Last week, a man called Mark Meechan attended Airdrie Sheriff Court to face trial over his publicising a video which was claimed to be anti-Semitic. As the BBC has reported, “he denied any wrong doing … He insisted he made the video, which was posted in April 2016, to annoy his girlfriend Suzanne Kelly, 29 … But Sheriff Derek O'Carroll found him guilty of a charge under the Communications Act”. Do go on.
It was charged “that he posted a video on social media and YouTube which was grossly offensive because it was ‘anti-semitic and racist in nature’ and was aggravated by religious prejudice … Sheriff O'Carroll told the court he did not believe Meechan had made the video only to annoy his girlfriend and ruled it was anti-Semitic”.
So what made the video anti-Semitic? “Mark Meechan, 30, recorded his girlfriend's pug, Buddha, responding to statements such as ‘gas the Jews’ and ‘Sieg Heil’ by raising its paw”. A dog doing a Nazi salute? Not worth even a click. Responding to “Sieg Heil”? Meh. But repeatedly using the phrase “Gas the Jews”? No. Just no.
That statement is, as Billy Connolly once put it, loaded. There is no alternative, subtle, or contextual meaning that would excuse it. So it was no surprise when Sheriff O’Carroll judged “The description of the video as humorous is no magic wand … This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration … But the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility”.
Meechan was entitled to speak freely, to say what he liked, when and where he liked. No-one was claiming otherwise. But actions can have consequences, and the freedom to speak freely also brings responsibility. That was all.
But it was not all for Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson. For him, this was another of those attacks on free speech. Having already pretended that free speech was under attack in his Speaker’s Corner address recently, Lennon made haste to Glasgow to support Meechan, who has also been snapped with Battersea bedroom dweller Paul Watson, who works for batshit conspiracy monger Alex Jones at InfoWars.
Lennon was also keen to promote Meechan: “NEW | @CountDankulaTV: If it takes me going to prison for people to realise how authoritarian these hate-speech laws are, I'm happy to do that”. That no-one is stopping Meechan speaking his mind is not told.
Not everyone thinks this is just a joke. Sunny Hundal concluded “I did think a conviction went too far. In fact I tweeted that. But why is ‘gas the Jews’ a funny joke? Its not funny. If someone said that at a rally it would clearly be incitement of violence”. Quite. And it should be remembered that Hundal defended the EDL’s freedom to protest.
And a clearly exasperated Graham Linehan pointed out that Meechan “wasn’t convicted for the pug. He was convicted for saying ‘gas the Jews’ over and over. I wish people … took the time to learn even the TINIEST AMOUNT about how the Alt-Right works”.
Meanwhile, Lennon is still happy to turn up on peoples’ doorsteps and at their workplaces to harass them, while pretending he’s a champion of free speech. We must be free to cause offence, unless Stephen Yaxley Lennon gets offended. Yeah, right.