Man Charged With a Felony for Posting Satirical Voting Memes Sets a Chilling Precedent

Late last month, a Florida man was arrested and charged with a felony for posting memes pretending to instruct people to vote by text or social media. It is impossible to vote those ways, so the memes were obviously a joke. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of memes floating around joking about voting. Douglass Mackey, who also goes by Ricky Vaughn, posted several of these memes during the 2016 election year. One of the memes showed a black woman next to an African-Americans for Hillary sign. It said, “Avoid the line. Vote from home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.” A small notation at the bottom of the meme said it was paid for by Hillary for President 2016.

 

No one would believe the meme was accurate, send a text message, and think they had voted. In fact, the Clinton campaign sent back a default response to anyone who texted the number saying the ad was not approved by the campaign. It was clearly someone’s goofy sense of humor. People joke about the saying, “Democrats vote on Tuesday, Republicans vote on Wednesday.” No one is prosecuted for it.

 

Legal scholar Eugene Volokh observes that Mackey is not being prosecuted under a statute that clearly prohibits lying about how to vote. Some states have them. Instead, Mackey is being prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 241, a federal law that punishes conspiracies “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person ... in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution.” Volokh says no one has been prosecuted under that law for speech influencing someone from voting. People lie in political campaigns all the time and aren’t prosecuted, so why go after free speech in politics now? Those prosecuted for election fraud generally engage in some type of activity such as voter fraud, not merely speech.

 

Twitter said at first that the memes did not violate their rules. Considering how quick the company is to censor memes and kick conservatives off the platform, it is telling that it did not initially find anything wrong.

 

The fact the DOJ did not arrest MacKey until just after the Inauguration, even though he posted the memes over four years earlier when they first received publicity, is evidence the prosecution is politically motivated by the Biden administration. MacKey is an easy target. He posted antisemitic and racist memes. No one wants to defend someone like that. The right understandably wants to distance themselves from someone that offensive. But this is how the left makes inroads into silencing the right; they target a disreputable extremist who they associate with the right because they’re so easy to take down. Once a precedent is set with the first target, it becomes easier to go after others on the right, others who aren’t so offensive.

 

It is part of a larger effort to ban conservative satire, because humor has proven to be effective. The right excels here, since the left’s positions aren’t conducive to humor. The left has made a lot of ground in recent years by pretending the right is offensive. Once they went down that path, it didn’t leave a lot of room left for the left to joke, or they’d risk violating their own draconian policies.

 

And one of the main ways the left goes after conservative memes is by claiming they are fake news — even humorous memes that are clearly satire. Their “fact checking” sites now also fact check opinion, not just facts. So not only has the left been able to get these memes removed from social media, but gets those posting them banned.

 

It was bad enough deleting obvious satire. It was worse banning people from social media who posted the memes. Now it’s gotten to an extremely disturbing level, prosecuting people who post the memes. This is a slippery slope and if allowed to continue, will set a dangerous precedent for conservatives merely posting satire about elections, a type of political speech our Founding Fathers revered, which is why they protected it in the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Reprinted from Politicrossing

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