Scottish YouTuber Markus Meechan, known as Count Dankula, has raised £100,000 in one day to fund his appeal against his conviction for posting a video of his girlfriend’s dog performing Nazi salutes.
Mr. Meechan told Glasgow Sheriff Court in March that the “clearly comedic” video was produced as a joke based on “the juxtaposition of having an adorable animal reacting to something vulgar” which was intended to annoy his girlfriend.
But the judge found Meechan guilty of a “grossly offensive” communication under section 127 of the Offensive Communications Act 2003 and was he sentenced to a fine of £800 on Monday.
“The only way for the court to secure a conviction was to willingly ignore the clear context of the video, which was explained twice, in the video itself,” Mr. Meechan wrote on his GoFundMe page launched Tuesday.
“This conviction will be used as an example to convict other people over the things they say and the jokes they make, it sets a standard where courts will be able to willfully ignore the context and intent of a persons [sic] words and actions in order to punish them and brand them as criminals.”
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.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 20, 2018
Meechan is crowdfunding £100,000 – a figure recommended by his lawyers – “to bring in top legal representatives to ensure that we have the highest chance of reversing the standard that this case sets.
“I cannot allow the 2 years of litigation I went through… to happen to anyone else.”
The Youtuber’s girlfriend had said her boyfriend had “never expressed anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic” views and has “always been very supportive towards minority groups”.
OK, one more point. Why is it funny, and not prison-causing, for Borat to think Jews shape-shift into cockroaches? It's not cos Sacha is jewish. It's cos the joke is not on Jews, but anti-Semitism, made to look idiotic and absurd. As when a pug does a Nazi salute.
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) March 22, 2018
“It’s been two years of my life completely put on hold, I’ve not been able to get a job, there have been threats against my life… threats off Antifa, far left radicals,” Mr. Meechan said during the trial.
“They’ve tried to portray me as a racist and a Nazi, apparently context doesn’t matter anymore.”
Count Dankula’s joke was defended by comedians David Baddiel, who is Jewish, and Ricky Gervais on a Sirius radio broadcast when the case first went to trial. Both comedians reacted with incredulity when Meechan was convicted with Gervais questioning what the conviction means for Free Speech.
On leaving court after sentencing, Mr. Meechan was confronted by a Sky News journalist who said: “You said ‘gas the Jews’ 23 times [as the dog’s trigger to perform the trick]. What’s so funny about that?”
Reiterating that the context of the joke was an adorable animal reacting to something vulgar, the Youtuber rejected that he had committed a crime.
Pointing out that the Sky News journalist had said the same phrase, he asked: “Why should I consider your context when you’re not considering mine?”
“You broke the law. Do you regret breaking the law?” the journalist asked after a brief, dumbfounded pause.
Meechan replied before walking away: “You just broke the law two seconds ago when you said the phrase. Remember – context matters, mate.”
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