There was no mistaking Ricky Vaughn’s influence. He had tens of thousands of followers, and his talent for blending far-right propaganda with conservative messages on Twitter made him a key disseminator of extremist views to Republican voters and a central figure in the “alt-right” white supremacist movement that attached itself to Trump’s coattails. The MIT Media Lab named him to its list of top 150 influencers on the election, based on news appearances and social media impact. He finished ahead of NBC News, Drudge Report and Stephen Colbert. Mainstream conservatives didn’t know they were retweeting an avowed racist and anti-Semite, but they liked what Ricky Vaughn had to say.
“He did this thing that people connected to organized white nationalism have not been able to do ― walk both sides of the extremist line in the sand,” said Keegan Hankes, a data intelligence expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ricky Vaughn also played an important role in amplifying disinformation injected into American politics by the Russian government. HuffPost and a team of data scientists known as Susan Bourbaki Anthony that tracks online propaganda analyzed who was retweeting the now infamous Kremlin-controlled Twitter account @TEN_GOP, which consistently praised Trump, attacked Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and churned out a vile medley of racism, Islamophobia and “fake news.”
“Ricky Vaughn” is a highly representative Trump supporter — that is, an affluent white person:
So who is Doug Mackey?
The 28-year-old has done a good job keeping information about himself off the internet. Either before or immediately after Nehlen published his name, Mackey, who did not respond to requests to comment, removed all his personal social media accounts, traces of which remain online. But here’s what we know so far. (We will update the story as more information becomes available.)
Mackey is from Waterbury, Vermont, a small town of around 5,000 people in the middle of the state. His father, Scott, a lobbyist who focuses on tax policy affecting wireless communications and the digital economy, was a former legislative aide to the late U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.). When contacted by email, Scott told HuffPost that “this is a very difficult time for our family and I don’t have any comment.”
His mother, Kathleen, whom HuffPost reached by phone, also declined to speak about her son. “I don’t have anything to say at this time,” she said.
Mackey’s education is easier to trace. He went to Harwood Union High School, then nearby Middlebury College, where he competed on the track and field team for one season, running mainly the 800-meter distance. He graduated in 2011 with an economics degree.
After college, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, and took a job as an economist at John Dunham & Associates, an economic consulting firm that uses data to help clients “respond to threats and opportunities in the policy arena.” When reached by phone on Wednesday, the president of the company, John Dunham, confirmed that Mackey had been an employee there from April 2012 to July 2016, when he was terminated for reasons that Dunham could not reveal under New York labor laws. (A month earlier, the @RapinBill Twitter account was registered.)
Mackey appears to have moved that year into a two-bedroom apartment on Lexington Avenue in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. That was certainly his residence by the time he voted, as a Republican, in the 2016 election, according to New York voter registration information.
By then, his apparent alter ego Ricky Vaughn had become a mighty pusher of propaganda, teaming up with other far-right operatives, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, to spread racist lies and dangerous conspiracy theories.
And guess who follows one of his other handles?
Curiously, @RapinBill, which is still active and followed by Donald Trump Jr.,
OK, but surely Mackey turned into a white nationalist troll because Hillary Clinton didn’t propose a minimum wage $1/hr higher than her final proposal?
As Ricky Vaughn has explained in various podcasts and interviews for white nationalist platforms, after about three years of toying with libertarian ideas, he started growing more extreme. First, he became a critic of feminism. Then he went full racist “after the Trayvon Martin thing” in 2012 (when George Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Florida). “Why were they trying to make this racial narrative?”
Huh. What are the odds? Anyway, this is all about ethics in gaming journalism.