Comedians stand up for Count Dankula

As I noted three days ago, the Scot Markus Meechan, otherwise known as “Count Dankula”, was convincted of purveying hate speech through public media (YouTube). In what he says was a joke to tick off his girlfriend, Meechan taught her pug dog to raise its paw when Meechan said “Heil Hitler”, and to react when Meechan said, “Do you want to gas the Jews?” True, the joke was in awful taste, and offensive to many, but if Meechan did it, as he said, to anger his girlfriend, then it really was a joke, though not a great one.

But it wasn’t “hate speech”, despite what the judge said. Meechan will be sentenced in April, and I hope that he appeals. What he did wouldn’t be illegal in the U.S., but as the UK becomes increasingly snowflakey, anything that can be considered offensive by almost anyone can be deemed a hate crime.

One would expect the comedians to go to bat for Meechan, as their stock in trade is often to shock people with outré statements: think of Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce. And, sure enough, three comedians whom I admire have gone to bat for Meechan and his bad joke.

The first is Shappi Khorsandi, a British comedian of Iranian extraction, who happens to be an atheist and former President of the British Humanists (I much regretted that she wasn’t in attendance when I gave my Darwin Day speech for the Humanists in London last year). Here’s her defense, which mentions the second comedian, Jonathan Pie.

Pie, whose real name is Tom Walker, has a “comedy” schtick in which he’s a newsman, and then interrupts his report to go on a rant, usually political. The rants, while funny, are still meant seriously, and here he goes on one of his most vehement tirades—about the prosecution of Meechan. He clearly feels quite strongly about it!

In this video, made in February before Meechan was convicted, comedians Ricky Gervais and David Baddiel discuss the dog trick, both recognizing that it was a joke, and jokes aren’t hate speech.

62 Comments

  1. Posted March 23, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    One of the comedians damning Dankula (and ‘whitesplaining’ racism to Shappi Khorsandi) is Graham Linehan, one-time funny-man, now a one-man SETI Institute of virtue signalling.

    He seems to have forgotten that he put a very similar Nazi-salute gag in Father Ted

  2. Posted March 23, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    The “gas the jews” part went well beyond a joke, IMHO.

    • Posted March 23, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Would you have him jailed for that, then?

      • Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        Of course not. But I don’t excuse it as a joke either. Unfunny bad taste.

        The Heil Hitler part I could have laughed at.

        • Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          Why? Why is it Heil Hitler funny but reminding people what he did not funny?

          • Posted March 23, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            Well, if you have to ask…

            Teaching a dog to raise its paw when you say Heil Hitler could be making fun of Nazis, as in Hogan’s Heroes.

            Making fun of the suffering of six million people is offensive to millions, I expect, billions of people. Belittling the Holocaust is the standard operating procedure of antisemites.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted March 23, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

              If a boyfriend of mine did this to our dog, I’d be seriously pissed off, and I wouldn’t think it was a funny.

              However, it’s also not up to me to decide what’s a joke and what isn’t. I can see why lots of people think it’s funny, and I don’t think anyone should be going to prison because I think their joke is offensive.

              The principle of freedom of speech must take priority. We can’t be formally punishing people though the legal system for hurting our feelings! What kind of screwed up society is that? Very Orwellian.

              (I’d also be offended if a boyfriend thought a pug dog would be a pet I would want to share with him.)

              • Posted March 23, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                I am a free speech advocate too, Heather. But that doesn’t mean we cannot call out antisemitic garbage when we see it.

                And, yes, it is up to me to decide what I find funny and what I do not.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

                Calling out anti-Semitic garbage is good, and good on you for doing it. Sticking someone in prison for a bad joke is bad.

              • Posted March 23, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

                Note my IMHO.

      • Liz
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        If I can also respond here. It was not a joke to me. His tone was not a joke. An appropriate response would be education about the Holocaust. If he was in the United States the same. I’m not sure there wouldn’t be some way there to hold him responsible. I’ve recited that quote from the American President so many times, “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

        I never understood this truly until the other day when I watched this video. It was just despicable. I can respect free speech, but I can also be outraged. I think a good idea might be to have more education for everyone, including all of the neo-nazis coming out of the woodwork.

