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Trolls Against Democracy

#StopTheSteal in Two Vignettes
Conservative activists Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence

Conservative activists Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence

An unmasked man (of course) is trying to enter a polling place in Philadelphia the day before the 2020 election. He says that he’s a poll watcher, but there’s some sort of discrepancy with the paperwork so he’s asked to leave the premises. A minor incident, and we only know about it because a professional propagandist and co-founder of the rewarmed Human Events magazine named Will Chamberlain was creeping along the alleys of the city looking for “election irregularities” when he happened upon the scene. As any good troll would, he filmed the encounter and posted it on Twitter with the hashtag #StopTheSteal. While this isn’t the first use of #StopTheSteal, it was the first use of it to go viral, further enabling this era of GOP voter suppression that we've found ourselves in and setting the stage for January 6.

Another influence on the events of January 6 were political operatives Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, the subject of a recent profile in Politico, who calls them "the Bonnie and Clyde of MAGA World." As I read the story, I thought that Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry would be more fitting, but Politico doesn't make jokes like that.

Stockton and Lawrence are a Las Vegas couple who have spent years swimming in the shallow end of right-wing populist politics. After meeting at a Herman Cain campaign event, they began a romantic and business relationship, which led to a number of odd jobs: organizing internet trolls to crash the Obamacare website, composing viral Facebook posts, exposing the plans of left-wing protestors in Manhattan while working for Steve Bannon at Breitbart. Eventually, the projects got more grandiose, including crowdfunding a portion of the border wall through an organization called We Build The Wall. The latter got them served with grand jury subpoenas when Bannon and other members of the charity were accused of taking its funds for their personal use (Stockton and Lawrence were never accused of any wrongdoing, and the case is ongoing; Bannon's charges were dropped when he was pardoned by Trump).

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After becoming disillusioned with the conservative movement, Stockton and Lawrence kept out of the 2020 election — the first they hadn't worked in ten years. But on election night, as the numbers trickled in across the country, the couple refused to believe that Trump had been defeated so soundly. When Amy Kremer from Women for America First (and before that, the head of Tea Party Express) hired them to host #StopTheSteal rallies around the country that November, they were all in. The bus tour rolled through the prerequisite swing states, including North Carolina, Florida, and Michigan. This led to the couple's involvement in the rally in the Ellipse — and the rest, as they say, is history.

The couple maintains that they had nothing to do with the march on the Capitol itself, that they were shocked by what transpired — and there is no evidence that contradicts the claim. Either way, they'll soon have an opportunity to lay it out for Congress; this week, they were subpoenaed (along with Alex Jones and Roger Stone) to appear before the January 6 committee.

SOURCE: Reveal, Politico, Newsweek