Thursday, 22 March 2018

Count Dankula - Why we Need to Defend the Indefensible

Evening - will keep this to the point, time is money and all that.

From the top:- Mark Meechan, aka Count Dankula, is clearly about as funny as leukemia. Apparently this manchild believed that training his pet dog (interestingly named Buddha) to respond to cries of "Jews" or "Sieg Heil" by raising his front paw in a way that vaguely resembles the Nazi salute, was a right laugh and worthy of a YouTube video. Tragically, circa 3 million others appear to share a similar taste in 'humour' and have taken it upon themselves to watch online, although I acknowledge that some will be doing so in reaction to Dankula's recent trial and the publicity surrounding it. I've seen photographs and refuse to give this idiot the undeserved oxygen of publicity by clicking play.

Then again, I don't really need to do this as our esteemed judiciary have shown a ruthless determination to thrust the Dankula brand into the public arena, giving this alleged comedian's 'career' the type of shot in the arm that will have many a club circuit 'shock comic' kicking themselves. Being as gratuitously offensive as possible with the aim of getting oneself arrested, put on trial and spun relentlessly around the hamster wheel of news might just represent an attractive career proposition to some narcissistic, failed joker who calculates that a fine or short prison sentence represents a workable quid pro quo. Especially as many 'free speech' advocates will be on their side.

I'm a great believer in something called the law of unintended consequences, and the Dankula trial for 'Hate Crimes' has certainly ticked the box in creating a political martyr out of somebody who in reality is basically harmless, highly unfunny and a complete idiot. He wasn't inciting crime or disorder, calling for a second Holocaust or anything like that - in fact his actions do not come remotely close to any sort of sensible threshold for a real pre-Hate Crimes offence. My thoughts on the material itself are clear and I'm sure many of you will feel the same way, so why turn him into some sort of cause celebre for the 'New Right' and its 'anti-political correctness' brigade?

Of course there is also a philosophical point in play here, namely that free speech has to be especially for the disagreeable and those who cause offence, right up to the line of incitement to crime, otherwise it is not worth bothering with. The concept of offence (and what causes it) is by definition a subjective one centred around how the person on the receiving end feels, rather than something quantifiable or clear-cut that can be proven to have happened or otherwise. While (psychopaths aside) we all have an emotional dimension and it seems wise to consider that before we engage in certain topics, sometimes the free exchange of ideas will cause offence to someone. That is unavoidable.

'Free speech' with such limits on 'offence' is merely licensed speech, and to illustrate the point it's worth looking at some other cases where a license is stipulated as a specific requirement to do something:- off the top of my head you need a license to drive a car or forklift truck, be a professional boxer or practice medicine. In all these cases a sanctioning body issues the license and renews it periodically, with the right to revoke it for any reason of its choice or even none. Similarly, by consenting to 'Hate Crime' you are acknowledging the 'right' of the State to issue or withdraw 'Expression Licenses' as it sees fit. This is a step on the road to an Orwellian nightmare.

A few years ago I had a crack at a routine that combined performance poetry with stand-up comedy (think John Cooper Clarke but nowhere near as good). In that time I told my own share of 'politically incorrect' jokes about Catholic priests, Muslims, people from Burnley etc and if anyone was there and took genuine offence then I'm sorry to hear about it, but life goes on. While this was still a damn sight funnier than anything Count Dankula is capable of it may still not qualify for the Top 20 in the list of smartest or most productive activities I ever embarked on - but is that really the point? In reality, most of us have probably committed a 'Hate Crime' at some point, told a bad taste joke or whatever.

This is why even if you took genuine offence to this absurd and highly unfunny YouTube video (personally I didn't find it 'offensive', just plain stupid) then it's in all of our interests to prevent the making of martyrs out of morons, while preserving a right to free expression which has been eroded at the margins and is now under attack from sinister forces. Perhaps free speech has something of a misleading name, as far from being absolutely free it is actually pretty damn expensive. It involves discipline, selflessness and accepting the right of others to potentially offend you. Most of all, it means defending complete dickheads like Count Dankula, difficult though that might be.

And...whatever price tag you want to put on freedom of expression, surely it's worth it?

The alternative, a totalitarian society in which thought, speech and the written word are strictly licensed by the State, is absolutely unthinkable.

Anyway, all done in about 900 words so I'll leave you to it and catch you on Sunday. You have a choice of 'why Collectivism is Selfish' or 'the Value of Abstraction' so if you have a preference then let me know.

In the meantime I'll leave you with Eddie and his Hotrods. Thanks for reading...

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