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The Fight For Anonymity: How to help Douglass Mackey and Preserve Free Speech
A critical juncture for free speech in the United States.
Good morning. Today I depart from my usual fiction and cultural analysis to bring something important to your attention.
Douglass Mackey is the man behind the influential Twitter account “Ricky Vaughn.” In 2021 he was charged by the DOJ with election interference for posting satirical memes on Twitter. His trial begins today, March 13, 2023. He faces up to ten years in prison. If you have not been following the case, you can read more about it here.
Under the pseudonym Ricky Vaughn, Mr. Mackey, at his peak during the 2016, had more influence than NBC, CNN, and the Colbert Report. He reached and energized millions. He had a talent for making politicians look foolish and for eviscerating journalists. President Trump was elected in part because of the groundswell he helped mobilize.
In 2018 he was doxxed and afterwards went to go live a quiet life in Florida away from the spotlight.
In 2021, mere days after Biden took office, Mr. Mackey was charged with election interference and arrested by the FBI.
He is accused of committing a crime for posting on Twitter. The DOJ alleges that he engaged in conspiracy to defraud people of their voting rights by posting satirical memes of the kind that are common around election-time. Specifically, he circulated images which suggested that one could vote by texting the word “Hillary” to a phone number, a mechanism so patently ridiculous that it couldn’t be taken at face value.
An example of a of another satirical tweet telling Republicans to ‘skip the lines’ and ‘vote on Wednesday’ posted the morning of the 2016 election:
Mr. Mackey is being charged under 18 U.S.C. § 241, a 100-year old law written to prosecute the KKK for violence that has never been extended before to speech, especially speech in a public forum. This has chilling implications. The U.S. government is now in the business of deciding what's a lie or what's satire. As the eminent First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh explains, there is no limit to how this law could be applied.
U.S.C. § 241 is also not limited to elections, it extends to anyone who 'conspires to deprive someone of their rights.' This means, under this new interpretation, that if you shared statistics about trans surgery regret, or COVID, or climate change, for example, in an effort to get a local school to disinvite a public speaker, and law enforcement decided that you lied or knowingly spread "false information," in order to deprive someone of their rights, you could be charged under the new interpretation of this law.
In short, the Biden DOJ is pulling out all the stops in an effort to crush a private citizen because he embarrassed them and helped President Trump get elected in 2016. This has implications for every American citizen. If this precedent is established, Federal law enforcement will be able to drag anyone to court based on an ill-defined and standard with unlimited scope. That’s basically game over for free speech.
How to Help
You can donate to Douglass Mackey’s legal defense using the link below. You can use popular donation platforms, send checks, donate crypto, or make a tax-deductible charitable donation. Raising funds is important because the DOJ has unlimited resources. A feature of legal battles in today’s America is that “the process is part of the punishment,” and even mounting a basic defense imposes ruinous costs on those involved. Please give generously.
You should write and call your Congressional representative and ask to open a Congressional civil rights violation investigation on Douglass Mackey’s behalf. A template is provided below. You should write and call all of the following members of Congress (it’s better if this effort is focused). You do not have to be a constituent to send a letter, but if you are a constituent you should note it in your letter. In the interest of preserving your privacy it is worth noting that communications with Congressional representatives are private and exempt from FOIA requests.
Representative Jim Jordan (OH)
3121 West Elm Plaza Lima, OH 45805-2516 (202) 225-2676
Representative Matt Gaetz (FL)
226 South Palafox Place Pensacola, FL 32502 (202) 225-4136
Representative Andy Biggs (AZ)
2509 South Power Road Mesa, AZ 85209-6697 (202) 225-2635
Representative Paul Gosar (AZ)
122 North Cortez Street Prescott, AZ 86301 (202) 225-2315
Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA)
P.O. Box 1527 Rome, GA 30162 (202) 225-5211
Senator J.D. Vance (OH)
B40C Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510 (202) 224-3353
Senator Josh Hawley (MO)
115 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202)-224-6154
Senator Ted Cruz (TX)
127A Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-5922
Here is a template you can use to write to Congress:
Dear [Congressional Representative/Senator’s Name],
I am writing to bring to your attention a matter of great concern to me. It has come to my attention that Douglass Mackey, of West Palm Beach Florida, is currently being prosecuted by the Department of Justice for speech made on a public forum. This is a clear violation of his 1st Amendment rights, and I urge you to open a Congressional civil rights investigation on his behalf.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution, and this case has chilling implications for the free speech of all American citizens. The DOJ has charged Mr. Mackey under 18 U.S.C. § 241, a law that has never been applied to prosecute speech made in a public forum before. If this dangerous precedent is established, there is no limit to how broadly this law could be applied. Federal law enforcement could arrest American citizens with impunity based on their speech, simply on the basis of whether un-elected officials determined that their speech was ‘knowingly false’ and that they had ‘conspired to deprive someone of their rights.’ This nebulous, unprecedented, and unenforceable standard would have virtually unlimited application, and would vastly open the scope for Federal law enforcement authorities to police the speech of private citizens.
Freedom of speech is a bedrock American value. From the adoption of the Bill of Rights, our principles of governance have set strict limits on the power of the government to regulate speech. It is deeply troubling that the DOJ now seeks to overstep these bounds by prosecuting Douglass Mackey for speech made on a public forum.
I am asking you to open an investigation into this matter and to ensure that Douglass Mackey’s civil rights are being protected. It is essential that we uphold the principles of free speech and prevent the chilling effect that this prosecution may have on others who wish to express their opinions publicly.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
If you are connected to prominent personalities, especially those with large media platforms, please bring this issue to their attention. The DOJ has felt itself at liberty to move with impunity in this case in part because of lack of public attention. If prominent people can share Doug’s story, and the threats to free speech we all share by extension, the public can be made aware and more scrutiny will be applied to the case. You can share this post with them, or share this news article.
This case has critical implications for everyone who cares about free expression. It’s important that we band together to help Douglass Mackey win his case and secure justice. Mainstream media, technology companies, and un-elected officials in the Federal government are constantly looking to undermine the rights of American citizens to express themselves freely in public, especially on the internet. It is vital that we mount a strong defense now so we can shut down this particular effort forever.
Several people have suggested that you can call local talk radio and ask them to cover the case. If you have the time, you should definitely try this. Be sure to tell them that it’s being discussed on Twitter and that the thread covering the discussion has more than 12 million views, and that Elon Musk has commented to the effect that the case is ‘concerning.’ You can use the letter to Congress template above as a talking points guide.