A couple weeks ago, we held an event at Glasgow University in which Markus Meechan (better known as Count Dankula) was invited to tell us about his experience after having been sued for posting a comedic video on YouTube. The focus of the event was on the limits of free speech and the importance of freedom of expression in comedy, and it consisted of a presentation from Markus followed by questions from the attendees and an open discussion about the topic. With over 50 students filling the room, the event was a terrific success. However, some “subversive” elements on campus did not enjoy it and decided to throw false accusations at the organisers, calling for the de-affiliation of our society.
Our guest speaker, once an unknown chap just like you and me, had the dubious privilege of becoming famous for being sued and facing charges of hate crime. The reason? He uploaded a video of his girlfriend’s dog doing the Nazi salute, preceded and followed by an explanation of it being intended as a joke. We can all agree that it’s a sensitive issue, but it was nowhere near an endorsement, rather the opposite. Markus abundantly explains that he condemns the Holocaust, that anti-semitism is not exactly a good thing and that Nazism was (surprise, surprise) kind of the opposite of what an ideal society should look like, qualifying it as “extremely gruesome and absolutely terrible”.
Another key fact is that he had 8 YouTube followers, all close friends, when he uploaded the video. Hardly an attempt at spreading hate among the public. It goes without saying that, as expected, all of us who listened to Markus or watched the video (entitled “M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi”) became violent, hateful, threatening radicals who would quote “Mein Kampf” about ten times per minute.
In short, although most reasonable people would notice the conspicuous absurdity of a video by “Count Dankula” featuring a nazi pug, the Scottish police thought it was worth their time and our money to arrest a perfectly peaceful citizen. And they put him on trial. A trial that is still ongoing, almost two years after he was arrested. Ironically, as Markus said, his trial is taking longer than the Nuremberg trials (the ones where they convicted, y’know, actual Nazis who committed real crimes).
The main outcome of this farcical process has been the amplification (the video reached at least 3 million views) of what they intended to suppress, following the well-known Streisand effect. Let’s take a moment to rejoice at this efficient allocation of public money.
The aftermath of the event
A very smoothly run Q&A followed, where the students asked about everything from his involvement with communist groups during his youth, to his opinion on how to make the alt-right disappear. To top it all off and after a full hour and a half of continuous laughing (I mean, the guy is a comedian after all!), we headed to a local pub to continue chatting with Markus and with each other in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Total success, everyone happy! Right…? Wrong! The surprise came a few days afterwards, when self-proclaimed “Glasgow Anarchists” released an anonymous statement (find it here) in which they accused our student society and myself personally of promoting hate speech, arguing that “racist, homophobic, and misogynist language was encouraged”. The problem is that, alongside the text, they provided an audio of the event (which they had kindly recorded) disproving their own claims. Halfway between funny and pitiful. In the audio, you can hear how slurs and offensive words are mentioned by Markus to say that they should lose meaning so that they stop being used to attack others.
Another delightful irony for you to enjoy: In their statement, they claimed to be “appalled” and to “actively oppose” our actions. Nonetheless, they attended the event and sat down quietly, without challenging or calling out whatever they disagreed with. Anonymously. Bravely. Fighting fascism (yeah, they tagged their statement as “Antifascism”). While I have no doubt that they deeply dislike Mussolini and the moustache guy, I was very surprised to learn that these people are wasting their time, effort and money (yes, they paid for facebook promotion of their statement) on falsely attacking fellow students. Honestly, not what I expected. However, let me say that I do appreciate that they didn’t violently disrupt the event, as has happened elsewhere. Next time, we hope they come to our event and chat to us in person, instead of being sneaky. Who knows, you might learn we are actually just nice people who care about liberty!
– Rafael Crespo Molina, Local Coordinator at Students For Liberty Ireland & UK
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