The Czech novelist Milan Kundera published The Joke, his first novel, in 1967. It traces the fortunes of Ludvik, a young student, after his politically correct girlfriend shows the Communist authorities a postcard he had written to her as a joke: “Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky! Ludvik.” As a result of this whimsy, Ludvik finds himself expelled from the Communist Party, the university, and is eventually conscripted to work in the mines.
That’s the way things are in totalitarian societies. No jokes allowed, especially not jokes told at the expense of the regime.
Thus it is that North Korea banned sarcasm and irony.
Poor Ludvik suffered for his joke. But he got off easy compared to Douglass Mackey, a social media “influencer” who wrote under the pen name “Ricky Vaughn.”
During the 2016 election cycle, Mackey/Vaughn posted a funny meme urging Hillary voters to “avoid the line and vote from home” by texting “Hillary” to a certain number.
Who would be stupid enough to fall for such a joke? No one. But his satire was effective enough to get him banned from the pre-Elon Musk era Twitter. And the feds thought—or said they thought—that it was part of a “plot to disenfranchise black and women voters.” I guess that shows you what they think of black and women voters.
It sounds stupid. It is stupid. But Mackey was charged with a felony and on Friday was convicted in the Eastern District of New York. He faces up to 10 years in jail for (as an official announcement crows) “his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote.”
Yes, that’s right. A Trump supporter posts a silly (but amusing) meme that mocks Hillary voters and he is tried and convicted of a felony. In the course of that official announcement, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District called Breon Peace continues with this stomach churning bit of agitprop:
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. . . . 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.
In fact, that verdict proved nothing of the sort. It merely confirmed the corruption and politicization of our judicial system. The real moral of this sorry episode is this: Make a joke, go to jail.
This is Soviet-style intimidation. It has, or had, no place in America. It is the kind of thing that, once upon a time, we would hear about and deplore in distant lands ruled by communist despots. Now we emulate what we once deplored. Increasingly, alas, such totalitarian expedients are business-as-usual in an American regime that is staffed by apparatchiks of both parties who are drunk on power and care not a whit for free speech, individual liberty, or the impartial enforcement of the law. What they care about is the consolidation and perpetuation of their own power, period, full stop.
Tucker Carlson was right to call the verdict against Mackey “the most shocking attack on freedom of speech in our lifetimes.” There is absolutely no evidence, Carlson pointed out, that anyone’s “sacred right” to vote was impinged by Mackey’s meme.
But the same cannot be said of the thousands of people who were essentially disenfranchised by the Democratic machine in 2016, 2020, and 2022. The entire “Russia collusion” hoax, for example, was cooked up and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and put into action by a coalition of the willing in the media, the Justice Department, and the intelligence services of the United States. Its initial aim was to suppress the vote of Trump supporters and, when that didn’t work, to drive Trump from office and make him radioactive to voters forever after.
The bogus, almost surreal indictment of Trump by the George Soros-funded D.A. Alvin Bragg is part of that same anti-Trump campaign. Nancy Pelosi let her botoxed mask slip when, gleefully commenting on the former president’s indictment, she tweeted “No one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence.”
As I noted elsewhere, former speaker of the House Pelosi got it exactly backwards. In America, it used to be the case that the burden of proof fell upon the state. It was not up to an accused to “prove innocence”—often an impossible task. Rather, it was up to the state to prove that an accused was guilty of certain specified crimes.
It has been amusing, in a macabre sort of way, to see how the phrase “no one is above the law” has flooded the zone from the Left. Tucker Carlson, in the clip linked to above, provides a sampling of its deployment by the ditto-heads.
What makes that mendacious exercise infuriating as well as amusing, of course, is the fact that many, many people are “above the law,” such names as Hunter Biden, Sam Bankman-Fried, Hillary Clinton, Andrew McCabe, John Brennan, Peter Strzok, and Kevin Clinesmith remind us.
But don’t try this if you are a supporter of Donald Trump or his populist agenda, or even if you are just not sufficiently hostile to it. Then you can expect dawn raids from the FBI or personal visits from the IRS, as the journalist Matt Taibbi just experienced to his surprise.
The melancholy truth is that the United States has become a banana republic (but without, as some wag put, any bananas).
In such corrupt regimes, the ruling party intimidates, persecutes, and prosecutes rival parties and anyone who challenges its prerogatives. This is a truth that Nayib Bukele, the robust president of El Salvador, underscored in his response to a chortling piece in the New York Times.
Embracing the news of Trump’s indictment, the Times speculated joyfully about what was going to happen to the former president during his arraignment: “He will be fingerprinted. He will be photographed. He may even be handcuffed.” “Imagine,” Bukele tweeted, “if this happened to a leading opposition presidential candidate here in El Salvador.”
But let’s return to the idea that “no one is above the law.” I mentioned several people who clearly are above the law as enforced by the Biden Administration and the permanent government in Washington. But since Douglass Mackey, a Trump supporter, has been convicted of a felony for making a joke, what about Kristina Wong? She did the same thing that Mackey did in the 2016 election, only her meme supported Hillary. “Hey Trump supporters,” she tweeted, “skip poll lines and text in your vote.”
Where is that wretched U.S. attorney who was just pontificating about “the sacred right to vote,” “subvert[ing] the ballot box,” etc.? Where is sh? Where is the slimy, fake-news media? True, Wong suppressed no more votes than Mackey did. But Mackey faces a decade in the slammer while Wong is serving as an elected official on a neighborhood council in Los Angeles and acting as a “performance artist.”
When agents of the deep state hector you about “the rule of law,” etc., laugh in their faces. Then remind them of what the next president of the United States said about retribution.