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An extremely disturbing precedent has just been set as a man's attempt at humor has gotten him charged with and convicted of a hate crime. Mark Meechan now faces prison for a tasteless joke to get a reaction from his girlfriend.

In spite of apologizing, having no other history of racism, and providing a decent excuse as to why he would teach a dog to do a Hitler salute, the court, made up of apparently easily offended peers, found him guilty.

As reports, Meechan, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire was convicted on Tuesday at Airdrie Sheriff’s Court in Scotland.

“My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is,” Meecham said. “And so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

The video shows the dog appearing to raise its paw in a Nazi salute when Hitler is heard proclaiming “Seig Heil,” as the dog watches footage of a rally during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Meecham can be heard on the footage asking the dog: “Buddha, do you want to gas the Jews?” and “Who’s a good wee Nazi?”

But, does this activity actually rise to the level of a hate crime?

Even according to Scotland's own laws, what Meechan did was not a crime, as the use of language alone does not constitute a hate crime unless it "could reasonably be said to cause fear and alarm, for example when a threat of violence is expressed, then hate crime legislation would apply."

Meechan expressed no threats and did not reasonably try to instill fear by teaching his tiny pug to raise its paw upon the use of certain phrases. However, the court claims that the video did promote violence against Jews.

Meecham was subsequently found guilty of violating the Communications Act of 2003, which criminalizes the use of public telecommunications to send messages that discriminate against others based on their religious beliefs.

Critics of the video claim that it crosses the line from satire to promoting violence against Jews—with some claiming that any comedy using anything Hilter, or Nazi-related, normalizes Nazism.

“I don’t actually hate Jewish people and the video was just an insight into the darker side of my humour, a prank to annoy my girlfriend and that I did not intend for people, other than people who knew my comedy, to see the video,” Meechan said, as he apologized for offending anyone. He then noted that the Holocaust was “an awful thing, and should never have happened, but, we still joke about it, because in our eyes laughing about terrible things often make them easier to deal with."

And he's right. While it is certainly in poor taste to crack jokes about tragic events throughout history, humor is a way for many people to cope and understand such horrors. Sadly, this methodology is under attack.

Anyone who has played Cards Against Humanity could be guilty of this exact same thing. 

"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."

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Notice how the sheriff attempts to justify throwing a man in a cage for a year because it "offended him."

"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," the sheriff explained.

Others agreed that their offense to the matter should also be cause to deprive a man of his freedom and lock him in a cage.

“In many ways, the bit I found most offensive was the repetition of ‘gas the Jews’ rather than the dog itself”, Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) told the court.

“The other thing that struck me was the explicit statement that this was intended to give offense and intended to be the most offensive thing he could think of and then he says he isn’t a racist. But unfortunately we hear that all the time from people.

“I’m no historian but it is the marching signal of the Nazi stormtroopers who contributed and supported the murder of six million Jews, including members of my own family, and I take this all slightly personally”, Mr Borowski continued, adding that the SCoJeC website had been “bombarded with abusive comments” after the video appeared online.

“Material of this kind goes to normalize the antisemitic views that frankly we thought we had seen the last of”, he said.

“The Holocaust is not a subject for jocular content.”

The tragic irony, in this case, is that those who would lock a man in a cage for his freedom of speech—no matter how repugnant—have no idea how close they are coming to being like the people Meechan was joking about.

Cases like this reveal exactly why the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment is so crucial.

While some speech may be extreme and repulsive, the prohibition on certain ideas, even the most repugnant, being put into the public marketplace of ideas is a fast track to totalitarian governmental control—essentially legitimizing the “thought police.”

Similar “hate crime” laws are common across much of Europe.

As TFTP has reported, an 87-year-old woman was arrested and sentenced to 10-months in jail after being convicted of violating German hate speech laws after claiming that Jews were never exterminated in Auschwitz.

Dubbed the neo-Nazi grandma, Ursula Haverbeck—who is well known for her extremist right-wing views—was convicted in a German court of violating hate speech laws.

In the U.S., incitement of violence is criminal, but “assaults against human dignity of others by insulting, malicious maligning, or defaming segments of the population” are considered an exercise of free speech, and are protected under the First Amendment.

Even the most crude or hurtful speech must be protected to safeguard against unwarranted exercise of governmental power in the form of the widespread censoring of thoughts and ideas that the government doesn’t approve of—in the name of “keeping people safe.

Unless inciting violence, the right of the people to share ideas—no matter how repugnant—is not something that governmental authorities should have the ability to censor as it is seemingly the most basic of all natural rights.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Hall in Friends of Voltaire