Marcus Meechan made a video in which he trained his cute little pug, Buddha, to become a Nazi. "My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is," he begins, "and so I thought I'd turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi."

Now, bear in mind that the dog does not speak English. Incredible, right? The dog is responding to Meechan's tone - to the dog, Meechan might be talking about food, or going for a walk, and so he responds excitedly to Meechan's proposal to gas the Jews. This comprises the first minute of the video. Then Meechan puts his dog in his chair in front of a computer monitor showing one of Hitler's speeches on YouTube, with the dog attentively watching the screen. Meechan then says "Sieg Heil" ("Hail victory" in German), and the pug raises his paw out straight to make a Nazi salute.

The rest of the video is similar footage: the sleeping pug being awoken by Meechan asking if he wants to "gas the Jews" and saluting his Fuhrer at the behest of a "Sieg Heil". Whether you think the video is funny or not is completely irrelevant. Whether you think the video is offensive to Jewish people or Holocaust survivors is also completely irrelevant. Meechan himself has repeatedly stated that his intention with the video was not to upset the Jewish community, but to annoy and entertain his girlfriend and their group of friends. This motive for the act should also be irrelevant.

The fact is that Marcus Meechan was utilising his freedom of speech and freedom of expression on an online platform to do whatever he wanted within the bounds of the law. Whether he meant to cause harm by it or not is entirely subjective, but rather obvious to most that he was just making a dark joke, contrasting the cuteness of the pug with the horrors of Nazi ideology to make the scenario comedic. It's basic comedy - the subversion of expectations.

But the true subversion of expectations came when Meechan was removed from his house and placed under arrest, despite clarifying that he wasn't a racist, that he disapproved of the Holocaust and Nazi ideology and that he meant no harm towards the Jewish community. He was found guilty under the Communications Act, the judge citing his understanding that Meechan had not acted out of malice, but that he had simply neglected the responsibility that came with his freedom of expression as a British citizen.

Two years after his initial arrest, Meechan has been found guilty by the court after numerous cases of rescheduling and delays and will await his final sentencing on 23rd April. It seems that he could serve a maximum of 6 months in prison for the offence.

It's entirely subjective as to whether you find the joke funny or not. It's also subjective whether you're offended or not by the joke.

Mark Meechan is not a Nazi. He has posted many hours of footage on YouTube about politics and current affairs, and it is clear to those paying attention to his work that he is a Liberal with right-leaning views. This is not a crime either. Mark Meechan has been convicted of a crime by those who have a different opinion than him, accused of being a Nazi when he is not, and has had the last two years of his life consumed by this trial. Over a joke.

Anyone who understands comedy realises the severity of this situation. The British government has now set a precedent that if it deems your speech unacceptable or harmful, regardless of your intention in saying it, it can prosecute you. Mark Meechan will go to jail for a joke he made. That could happen to you too.

This is crossing a line which the government must never, ever cross. When the government is able to punish you for what you say, it is using the weight of the law to control a lawful citizen's speech. When the government controls your freedom of speech, they control the ideas that are expressed in public places. Those who dissent from the commonly accepted opinions of society, regardless of the helpful or benevolent nature of their dissent, can be shut down simply for saying something out of line. Even if you make a joke which seems perfectly acceptable to you, even if it's quite risky or taboo, someone else could find it offensive - and based on Meechan's case, someone else's perceived offence is all it takes to convict you. By the same logic, any comedian could be convicted of hate speech for any inflammatory joke. Now this entire scenario doesn't seem so funny. This is REAL fascism, but of course, those who most often cry "Fascist" fail to appear when it truly counts.

Whether you agree with Meechan or not is completely not the point of the argument. This argument is about the principle of free expression and speech itself. It's not difficult to stand up for free speech when you're not saying anything controversial - it's essential to protect free speech when someone you disagree with speaks up, because that's a true show of your character, integrity and moral principles.

The government cannot be allowed to regulate what British citizens can and cannot say with the force of the law. It is authoritarian and it is reprehensible, and it is anathema to everything that a liberal democracy should stand for. They have come for Marcus Meechan and they have found him guilty - who else could they go after? Someone who criticises feminism? Someone who criticises Islam? Someone who criticises Britain? We cannot allow entire schools of thought to be outlawed. If we cannot present a counter-argument to an argument, we will perish as a society because we will be both incapable and unwilling to defend our principles against more robust arguments.

I don't care if you stand for Marcus Meechan as an individual, and neither does he. Count Dankula was never intended to appeal to everyone, and it never will. But if you value the liberty and democracy which your great-grandparents fought and died for, you will stand WITH him for the ideas and the values he represents. If one of us is prohibited from speaking our minds, we may all one day find ourselves suffocating under the same totalitarian boot.

To the British government: this most certainly has not gone unnoticed. We see what you are doing. We have studied the history of these threats to liberty, and they will not go unanswered. You have crossed a line you should never have crossed, and you have threatened the very bedrock upon which this great nation stands. We are a free country, and we will remain free. Enough is enough. No more. Basta.

"Orthodoxy means not thinking - not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness." - George Orwell, 1984

Author: Citzby, Liberalists UK