News & Politics

Man Convicted of Hate Crime for Video of Dog Making Nazi Salute

A dog takes part in a rally on the waterfront in Portland, Ore., on August 18, 2017. (Photo by Alex Milan Tracy)(Sipa via AP Images)

Some of our closest allies, First World countries we think of as embracing liberty, are not as free as their membership in “the West” would have you believe.

In Scotland, a YouTube comedian has been convicted for making a dopey joke video. Mark Meechan, who makes videos online as “Count Dankula,” says his girlfriend was going on and on about how cute her little dog is. “And so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi,” Reason reported Meechan as saying. “I’m not a racist by the way, I just really wanted to piss her off.”

So, he began asking the dog if he wanted to gas the Jews.

The dog can be seen getting excited at the question. Of course, it’s a dog. They get excited if you come in from checking the mail, for crying out loud. It doesn’t mean anything. Nor does the portion of the video where the dog raises its paw when Meechan says: “Seig Heil.”

But during his testimony for the prosecution, Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said: “My immediate reaction is that there is a clear distinction to be made between an offhand remark and the amount of effort that is required to train a dog like that.”

Reason’s Robby Soave: “But the video presents little evidence that the dog underwent some sort of rigorous programming. (My dogs respond positively to pretty much everything any human being says, as long as it’s uttered in a friendly tone.)”

He’s right. There’s no evidence that the dog went through any kind of training. There’s a lot we don’t see, and a lot of dogs will respond positively to any friendly comment from a human they consider “theirs.”

But even if the dog was trained, so what?

Any nation that pretends to value free speech needs to understand that the point is not now, nor has it ever been, to protect popular speech. There’s no need to protect someone’s right to declare kittens and puppies as adorable.

No, freedom of speech is necessary to protect unpopular speech. It’s needed because unpopular speech isn’t always wrong speech. While few would disagree that racism is wrong, it’s not about that. We need to protect racist rhetoric or tasteless jokes because the government can not be trusted with the power to silence its opposition.

For example, criticizing Christianity and Judaism is now celebrated speech across much of Europe, but criticizing Islam gets you banned from entering Britain.

I watched the video, and didn’t find it particularly funny. But the only crime being carried out here is the oppression from the UK courts.