Slightly over two weeks since it was announced, Scotland’s new hate crime bill is finally making waves on social media as Scottish comedian and YouTuber Mark Meechan, also known as Count Dankula, sounded the alarm over the proposed legislation.
In a series of tweets, Meechan described the bill as “an entirely new level of authoritarianism from the [Scottish National Party] and supported by Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf. It has the same grey areas that allow for selective prosecution as other hate crime laws, but much worse. The SNP aren’t hiding it anymore,” he wrote.
“Literally ANYTHING you send or display online can be interpreted into being abusive/threatening/racist/etc (as is very often done in this "everyone is a nazi" age),” he continued. “Your intent can also be interpreted into anything the courts wish it to be, as was demonstrated in my trial.” Meechan, a former European Parliament candidate for UKIP, was subject to the United Kingdom’s onerous speech laws regarding “decency” in online conduct.
Meechan received widespread press coverage in 2017 after he posted a satirical video teaching his girlfriend’s dog how to raise its paw in the manner of the Nazis, to “salute” a phrase made infamous by white supremacists. Meechan, who did not intend for the comedy sketch to glorify extremism, says in the video that he wanted to turn the dog into “the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”
He was arrested, and subsequently fined for violating the UK’s Communications Act 2003. The police action prompted 500 people to gather in London to protest the injustice, and he received support from British comedians Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry, and David Baddiel—among others.
He was not sentenced to prison.
“If the SNP pass this, there is no coming back from it. I will put this legislation in front of as many SNP voters as I can and let them see the true nature of the party they are voting for,” wrote Meechan this week. “Authoritarians who want to turn Scotland into the next China.”
To highlight his point, Meechan points out that his criticism of the bill would subject him to criminal prosecution under the new legislation: “Funny thing, everything I just said about the SNP could stir up hatred against them.”
“Many SNP members would probably all class that as abusive (as courts leave that to subjectivity i.e intentional grey area),” he stated, quoting Justice Secretary Yousaf’s claim that any remarks “done in an abusive and threatening manner that’s intended or likely to stir up hatred” constitute as criminal offenses.
Meechan also points out that the law does not only affect online speech; it also impacts stand-up comedians due to a clause regarding “public performances.”
“That means jokes about these things. The SNP is trying to outlaw edgy jokes,” he wrote. “Who would ever have thought that real Scottish nationalists would actually vote to stay in the UK because they want
England to protect them from an authoritarian party following [Mussolini’s] playbook. 2020 is f**king wild.”