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Ben Weingarten

Federalist Senior Contributor; Claremont Institute Fellow

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Douglass Mackey’s jailing threatens First Amendment rights

Oct 31, 2023

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On Oct. 18, Douglass Mackey was sentenced to seven months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to interfere with potential voters’ right to vote in the 2016 presidential election. The far-right influencer, who posted under the pseudonym “Ricky Vaughn,” attempted to trick voters into believing they could vote by text message.

Straight Arrow News contributor Ben Weingarten finds it deeply concerning that a meme could lead to such a severe punishment. He argues that this not only jeopardizes our First Amendment rights but also establishes a troubling precedent for the potential jailing of former President Trump.

If you care about free speech, if you care about the rule of law, if you care about the ability to retain anything resembling a republic, this straight-out-of-the-Soviet Union case should outrage you.

The case concerns Douglass Mackey, a social media troll on the Right, who rose to prominence during the 2016 election. Now, let me preface this by saying I understand Mackey may have written some nasty things over the years. This commentary is not a defense of his words or character, but it is a defense of his right to speak freely, a defense our legal system did not provide.

A federal judge just sent Mackey to prison for seven months for a satirical tweet. What did the tweet say? Well, it depicted a Black woman in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign with text reading “Avoid the line, vote from home and text Hillary to 59925,” along with “Vote for Hillary and be a part of history” and the hashtag “I’m with her.” At bottom, it read, in part, “Paid for by Hillary for President 2016.”

According to prosecutors, on or about and before election day 2016, at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted Hillary or some derivative to the text number. We don’t know what percentage of these people were eligible to vote, whether they were actually trying to vote, or if they would have even seen the post had the media not extensively covered the tweet. But no matter, the Feds indicted Mackay for conspiracy against rights stemming from his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote. This via a meme.

little notice with a world of flam on October 18 America sentence a literal thought criminal to jail. If you care about free speech, if you care about the rule of law, if you care about the ability to retain anything resembling a republic, this straight out of the Soviet Union case should outrage you. The case concerns Douglas Mackay, a social media troll on the right, who rose to prominence during the 2016 election. Now, let me preface this by saying I understand Mackey may have written some nasty things over the years. This commentary is not a defense of his words or character, but it is a defense of his right to speak freely, a defense our legal system did not provide. A federal judge just sent Mackey to prison for seven months for a satirical tweet. What did the tweet say? Well, it depicted a black woman in front of an African Americans for Hillary sign with tax rating avoid the line vote from home and text Hillary to 599 to five along with vote for Hillary and be a part of history and hashtag I’m with her at bottom at read in part paid for by Hillary for President 2016 According to prosecutors on are about and before election day 2016 At least 4900 unique telephone numbers texted Hillary or some derivative to the tax number. We don’t know what percentage of these people were eligible to vote, whether they were actually trying to vote or if they would have even seen the post had the media not extensively covered the tweet. But no matter the Feds indicted Mackay for conspiracy against rights stemming from his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote. This via a meme. That law was created to fight the kk k it punishes people who injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate others that is who engage in actual aggression against people in ways that violate or threatened to violate their rights, not for sending facetious memes. But the Feds claimed he wanted to deprive black people of their right to vote, in fact that he engaged in a conspiracy to do so by working with other Influential Twitter Users and with members have private online groups to use social media platforms including Twitter to disseminate such fraudulent messages targeting people. As former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Andrew McCarthy would put it the case was a three for the prosecutorial creation of a crime Congress has not prescribed the trivialization of civil rights law and the intrusion of government as a monitor of political speech and a fourth category. It showed the utterly brazen two tier nature of our justice system. On the morning of Election Day 2016. Comedian Christina Huang tweeted, hey, Trump supporters skip poll lines at election 2016 and texting your vote. Text votes are legit, or vote tomorrow on Super Wednesday, with a video instructing quote Chinese Americans for Trump people for color for Trump to vote for the president the following day, Wednesday, November 9, the day after election day, we’re still waiting for the charges for her criminal tweet, depriving people of the right to vote by telling them to vote the wrong day. There’s now a censorship to criminalization pipeline. Twitter acts has a civic integrity policy that arguably bans just this kind of rhetoric reading. You may not use access services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes, such as posting or sharing content that may suppress participation mislead people about when, where or how to participate in a civic process. Now, you could say they’re trying to save you from committing a criminal offense. Mackey’s case also sets a precedent for jailing President Trump. Why, in the DC January 6 case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Trump is charged with conspiracy against rights, specifically the right to vote and to have one vote counted. I guess for challenging an election. Prosecutors can twist anything to fit the new standards created. They can throw a president in jail alongside meme stirs, and perhaps even everyday critics of election loss speech that is apparently now verboten political speech, the heart of the First Amendment. This is the ultimate injustice expected to accelerate going into the 2024 election.

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