The video is only about two and a half minutes long. Mark Meechan, a Scotsman known more commonly by his online name, Count Dankula, speaks to the camera. His girlfriend, he says, goes on and on about her pug, Buddha, and how cute he is. “So I thought I would turn it in to the least cute thing I could think of,” he says, smirking at the camera. “Which is, a Nazi.”
Buddha, it seems, has been trained to react to the phrase, “gas the Jews,” excitedly bouncing around whenever Meechan says it. And when prompted with the command “Sieg Heil,” the pug raises its right paw. The video, which Meechan said was intended to be humorous and to be seen only by his closest circle of friends, was viewed over 3 million times (the link above is a mirror).
Now, Meechan has been convicted of committing a hate crime, found guilty of having “posted a video on social media and YouTube which was grossly offensive because it was ‘anti-Semitic and racist in nature’ and was aggravated by religious prejudice,” according to Sheriff Derek O’Carrol. Sentencing is on April 23rd.
Meechan, a vlogger, is part of a large cohort of alt-right media personalities who focus on what they see as the suppression of their freedom of speech (it’s worth noting that Meechan doesn’t consider himself a member of the alt-right–it’s just that all of his closest allies, talking points, and memes belong to that sphere of the internet). Prominent personalities like Paul Joseph Watson, Lauren Southern, and Gavin McInnes, all of whom have come to his defense, make their bones on (among other things) talking to their considerable viewership about the overreach of hate-crime law and anti-whiteness. They are all, like Meechan, fluent in internet-speak and deal in YouTube memes, Twitch streams, and Patreon accounts, among other platforms.
What Meechan zeroed in on for his defense was intent. The video, he said, was obviously meant as a joke, and was made purely to serve as a personal annoyance to his girlfriend. From the Jewish Chronicle:
The Sheriff also said he did not believe Meechan had only made the video to annoy his girlfriend, and that Meechan leaving his video up on YouTube had been an attempt to drive traffic to his other online content.
“This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration”, Sheriff O’Carroll said.
“But the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility.”
That “other online content” is the same sort of fare as the offending video. Pro-Trump memes, ironic uses of alt-right and white nationalist catchphrases, and dunking on the usual suspects: Libs, feminists, the hated SJWs, Antifa, etc.
Does Meechan hate Jewish people, and did he intend to spread anti-Semitism? You can’t really draw that conclusion from the video alone because the absurdity of it is so obvious. I have to confess, I laughed the first time I saw it. It’s a dog saluting Hitler.
But when viewed in the context of his entire body of work, all of which rests upon the notion that you understand he’s only kidding, relax, well, that’s a much tougher sell. It’s a lot of saying things that just skirt around anti-Semitism, nibble right at the edges of white nationalism, or hint at misogyny. He is a self-described “Edgi Boi,” which, a) is pretty embarrassing for an adult man, but b) speaks to the mind-set of the not-quite-alt-right figures (known as the alt-lite) who don’t really lean into the racism. He lives on the edge of actually committing to a belief besides being broadly anti-PC, which will guarantee you an online audience.
Meechan, then, is less Richard Spencer and more Tim Gionet, aka, Baked Alaska. Baked Alaska is an alt-lite figure who grew in online fame as he left $14.88 tips, tweeted about how Hitler did nothing wrong, and complained about white genocide until he got pepper-sprayed while he was marching in Charlottesville. He stepped back from the brand once he realized he wasn’t ready for the real thing. Moral of the story: The only belief alt-lite figures like Gionet and Meechan truly hold is that they should have more subscribers.
Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.