A man who taught a pug to do a Nazi salute in response to phrases like “gas the Jews” and “Sieg Heil” has been found guilty of being “grossly offensive” by Scottish courts and is currently awaiting sentencing.
Mark Meechan, 30, uploaded the video of Buddha the pug to his “Count Dankula” YouTube channel in April 2016. The video has reached more than three million views. After viewers complained about the hateful content of the video, police arrested Meechan for hate speech. On Tuesday, the Airdrie Sheriff court found Meechan guilty of being “grossly offensive,” under the UK’s Communications Act of 2003.
Meechan claims he did it to piss off his girlfriend, Suzanne Kelly, who owns the dog. She told the Daily Record that the video was “designed to annoy me so he didn’t tell me until it was done. He didn’t expect it to go viral.”
If it’s punished as a hate crime, under the Communications Act, he could be sentenced with up to six months in prison and be required to pay a fine.
Sheriff Derek O’Carroll (the judge), who presided over the ruling in the Scottish Sheriff Appeals Court, calls bullshit. “In my view it is a reasonable conclusion that the video is grossly offensive,” “O’Carroll said, according to the Daily Record. “The description of the video as humorous is no magic wand. This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration. But the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility.” Meechan knew it was offensive and why, and intended to use anti-Semitic sentiments to drive attention to the rest of his channel, the sheriff said.
Meechan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
YouTube’s rife with hate speech videos and neo-Nazi propaganda, much of it more vicious than a pug raising its paw. YouTube claims that it’s working to remove hateful content from its platform, but this case could put real-world consequences behind posting hateful shit online—even if it’s just a “joke.”
This trial attracted the attention and support of the far-right, including coverage on Infowars and by commentators defending Meechan’s “free speech.” Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson (whose real name is Stephen Christopher Lennon), attended court on Tuesday to support Meechan.
As we learned when Harvard rescinded 10 students’ admissions, a meme is never just a meme.