YouTube comedian found guilty over 'grossly offensive' Nazi salute dog video
Mark Meechan is a Scottish comedian who posts videos on YouTube as "Count Dankula." Now one of those videos could send him to prison.
In April 2016, Meechan uploaded a video titled "M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi" - slang for "Mate, your dog's a Nazi." He explains that his girlfriend's pug, Buddha, is pretty cute, and a Nazi is the least cute thing he can think of, so he trains the dog to respond to Nazi slogans. "Do you want to gas the Jews?" asks Meechan repeatedly, as the dog perks up. After he calls "Sieg Heil," the pug even raises its paw in the Nazi salute. The video also includes footage of the dog watching a Hitler speech on television.
The video went viral, getting over three million views, and creating massive outrage. While Meechan intended the video to be a joke, many people found the content offensive. We've seen YouTube personalities upload controversial videos before, like Logan Paul's infamous video where he mocks a Japanese suicide victim. But in this case, there was actually legal action. Following the outcry, Meechan was arrested and charged with suspicion of a hate crime, in violation of the U.K.'s Communications Act of 2003.
On Twitter, Meechan describes himself as a 'professional shitposter." He says the video was an expression of his edgy comedy, and wasn't meant for a wide audience. "I don’t actually hate Jewish people," he explained. "The video was just an insight into the darker side of my humor, a prank to annoy my girlfriend and that I did not intend for people, other than people who knew my comedy, to see the video." (Probably shouldn't have put it on YouTube then.)
Today "Count Dankula" was found guilty of hate crime charges in Scottish court. The judge called his video "grossly offensive to many Jewish people" and ruled that the footage was "anti-Semitic and racist in nature." On April 23, Meechan will be sentenced and could face up to six months in prison.
Outside court, the 30-year-old YouTuber argued that his right to free speech was under assault:
"I think it’s a very, very dark day in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of expression...today context and intent were completely disregarded. For the system to actually disregard such things as that means that your actions no longer matter, they decide what your context and intent is.
"For any comedians in Britain, I would be very worried about making jokes in future because your context and intent behind them apparently don’t matter anymore. I made the video to annoy my girlfriend and that is the reality. If they don’t wish to see it then there isn’t really much I can do about that. That literally is fact, and if they don’t want to consider that fact then it’s not up to me.“It was a joke. A joke made to annoy my girlfriend and I stand by that.
"I am so sorry to the Jewish community for any offense I have caused them. This was never my intention and I apologize.”
The case has gotten widespread attention, opening up a debate about artistic expression and the right to free speech. You might not think Meechan's joke was funny, but does he really deserve to go to jail for it? On Twitter, comedian Ricky Gervais weighed in on the controversy, saying, "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."
Well, we'll see what punishment he receives in April. I bet right now he wishes he came up with a different plan to annoy his girlfriend.