Freedom of Speech and Expression

Written By: - Date published: 10:14 am, April 24th, 2018 - 47 comments
Categories: humour, you couldn't make this shit up, youtube - Tags: ,

Mark Meechan is a 30 year old Scots guy, and he just got in some deep shit for taking the piss.

In his own words that set context for a video he made –

Ma girlfriend is always rantin’ and ravin’ about how cute and adorable her wee dog is, and so I thought I’d turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is –  a nazi.

So Mark trained “Buddha” (his girlfriend’s pug)  to respond to the phrase “gas the Jews” (fairly obviously fcking Nazi I’d have thought) and to lift its paw in a Nazi salute when he said “sieg heil.

And he slammed it up as a youtube video.

Yesterday, a Sheriff slapped him with a £800 (NZ$1 560) fine for being “grossly offensive” (that being the verdict previously thrown at him under the “Communications Act”). In relation to freedom of speech Sheriff  O’Carroll reckons that –   “in all modern democratic countries the law necessarily places some limits on that right”.

Meechan intends to appeal the sentence. As he says, it was a joke that revolved around the “juxtaposition of having an adorable animal react to something vulgar”. In other words, he was communicating humour (or at least attempting to).

Regardless of your sense of humour/ sense of outrage, the more important point might be, as Mark says, that-

A really dangerous precedent has been set for people to say things, their context to be completely ignored and then they can be convicted for it. You don’t get to decide the context of what you said, other people don’t get to, the court gets to – that’s dangerous.

So this guy sets out to rile his girlfriend by portraying her cute little pug as an arse. He wasn’t suggesting that Jews actually be gassed and he wasn’t promoting Nazism. Neither was he a public figure who, arguably, ought to be careful about what they say and/or how they say what they say, because their voices are amplified, and they themselves are held aloft as influential individuals.

The “best” bit is that the guys who do promote and believe in a lot of fascist shite got a free ticket to ride some publicity off the back of this institutional stupidity.

Youtube have disabled a pile of features around the video, and have the following text below the video that requires a two step process to play – In response to user reports, we have disabled some features, such as comments, sharing, and suggested videos, because this video contains content that may be inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.

And I can maybe understand that, given their algorithms would likely link to some pretty vile stuff. But then, that’s not Mark Meechan’s problem to sort out, is it?

Anyway, the video “M8 Yer Dugs a Nazi’ may or may not be behind the link depending on exactly what it is that youtube have disabled.  (I think it will be – watch it if you want, and don’t if you don’t)

 

47 comments on “Freedom of Speech and Expression”

  1. savenz 1

    You have to wonder about Facebook sense of morality, a mother breastfeeding is apparently offensive but a dog responding to ‘gas the jews’ is ok with a warning?

  2. tracey 2

    As an aside you also have to wonder that a private joke with his girlfriend needed to be uploaded to youtube. I guess he got the attention he sought?

    • Bill 2.1

      I don’t think it’s at all unusual for people to “broadcast” their piss-takes in one way or another – to execute them in the social realm. Maybe not via youtube or whatever, but then, this was a process as opposed to a “moment”.

      • tracey 2.1.1

        “As an aside”…

        Yes people do upload things to youtube presumably because they want alot of people to see them. I can send a video to a select group through Messenger if I want to.

        My point is there are consequences from seeking the widest possible audience, which is what youtube is.

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          Do you think a NZ$ 1 500 fine is an appropriate consequence in this instance, or that he should have been found guilty of being “grossly offensive” under a “Communications Act”?

          The guy has a (not recommended) youtube channel btw. So I guess dropping up videos is just “what he does” as opposed to having to make much of discrete decision to post a vid for this particular thing.

          I’m also unsure about what numbers has got to do with it.

          What if he’d made the same vid, but left it sitting on his phone and shown it to “mates down the pub” (or whatever). What then?

          Or if he’d not video’d anything but “displayed” Buddha’s subverted responses “just for laughs” to all and sundry who happened to be around at given times?

          I guess he sees himself as a wit, and wits have always sought out audiences, no? (And yes, I reckon you can safely add a couple of ‘t’s to that sentence.)

          But should he, given the context, have been found guilty and fined for being “grossly offensive”? Or should the context be ignored, or supplanted with another? And if so, then who can claim to do that legitimately? That’s not to say there aren’t multiple lenses that can be applied to the carryings on in the vid.

          And “a million and one” other questions.

          • tracey 2.1.1.1.1

            If he had put it on his phone and shown it to mates down the pub I imagine this post wouldn’t exist.

            As I said “as an aside”

            There are more than a few questions. Yes wits seeks audience and ought to expect that some will not like what they have to show.

