There’s a fair bit of noise at the moment about the Guy Who Made His Pug A Nazi. At first glance, this seems like a weird and worrying story, to be sure. The video over which he has now been convicted (it’s mostly been taken down but it consists of a pug dog demonstrating that it has been trained to react positively to pro-Nazi/anti-Semitic phrases. If you think that means the dog is evil, please fuck right off, now) is blatantly absurd and you would have to be pretty foolish to imagine it was made as any kind of proof that, well, dogs can be trained to support rightwing extremism.
So you might feel that prosecuting Count Dankula, as he calls himself, is an indication that freedom of speech is under more threat than ever before. On the other hand, you might think that rightwing assholes deserve all they get, and that certain jokes are not permitted under any circumstances. Given how febrile everything is, and has been for the last couple of years, that’s perhaps an understandable viewpoint.
But it’s actually weirder and more worrying than that. Not that many people seem to have heard of Markus Meechan (Dankula’s real name) prior to his conviction, and the majority of his supporters seem to be the usual left-baiting, Breitbart-loving, Spiked-reading shitpots. It was said in court that Meechan only had eight Youtube followers, who were all mates of his, at the time he posted the video. It is also suggested that there were no actual complaints prior to his being arrested.
His Twitter biog describes him as (among other things) ‘Anti-PC. Anti-SNP. Pro Free Speech. Edgi Boi.’ So he’s basically a liberal-baiting knobjockey who probably aspires to be the Scottish Milo Yiannopolous. What more wonderful thing could happen to him, in pursuit of such a goal, than getting convicted of making a tasteless joke, because political correctness has won and made prisoners of us all? It’s not hard to gain the impression that Meechan was absolutely gagging for it – the arrest, the attention, the martyrdom, and put considerable effort into making sure he offended someone with his joke. Because what’s the point of being an edgy comedian and champion of free speech if everyone just yawns and changes the subject?
Being an edgy comedian, even a crap one, is not a crime. Holding unpleasant, bigoted views is not in itself a crime. I think the Scottish legal system made a big mistake in actually pressing charges against this bellend, though. What they have done does set a frightening precedent – that a joke which is offensive can be a police matter even when it’s blatantly absurd, and that the perpetrator of a blatantly absurd joke can end up with a criminal conviction. Meechan and his mates and supporters probably think that his arrest shows that the ‘authoritarian Left’ has too much power, and he was prepared to gamble his liberty to prove his (and his supporters’) view that white men are the most oppressed minority in the world and that no one has a sense of humour any more.
If you think that, because Meechan appears to be an unpleasant man with unpleasant views, it’s no big deal that he might go to prison, consider the Government’s current keen interest in pressing for heavier penalties against anyone who criticises politicians.
Consider that we live in a country where a national newspaper is allowed to call high court judges and MPs traitors and enemies of the people, with impunity. We have a rightwing government which is becoming progressively more authoritarian. Using a stupid ‘shitposting edgeboi’ to justify increased censorship is right up their street. It’s not the rights of minorities/women/vulnerable people that they care about, it’s the increase of power. It’s not much different from the ongoing insistence that ‘internet porn’ is ruining young people’s sexuality and contributing towards male violence (as opposed to shit sex education and centuries of men being legally entitled to treat women as property) – which is used to justify restrictions on everyone’s internet use.
Someone’s got some sort of cunning plan going on here – and I don’t think it’s Meechan. Nor do I think it’s the dog.