In his recent CNN article, Marc Randazza shared his opinion regarding a Scottish comedian, who made a horrible joke that could now have criminal consequences.
A Scottish comedian named Mark Meechan, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire taught a pug named Buddha to raise his paw any time he said “Sieg Heil.” Meechan posted a video of the pug on YouTube. Meechan said that he made the video and taught the dog to give Nazi salutes as a joke on his girlfriend.
In the video Meechan said that his girlfriend annoyed him by always saying how cute her pug is and he decided to get her back by teaching the dog something that’s not cute.
But authorities arrested Mark Meechan and he is now facing up to 6 months in prison for a hate crime.
The court found him guilty under the Section 127 of the UK Communications Act which prohibits “grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, or menacing” electronic communications. Mark shared his video on social media and YouTube which was offensive because of it being “anti-Semitic and racist in nature”.
Marc Randazza imagines how this case would proceed if it had happened on the other side of Atlantic, and notes that even though the United States has the First Amendment, Canada has adopted hate crime laws. For example, when Ezra Levant republished “Mohammed cartoons” in Canada, he faced a complaint before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
In the US, Marc Randazza believes that the First Amendment protects such freedom of expression, but he fears that more hate speech prosecutions, like the ones in Europe, could be in our nation’s future. “With our growing tolerance for intolerance, I fear, UK-style prosecutions may be on the horizon for us. Even without them, the forces of censorship may simply make them unnecessary by suppressing all speech that someone might whine about.”
Marc Randazza says that if Mark Meechan were a US college student, he probably would be disciplined for such a speech. Marc Randazza recalls an instance when he was accused of hate speech at the University of Massachusetts for putting up a poster of the punk band the Dead Kennedys. The poster featured a swastika covered by a red circle and a line through it, but even though the swastika was crossed out some people were offended.
Today social networks are beginning to take down “offensive speech” if someone thinks that it is inappropriate. However, different people may determine that the speech is humorous but not offensive.
Even though Marc Randazza agrees that the Nazi salute dog is offensive, Marc Randazza thinks that free speech should be protected, including speech that may be deemed “offensive”.
FTFY: “…Particularly speech that is or may be deemed “offensive”. Popular speech doesn’t need protection.”