  3. Gabby 3

    Think of it as a Dickhead Tax.

  4. Lara 4

    I understand the concept of free speech. It’s vital to a functioning democracy.

    AFAIK it’s the freedom to speak truth to power. Most especially (but not confined to) the freedom to openly disagree with our government. To protest, to have published our dissent.

    Because all dictatorships have a common feature of not allowing freedom of speech.

    And so I am rather tired of dumb arse white dudes claiming freedom of speech when they want to vent their racism or misogyny, and calling it “just a joke”.

    Sure, you may have the right to be an arse in public. But that’s not the same as speaking truth to power.

    And not all speech is protected. I can’t threaten someone with violence or death, my speech there is illegal.

    Hate speech is a thing. And calling it “just a joke” still leaves it as hateful.

    • Bill 4.1

      Where exactly was the hate speech?

      Not all humour is tasteful or even good. And responses definitely aren’t universal or predictable – ranging from laughter to disgust to outrage or anger (and then some).

      But who gets to decide on the above? And who should get to impose consequences from that decision on others?

      • Molly 4.1.1

        Youtube have an option to post the video to a selected group, this video was made public. Which really means that – in whatever form – you are a de-facto publisher.

        The merit of the joke is debatable. His choice to post without limits to girlfriends and family, makes it worth discussion.

        These kind of “jokes” are used to belittle a wide range of demographics – and if you are on the receiving end, then it seems never ending, it is not without harm.

        IIRC, hate speech is defined as inciting genocide – killing a group of people based on their race, sex, religion, self-identification etc – ie. saying death to all women, or – in this case – “Gas the Jews”. If he was recorded saying this without waving the paw of a pug, then the horrific nature of his speech is without question. Pug in play, well it becomes a “joke”.

        Would a discharge without conviction have led to a proliferation of videos with requisite fluffy animal to take the possibility of prosecution out? Has this conviction contributed to an understanding that with the ability to post publicly, comes responsibility?

        I guess time will tell, this is a ongoing discussion regarding the changing nature of technology, and the responsible use of it.

      • Lara 4.1.2

        It’s subjective isn’t it.

        As a woman who has a lifetime of harassment and abuse, I simply do not find funny sexist jokes that seek to keep me in my place.

        Making a dog raise it’s paw to “gas the Jews” may be funny for plenty of people, but I’m pretty sure that put in the context of the Holocaust it’s not gonna be funny for plenty of Jewish people.

        I still stand by my original comment. I am rather tired of dumb arse white dudes claiming freedom of speech when they want to vent their racism or misogyny, and calling it “just a joke”

        I made zero comment on “who gets to decide”.. on the above? which above Bill? be specific

        or “who should get to impose consequences for that decision”

        I simply said I’m tired of it, and when dudes do this racist misogynistic shit and then whine “free speech” it’s BS

        • Bill 4.1.2.1

          It’s subjective isn’t it.

          If hate speech is subjective (is that what your saying?) then the question becomes who gets to decide what is and isn’t hate speech, and who gets to determine consequences?

          The object of my original questions is the paragraph preceding the questions.

          And they circle down to the same point, which is to question any assumed authority that would punish others on subjective grounds.

          Is it right that a sheriff of the court makes that call and delivers consequences for example?

          But maybe I misunderstood your original comment, and you were merely commenting that you are tired of confronting stuff you perceive as being (in this case) racist.

          • Lara 4.1.2.1.1

            “But maybe I misunderstood your original comment, and you were merely commenting that you are tired of confronting stuff you perceive as being (in this case) racist.”

            Correct.

            That’s all I was saying really.

            With the added thing that when I see this rubbish it’s inevitably followed by a whine of “but free speech” from people who don’t have to live with the real effects of racism or sexism, but want to say racist and sexist shit (and usually they call it a joke)

            apparently the rest of us just lack a sense of humour SMH

            that’s the only point really that I was making. and it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to me then outlining how / who gets to censor such speech or decide what is hate speech

            • tracey 4.1.2.1.1.1

              Agree 100% Lara

              Your opinion is valid and does not have to be restricted by being shoe-horned into what anyone else thinks “the point” is.

      • Lara 4.1.3

        IMO “gas the Jews” is pretty hateful… even if it gets a cute dog to give a salute

        and when it comes from a young white non Jewish male, it’s not exactly punching up, is it?

        • tracey 4.1.3.1

          Agree. In some ways this guy has well publicised the extent of his ignorance, so it saves some people who can now identify him (presumably he is identifiable in the video?). I would rather, in so many ways that people were open in their “isms” than what we so clearly have in many parts of NZ now which is people who have learned to say the “right” things but scratch the surface and many are still bigotted, racist, sexist etc etc.

