YouTuber Who Trained His Girlfriend's Dog To Be A Nazi Facing Hate Crime Charges In Scotland

from the there's-nothing-not-ridiculous-about-that-headline dept

Across the sea in the UK, offensive speech is still getting people jailed. An obnoxious person who trained his girlfriend’s dog to perform the Nazi salute and respond excitedly to the phrase “gas the Jews” is looking at possible jail time after posting these exploits to YouTube under the name Count Dankula. According to Scotland resident Markus Meechan, it was the “least cute” thing he could train his girlfriend’s dog to do, apparently in response to her constant gushing about the dog’s cuteness.

Meechan’s video racked up 3 million views on YouTube, but it really didn’t start making news until local police started paying attention.

That April, soon after the video was posted, police knocked on Meechan’s door in Coatbridge, a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, he told Alex Jones. The officers told him that he was being charged with a hate crime and that the video could be seen as promoting violence against Jews. They told him to change his clothes, took pictures of his apartment and hauled him off to jail.

There’s is no doubt the video is offensive. But offended people have plenty of options to counter Meechan’s speech with their own. Unfortunately, the 2003 law being used against him has ensured this counterspeech is solely taking the form of testimony against Meechan.

During the trial, Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, who lost family members during the Holocaust, said the video was “grossly offensive. It stuns me that anyone should think it is a joke,” he said, according to The Times.

“My immediate reaction is that there is a clear distinction to be made between an off-hand remark and the amount of effort that is required to train a dog like that. I actually feel sorry for the dog.”

Meechan says he has no hate for Jews and did it solely to annoy his girlfriend. It was recorded, which means it was meant to entertain YouTube users, some of which likely viewed the video as generally supportive of gassing Jews (which may have helpfully aligned with their own views on the subject). But speech can be offensive without being a hate crime, and the general criminalization of offensive subject matter isn’t doing much to curb actual racially-motivated criminal activity. All it’s really doing is ensuring UK courts receive a steady stream of defendants who’ve done nothing more dangerous than publicly display their questionable opinions and terrible senses of humor.

The YouTuber is now facing a year in prison because an unfunny prank came to the attention of local police. Prosecutors are busy trying to prove intent, which should be an uphill battle. Meechan has already issued a public apology, as well as a follow-up video further distancing his distasteful prank from any support for anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, prosecutors are alleging the sole reason for the recording was to cause fear and stir up hatred. That really doesn’t seem to be the case despite several bigots deciding the video’s release meant they should inundate the local Jewish community council with hateful messages.

Laws enforced in this fashion don’t instill a greater respect for rule of law or those who craft bad laws with good intentions. Fifteen years have passed since this law took effect and it’s certainly hasn’t shown much return on investment. Instead of stomping out hate, it’s being used to carve holes in speech protections, ensuring the merely offensive will be given the same punishments as those who actually incite hatred and violent acts.

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Comments on “YouTuber Who Trained His Girlfriend's Dog To Be A Nazi Facing Hate Crime Charges In Scotland”

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Richard (profile) says:

Springtime for Hitler

Just as well that we hadn’t got to that point when “The Producers” came out – Mel Brooks could have been in trouble.

More seriously, we need to look at who is pushing this nonsense and why.

This may just be a stupid prank but the idea that is now in the law is that what matters is that someone feels offended rather than whether the speech in question is actually offensive (and by the way it doesn’t even seem to matter if the speech is simply reporting a true fact). This seems to be so open to abuse that it makes me wionder who wants to abuse it..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Springtime for Hitler

More seriously, we need to look at who is pushing this nonsense and why.

It’s politicians, who really do believe that if you can stop the speech you solve the problems. Just look at all the attempts and rhetoric about removing terrorist speech from the Internet.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Springtime for Hitler

It’s politicians, who really do believe that if you can stop the speech you solve the problems

I don’t think it’s as general as that. Censorship is usually put in place to protect a lie. So what are the lies that the politicians want to protect?

By the way – from the links posted later on about this it seems that not only can you be prosecuted for posting something that someone else finds offensive (no matter how irrationally) but you can also be prosecuted for posting something that someone thinks someone else will think is offensive…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A joke taken way too seriously

Actually, the “offend me not” policy comes from both sides of the political spectrum, whether is left or right.

In Spain you can get fined (or even in jail) for offending God or the King, for example. In fact, there was a recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights telling off Spain regarding that.

That, of course, if you don’t get into jail for being a puppeteer, twitting jokes about Carrero Blanco (though she got free in the end, she had to go through all the ordeal), rapping against the King (3 years in jail, iirc), the police or the government and a lengthy list of cases.

