The United Kingdom is once again taking down serious threats to its national security.
This time, the UK brought to justice a comedian who taught his girlfriend’s dog how to do a Roman salute.
On Tuesday, Scottish YouTuber Mark Meechan — better known as “Count Dankula” — was found guilty of the hate crime of being “Grossly Offensive” for teaching a pug how to imitate the fascist gesture.
The stunt was not meant to promote fascism or white supremacy in any way and was merely a joke done to irritate Count Dankula’s girlfriend. The court appeared unfazed by this argument, and found him guilty of a crime that could result in two months of jail-time.
Whether you find the joke offensive or not, it’s hard to argue how a sieg-heiling pug is a threat to anyone, especially when it was not meant as an endorsement of national socialism. This dog is not going to create a Woofen-SS division just because he can raise up his paw in return for a treat.
And Dankula is certainly not the first British citizen to play up the Nazis for laughs or apolitical shock.
Monty Python once had a skit where the crew dressed up as Nazis and threw up the salute for comedy. They were not arrested for such an act.
The original punk rock scene were fond of the shock value of Nazi symbols, even though most of the bands were very left-wing and did it to offend conservatives. The Sex Pistols are still cultural icons in spite of their Roman salutes.
The media’s favorite royal Prince Harry dressed up as a Nazi, complete with a swastika armband, at a 2005 costume party. That poor choice has not detracted from the glowing praise he usually receives from the press and he was never charged with a crime.
Interestingly enough, teaching your dog how to sieg heil angered actual Nazis. The Third Reich tried to punish a Finnish man who taught his dog how to Roman salute because government officials took grave offense at such an act.
Comedy is often going to be tasteless and offensive. That’s the nature of the art. Thankfully, free expression is protected in the United States and performers don’t have to worry about their shock tactics landing them in jail.
The same cannot be said for the UK.
Hate speech laws ensure Britons don’t have a right to free expression. If somebody finds your views or jokes “grossly offensive,” you can end up jail. If your politics aren’t politically correct, you can be barred entry from the country. If you criticize Islam or another sacred cow on social media, you can see police busting down your door.
This is the kind of country one has with hate speech laws. Political dissent is suppressed under the guise of “public safety” and promoting “tolerance.” But criminalizing speech accomplishes neither of those objectives. All it does is silence figures who deviate from the elite’s dogmas.
Even avowed progressive comic Ricky Gervais knew this was a problem when he expressed his contempt for Dankula’s conviction Tuesday. “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,” Gervais tweeted Tuesday.
The British comic demonstrated his point in rebutting a leftist who tried to his mock him for being “offended.”
Grossly. You’re going to jail.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 20, 2018
Criminalizing offensive jokes does nothing for public safety — it only undermines free speech and sends a message to dissidents to get in line.
The UK has many problems, such as thousands of jihadis living in its country and rising knife crime. Fascist-saluting pugs are not one of them.
The purpose of free speech laws is to protect unpopular and offensive views. There’s no need to safeguard the views of the powerful.
A society does not uphold free expression when it only allows “inoffensive” views to be expressed.
It’s hard to say you’re a beacon of freedom when you throw people in jail for jokes, but British leaders lack the self-awareness to realize that truth.