          To the privileged equality can feel like oppression. It seems consequences can too.

  5. Ross 5

    Some people, including judges, dont seem to understand that the ability to give offence is a cornerstone of free speech.

    On the eve of Anzac Day I am reminded of Valerie Morse’s action of burning the flag during a dawn service. I am sure that offended many.

    http://i.stuff.co.nz/national/4971083/Court-throws-out-flag-burning-charge

  6. McFlock 6

    Youtube’s response is up to youtube, just as moderation here is up to moderators.

    As for crimes involving communications, has he been done under something equivalent to our Broadcasting Standards act, or is it a more toothy version of the HDCA we have here?

  7. tsmithfield 7

    There are lots of comedians who should be arrested if this is the new criteria for hate speech. Madness.

  8. OctusSpherus 8

    Is it relevant at all that this “grossly offensive” YouTube video received few if any complaints to police? Even from the Jewish community?

    Do we want a society where the courts ignore the context of a joke and decide what is humorous or not?

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    I think part of the problem is trying to have a principled legal position with skirmishers on the fringe trying to exploit it for publicity.

    Easier to have an explicit exception for Nazi material – that it is never protected speech. Fines need not be enormous but the ‘only joking’ defense goes down in flames. Only Trump’s little friends would be hurt by it.

    • KJT 9.1

      What would you have said about my father, and his mates, all who either grew up during WW2, or fought in it.
      I remember their constant piss taking Nazi jokes.
      Best revenge I think. Turning Nazi’s into objects of derision.

      • Stuart Munro 9.1.1

        I agree up to a point – and that point is the protected Nazi speech of the US rally in Charlottesville. I’m not offended by the pug, but neither would I be offended if it were taken down. Publicity being what it is though, if the pug were defended as freedom of expression it might well be adopted as a meme by hate groups, in which case it probably should be taken down.

  10. greywarshark 10

    The public’s especially men’s ability to be really thick, insensitive and cruel is what keeps wars going.

    That the shit didn’t understand the difference between a smart-alec joke of getting the dog to salute to zig heil or whatever, and the horrific attack on people in WW2, not only gassing them, but organising it on an industrial factory scale, and deliberately aiming at particular groups of people such as the Jews, the gypsies; it’s deplorable. If I was in charge in similar circumstances, I would add stupid Scots men to the list. And that would be unfair to Scottish women who apparently are so short of decent Scottish men they would consort with a bloke who would sink to gut-wrenching levels like this.

    My reaction is an example of how bad attitudes can spread in society.
    This awful Scotsman should be sent to an isolated island with a lot of sheep but no people, and live amongst his peers. This would put him in quarantine and save me from becoming infected with his sort of stupid cruelty.

    I fear it is inherent in all of us to some extent. Therefore he needs to be rapped across the knuckles, chastised by the internet provider, and have his access denied for a month at least. That’d larn him and is the best thing to do, because you can’t get the only idea out of the head of a low being like this. Not for all the fines and prison terms, or executions even. All the wars in the world have not taught us all to be better. I suggest we attend some commemoration for Anzac Day tomorrow and think how that rhymes with sorrow, and how we always promise we’ll be better, but tomorrow never comes.

    • bill 10.1

      This awful Scotsman should be sent to an isolated island with a lot of sheep but no people, and live amongst his peers.

      Somewhere like NZ’s South Island then? Or maybe you had one of the near 800 Scottish islands in mind? Either way, a terrible thing to inflict a hipster on peeps (or sheep) just because they happen to live on an island, don’t you think?. 🙂

    • Andrea 10.2

      Too late!
      All available islands have been allocated to the prats in Israel who either say ‘kill the arabs!’ or follow through by shooting Palestinian youngsters several hundred metres from the border – in Palestine.

      All the legislation about ‘hate speech’, no matter where, has not put this attitude in the dustbin. Ask the Rohingya. Or Christians in Nigeria. Or the thousands in Mexico.

      It hasn’t done much to stop assaults on disabled people or rough sleepers or many other groups out of popular favour.

      The Holocaust – safely back more than 70 years. Or not so safely given that any country that wants to move on gets dragged back by luvvies asking people who weren’t even born then to Repent! Feel Guilty! Embrace and accept. Etc.

      How about we deal with the now?

      And before this blew up – how many people had even found/seen his posting? There are pieces that have been up for YEARS and have yet to pass the 100 views mark.

      Just because it’s public doesn’t make it popular. Or give anyone ‘chills.’