Of course, threaten by radio to shoot a left-wing politician and nothing happens. Even if the reverse done to a right-wing one would get the person doing it in jail in no time.

flyinginn says:

We’ve had prosecutions this week for teaching a dog to do something offensive on a video and for downloading a book from the 70s which remains easily available. So a good week for the public, who are presumably catatonic with anxiety about someone reading Mein Kampf. I’m concerned that the unwary might be radicalised by reading something really dangerous, like Magna Carta.

Ninja (profile) says:

The lengths people go for a good trolling. I witnessed a master.

No, seriously, it doesn’t seem the guy is a bigoted asshole. It should have been taken as the joke it is. Context matters. There are plenty of content out there making fun of Nazi stuff (including Jewish people) and true bigots, I hope they prosecute all. Won’t hold my breath though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Did you know Colonel Kink (Werner Klemperer) who played a Nazi on a TV comedy show called Hogans Heros was, in fact, a Jew!!! Werner Klemperer escaped Nazi Germany in 1933.

In fact, Every actor and actress who portrayed a Nazi in the series was Jewish in real-life.

The Nazi’s did a lot of bad things, but so have many others in human history. If you try to hide History, you’re bound to repeat it. I don’t really care that this guy did what he did. It’s a little in bad taste, but so what. It’s a joke. If anything it kind of makes Nazi’s the butt of the joke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You hit the nail on the head. Had this ‘nazi dog’ skit been done by Sacha Baron Cohen in a Borat movie, police would have never batted an eye. Two reasons for that:

1. Cohen is himself Jewish so he gets an automatic pass that no non-Jew would ever get.

2. A multi-million dollar Hollywood production, no matter how offensive, gets an automatic pass that the typical working-class Youtuber would never get.

Call it High Court/Low Court or whatever else, but that’s how the system works.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

A joke taken way too seriously

Accidentally hit enter after only typing the title. There should be a way to edit or delete your own comment here like Facebook. Years ago when my son was in high school a teacher was talking to his class about a school shooting. She overheard my son make a tasteless comment to a kid next to him & she freaked out. They detained him after school & would not release him until after they called me & my ex in. There was a full conference room of teachers & administration & counselors. Each one of them took turns talking. His teachers was in tears. We had to assure them that neither me or my ex had any guns in our homes & my son had no interest in them. He had only made a bad joke. They overreacted to this, but in many school shootings people had ignored warning signs of troubled kids & maybe an intervention could have saved lives. I don’t know exactly where you draw the line, but arresting someone for training a dog for offensive tricks, are you kidding me? Taking the video down & maybe suspending the account because of terms of service violations could be justified. I have seen people’s accounts suspended on Facebook because of extremely vulgar language in all their posts. Probably in response to complaints.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: A joke taken way too seriously

Isn’t weird how schools overreact to things like that (and the “finger gun” and “gun-shaped” poptarts), yet somehow always manage to overlook the HUGE problems that actually cause school violence? I think that’s partly why some kids go postal – they see the teachers overreacting to nothing while their huge problems go ignored.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: A joke taken way too seriously

Have to agree. Bullies are the problem. As someone that had been bullied in school back in school in the 60’s, in a way I have an insight into these kids minds. I took my brothers advice when he told me if a kid hits me, hit them back. Even if it means I get my ass kicked, the bully will think twice about picking on me again. Now kids go home & get their dad’s guns.

Retsibsi (profile) says:

There seems to be rather more to this story than is being presented at first sight. If you read these accounts then, from some of the details given, there’s a suggestion that he is rather less the “Jack The Lad” he makes himself out to be…

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

, there’s a suggestion that he is rather less the "Jack The Lad" he makes himself out to be…

Funnily that’s not what I got from your two links – quite the reverse in fact.

I got a telling statement from his solicitor:

Mr Brown said there was no evidence of a complainer in the case, adding Police Scotland was not contacted by anyone who found the video "grossly offensive or menacing.
He added that it seems that the police pursued the matter themselves in an attempt to establish their diversity credentials.

I also got a statement of support from Ricky Gervais and a comment that Jewish comedian David Baddiel had also supported the accused.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s my view as well. The UK has itself become a bit of a joke in itself. Take this, a popular, beloved TV show in 1975, the same period where the slightly subversive Monty Python was being aired on one of the other UK’s 2 TV channels:

"I was working in this catholic club last night, in Wigan, and I could tell it was a Catholic club because they called the Bingo numbers out in Latin so that the Protestants couldn’t win…".

In 1975, quite funny. In 2018, a crime. If you watch the whole thing, try counting the Irish jokes… You’ll soon run out of fingers.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What amuses me about all this is that Katie Hopkins is running free. She referred to “migrants” as “cockcroaches.” Later on she said it was a tribute to their resilience but honestly you’ve got one of two choices in a crisis: wait to die or try to survive. Basically, if you work for the right wing press you get a pass but woe betide mere mortals like me. I often skate close to the edge in my blog posts because I lean right socially and honestly sometimes I wonder if, one day, after writing about a case of “I identify as a cactus so call me Spiky from now on” I’ll have Plod knocking at my door for being un-politically correct.

