We definitely take our right to free speech for granted, and that’s a good thing. We have a right to say pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want short of inciting violence toward another, and that right is not granted to us by government. In the U.S., we recognize that right as given to us by God, or nature if that floats your boat.
In the United Kingdom, however, that right isn’t recognized, and this often comes with some sad consequences for those who step out of line. The most egregious example is the story of Mark Meechan, known by his popular YouTube persona as “Count Dankula.”
Meechan has spent time in and out of court, facing prison time because he played a prank on his girlfriend. The prank involved teaching his girlfriend’s pug — whom his girlfriend thought to be the cutest thing on the planet — to raise his paw in salute when he heard “Heil Hitler,” which is strikingly un-cute.
Naturally, Meechan is not a neo-Nazi, and has no love at all for the Nazi party. In fact, as he himself pointed out, doing such a thing back in the days of the Nazi reign in Germany would have gotten you imprisoned or even shot due to disrespect.
Regardless, a court in Scotland has found Meechan guilty of violating hate speech laws, and he now faces prison.
Recess called to await sentencing.
— Count Dankula🏴 (@CountDankulaTV) March 20, 2018
“We are considering the route of appeal, because there’s been a huge miscarriage of justice. I think it is a very, very dark day in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” Meechan said to reporters after his conviction.
“The thing that was most worrying is that one of the primary things in any action that is to be considered is things like context and intent, and today context and intent was completely disregarded, and for the system to actually disregard such things like that mean that your actions no longer matter — they decide what your context and intent is,” he continued.
“So, for any comedians in Britain, I’d be very, very worried about making jokes in future, because your context and intent behind them apparently don’t matter anymore,” he added.
Oddly, we defeated the Nazis in WWII to avoid this kind of tyrannical restriction on our freedoms, yet residents of the UK are getting that anyway. Just saying the wrong words in the wrong order can land you anywhere from paying fines to jail time. I wish this were hyperbole, but the UK is very serious about this kind of totalitarianism on speech.
They even advertise this fact on trains.
Can you spot the difference between an Orwellian Police State and the United Kingdom?
Neither can I. pic.twitter.com/z8O8TXXN6R
— 🇺🇸 Joseph Kane 🇺🇸 (@KANE2028) March 20, 2018
But these are the kind of odds one faces without guaranteed rights on your side.
You may find Meechan’s joke completely distasteful, or even insulting. However awful you find the joke, the most damaging effect it had was to maybe hurt someone’s feelings or rub their sensibilities the wrong way. If hurting feelings is a jail-worthy offense, then everyone on the planet should get ready to face prison time. Opinions, jokes, and even words we may think innocuous may see us behind bars because someone, somewhere, MAYBE is offended.
This is a backward way of viewing things if ever I’ve seen one, and I’m glad our founding fathers here in the U.S. realized that ages ago. Our society cannot be ruled by hurt feelings, and we cannot punish people just for doing something we find mildly distasteful. That is a kind of tyranny that may have no limit, as it’s subject to the whims of the self-centered and the weak minded.