The British Nazi Connection

It’s often said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. As we’ve inched toward the future, much has changed: antibiotics mean that you don’t have to be so afraid of dying if struck by an STI, the internet allows you to channel your innermost desires and fears through the invention of memes, and the fall of the Third Reich means you shouldn’t be persecuted for saying the wrong thing.

All of those advances aside, much remains the same. After all, although we’ve learned many valuable lessons in the last century, our nature fundamentally hasn’t changed. No matter what the prevailing order is, there will always remain a contingent of people who will stop at nothing to preserve it. The labels used to brand anyone who threatens that goal will vary: witch, heretic, Russian bot, or, more recently, Nazi all spring to mind. That’s why we remember history: to check those innately human instincts against the failures of the past.

When the powers that be learned that a dog started to salute in the style of Adolf Hitler, its owners were poised to face down a tyrannical state. The dog’s vile display had so angered this state that it sought to bring these public menaces to trial. Except, that state was Nazi Germany in 1941, and the owner of that dog was a Finnish man by the name of Tor Borg. Borg’s wife noticed that their dog was beginning to salute like Hitler, and so she nicknamed it “Hitler.” The Nazis interrogated Borg on suspicion of making a mockery of the Fuhrer, which, really, he was indeed doing. That’s what makes the strikingly similar tale of Mark Meechan, who is a fellow European of Scottish origin in the year 2018, all the more surreal. Meechan is a comedian and a self-described “shitposter” who seems to have taken a page out of Borg’s book. Noticing that his girlfriend would fawn over how cute their dog is, he thought it would be funny to make him do the least cute thing a dog can do: salute Hitler. The joke ended up going over the British government’s head.

A key distinction between Meechan and Borg, however, is that the Nazis didn’t end up prosecuting Borg. Meechan, on the other hand, has been convicted of the crime of Hitler dog saluting under Section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003, which states

A person is guilty of an offence if he — 
(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character

Even though Berlin fell in 1945, somehow mocking Hitler is still a criminal offense in the West. Sadly for Mr. Meechan and anyone else who wants to say or joke something controversial, there is no such thing as the First Amendment in Great Britain. What the American Founders recognized as an inalienable right isn’t even an afterthought in modern-day Britain. This ultimately means that Meechan faces the possibility of imprisonment for his “grossly offensive” speech. To the court, it doesn’t matter that his video was made at Hitler’s expense, which is the obvious fact that dogs are good and Hitler is bad. All that matters is that something controversial was broached.

Which is the most alarming development of all: this decision sets the precedent that not only do you not have to be a Nazi to be persecuted for your speech, you can be in fact mocking them and if they don’t get it or find it offensive anyway you can still be looking through the bars of a jail cell. This opens the floodgates for the selective punishment of anybody for having any opinion that might offend anyone given just how absurd the standard for this sort of thing has become. Would a modern-day sympathizer of Stalin be dealt the same heavy hand of government? Probably not, but under a different regime they might. Even if Meechan’s dog had the cognitive horsepower to hate Jews, does that matter? Why is a western nation setting the standard that there is no difference between words and action in the first place?

The irrational fear-stroking that motivates this Nazi witch-hunt is fueled by the likes of Crown Prosecution Service head Alison Saunders, who declared that “Hate is Hate.” “Hate is Hate” joins a laundry list of other vapid and meaningless terms that imply the government has the answer to whatever complicated problem you desire. It joins the likes of “Common Sense Gun Control” or references to the “99%.” Its motivation is to disguise its actual motivation of using the government to intervene and “fix” the problem, even if that problem tramples cherished liberties.

Ms. Saunders foolishly writes,

We should remember that there is a less visible frontline which is easily accessible to those in the UK who hold extreme views on race, religion, sexuality, gender and even disability. I refer to the online world where an increasing proportion of hate crime is now perpetrated. And this is why the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today commits to treat online hate crimes as seriously as those committed face to face.

It can’t be understated how stupid is. Any observer with a limp grasp of reason can see the difference between being yelled at or assaulted on the street and being tagged on Twitter. Secondarily, we’re seeing these prosecutions happen to those who aren’t even targeting one person, or seriously attempting to malign a group. She was so ridiculous in her conflation of bad internet words with action that she compared it to Charlottesville and Barcelona — a combined death toll of 16. The numbers aren’t in on how many people have been killed by hashtags, by comparison.

She writes,

For many people in the UK, the scenes in Charlottesville last weekend may appear to be of scant relevance to their own lives. Even Thursday’s horrific events in Barcelona may feel somewhat distant.”

It must be lost on Ms. Sanders that those events feel pretty distant because they are pretty distant to anyone who hasn’t been physically harmed by mean people on the internet.