        • Davide Spinello
          Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          Many are outraged at many things. Education for everyone? I should probably be educated about respect for old and new religions that I typically find laughable, and also to respect postmodernist academics that are just trying to justify their existence by means of intellectual fraudulent disciplines like critical theory.

          I will surrender and be educated. I will report back once I am done.

          • Liz
            Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

            That would be good. It’s probably not a terrible idea to be educated about old and new religions and why people believe them but that wasn’t really what I was thinking. Education about things in factual history that were horrible like slavery and the Holocaust. I don’t really understand postmodernism so maybe I also need to be educated about that. Your sarcasm isn’t appreciated especially when discussing educating people about the Holocaust so that something like that isn’t repeated.

            • Davide Spinello
              Posted March 23, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

              As far as I know education about the Holocaust is part of school curricula, at least in parts of the world flagellated by white supremacy and patriarchy (i.e Europe and North America.) What I object to is education as a mandatory procedure for thought crimes. If this is not what you meant in your first post I apologize.

              • Liz
                Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

                I don’t believe mandatory education to punish people who are not protected by the first amendment is a good idea. Education in the public schools is a good idea, though. I am still finding it difficult to see how this man’s actions would be completely free from legal action in the United States. If he was okay in the United States, then I suppose there’s no law to educate and shouldn’t be. I do think a public school curriculum is a very good idea.

            • Adam L
              Posted March 23, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

              I like the sound of this government re-education.

              We should call the department responsible something nice and cuddly though so as not to scare people, maybe the Ministry of Love?

              • Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:45 am | Permalink

                +1

              • Liz
                Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

                What about an education in public schools at an earlier age? “The department responsible something nice and cuddly though so as not to scare people.” In 7th and 8th grade, my class read Night by Elie Wiesel, The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, and went on a field trip (not fun) to a Holocaust museum in New York City. This education was not nice and cuddly at all. In 7th grade we also had a speaker come in and talk to us. She was a Holocaust survivor and told us about how she was standing there, having been separated from her parents, next to a wheelbarrow full of babies. Her baby brother was in it. She watched as one Nazi was throwing the babies up, and the others were shooting them. Her brother was then thrown up into the air and shot. I remember seeing my male and female teachers cry. I wouldn’t call the public school system a Ministry of Love.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

              ‘Education’ or brainwashing?

              I realise my sarcasm won’t be appreciated either.

              But frankly your suggestion alarms me more than Count Dankula’s bad-taste joke, particularly since you can’t seem to recognise it for what it was.

              cr

              • Adam L
                Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:54 am | Permalink

                It would have to be voluntary, court ordered re-education obviously, no brainwashing. And the government at the time would just have to decide what the official line of re-education was. Obviously they’d teach that the Holocaust was bad; slavery was bad; and poor people are just lazy and don’t deserve support

                Most people wouldn’t pay a lot of attention to the teacher during these classes either so I suggest strapping them to a chair (a comfy one obviously), head restraints so they don’t doze off and those lovely comfortable eyelid holders to make sure they don’t miss any of the classes

            • Richard
              Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

              I remember seeing Tracey Emin on TV after a warehouse fire in 2004 had destroyed a number of pieces of “art”, including her ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995’ tent. She was rather upset that people had laughed about it, and said that they should all be “re-educated” to understand modern art.

              Perhaps we need a Ministry of Art Appreciation as well, which will have the responsibility of carting off the unappreciative and uncultured to the work camps where they will all be forcibly indoctrinated with correct artistic taste.

        • chris moffatt
          Posted March 23, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

          As always with those who don’t like free speech, those who offend them need to be “educated”. The question is ‘who is to do the educating’? Why is one particular viewpoint the only one to be sanctioned and all others are deviance that must be eradicated by re-education? Sounds like USSR in the thirties, China in the cultural revolution, VietNam in the late seventies.

          One either believes in and accepts free speech or one doesn’t. It is cases like this that show us who is who.

          The other great problem is that it is all subjective so no crime has been committed until someone claims to have been offended. This makes a mockery of the bases of the criminal law where the act itself is the crime and the motivation of the perpetrator is important.

          • Liz
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            “It’s cases like this that show us who is who.”

