Count Dankula trains dog to be a Nazi video.
Making a supposedly humorous video showing you trying to get your dog to respond affirmatively to “Gas the Jews?” or to raise his paw when you say “Sieg heil!” is obviously very far from being in good taste, most people won’t even think this is funny, but should the government arrest and fine you for doing it? Most Americans would say no. If you agree, you’d better not move to Scotland.
In 1941, a dog in Finland sparked a three-month investigation by Germanyâ€™s Nazi government. Tor and Josephine Borg had allegedly trained their Dalmatian to raise its paw in response to the word â€˜Hitlerâ€™. The German embassy dismissed Tor Borgâ€™s claim that he had not intended to insult the FÃ¼hrer, perhaps due to his admission that â€˜Hitlerâ€™ was now the dogâ€™s nickname. In the absence of witnesses, the charges were eventually dropped.
It would seem that the present-day Scottish judiciary is more tenacious than the Third Reich. When Markus Meechan (aka Count Dankula) was arrested in May 2016 for uploading a video to YouTube in which he teaches his girlfriendâ€™s pug to perform a Nazi salute, few imagined the case would reach a court of law. The story seemed too absurd. In any case, it was surely unfeasible that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service would not intervene and prevent the Scottish legal system from becoming an international laughing stock.
Two years and thousands of pounds of taxpayersâ€™ money later, Meechan was convicted at Airdrie Sheriff Court and fined Â£800 for breaching Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act. The guilty verdict was reached on the grounds that the video was â€˜grossly offensiveâ€™, a wildly subjective formulation which could be applied to literally anything, depending on how and by whom it is interpreted. In this case, the determination was made by one po-faced judge alone, without a jury to make up for his lacking sense of humour. In such circumstances, a miscarriage of justice was always a possibility.
I visited Markus at his home in July of this year in order to make a documentary for spiked. Iâ€™ve long been fascinated by the case because it represents one of the more scandalous instances of the stateâ€™s ongoing adulteration of the principle of free speech. Prosecutions for jokes are not entirely new â€“ an outrage in itself â€“ but Markusâ€™s case is so self-evidently preposterous that it merits particular consideration. Moreover, many in the media have made rash assumptions about his character and background, few of which, I was to discover, bear any relationship to reality. …
I asked various members of the public how they felt about the case. Virtually everyone I spoke to understood that the pug video was intended as a joke, irrespective of whether they found it funny or not. Of the roughly three million people who watched the video online, not one complained to the police â€“ the investigation was only able to proceed because the authorities actively trawled for witnesses who would find the material offensive.
The subsequent trial has exposed a yawning gap between the general public and those who occupy influential positions in the media and the judiciary. It is a peculiarity of our time that policymakers and law enforcers apparently lack the basic nous to identify an attempt at humour when they see it, or, more worryingly, have such a degraded view of humanity that they believe that many will be drawn to fascism and criminality on the basis of a misinterpreted prank.
HT: Jim Harberson.