Douglass Mackey (aka "Ricky Vaughn") doesn't look well to me. He looks at least ten pounds too skinny. Maybe 15 pounds. The bones in his hands really stand out. His eyes look sunken and stressed.
It seems like the weight of a potentially dark future is pressing down on him almost in a literal, physical way as he heads into his trial.
You can read a little curtain raiser about his trial in the link above these words. Mackey's defense attorney pointed me out to the judge during the jury selection process on Tuesday morning by saying that he "didn't want to talk about" what he thought of my work. Really surreal.
Observing jury selection for the last few days brought back a lot of memories for me about Mackey's moronic "Ricky Vaughn" persona. I used to chat with him, although I never saw his real face until my friend Luke O'Brien ID'd him as Mackey in 2018.
Back in 2017, I was one of the only journalists (maybe the only one?) with a verified account on Gab, the alternative to Twitter that caters to internet nazis. I used to chat with "alt-right" posters all the time on there, sometimes getting into objectively bizarre situations. Compared to other Gab posters who hit me up, Mackey had more civil things to say. He didn't threaten to kill me. He just chatted away, spouting racist pseudoscience.
If I recall correctly, Mackey, as his Ricky Vaughn persona, explained to me in bullshit terms that I was predisposed to be less intelligent because my mother is Arab. He told me that children of two races were more likely to be mentally ill. (My Dad is white.) This was standard "red pill" overdose crap from a fool who had seen too many memes but not read enough books. His "star" had fallen after Twitter banned his account. Honestly, if he didn't sound so stupid saying those things to me, I might have been offended.
A confessional phone call
Around the time that Luke ID'd him, Mackey called me on the phone to tell me the story of how he randomly posted his way into internet infamy. He said his path to becoming a Trump world micro-celebrity was basically just a big accident. He said he got famous by shitposting for Trump and then he couldn't get out of it because the demand from his followers and the rush he got became too intense. Then at the end of his story, he said that his parents didn't like his online life and wanted him to get help for internet addiction. This baffled the hell out of me because I couldn't imagine a scenario where someone couldn't just log off.
(I hadn't read any Jaron Lanier at that point.)
Addiction will age you
Mackey disappeared and resurfaced after the government charged him over the disinfo scheme. I won't go over it here. Just read the story. Looking at Mackey now, and I mean looking at him physically, it's just seems like "Trumpism" (or whatever we call it now, "hard right authoritarianism," fascism) destroyed this guy. He could have been a million different things in life and now he just looks awful, heading into middle age, and facing potential jail time, scribbling sadly in a legal pad about which jurors he doesn't want to hear his disinfo case.
Let me put this out there now: Mackey may very well get off without a conviction. He may be dead-to-rights "guilty" of being an internet nazi but that is not a crime. He deserves the presumption of innocence here. His case is new and complex. I will form my opinion about it while watching the trial and hearing the evidence. Anything can happen.
But even if he does get off, the punishment he has already given to himself by becoming a big league freak in our political freakshow is something I would never want to experience in a million years. We only have one life and it goes by extremely fast. Mackey basically submit himself as a blood bag for Peter Thiel or some other billionaire. You end up mentally and physically destroyed for nothing but a little dopamine. Why?
What material help did he secure for himself and his loved ones?
Delete your account
I often wonder how many lives have been utterly ruined by this online Trump shit. Not just immigrants. Or the many women who now face complications after losing abortion rights. Or the LGBTQ+ people who face threats. Or the people who died in far-right terror attacks. But how about just these Trump supporters who toss their lives out there to be bloodbags for the ultra-rich? How many of them are just ruined by this life?
My advice to people like Mackey who haven't totally destroyed their lives yet is to please look at this man. Look at Mackey physically. Witness him at his own trial. Take in those hollow eyes. Then delete your accounts while you still have the chance.