            And who am I?

            • Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:21 am | Permalink

              To me, your comments show you as a person with authoritarian leaning and a conviction that she is always right. I wouldn’t wish to have you as a superior.

        • Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:19 am | Permalink

          I do not think that it is the job of government to educate adults, no matter how hideous their views may be.

      • Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        It is like the French “comedian” Dieudonne doing the quenelle. I wouldn’t jail him but he should be called out for the antisemite that he is.

        • Trevor Adcock
          Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

          I wouldn’t jail you, but you should be called out for unnecessarily calling out other people. I think it just fair.

      • Posted March 23, 2018 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think that either joke was funny. But what has happened to the law of England and Wales?

        Formerly, one had to identify the actus reus, the unlawful act. Then one had to show intent, the mens res.

        So even if the act was unlawful, where was the mental disposition that would make the act a crime?

        I conclude that the decision of the judge was perverse.

        This was not justice; this was but a travesty of justice.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

          Yes, this is a misapplication of the particular law, BUT this criminal case has nothing to do with “the law of England & Wales” as you put it.

          Sheriff Derek O’Carroll found Mark Meechan guilty at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Scotland of a charge under the Communications Act** of posting a video that was “anti-Semitic and racist in nature.” Click through to read the Offensive Behaviour at Football & Threatening Communications [Scotland] Act 2012

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      I agree, dw, Just because it should be protected as free speech doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel free to express our disgust for it.

  3. Posted March 23, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The law used here dates from well before social media and was never intended for this sort of case. It was intended for one-on-one communications such as telephoning someone and saying something insulting directly to them. And because that’s all they had in mind they wrote the law quite broadly.

    A few years ago, after a spate of prosecutions that many considered to be inappropriate, the Director of Public Prosecutions put out guidelines for when they would prosecute, which are much more narrowly drawn than the actual law. And that largely put a stop to this sort of prosecution.

    It may be, however, that the fact that this was in Scotland is relevant (Scotland has a different legal system from England and Wales), and it may be that the DPP guidelines don’t apply in Scotland.

    • aljones909
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      I expect that Scottish Law mirrors the UK Law (it mostly does). The court of last resort is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        The Supreme Court has no say over Scottish criminal cases – it’s the final court of appeal for civil cases everywhere in the UK & for criminal cases from England, Wales & Northern Ireland only.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        As Jonathan Pie says (or implies) in the video, in England Dankula could have opted for a jury trial.

        But even with a judge-only, I’d guess it’s a matter of luck whether the particular judge would see the ‘offence’ as nothing more than a bad-taste joke or, as this one did, a crime. I wonder if the prosecution went ‘venue-shopping’ and found a particularly narrow-minded judge on purpose.

        cr

  4. glen1davidson
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    When even the fool isn’t allowed to say foolish things, matters are out of hand.

    Glen Davidson

  5. Posted March 23, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    ‘Beyond a joke’ would mean it was meant seriously. It wasn’t. It might not have been funny but it wasn’t ‘beyond’ anything.

  6. Jamie
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    On of these guys discussing the matter points out that what’s funny is that the dog doesn’t give the salute any significance. I sometimes struggle with humor. I’m not always the first to get a joke and even when I see that something is funny, I can seldom tell you why it is so. So this came as a bit of revelation to me. And it set off another whole chain of thought about how the dog trusts his owner, follows the reward, is amenable and couldn’t possibly have any objection to what is being asked of it. And about how our fearless leaders constantly treat us just that way, expecting us to trust them and follow the immediate reward without too much critical thought. Am I wrong that this adds another whole layer to the humor? That is some ways, we are the dog?

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      I took the joke more narrowly as saying that Nazis are like dogs, mindlessly saluting things, in this case, something morally reprehensible; if my my interpretation is correct, Count Dankula’s prosecution is not just indefensible, it is utterly bizarre.

      • BJ
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        I took the joke even more narrowly: the guy just thought it was funny to make a dog do harmless (in the context of a dog doing it) Nazi stuff. Things that might be horrifying when a human does them can be funny when unaware animals do them.

        I would also find a parrot saying “Heil, Hitler” amusing.

