A comedian who goes by the name Count Dankula was found guilty of hate crime in the United Kingdom for training a dog to perform a Nazi-style salute. The man trained the pug to respond to commands such as “Sieg Heil” and “Gas the Jews” by raising its front right leg. Response to the verdict was largely negative, especially coming from fellow comedians such as Ricky Gervais, who tweeted that anyone who does not believe in the right for people to make “grossly offensive” utterances does not believe in the freedom of speech.
Meechan claims he is not a racist and claimed that he merely wanted to enrage his girlfriend. In court, according to the BBC, he provided the same explanation. The video can be viewed on YouTube with restrictions. Sharing on websites has been disabled. A mirror video can be seen below.
Count Dankula, whose real name is Mark Meechan, told the media that comedians are worried that the court did not consider the context or intent of his speech. “I think it is a very, very dark day in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. One of the primary things that must be considered in cases like this is context and intent and today context and intent were completely disregarded,” he said. “For the system to actually disregard such things means that your actions no longer matter. They decide what your context and intent is.”
Sheriff Derek O’Carroll, who served as judge, found did not believe the sole purpose of Meechan’s video was to infuriate his girlfriend. O’Carroll said that Meechan had left the video on his page where it continued to direct web traffic to other videos. “This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration,” O’Carroll said. “But the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility.” Meechan was found guilty of violating Section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003, which declares that it illegal to intentionally “cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another” with online posts.
According to a tweet from Meechan, he can expect sentencing on April 23. He has been ordered to meet with court personnel to determine whether he will be required to wear a GPS tracking device. He wrote, “While awaiting sentencing, Court has ordered that I meet with a court social worker for an assessment as to whether or not a Restriction Of Liberty Order will be placed on me. This would involve a GPS tracking device being attached to me and me being placed under house arrest.”
The head of the head director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Ephraim Borowski told the court that members of his family perished in the Holocaust and that he failed to see that it was funny. In Meechan’s defense, Ross Brown said Meechan had not expected his video to become popular.
The United Kingdom takes a dim view of so-called hate speech and its government is not encumbered by the First Amendment of the Constitution, as is the government of the United States. For example, Home Secretary Amber Rudd of the Conservative party recently launched a new police unit that will seek out Internet pranksters and commenters.