Even giving these concerns the light of day and assuming Meechan and everyone else who has been and will be prosecuted under this law is a Nazi, silencing everyone who holds an unpopular opinion only offers a call to arms for its supporters. If you ban an idea, its adherents only begin to view themselves as martyrs, and those attempting to shut them down as being afraid of their idea’s potency. Truly venomous ideas are best undermined when they’re given the light of day. Although a foolish or malevolent minority will still be seduced by them, its flaws won’t be able to stand to scrutiny. For this reason, not only is a censorship campaign tyrannically Orwellian, even its stated purpose is counter-productive.

Unfortunately, this seemingly obvious fact isn’t dampening the eagerness of the British state to undo centuries of grueling and blood-soaked progress toward the basic right to speak freely. This episode is just a continuation of what has increasingly been the norm in British society, from Katie Hopkins expressing concern about an Ebola patient coming to London to unbelievably overt anti-speech propaganda aimed to instill fear in potential speech-criminals.

It’s gotten to a point where left-wing reporters such as Tom Walker can’t even point out the unbelievably obvious anti-comedy nature of this attack. The man literally mocks the idea that he would be prosecuted for simply reporting out how tyrannical this is, and the London MET decides to prove him rightwhen he’s reported. They say that it’s “understandable” that someone would be offended by his true statements and tell the good informant to report him via an official channel. It can’t be overstated how devastating this is to the very idea of free expression.

At this stage, there are few in Britain who even bother to bat an eye when news of some new anti-speech measure has arose or is being enforced. It’s much more shocking to many of them that Americans have such rights as owning rifles, or audaciously that we can mostly say what we want without fear of the state.

By contrast, America’s right to free speech is rightfully held to be so untouchable by government that the Supreme Court has repeatedly shot down efforts to curtail the speech of even actual, non-dog Nazis. The notoriously left-wing ACLU has not only defended the KKK and confederate flags in court, but actual Nazis. Even if this creeping totalitarianism concerns some in the UK, they don’t seem to have the national will to defend it, probably reasoning that they would never say or think anything worthy of a court hearing. History has shown this to be pretty naive. Surely the man who had to endure a police investigation for tweeting “#Disgrace” didn’t think that would be the outcome before he did so. That instance was in reference to two Muslims praying on a football field — not the most “disgraceful” sights, to be sure, but what will be the outcome of a country in which you can’t even tweet one-word hashtags without fearing your life being upturned by an overreaching thought police?

Meanwhile in Britain, there lies a petty little man by the name of Sheriff O’Carroll. Mr. O’Caroll isn’t a fan of Nazi dogs or comedy or freedom, and so The Sheriff told the court during Meechan’s trial that:

The accused knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. He would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people.

His statement reflects an inexcusably gross ignorance of the purpose of free speech. We’re allowed to speak not under condition that somebody somewhere might get offended, but because the alternative is utter hell. The clenched fist of the state would be able to hold up any instance of offense or even potential offense, no matter how obscure or weak, and use it to crush anyone with an unpopular opinion. And although it couldn’t be more obvious that neither this Scottish comedian nor his dog are Nazis, even if the dog began to rehearse Mein Kampf in perfect German would it be right to punish him? Unless your bad ideas are acted upon, the lesson that free speech is the right that allows all others to exist has been a hard-won victory of Western civilization; a blood sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of young men. Once that pillar is lost, the foundation crumbles.

It was the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who wrote

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

It’s a lesson his countrymen are more than happy to shoot down the memory hole. Even if these hate crime laws weren’t primarily going to injure innocent people like Meechan, which they are, the only way bad ideas can die is by first allowing us to dissect them. You protect your infants from bad ideas, but to infantilize an entire country is to erase the very idea of individual autonomy.

It’s obvious by now that a small internet personality like Meechan was targeted for prosecution for his silly joke because it would not and could not create half the stir a larger controversial comedian might make. The government realizes they could get away with striking fear into the populace by pouncing on this frivolous non-incident, but not someone like Ricky Gervais. To make this point painfully obvious, Gervais himself Tweeted a picture of his Nazi cat, and isn’t awaiting sentencing.

If the collapse of freedom in Britain is to be avoided, not only should Meechan be immediately exonerated, but their unbelievably tyrannical restrictions of free speech must be repealed. However, even if there were some pernicious undercurrent of Nazism in any western country, pretending it doesn’t exist and punishing those who are sympathetic to it does nothing but embolden their resolve. Burning innocents like Meechan at the stake is not only tyrannical, but serves as a recruitment advertisement for the few who are actually sympathetic to that way of thinking. If the thought police in Britain seriously wanted to confront this problem they would let people think for themselves instead of allowing a deranged and manipulated horde to dictate what is allowable opinion.

Christian O'Brien