Wednesday, 11 April 2018

On Count Dankula's 'Guilty' Verdict

Comedy is one of those things that's all down to opinion. If it's crude or pokes fun at traumatic situations like child abuse, or makes light of rape or racism, then it's not really my cup of tea, and that's how I've always felt about 'shock' comedy. That said, I know there are people out there who watch it and enjoy it, and although it's not for me, I find myself very much in the corner of disagreeing with an opinion, but defending somebody's right to it. I've always felt that way, and that ideal has always stuck with me, even if I think somebody is downright wrong, I always feel in some way that they can have that opinion - I just don't care to hear it. Opinions are always a grey area - it's easy for me to jump down the throat of somebody who thinks victim-blaming is OK, but let's face it, when they're just saying it online and I know they're wrong, I don't often see the need to fight them on it. More often than not, people tend to stick by their guns in those situations.

In 2016, Scottish YouTuber Count Dankula (real name Mark Meechan) uploaded a video to the site where he started off by saying that his girlfriend thinks her pug is the cutest thing in the world - so he was going to turn into the least cutest thing he could think of - a Nazi. 

Already, in my opinion, this is a slippery and needless slope. I think we can all agree that Nazis are definitely the antithesis of 'cute', but as someone who finds this line of comedy rather unamusing, I knew this wasn't really a joke for me. But I watched the video, and, at the end of the day, I feel like I have witnessed much worse from people online, from celebrities, and, of course, from comedians themselves. The video goes onto show the pug doing a Nazi-esque salute (essentially just lifting its paw) in response to the phrase 'Sieg Heil', and responding excitedly to the phrase 'gas the Jews'. It defo makes me a lil' uncomfortable to even type that shit. 

Here's where it gets sticky - and absolutely ridiculous. A couple of weeks after the video went viral, Meechan was arrested, on the basis that this video - where, at the end he claims he is not a racist and just really wanted to irritate his girlfriend - was a hate crime. 


And if that wasn't bad enough, his trial was delayed for essentially two years, and it's only last month that the trial went ahead and the verdict in his case was finally decided. Guilty.

You read that right. And yet even worse still is the fact that the judge deemed this 'grossly offensive', and whilst he supposedly took the 'freedom of expression into consideration', Meechan was found guilty anyway, setting a rather dangerous precedent for anybody wishing to utilise their right to freedom of speech. This isn't just about a YouTuber being offensive for the sake of offensive, this isn't a man just trying to pull in views (which I believe was not his intention, anyway), this is something else entirely. Not only does this make me worry about the future of my freedom of speech in my own country, but if I'm being brutally honest? I think it's fucking ridiculous that time, money and resources were wasted on this 'case' that should've been thrown out from the get-go. 

In case you missed the story of my life that is the fact that I was assaulted in 2014, you can read all about the trauma and suffering I endured in the aftermath, and still endure today, right here. As a Scotswoman and a victim of assault and harassment, it devastates and enrages me that Meechan may be sentenced to jail over a viral video that was, in every way, shape and form, a joke. Did I agree with the joke? No. But that doesn't mean I think he deserves jail time, or even community service. Meechan isn't the first man to carry out any jokes or viral videos of this kind, so why is he being singled out and punished for it? 

The bigger picture is not only about freedom of speech, but it's also about the fact that it seems now in Scotland making Nazi jokes is a bigger offence than beating somebody with a makeshift weapon after threatening them for several months online and in person. Attempting to stab somebody or having a pug do a 'Nazi salute' for a joke - which do you think is worse? I know where my opinion lies, and it certainly isn't in agreement with the judge who presided over Count Dankula's ridiculous case. 

In various parts of the UK and Ireland today, we seem to be seeing an increasing amount of victims drawing the short straw in the courts, and, quite frankly, I think something needs to change. From rapists walking free and victims being humiliated on the stand, to my very own case where I watched as my attacker - who had on numerous occasions threatened me by stating he had 'dreams of killing me' (to make matters worse, this was said to my face, by the way) and that I should 'stay away from his friends or I'd wake up with no eyes' and who blatantly Tweeted about strangling me (difficult to prove given I wasn't tagged, but it was obvious enough to me) - received a mere slap on the wrist after having knives taken off of him before beating me with a pole. 

The details of my assault were never something I particularly planned on getting into in a blog post or online, but I think it's necessary to emphasise how extreme the situation is. As a victim, it is hard to stand by and be OK with this guilty sentence. There is a flaw in our justice system up and down the country, and there is something morally obscene about attempting to combat supposed Nazism with Nazism of our own by limiting free speech.

When our court system think it's OK to put a murderer, a rapist and a YouTuber who had his pug do a 'Nazi salute' in the same place, then it's time we consider how our justice system works. Our system is failing, and it's crippling to watch this case as it unfolds in all the wrong ways, and it's horrifying knowing that I was never served any real justice at all by comparison. My attacker was required to check in with a form of counsellor and I was granted a restraining order, but did that make me feel any better? Any safer? No. I still am to this day scarred for life both mentally and emotionally, and all I got out of it was a lousy £500. That's what the damage to my sanity and well-being was worth. Meanwhile, the man that made it all happen has another job, friends who stood by him (although, yes, that's entirely on them), and continues on with his life as if nothing has happened. 

I feel sick writing this post. I feel sick at the verdict of Count Dankula. I feel disgusted that the justice system did us both so horrifically wrong. I am angry, and I am horrified by the outcome. I read a comment on Philip DeFranco's channel relating to this verdict and it has resonated with me ever since, "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will put me in jail", and it's a terrifyingly real thought.

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