  7. Bob Murray
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    A story from 2011 by the BBC. An apposite read!
    https://goo.gl/5cRc3

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      ‘But in March 1941, the Chancellory decided that “considering that the circumstances could not be solved completely, it is not necessary to press charges”. ‘

      This was the Nazi Chancellory taking a more broadminded view than the Scottish Magistrates Court. The irony is overwhelming.

      cr

  8. Davide Spinello
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    This must be a mistake since I have learned through various interactions in previous posts and elsewhere that freedom of speech is just a Trojan horse used by right wingers to attack college students that are just being students, and that one day will grow up without spreading the cancer into the society at large.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Comics are (if they’re any good) in the cultural vanguard — the canaries in society’s coalmine. Nobody paid a higher price for this than Lenny Bruce.

    Glad to hear Jeremy Pie mention the late, great Bill Hicks in his routine. As I’ve mentioned here before, Hicks (albeit less manic) was the American comic Pie most reminds me of.

    • Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Jonathan Pie.

      For most British people, the bit that strikes a chord would be Pie doing the exaggerated Nazi goose-step. It comes straight from one of the most revered pieces of sit com in British TV history, namely the Germans episode of Fawlty Towers.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the clarification. We didn’t get to see Fawlty Towers on this side of the pond until a few years after it first aired, but I loved it when I finally saw it.

  10. Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe what I’m reading in these comments! Allowing this to occur is tantamount to suicide. Reconstitution of the 12th Mechanized Canine Infantry is literally inviting a third world war. The 12th was the leading edge of every major offensive in the European Theater during WW II. The IJA used them to secure Manila during a lend-lease period. The 305th Pug Regiment was exceptionally brutal decimating entire formations before they were even aware of attack.

    Laugh at your own peril.

    • Davide Spinello
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      I am confident you will save us all.

    • BJ
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      That’s an excellent joke. If you live in the UK (or Canada, or Germany, or many other European countries), I hope you don’t get prosecuted for hate speech against dogs.

    • Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      I read a story once (it’s probably apocrvaphyl, unfortunately) that the Russians trained dogs to expect to find food under tanks. The idea was that they would strap an anti tank mine to the back of the dog, and release it onto the battlefield. The dog would head for the underneath of a German tank and the mine would then detonate.

      Unfortunately, they used Russian tanks in training and it turned out that dogs know the difference between Russian and German tanks.

      • Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        Now that is humanity expressed in two short paragraphs.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        That last sentence cracked me up!

        cr

      • Richard
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        I have heard this one before. It appears to be true:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tank_dog

        “Another serious training mistake was revealed later; the Soviets used their own diesel-engine tanks to train the dogs rather than German tanks which had gasoline engines. As the dogs relied on their acute sense of smell, the dogs sought out familiar Soviet tanks instead of strange-smelling German tanks.”

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    At least Dankula’s dog has a built-in “Good Pug” defense — he vas only following orders. 🙂

  12. Posted March 23, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Funny. The whole thing is funny. And sad. It’s a joke.

    I think even Jacob Bronowski would not be offended. It should be offensive to Nazis. Following orders either blindly or out of fear for not being rewarded with means of survival.

  13. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m pleased (but not surprised) that Ricky Gervais defended the guy, since Ricky himself is a frequent perpetrator of edgy humour.

    I linked this before but I’ll repeat it as it’s right On Topic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb5zUG9UzFE

    cr

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    And I just watched the Jonathan Pie video. What a magnificent rant! I had to watch it twice.

    I can’t but wonder if screaming “It’s a joke, yer fuckin’ cunts” at the Sheriff’s Court will get Pie arrested and charged with something?

    (PCC, you linked to it, I’d beware of visiting Scotland lest some twat has the idea of arresting you for breaches of the Electronic Communications Act. This could be like McCarthyism…)

    cr
    … permanently guilty of thoughtcrime

  15. Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    A video of his girlfriend’s reaction would be funnier than repeating “gas the Jews” ad nauseum. But that’s just my opinion.

  16. Martin Stubbs
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Shappi Khorsandi is the current, not former, President of Humanists UK which changed its name last year from the British Humanist Association.

  17. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Let’s not forget Jan Böhmermanneither and the whole Erdogan scandal.


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