Not, actually, a pug. Amazingly.

This is, we think, one of those things which all right thinking people should support. The definition here of right thinking not actually being only those who agree that pugs may indeed give the Nazi salute. Nor even those who think that free speech requires that people should be able to say offensive things. Right thinking here means those who agree that pugs may prejudice freely and also those who don’t. Those who insist that free speech means saying anything you damn well want subject only to libel and the incitement of immediate violence and those who, with equal vehemence, insist that anything which upsets people may not, should not, be said.

That is, we’re facing a little quirk of that ass, the law.

Which is why we’ve Perry supporting giving money to lawyers, not an oft seen occurrence. We’ve The Independent agreeing that this is an outrage.

The terrifying thing about this conviction is that the judge sided with the prosecution who said “context and intent are irrelevant” in a joke? In a bloody joke? Context is everything in a flipping joke!

It’s happened. Like Iran, like Burma, like other countries where freedom of speech isn’t really their thing, the Scottish courts have convicted someone for telling a joke. This sets a frightening precedence for all of us. Anyone who takes offence at something which is meant in jest could eventually have a case to take to court.

You can’t pick and choose when you want free speech. You can’t protest against the imprisonment of a comedian in Burma but turn a blind eye when it’s a comic on your own turf who you find unpalatable.

The only bone I’d pug with that is that the restrictions should not be loosened only for jokes. Even if people mean the vileness they still get to say it. The money has been raised, which is good.

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.

And the important point, the quirk:

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 words and actions in order to punish them and brand them as criminals.

This is the amount that has been quoted by my lawyer, the reason it has been quoted so high is my lawyer wishes 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 and having my life put on hold, to happen to anyone else.

Our legal system – and yes, for foreigners, the Scottish one is distinct from the English, runs on slightly different principles – runs on precedent. Most of the time that’s the joy of it. We’ve faced the same basic underlying issues before, we can read those runes as to how they should be applied to this new case. As opposed to the politicians and bureaucrats trying to write a law for every damn variation of human behaviour that can possibly happen. As does in fact happen in barbarous places like France.

But that means that a bad precedent, which isn’t appealed up to a level of the courts which contains a judge with a brain cell, then informs all subsequent cases. Sure, there are rules about which levels of courts produce binding precedents which must be used, which are merely informative and all that. But what is generally the very strength of the common Law is also its weakness when there’s damn stupidity in judgements.

Which is why all should be backing this appeal. Sure, people like me who want to see it overturned should – again, not that we have to because the target is reached already. But those who want to see it stand, even be made stronger, also should. Because Glasgow Sheriff’s Court is, at best, informative only. It’s not binding. Higher appeal courts will be binding upon other courts – dependent upon how far this goes. That is, we’re right here, right now, in the process of changing the law for all in the future.

Which is why it needs to be supported.

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  1. Here we have the bright line problem again. How was this bloke supposed to know whether he had broken this stupid law or not? Surely the measure cannot be someone else’s offence? Or even the implication of offence on behald of a third party who may not have seen the offensive material? It’s a bad law and it cannot be defended by anyone with an interest in liberty.

    No bright line, no benefit of the doubt, no good.

  2. A quibble: The lack of a bright line is not the problem. If there were a law that exactly specified that you couldn’t train a dog to give the Nazi salute and publish a hilarious video of it on YouTube, and everyone knew it, it would still be a bad law.

    The problem is that someone’s claim to be offended (worse, as you say: claimed that some third party might be offended) is a basis for constraining someone else’s behavior. That rewards excuse-making and creates enforced orthodoxy, as on our fascist campuses (including “anti-fascism” fascism) under which progress is impossible.

  3. Even more than the fact that this case says that what you say is offensive even if the audience to which you said it has not found it offensive (there were no complaints about the video prior to the case) the biggest problem to me is that the imbecile sitting in the Sheriff’s Court decided that context is irrelevant.

    The video is quite explicit in that the reason for teaching the pug to raise its paw is because the girlfriend thought that the pug was the absolute cutest thing in the world. So teaching something cute to do something awful and hateful is the context; and to do this you must agree that Nazism and its atrocities are something awful and hateful. A point which appears to have been missed by both the Sheriff and the vast majority of the media.

    • Quite! The absurd behavior taught to a dog is independent of what one thinks of Nazis or what one thinks of Jews. By what right does a judge believe he knows better what someone else’s utterance/joke really “means”?

  4. There’s another aspect to this particular case. Like the overuse of terms like fascist & Nazi, & combined with a certain part of the left’s embracing of anti-semitism, it’s another step in the process of rehabilitating what went on in Germany in the first part of the C20th.
    We’re now three or four generations away from the people actually witnessed those events. Lived through & understood the times. Like a lot of things in history, it’s going mythic. And myths are incredibly malleable. Look at the Industrial Revolution. How many people now see it for what it was? A period of widespread improvement of general living standards & prosperity. And have swallowed the whole dark satanic mills version. The Soviet Union was largely mythic, even before it collapsed. In Europe of massive immigration & rapid cultural change it wouldn’t take much for myth to turn perspectives 180 degrees. And make the Nazis hero figures of European resistance. So Europeans do it all over again.

  5. Just so there’s no misunderstanding. It’s not the guy teaching the pug to salute Hitler’s speeches. That’s a healthy gag. Wouldn’t be a gag without the tacit acceptance of Hitler as the villain figure. That’s how humour works. It’s the overkill reaction by authority. Push too far & people push back.Start questioning the values being forced on them. Turn an itinerant forest bandit into an heroic Robin Hood.

  6. If context doesn’t matter and offending groups is a key criteria then I look forward to the arrest and trail of this involved in BBCs Enoch Powell speech programme, in fact all history documentaries that show Nazis and hitler speeches, history teachers and publishers text books and so on…..

  7. Increasingly decisions to prosecute are taken on the basis that an offence is committed if the victim believes they We’re wronged for their identity. Charges for so-called hate crimes and sexual assault cases can be brought if the victim feels that the perpetrator’s motivation was fuelled by hate or to degrade them sexually. This makes the law hinge on the victim’s perception of the perpetrator’s motivation. For example, sexual harassment in the workplace: what may offend one worker and be deemed inappropriate behaviour may not be seen the same way by another employee. This gives the victim all the power, which is fine as long as the victim is a well-balanced individual. If the victim is an activist or an overly sensitive soul, almost anyone could fall foul of this legal interpretation. It’s for this reason that I think the principal of the victim deciding the motivation of a crime against them must stop – unless they are mind readers. We must not have a hierarchical justice system. All should be equal before the law. The more law is infected by identity politics, the more justice will be damaged.

    • Yes indeed; but filers of lawsuits self-select for activists and opportunists. The normal among us just turn the channel, soldier on, deliver a firm No!, or consider alternate employment, as the case may be. Given our body of whim-based law, from “hate speech” to “threatening workplaces,” we would be better off with nothing than with what we have now.