Markus Meechan, known on YouTube as “Count Dankula,” was convicted on Tuesday in connection with a video he posted to his YouTube channel entitled “M8, yer dugs a Nazi.”
In the viral video posted on April 11, 2016, Meechan taught his girlfriend’s pug, Buddha, to respond to statements such as “Gas the Jews” and “Sieg Heil” by raising his paw in a humorous imitation of a Nazi salute. Meechan later issued an apology, stating, “I am so sorry to the Jewish community and for the offense I have caused them. It was never my intention and I apologise.”
He later said that he had only ever intended for the video to be seen outside of a group of his close friends, and never expected it to go viral.
Meechan was arrested by Police Scotland at his home in North Lanarkshire on April 28, 2016, and was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service for “grossly offensive” speech via a public communications network. Police Scotland has been increasingly proactive in policing hate crime, going so far as to encourage reporting “hate incidents,” events which are not crimes, but are “perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hate or prejudice.”
The prosecution alleged that Meechan’s video constituted incitement of “hatred on religious grounds” and was “antisemitic in nature.” During the trial, Meechan’s counsel, Ross Brown, argued that the context of the video made it clear that it was never intended to be taken seriously, and showed no evidence of any intent to incite religious hatred.
In his verdict on Tuesday, the judge, Derek O’Connell, found Meechan guilty. He concluded that Meechan’s video met the legal standard for “grossly offensive” speech, and was a violation of the U.K. Communications Act of 2003. Section 127 of the Communications Act prohibits “send[ing] by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character.”
The judge dismissed the defendant’s claims that the video was a joke, stating that “the description of the video as ‘humorous’ is no magic wand.” Meechan “knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. He would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people.”
“This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration, but the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility.”
Some outlets reported that Meechan’s video had been removed from YouTube, however, this is not accurate. As of the time of writing, the video is still available in the United States, though YouTube has put it in a “limited state,” meaning that comments, ratings, and related video recommendations are disabled, and the video does not appear in search results. The confusion may stem from the fact that the video cannot be viewed in any form in the United Kingdom.
“Honestly, I think he’s really torn up about [the verdict],” a personal friend of Meechan’s told The Daily Caller. “He has the press in this country essentially portraying him as a Nazi. He’s a former communist, he even has a hammer and sickle tattoo on his chest from when he was younger. … I honestly think that some far-left ideologues in Britain are just trying to make an example of him.”
Several famous comedians have come out in support of the YouTuber, including British Jewish comedian David Baddiel, who said, “I can see that the video may not be to everyone’s taste. Others may be able to see the comedic or satirical element to it. The court should seek to acquit Mr. Meechan for no other reason but to show it is 2018 and not 1984.”
Following Meechan’s conviction, comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted his support: “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.”
Meechan’s sentencing has been scheduled for April 23, and he could face up to a year in prison. Several of Meechan’s friends have organized a march in London to protest the verdict.