  11. mpledger 11

    Of course, being female, I take the female perspective here and think how mean and horrible the boyfriend is. To take a relationship that the girlfriend held dear and try and trash it by making the dog behave in a foul way isn’t funny – it’s just plain mean. It shows an infantile and jealous streak.

    That’s even before we get on to the content of the “joke”. I would guess that Jewish people choose their battles wisely so they don’t waste their time and energy on every piece of antisemitism they come up against and in some sense this is trivial. However, the Nazi’s emotionally tortured and physically tortured many millions of people and to perpetuate their hateful culture by using their slogans and signs is just foul.

    I really don’t agree here.

    • greywarshark 11.1

      One might think that you choose a friend or partner that suits your style and personality. The woman probably chose or accepted him. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ is an old saying.

    • tracey 11.2

      Nicely put

  12. Wow 12

    I agree with Bill

    No Monty Python / Fawlty Towers fans here then?

    No one was hurt here. And as far as I know no one complained (at least before charges were laid). He is not encouraging people to become nazis, nor suggesting the nazis were in any way good, Christ, he even prefaces the vid with “the least cute thing I could think of, which is – a nazi.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I also admit to finding the video pretty funny in a dark kind of a way, fucksake its a cute as fuck dog doing a nazi salute! As I understand it the dude is some sort of low level comedian.

    Surely the threshold for unacceptable speech is inciting / encouraging violence and the like, and he sure ain’t doing that. Youtube didn’t even take it down.

    Jonathan Pie on the matter, who I also agree with:

    • Andrea 12.1

      Thanks, Wow. And thanks to Jonathan Pie. Agree.

      (Though I was ‘offended’ by his saying that Scottish law was backward. 😉 )

      • Bill 12.1.1

        You not aware of “the naked rambler” then?

      • greywarshark 12.1.2

        Mom
        That’s Wow turned upside down. And then he should be spanked. Sounds like one of those he’s who cannot allow himself to stop and think about considering anybody’s feelings, inner pain, because that would get in the way of having a giggle.

        The phrase that the guy used as a trigger for the cute pup’s antics was “ “gas the Jews” – you pillock.

        • Bill 12.1.2.1

          And the reason he used that phrase?

          Seems you’re happy enough to ignore context…which means that you’re guilty of the same “Gross offence” under the UK’s “Communications Act” as Meechan by dint of simply writing that phrase down. Maybe even more so, seeing as how you accentuated it in bold.

          Absurd? Yes.
          The reality of that court decision? Yes.

        • crashcart 12.1.2.2

          Also think of the fact that this precedent is now laid down in an environment of shifting political power. Right now it is a guy who say “Gas the Jews” as a joke that offends and gets fined. So what happens when some one decides that Marx is linked to Stalin and so any thing you say in support of Socialism is there fore offensive?

          The definition of offence and what causes it is far to fluid for it to be the basis of law and punishment. I find a lot of political discourse from the right offensive but I choose to use that as a tool to identify the bloody idiots I don’t want to interact with as opposed to hoping someone can same day prevent me ever feeling bad about others words.

          • tracey 12.1.2.2.1

            Well, we already live in a world, here in lil ole NZ online, where calling nats nazis or akin to Nazis is a no-no but calling people who vote for the “Left” stalinsits, or referring to Helengrad is ok. Despite the Stalin ere probably resulting in the state murder of a hellova lot more folks than under Hitler.

            Some of this discussion appears to presuppose such obvious contradictions do not already operate, unfettered.

            • crashcart 12.1.2.2.1.1

              I am not sure if you are agreeing with me or not on this?

              Yes there is a double standard for how we react to use of slurs. This is a reflection of what people feel is acceptable or not and as I said can and does shift over time. Which is why a law that tries to protect people from being offended is not viable.

        • Wow 12.1.2.3

          Ziz iz no joke!
          Zere vill be konsequences!

    • reason 13.1

      Borat for sure …. He’s a bit like Billy T James was in New Zealand …. allowed to tell jokes or take humor into subjects …. without risking the racist or antisemitic labels.

      In Borat there was a scene in a guns hop where he asks “is this a good gun to shoot the jew ?” … the answer from memory was something along the lines ” it’s a .45 it’ll drop / stop anyone ” … showing no problems in selling a gun to person saying such outlandish / racist statements.

      In another scene he’s at a dog shelter attempting to adopt a dog … and trying to get a dog to attack anyone saying “Shalom” … to the credit of the dog shelter they were not going to release a dog to Borat …. but he did indicate he was going to eat it at the conclusion of his trip around the usa.

      The humor is meant to show something

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