travis Scott’s [1] takeover of [2] Fortnite [3]… if we [4] could do that with Joe Biden [5] [for the convention] [6] , Joe Biden projected over the Grand Canyon [7]” — Lis Smith [8], democratic strategist [9], on politico [10] live [11]

1. Travis Scott’s

Travis Scott is the 28-year-old rapper behind both “Sicko Mode” and Kylie Jenner’s baby. He once played Fortnite with fellow popular rapper Drake and professional gaming sensation Ninja. It was a very big deal.

2. takeover of

Travis Scott didn’t really “take over” Fortnite as much as he was featured in one of the “live events” that occur inside the game. The concert consisted of an uncanny 10 minutes of prerecorded tracks performed by a 100-foot (in game scale) avatar of Travis Scott. You can watch it in its entirety below:

At one point, the skin melts off his (virtual) face to reveal cyborg innards. It’s great.

3. Fortnite

While I have a general understanding of Fortnite, an online video game wildly popular with school-age children, I’ve never played the game myself, so I consulted full-time gamer (and phenomenal newsletter author) Brian Feldman. Brian, take it away:

Fortnite is a video game most well-known for its 100-player last-man-standing competition mode. In reality, it also functions a lot like a virtual space like Second Life, or games like Minecraft or World of Warcraft, where the actual game objectives are often beside the point and simply an excuse to socialize. Events like the Travis Scott one are cooperative affairs, not competitive ones.

Got it. Anything else you’d like to add?

If Joe Biden gets in Fortnite, I’d certainly call that an “epic win.”

Thank you.

4. … if we

The “we” here is referring to the Democratic Party, but probably less to Democrats in general and more to the highly paid Democratic consultants who decide about how to stage campaign events.

5. could do that with Joe Biden

Lis Smith likely doesn’t mean literally inserting Joe Biden into Fortnite. It’s hard to imagine a more guaranteed form of humiliation than dropping the giant avatar of a 77-year-old man directly into a horde of rude teen gamers. Rather, Smith likely just means some sort of virtual mass event that would allow people to feel close to Biden without any fear of disease transmission.

6. for the convention

The Democratic National Convention, which was originally scheduled for mid-July in Milwaukee, is where we’ll likely see Joe Biden become the party’s official nominee for president. In early April, however, the convention was postponed until Aug. 17 over pandemic-related concerns. Depending on where things stand in a few months, the convention might come in a severely different form than we’re used to or even be canceled altogether. In which case, a virtual convention would seem most likely.

7. Joe Biden projected over the Grand Canyon

Would it look something like this?

Giant Joe Biden photoshopped standing in the Grand Canyon
Photo illustration by Ashley Feinberg. Photos by Drew Angerer/Getty Images and Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images.

Probably!

(Note: The Grand Canyon is approximately 1,800 miles from Milwaukee.)

8. Lis Smith

Lis Smith is a Democratic consultant and strategist who’s worked with a number of high-profile candidates, including Barack Obama, Bill de Blasio, and Andrew Cuomo—most recently and visibly as the driving force behind the high-traction publicity engine that was the Pete Buttigieg presidential campaign, which was based on the premise that voters want to turn away from tired old politicians and embrace youth and innovation. From 2011 to 2018, she also worked with New York’s Independent Democratic Conference, which consisted of Democrats who caucused with Republicans and worked tirelessly against a number of progressive policy proposals. She does not always like to talk about it.

9. democratic strategist

Democratic strategists are the people you see on cable news who get asked questions like “Why isn’t Joe Biden doing better?” so that they can provide answers like “Well, Chuck, I firmly believe that in order for Joe to win, he’s going to need to get the most votes.” They are vitally important and deserve our respect.

10. on politico

Politico is the company behind the newsletter that tells everyone in Washington where Wolf Blitzer ate dinner the night before.

11. live

Because journalism is a dying industry, companies are forced to find additional revenue sources to keep them afloat until they inevitably get purchased by private equity and wrung dry by 20 skinny-suited men named Craig. One popular method of chasing this revenue is to organize and stage live events, usually in the form of panel discussions. With in-person events temporarily out of the question, outlets are forced to settle for what are essentially recorded Zoom conversations. It was in one of these virtual substitutes for a live derivative of a media outlet that Lis Smith offered her vision of a colossal virtual substitute Biden. You can watch it here.