One of the most influential internet trolls from the 2016 election is on trial this week. The case against a man whose supporters dubbed the “meme martyr” is a smorgasbord of bizarre internet-centric figures and terminology.
Douglass Mackey is charged with interfering in the 2016 election with the intent of helping former President Donald Trump. Mackey has pled not guilty. (Trump isn’t personally implicated in the case.)
The thrust of the federal prosecutors’ case is that Mackey, under the online persona Ricky Vaughn, conspired to circulate images designed to falsely convince likely Hillary Clinton voters they could vote via text message. Prosecutors say that thousands texted the number included on the images, which were designed to look as if they were created by the Clinton campaign.
Mackey’s supporters are characterizing the case as an assault on freedom of speech. He’s being called the “meme martyr” and “meme four star general” by those who believe he’s being persecuted for his political views. A pro-Mackey meme circulating online claims that the “federal government is actively prosecuting memes.”
Because the case is comprised largely of posts and DMs by far-right figures, it’s bringing up some of the internet’s most notorious figures and moments. Prosecutors have reportedly explained the Pepe the Frog meme and informed the court that the word “cuck” will appear often in the messages.
“One message apparently took place between Mackey and Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer. The two extremists discussed some artifact called the ‘manual for loldongs terrorism,’” Michael Edison Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported. “The prosecution broke this down: ‘Lol means laugh out loud’. ‘Dong means penis.'”
(SPLC reports that Auernheimer is a neo-Nazi internet troll and hacker.)
The star witness in the case is known only by his internet pseudonym, Microchip. Prosecutors convinced the judge to allow Microchip to testify anonymously because he’s reportedly helping the Federal Bureau of Investigation with several other investigations.
A Republican strategist once called Microchip the “Trumpbot overlord.” He specialized in making hashtags trend, according to a 2017 story by BuzzFeed News, which he did by carpet bombing tweets about a single subject while urging others to do so in lengthy threads and via DM.
Microchip’s involvement in the case has reminded many in the online political ecosystem of another initiative he called “operation titty twister.”
For operation titty twister, Microchip compiled a list of accounts he blamed for the bans and suspensions of right-wing Twitter users. He circulated this list and urged people to report their accounts.
“We are all veterans of operation titty twister. Not exactly the Siege of Bastogne but a battle nonetheless. Fun times,” civil rights attorney Andrew C. Laufer tweeted in 2020.
As word spread about him testifying against Mackey, some of Microchip’s self-proclaimed former targets recalled operation titty twister with amusement.
“I well remember being on Microchip’s hit list. Hilarious that dude has microflipped,” @Sandgropher528 commented.
Microchip’s testimony is expected to reference another well-known internet personality, white nationalist Capitol rioter Tim Gionet, aka Baked Alaska. They reportedly had close ties during the 2016 election cycle.
Other online associates who some believe may be brought up during the trial include Jack Posobiec and Gab owner Andrew Torba.