On the Edge With Andrew Gold
Ep. 13: Jailed for teaching dog Nazi salute: Count Dankula
On today’s show is Mark Meechan, known online as Count Dankula. In 2016, he made a YouTube video showing how he taught his girlfriend’s beloved pug Buddha to do a Nazi salute – a Sieg Heil – on his command. His command was Gas the Jews. The video quickly went viral, and Mark was arrested and charged with committing a hate crime. He spent time in jail and was fined; a fine he refused to pay.
As he’ll explain in more detail, Mark was fired from his job and pretty much unemployable by anyone who had Google. Which is obviously everyone. However, things have recently picked up for him; every time he is mentioned in the paper, his YouTube channel grows – and he now has over 100 million views. He also has 250,000 followers on Twitter, who enjoy his brand of shock humour much in line with the initial Hitler dog routine. They’re a strange bunch his followers – when he shared a photo promoting this podcast, many of them followed me on Twitter and asked if I could send them photos of Mark’s penis – or if not – my own. I politely declined. I hope some of you newbies are here listening today and will stick around – they’re part of a strange online world in the dark corners of the web full of jokes and memes I don’t quite understand.
But it’s not just in the obscure recesses of computer-world where Mark has made his mark. He is often talked about by famous mainstream advocates of free speech, including Ricky Gervais, who brought him up once again just this week.
I remember when I heard about the dog joke at the time, I imagined a horrible neo-Nazi, so had little sympathy for him, even if it seemed strange he was being arrested for a joke. Meechan was later in the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, and had some association with British far-right activist Tommy Robinson and American far-right radio presenter Alex Jones, all of which further convinced me his apple was of the bad variety. He refutes this image, and says most of his friends are on the Left; he was nice enough to give me his time to do this podcast, so the least I could do was give him a fair hearing with an open mind.
We have a bit of a chat about free speech, humour, offence and where these things collide. Should any joke be illegal? Mark certainly doesn’t think so, and I’m inclined to agree. It seems pretty crazy how the whole thing blew up, and a waste of everyone’s time and money. It can set some bad precedents…that doesn’t mean I give Mark a free pass. Just as I believe strongly in his right to make those jokes, I value my right to criticise them and say they’re in bad taste. For example, a recent video he posted mocking the Beirut explosion might be particularly hurtful for people who’ve just lost loved ones. It may not be illegal, but I consider that worthy of criticism at the least. And he’s perfectly entitled to tell me he doesn’t care.
We do get distracted while talking about the Nazi pug incident, and end up waffling about free speech for a while, and come back to his arrest and jail time at the end. Which is fine, because you always listen to the end anyway. Don’t you.
Next week is a chat with another controversial American scholar James Lindsay, who has pretty much blown up Twitter by claiming that 2+2=4. In an Orwellian turn, hundreds of thousands of Left-Wing academics have been suggesting the equation actually equals 5, and we believe it’s 4 because of something to do with colonisation.
There's also the excellent Daniel Finkelstein and brilliant Helen Lewis.