“Douglass Mackey’s Conviction is the most important 1st Amendment case in the country,” Darren J. Beattie, in an interview with Glenn Greenwald.
As the media circus of former president and current presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s trial begins, there is another trial and conviction that is at least as important for the rest of us but one that perhaps most of you have not yet heard about.
On March 31, 2023, it was announced that Douglass Mackey, also known as Ricky Vaughn, was convicted of charges alleging that he conspired to deprive individuals of their right to vote in the 2016 presidential election. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
In 2016, Mackey posted some memes that mocked Hillary Clinton and her supporters, including one that encouraged her supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton by texting their vote to a number that he included. It was all a joke, he said, noting that supporters of Hillary Clinton had done similar things but none of them had been prosecuted for it.
According to court documents, “by Election Day in 2016, at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted ‘Hillary’ or something similar to a text number that was spread by multiple deceptive campaign images tweeted by Mackey and co-conspirators, prosecutors said”.
Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA, asks the most pressing question about the case in Reason magazine:
Is this sort of prosecution constitutional? After all, people often lie in political campaigns. Candidates do it, activists do it, political operatives do it. Can election lies simply be outlawed?
Surprisingly, the Supreme Court has never resolved the question. It hasn’t resolved the big-picture question: When can the government punish lies? It hasn’t resolved the medium-size question: Can the government punish lies in election campaigns? And it hasn’t resolved the particular question: Can the government punish lies about the mechanisms of voting, and in particular about how to vote?
Perhaps this case will force the Supreme Court to address these questions, but somehow, I doubt it. We have to wonder how far the government will go to prosecute “liars”, and how they will determine who is a liar and who isn’t. It would seem that only certain kinds of liars are being prosecuted. Those who disagree with the Biden Totalitarian Regime (BTR).
At a press conference following Trump’s arraignment, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg argued that the case was fundamentally about lies. Trump, he alleged, had “lied again and again to protect his interests, and to evade the laws to which we are all held accountable.”
How do men like Bragg sleep at night? How does he go home and face his family? Does he teach his children not to lie? What a farce. How can he do that when so much of what the BTR does is built on lies. “No one is above the law,” Bragg and the rest of the BTR swamp creatures say, lying through their crocodile teeth, when they know full well, they are guilty of sexual scandals, money laundering, blackmail, assassinations, the deaths of millions, the list goes on. Yes, the entire Washington DC swamp is above the law.
Only certain types of liars will be prosecuted, and MacKey is the first for the new crime of disinformation. The crime that we can all easily be made guilty of.
The word disinformation burst upon the scene in March of 2021 when Jen Psaki informed us that the government had identified 12 people who were responsible for disseminating 65% of the disinformation. They were dubbed the “Disinformation Dozen”:
“Disinformation has become a direct threat to public health,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which released the report in partnership with the Anti-Vax Watch. “In the midst of a global pandemic, the Anti-Vaccine Industry has executed a targeted campaign to mislead Americans about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. Social media is enabling anti-vaxxers to recruit millions of Americans and indoctrinate them with fear and doubt. If Big Tech companies don’t act now, the pandemic will be prolonged, and more lives will be lost.”
The report accused Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Joseph Mercola, and ten others of spreading disinformation. They “repeatedly violated Facebook and Twitter’s terms of service agreements” The CCDH had screenshots of “example violations” that ranged from misleading to antisemitic.
At that time, it was important to start educating people about the difference between mis and disinformation. The relentless use of the words in the media from then onwards conditioned the populace to accept that certain people need to be silenced for spreading dangerous lies.
This all begs the rather unpleasant, nevertheless necessary question: What will we do when the day comes that we face imprisonment or perhaps even death for the crime of “spreading disinformation”?
If we are caught committing such crimes, will we admit our fault? Attend struggle sessions to clear our names? Many of us remember being banned from Twitter and having to debase ourselves by admitting that we had lied when we knew we hadn’t in order to get back on. I did it a couple of times and it felt horrible. I was actually relieved when I was permanently deplatformed, knowing I had remained true to my resolve to speak the truth. Thanks to Elon Musk, I’m back, but it feels more repressive than ever. Yes, we can say certain words and phrases that we couldn’t before, but it’s as if no one is listening. We are being silenced in other, more insidious ways. I refuse to be blue checked on Twitter or on Meta, and I refuse to be classified on Substack with a check. I intend to write a piece about why.
So, back to disinformation. What will we do if we know someone else is spreading it? Will we betray them to better our own standing in society? Or will we just shut our mouths out of debilitating fear? Will we justify our silence because we are parents and can’t afford to go to jail for the sake of our children? Will we say our mental health is already fragile enough and we can’t handle any more stress? Will we say to ourselves, “I am just one voice, so it won’t make a difference anyway.”
What if we are ordinary citizens with not a lot of followers and we are caught spreading lies? We can always claim ignorance. We can point the finger at some social media influencer with a hundred thousand followers and blame them for leading us astray. They might not even have done it. That’s the sort of thing that will happen. People will start turning each other in. As long as it’s someone else who goes to prison and not us. At a certain point, the fear will be so great we will be able to justify anything to ourselves.
Disinformation is the crime of the century. It is the perfect crime to hold over everyone’s heads, justifying the imprisonment, even execution, of hundreds if not thousands of dissenters.
Will you be one? Will I? How far will we go to stand up for what we believe. We are about to find out.
