Monday, April 23, 2018

March 20, Mark Meechan of Scotland was found guilty of “being grossly offensive” in violation of the Communications Act of 2003. Meechan, who goes by “Count Dankula” on YouTube, posted a video on the social media site in which he trained a pug, a small companion dog, to respond to spoken words such as “Sieg Heil” and “Gas the Jews”. Sentencing for Meechan has been scheduled for <L>April 23</L>.

In April of 2016, Meechan uploaded a video titled “M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi” to YouTube in which he trained the dog to respond to certain spoken commands. The dog, which belongs to his girlfriend Suzanne Kelly, learned to raise its front paw when the “Sieg Hitler” command was given, and jumped for joy when the words “Gas the Jews” were spoken. The video was viewed three million times before it was put on ‘restricted mode’ on YouTube. In the video, which runs 2m:23s, Meechan states that he is not a racist. The prosecution called the video “an odious criminal act that was dressed up to look like a joke.”

Meechan’s defense, led by attorney Ross Brown, centered around the video being a joke. Meechan wanted to annoy his girlfriend because he didn’t really like the dog. Brown further argued that Meechan expected the video to be viewed only by Kelly and a few other friends and didn’t expect it to go viral. Kelly testified to Meechan never expressing any antisemitic views.

Director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities Ephraim Borowski, testified for the prosecution. “In many ways, the bit I found most offensive was the repetition of ‘gas the Jews’ rather than the dog itself,” said Borowski. “Material of this kind goes to normalize the antisemitic views that frankly we thought we had seen the last of… The Holocaust is not a subject for jocular content.”

The sheriff court with Derek O’Carroll presiding in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire found that Meechan was guilty because the video was “anti-Semitic and racist in nature”. O’Carroll elaborated: “This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration, but the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility.”

O’Carroll further said, “The accused is quite obviously an intelligent and articulate man. The accused knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. Despite that the accused made a video containing anti-Semitic content and he would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people.”

After the conviction, some British comedians voiced their support for Meechan. Ricky Gervais tweeted: “If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find “grossly offensive”, then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.” David Baddiel also tweeted, saying “an actual Nazi would not be teaching his *pug* to Hitler salute.”