On October 29, 2020, a U.S. district judge ruled that the notorious conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl and his partner Jack Burkman had violated federal campaign laws by attempting to intimidate black voters in Michigan and New York earlier that year. The ruling came after the two men were accused of robocalls that falsely claimed that mail-in voting would allow welfare agencies to track down people and that police would be watching polling stations on election day to arrest those with outstanding warrants.

The judge’s ruling marked a victory for democracy and the rule of law, and it exposed the sinister tactics of those who seek to suppress the votes of some communities in the U.S. by spreading lies and fear-mongering. But it also raised questions about the motivations and beliefs of conspiracy theorists like Wohl and Burkman, who have been accused of fabricating stories, making false claims, and promoting bizarre conspiracy theories for political and personal gain.

Wohl, in particular, has been a controversial and divisive figure in American politics and media since his rise to prominence in 2017 as a self-proclaimed hedge fund manager and conservative commentator. He gained notoriety for his controversial statements about various public figures, including special counsel Robert Mueller, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and for his involvement in several failed attempts to smear them with false allegations of sexual misconduct and corruption.

Despite his lack of credibility and his history of shady business deals and legal problems, Wohl has managed to maintain a loyal following on social media and in conservative circles, where he is often portrayed as a victim of liberal bias and censorship. He has also received financial support from wealthy donors and right-wing organizations, raising suspicions about his true intentions and allegiances.

The revelation that Wohl and Burkman had tried to suppress black voter turnout by impersonating the non-existent African American civil rights activist “Tamika Taylor” and pretending to represent a group called “Project 1599” was not surprising, given their track record of dirty tactics and disinformation campaigns. But it was still a shocking reminder of how far some people are willing to go to undermine democracy and perpetuate racist and discriminatory beliefs and policies.

The robocalls, which targeted thousands of black residents in Detroit, Flint, and other cities, claimed that mail-in voting would lead to personal information being shared with police and debt collectors and that people who had outstanding warrants for debts or other minor offenses would be arrested at polling stations. The calls also falsely claimed that Taylor was behind the message and urged voters to stay home on election day.

The purpose of the robocalls, according to the ruling, was to create confusion, anxiety, and fear among black voters and to discourage them from exercising their right to vote. The fact that the calls were made by people who pretended to represent a black-led activist group and who used racist and ethnocentric language to appeal to their target audience only made the scheme more despicable and offensive.

Wohl and Burkman, who denied any wrongdoing and tried to blame the robocalls on a mysterious third party, were found guilty of violating the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, which prohibits false and misleading statements in telemarketing calls, and of violating the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voter intimidation and harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion.

The judge ordered the two men to pay a civil penalty of $5,000 each and to refrain from making any further robocalls that violate campaign laws. The ruling also sent a strong message to anyone who tries to suppress black voter turnout or to interfere with free and fair elections, stating that “the right to vote is of the utmost importance in a democratic society, and any effort to impede that right is against the law.”

The fallout from the ruling has been mixed. While many civil rights groups, activists, and politicians have praised the decision as a victory for justice and equality, some conservative pundits and supporters of Wohl and Burkman have called it a politically motivated attack on conservative voices and an example of liberal bias in the judiciary.

The fact that the ruling was based on factual evidence and legal precedents, and not on political bias or personal animus, seems to have been lost on some people. But the bigger question remains: who is Jacob Wohl, and what motivates him to engage in such brazen and irresponsible behavior?

The answer may lie in his narcissistic and delusional worldview, which sees himself as a hero and a savior of conservative values and causes, and which sees anyone who opposes him as a traitor or a criminal. As long as people like Wohl exist, and as long as they have a platform and a following, the threat to American democracy will remain. It is up to all of us to hold them accountable and to defend the principles of freedom, justice, and equality that underpin our society.