Entertainment

Wake Up: Our Freedom of Speech Is in Serious Danger

The U.K. allowed a man to be arrested and convicted of a hate crime for a 'grossly offensive' YouTube video — how long before we reach this point?

“I said in 2013, ‘Fascism is coming to America,’ and I wasn’t kidding. It’s happening,” Rob Schneider told LifeZette in a recent interview.

The comedian was referring to the rise of speech policing going on in some places. Luckily, America is still blessed with unprecedented freedom of speech and expression, so the blowback against a bad joke or offensive words so far has been in the hands of Twitter mobs and young people hiding out in “safe spaces.” The government, for the most part, has not been involved in policing speech.

The same, sadly, cannot be said for the rest of the world. In Scotland, comedian and YouTube star Mark Meechan (shown above), who also goes by the name Count Dankula, was convicted of a hate crime for a video that was deemed “grossly offensive.”

The actual video went viral last year and showed Meechan getting his dog to react with what appeared to be a Nazi salute to phrases like “Sieg Heil” and “Gas the Jews.”

Funny? Not one bit.

Offensive? You betcha.

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Authorities took the video a tad too seriously and ended up arresting Meechan. The YouTube star was convicted on Tuesday. The Herald Scotland reported that Sheriff Derek O’Carroll called the video “grossly offensive” said he didn’t buy into Meechan’s defense that it was all a bad joke meant to annoy his girlfriend.

Meechan’s girlfriend actually spoke at the trial in his defense. Taking the stand, Suzanne Kelly reportedly said Meechan had always been supportive of minority groups and was not anti-Semitic.

She added that the dog reacted in similar fashion to just about anything said to him.

“[The dog] will lift his paw to virtually anything if he gets a treat for it. We have taught him to lift his paw to food, like ham or cheese,” she told the court. “They were just words to make him lift his paw, and I know those words were used in the context of the video.”

Speaking after the guilty verdict, Meechan told the press the decision was a “miscarriage of justice.”

“I think it is a very, very dark day in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. One of the primary things that must be considered in cases like this is context and intent, and today context and intent were completely disregarded,” he said.

He added, “For any comedians making jokes in Britain, I’d be very, very worried about your future because — the context and intent — apparently they don’t matter anymore.”

Sure, he’s someone who makes dumb and offensive dog videos — but Meechan is absolutely right.

When comedians push back against college campus crybabies who demand that “hate speech” should be limited, this is the future they are worried about — one in which authorities feel there is so little crime to solve that they arrest people for making unfunny YouTube videos.

As human beings, we’re meant to express ourselves. We create art. We tell each other jokes and stories. We write, we draw, we sing. Sometimes we express ourselves poorly; sometimes we do so brilliantly. The point is that if the freedom to express ourselves is taken away, we lose a little bit of ourselves, sacrifice one of the greatest parts of human nature — and appease the self-made victims of the world.

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In a world in which freedom of speech is respected and permitted, there will be extremes. Some people will make dumb dog videos with seemingly little purpose other than to offend. Other far more brilliant people, however, will express ideas they would otherwise be too afraid to express.

It’s worth remembering that classic pieces of literature such as “Catcher in the Rye” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” have been — and still are — banned in many places. Liberals today tend to champion some vague future in which absolutely no one is offended by anything — and world is some giant bubble-wrapped ball of nothingness.

“It’s intolerance in the guise of tolerance,” comedian Schneider told LifeZette about modern-day political correctness.

Luckily, some comedians agree. Ricky Gervais tweeted after the Meechan verdict: “A man has been convicted in a UK court of making a joke that was deemed ‘grossly offensive.’ If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find ‘grossly offensive,’ then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.”

Podcaster and filmmaker Adam Carolla is also hard at work on a documentary called “No Safe Spaces,” in which he and political commentator Dennis Prager dig into increasingly extreme examples of political correctness on college campuses.

Some comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Joe Rogan have openly said they refuse to visit college campuses today because of the mindset of knee-jerk liberals.

Not everyone, however, recognizes the problem. Just look at increasingly political and left-leaning celebrities like Chelsea Handler. The former late-night host praised another country for banning “racist” humor and arresting two men for making Nazi salutes. She wondered why America didn’t have such laws.

Well, for one — such a law would land comedians like her in jail. And this is America, where for the moment we still protect the freedom of others to express themselves.

Let’s hope we are not on a path that will lead to comedians being put on trial for making bad jokes — alas, that is already happening elsewhere the world. The conviction of Meechan should serve as a warning to us all.

PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter

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