Meme-Maker Convicted of Election Interference - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Meme-Maker Convicted of Election Interference

At least now we know what is and is not election interference.

It is not indicting the chief political opponent of an incumbent officeholder prior to a big election. Donald Trump is the foremost political adversary of the sitting president of the United States. Trump is running to defeat that president in the next election but was indicted on Tuesday on charges universally decried by Republicans, and sporadically by not a few Democrats, as politically inspired and so weak as to be considered, best-case scenario, sui generis, or, worst-case scenario, invented. There is no possible way that could interfere with the 2024 election.

Nor is election interference bringing a bogus charge of collusion with a foreign power against a presidential candidate, spying on his campaign, prosecuting practically anybody working closely with him, or coordinating with social media companies to kill stories damaging to his opponent, the anointed candidate.

What election interference is, according to the Justice Department, is creating memes that circulate on the internet encouraging voters to vote for U.S. president from their phones. Last Friday, Douglass Mackey was convicted by a federal jury “of the charge of Conspiracy Against Rights stemming from his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote.”

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace continued, “Mackey has been found guilty by a jury of his peers of attempting to deprive individuals from exercising their sacred right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Mackey could be sentenced to as many as 10 years in prison.

Between September and November 2016, Mackey “conspired with other influential Twitter users” as well as persons on other platforms to “disseminate fraudulent messages,” that is, a series of memes, to his 58,000 followers, encouraging voters to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, not in early voting or at a polling place, but by text message.

In one meme, a photo of Hillary Clinton smiling was accompanied by the words: “vote for her. vote from home.” It continued: “On November 8th, type the word ‘Hillary’ and post it to Twitter or Facebook, using the hashtag #PresidentialElection between 7 am and 9 pm EST to cast your vote for Hillary, from home!”

In another, a black woman is pictured in front of a sign that proclaimed “African Americans for President Hillary.” “Avoid the line,” the text stated. “Vote from home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be part of history.”

The government placed great store in internal conversations among Mackey and his “co-conspirators” about how they could “suppress Democratic voters through a coordinated disinformation campaign in the runup to the 2016 presidential election,” including statements Mackey made about limiting “black turnout” around the same time he dispatched the meme of the black Hillary voter. This, it contended, spoke to the conspiracy charge.

Mackey claimed his memes were satire, hyperbole, an attempt to knock the Dems off their game, online trash talk, juvenile for sure, and maybe even vulgar. He posted the memes under his screen name, Ricky Vaughan, after the Charlie Sheen character in the movie Major League; his avatar comprised a photo of Sheen wearing a red Make America Great Again hat with a skull and crossbones taped to the front of his horned-rim glasses. Mackey claimed he was merely exercising his right to free speech.

The government deemed otherwise. “Today’s verdict proves that the defendant’s fraudulent actions crossed a line into criminality and flatly rejects his cynical attempt to use the constitutional right of free speech as a shield for his scheme to subvert the ballot box and suppress the vote,” wrote Peace.

Peace’s colleague, Assistant U.S. Attorney Turner Buford, amped up the wattage: “This wasn’t about changing votes. This was about vaporizing votes, making them disappear.”

And how many votes would that be? The number of different telephone numbers that texted Mackey’s meme came in at 4,900. As National Review’s Andrew McCarthy asked, “How many of those 4,900 people texted as a lark, how many were eligible to vote, or how many did not vote — much less did not vote because of Mackey’s tweets?”

A more salient question: How many victims of Mackey’s dirty trick did the government usher to the witness stand? That number, according to Post Millenial, is zero. No persons testified that they were hoodwinked by Mackey’s meme into squandering their vote on a text message. Makes sense. Are you willing to testify under oath that you are so stupid as to try to vote for president of the U.S. on your phone?

Unsurprisingly, Twitter cooperated with the government on the case. Also, a “co-conspirator” of Mackey’s, allowed by the judge to testify anonymously under his Twitter handle, filled in details of the group’s discussion of their online tactics and characterized Mackey as the ringleader.

Also unsurprisingly, nothing has so far happened to a Democrat operative who made a post similar to Mackey’s in the run-up to the 2016 election, urging voters to vote for Trump from their phones. “Hey Trump Supporters,” Kristina Wong tweeted. “Skip poll lines at #Election2016 and TEXT in your vote! Text votes are legit. Or vote tomorrow on Super Wednesday!” No need to stay tuned for updates on her legal woes.

Legal pundits have weighed in on the dangerous precedent of the Mackey conviction. In addition to the obvious ice pack the verdict applies to free speech, there are certain activities, heretofore legal, that are suddenly suspect. Eugene Volokh, writing in Tablet magazine, gives as examples a union wishing to shut down its get-out-the-vote effort or individuals picketing outside a party’s headquarters to convince party workers to abandon their get-out-the-vote effort because the party’s candidate was known as a crook or a racist.

It all comes back to election interference for thee but not for me. Writes Libby Emmons in Human Events:

The only reason Mackey was prosecuted was because he made jokes about Hillary Clinton voters—and Trump won. If Trump had not won, Mackey would not have been fingered by the DOJ as a problem, and his free speech rights would have remained unobstructed. That Mackey was arrested, tried and convicted for stating opposition to the Democrat’s candidate is an absolute horror and represents a huge decline in the value of American’s rights.

Mackey’s attorneys promised to appeal. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 16.

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