Swanson: What Count Dankula Does to Free Speech

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By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

To some of us that headline makes perfect sense  —  to the rest of the world, it might be a tad confusing. Count Dankula is the alias for Scottish YouTuber Mark Meechans, and he was just convicted of committing a hate crime. The guilty verdict on this case has many across the world and online upset. That’s because Mr. Meechans’ case is not just about race, but free speech as well.

The context of the dual nature of the case comes down to the concept of context itself. The case revolved around a video that Meechans uploaded last year of him training his girlfriend’s dog to act as a Nazi by teaching it to do Sieg Heils on command along with similar activities. The Scottish justice system took action and charged Meechans with “Inciting Racial Hatred,” a hate crime punishable with time in prison.

Some may argue that’s enough to be hate speech, and some will say more needs to be done. However, to fully understand this case we must understand the context of the video. In the introduction of the video, Meechans explains that he’s been put in charge of watching his girlfriend’s dog, and as a prank he wants to turn the dog into the most not-cute thing he can think of: a Nazi. So it’s not so much the glorification and the spreading of Nazism, but rather a parody and mockery of it. Does that still make it hate speech?

This is the most contentious part of the case. The video is mocking Nazism, and the ideals that it represents and atrocities that it caused in the past. So how could the sheriff, prosecutors and judge agree that this is the spreading of Nazi propaganda and incites racial hatred? The nature of this case makes the final verdict rather confusing. Does the context of hate speech not matter in trials like this? It seems like it would be common sense to anyone that you can only judge somebody’s words by the context that they were said in.

It’s because of this context that this case would have very likely been different if this was tried in America. It most likely would not have seen a courtroom at all, let alone the sheriff’s office. That’s because the U.S. government is one of the few that explicitly protects the freedom of speech in its constitution. Scotland has no such protection, which makes this case possible. However, it has been a moderately accepted fact that free speech is a staple of a modern liberal society. Nations that go out to restrict free speech like North Korea are seen as totalitarian and tyrannical. That’s why this case is still important. Scots are granted the freedom of speech, even if it’s not in their constitution.

This case should come to disturb anyone who thinks it’s a little far to incarcerate a man for making a joke Nazi video with his girlfriend’s dog. While it’s not likely that this will affect the view of free speech in America, this should cause concern for anyone who believes that citizens of a modern democratic and liberal society deserve free speech. The results of this case can spread and influence future cases like this in other liberal nations that don’t explicitly protect free speech. I think people who don’t like Nazis will come to benefit from not punishing people who make fun of them.