In 2019, Andrew Marantz, a New Yorker staff writer wrote a piece in the New York Times titled: Free Speech is Killing Us.
Marantz went into all the ways free speech had become dangerous and then asked the “difficult” question of what the government was going to do about it. He hastened to add, “I am not calling for repealing the First Amendment, or even for banning speech I find offensive on private platforms.”
Thank goodness for that! However, we should all know by now where this is heading because we’ve seen the denials and then the about faces many times. If a journalist says that in 2019, we can be sure within a few years, every mainstream journalist will be calling for repealing the First Amendment and banning free speech. And to most people, it will seem perfectly rational by that point. Just like it seems perfectly rational today to send a Trump supporter to prison for ten years for making some memes online.
Glenn Greenwald interviewed Darren J. Beattie about Mackey’s case, and you can listen to that interview above. Beattie himself had his free speech rights attacked during his time serving the Trump administration as a speech writer. Beattie was fired in 2018 following reports that he spoke at a white nationalist conference in 2016.
In response to allegations, Beattie, who describes himself on Twitter as a “proud Jew”, said:
“In 2016 I attended the Mencken conference in question and delivered a stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right.’ I said nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely.”
“It was the honor of my life to serve in the Trump Administration. I love President Trump, who is a fearless American hero, and continue to support him 100%. I have no further comment.”
In the Greenwald interview, Beattie explains that people texted the number on the Hillary meme AFTER the media had covered these memes widely, and, in fact, “the government has not produced a single person that they say was tricked out of voting on the basis of the meme. So, there is not a single, specific aggrieved party.”
Beattie goes on to explain that the statute under which Mackey was tried and convicted is a Ku Klux Klan statute originally designed to stop the Ku Klux Klan from physically preventing African Americans from going to the polls. So, they resurrected this obscure statute to use against Mackey.
Here is the most important observation Beattie makes in his interview:
They have innovated upon the statute in order to encompass a term that we’re all familiar with: Disinformation. They’ve tortured this old statute in order to codify the disinformation stamp into criminal law.”
As Beattie goes on to say, this represents a crucial next step in the BTR’s war on Americans.
Beattie points out how the Twitter Files were instrumental in exposing government’s collusion with Big Tech to demonize anyone who disagreed with the state narrative. I would say, yes, instrumental in confirming what conservatives already knew. But meaningless beyond that boxed-in online world they’ve been relegated to by the algorithms. Nobody in mainstream media paid attention to the Twitter Files and the vast majority of people could have cared less about them.
Most Americans (left and right) have never lived under a truly repressive regime. They are ignorant of the debilitating terror it inspires. People talk intellectually about how communist or fascist regimes will arrest you, not for committing traditional crimes like burglary (which law-abiding citizens would never do), but for saying something the government doesn’t like. That something could be anything. We can see how it is happening here. It started with the obvious, like speaking out against vaccines or saying the election was stolen, but it didn’t end there. It won’t be long before your neighbor, hating you for some illogical reason—like you never seem to gain weight when they do—will accuse you of something that once seemed benign, but no longer is, like using too much water on your plants or driving your car on days when you shouldn’t. And the madness will set in.
With Mackey’s conviction and the media circus of Donald’s Trump’s trial, Beattie says “we’ve moved beyond deplatforming people on social media, which is the ‘national security state’ issue, now we’re in the ‘Department of Justice’ issue that’s promulgating the next stage of deplatforming which is putting people in prison”.
The purpose is not just to bring down Trump but, as Greenwald says, “to criminalize the entire movement”.
I would go further. Criminalizing the entire movement is just the beginning, or maybe the middle point. It will end with the criminalization of anyone that the state wants to silence, for any reason.
I think if we are honest, none of us knows what we will do when that day comes and we must choose between silence, or betraying someone else to keep ourselves safe, or, having the courage to speak out anyway, no matter the consequences.
It is shocking how the madness of the last three years has changed the majority of Americans from believing freedom is an inalienable right to believing freedom is dangerous and the government must protect us from it. And for anyone who throws up their hands and says, oh, it’s always been this way, it’s just that people are now waking up to the fact, no it hasn’t been. I would encourage anyone who thinks that way to go live in Egypt for 3 years the way I did, or under communism as I did, and you will see the difference.
I can still write here, and I won’t be carted off to prison. We still do have an alternative media, albeit as I said, it is becoming more and more insidious. But we should not become so cynical that we no longer remember that we did, once upon a time, have freedom—not perfect freedom but before long we will wish with such longing that we could have it again. Sadly, our children and our grandchildren will have no memories. So, we must share our memories, as I’ve said so many times in the past.
For those of you feeling discouraged and wondering what’s the point, here’s a comment from one of my readers from my previous essay, Media Myths and the DEEPER State:
What’s the point? I’ll tell you what the point is, to SPEAK TRUTH to the CNN, lamestream insanity (and mass stupidity) that is being force-fed to the multitudes. I am over-60 and I gratefully acknowledge the many Truth Tellers who snapped me out of my own ignorant, lazy, mass-myth-thinking that I had believed, or just assumed out of my own arrogance. Because of those Truth Tellers, I am saved from my own sin. Because of those Truth Tellers I am free of the propagandization of leftism. Because of those Truth Tellers I am better able to use essential critical thinking skills and DO RESEARCH to glean the TRUTH from so many complex current affairs – and share the Truth with others.
“All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.“ Edmund Burke
I’m honored to be one of those Truth Tellers and I pray I will continue to be.