A man who filmed his pug doing a Nazi salute before posting the footage on YouTube has been fined £800. The case sparked a massive debate on free speech, with high-profile figures such as Ricky Gervais also weighing in.
Mark Meechan – also known as Count Dankula – posted a clip of his girlfriend’s pug, named Buddha, responding to phrases such as “gas the Jews” and “Sieg Heil.” He was found guilty at Airdrie Sheriff Court last month of committing a hate crime.
Meechan denied any wrongdoing and said he made the video – which got more than three million views when posted on the video streaming platform – to annoy his girlfriend. But under the Communications Act, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll found Meechan guilty of posting grossly offensive material as it was “anti-Semitic and racist in nature.”
The case stirred a massive debate on the right to freedom of speech in the UK. High-profile figures, including comedian Ricky Gervais, took to Meechan’s defense, saying:
“A man has been convicted in a UK court of making a joke that was deemed ‘grossly offensive.’
“If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find ‘grossly offensive,’ then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.”
Comedian Jonathan Pie watered down claims of Count Dankula’s video being “grossly offensive,” arguing it was “just a joke.”
In a video on his YouTube channel, Pie, a one-time RT employee who rose to fame for his satirical reporting, highlighted the fact that many viewers found the video funny as they left comments such as “LOL,” before adding that “offence and humour are subjective.”