What Meechan did was stupid and obnoxious but jail time? Save it for the banksters. Being a prat shouldn’t be a crime.

POYB says:

Re: Join Neo Nazis

Eh… Is your comment a joke? Dank isn’t a Nazi. His dog isn’t a Nazi. What people seem to be missing here is…the dog is mocking Nazis. This entire issue is ridiculous. The point was to make the dog as least cute as possible. Nazis aren’t cute. A dog saluting… pretty funny.
And…where are these neo Nazis you speak of? Do they have some meeting place outside of prisons in America?

Jigsy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Join Neo Nazis

I don’t recall saying he was a Nazi; nice strawman, though.

My general wondering is why it’s wrong to teach a dog a Nazi salute, but perfectly okay for people to join Neo-Nazi groups. (At least here in the UK.)

Even Holocaust Denial isn’t a crime here.

Would the same thing have happened if had he taught the dog to deny the holocaust?

It’s very idiosyncratic.

A Non-Moose Cow Herd says:

Acting like the Nazi's they so hate.

Man makes fun of Nazi’s, then has his life turned upside down by them. That’s what the real headline should be. His pug video was no different than anything Monty Python has done in the past. It’s so sad to see a law abused in this way. I hope those attacking him see the irony of their own actions some day, because what they’re doing now is no different than what the Nazi’s would do to you if you joked about them back then.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I can tell you right now looking back over the decades, women prefer to go after “bad boys” thinking they can “change them”. Instead, they wind up destroying their lives. My dad’s caregiver was a prime example: she moved from one loser boyfriend to another to another, and all were the obsessed stalker loser variety who would throw rocks through her window, sabotage her truck, and kill her pets. Her most frequent way of finding a new boyfriend was to pick up a loser begging in the local Walmart parking lot, thinking she’d turn their lives around. Instead, they were just a new ball and chain.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actively seeking them. She had a number of guys I knew who were interested in her, but they were all “good guys” and she wasn’t interested. It was really kinda sad. Most of her boyfriends wound up in jail before she would move on, then they’d get out later and the stalking would occur, along with dead pets and damage to her truck and house. She’s a pretty extreme case, but I have only ever known a few women who went for nice guys. I was a nice guy and had real trouble getting dates. The reason is easy to see – if you become a friend first, they don’t want to lose a friend if dating doesn’t work out, so you never get a date if you’re a friend. They rather hook up with a complete stranger than date a friend.

Mr. Cohn says:

@Tim Cushing

He hasn’t been sentenced yet, so it’s (presently) incorrect to say he is facing a year in jail.

Also, as a Jewish person, I have to say I found the humor funny and not offensive in the least. I interpreted it as comparing heinous Nazi ideology as something harmless and inoffensive as a pug. It’s mocking Nazis.

I long for the days when people stop being offended on the behalf of others of my faith and heritage. I’d be glad to debate Ephraim Borowski on the matter if given the opportunity, but until then I have to chide people to condemn ridiculous, over-the-top humor as hateful.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Lack of free speech in the UK.

Neil Gaiman has noted on multiple occasions the lack of free speech guarantees in the United Kingdom. He’s had to make trips to the United States to acquire and read a number of books The 120 Days of Sodom for instance.

This is something that Parliament has refused to relinquish: the people of Great Britain cannot be trusted to hold their tongues when appropriate. Brits cannot be trusted with dangerous knowledge (such as the process of making explosives). Nor can they be trusted to mind their propriety of letters. So if an official is offended by a new book, it can get banned. If a lord is offended by what you someone says in public, he can be arrested for it. And if a specific bit of literature is too racy / too enigmatic / too political for the Queen, it can be prohibited for publication or for reading.

So criminal charges for teaching a dog to Nazi-salute is actually something that Scots can anticipate.

As Gaiman has noted in the many times he’s had run-ins with UK speech control, it isn’t necessarily right. Authorities have a lot of say as to what is proper public discussion and what isn’t, and as a result many Brits are punished for exercising what would be freedoms in the US. But for now, it is the norm.

Heart and hand for Caesar

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Neil Gaiman

It might be worth noting that Neil Gaiman came from a family of prominent British Scientologists. Unlike the US, which has Constitutional guarantees of free speech as well as religion, the UK government has tended to take a very dim view of the Scientology cult. Growing up feeling as an oppressed minority could have profoundly affected his outlook on issues about freedoms in the UK.

It was Neil Gaiman’s nephew who was involved in a groundbreaking Supreme Court fight five years ago to get Scientology recognized as a religion in the UK.

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