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.
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.