Silencing Free Speech in the UK

(Mark Meechan, a.k.a. “Count Dankula”)

August 8, 2018 — Mark Meechan, who goes by the nickname “Count Dankula”, was arrested for posting content that was deemed to be “grossly offensive” and that violated the Communications Act of 2003. Here is an exerp:

127
Improper use of public electronic communications network
(1)
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; or
(b)
causes any such message or matter to be so sent.
(2)
A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—
(a)
sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,
(b)
causes such a message to be sent; or
(c)
persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.
(3)
A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.
(4)
Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to anything done in the course of providing a programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42))

Dankula had been arrested for posting indecent content in April 2016, when, as a joke, he taught his girlfriend’s dog to do the Hitler salute in response to the words “Sieg Heil” and “Gas the Jews”. A self described “shit poster”, stated repeatedly that he is not a Nazi, and only posted the video to annoy his girlfriend. As he said, “she would never shut up about it.”

Dankula was convicted in March 2018 seehere, and sentenced, fined £800 in April. The Court didn’t care that Meechan had done it as a joke, and merely to annoy his girlfriend. Not only was Count Dankula fined, the Court said he was lucky to not have actually received a prison sentence for doing this.

In August, he had his appeal denied by Sheriff Appeal Court, see here, and here. The Appeals Court found that:

This was a deeply unpleasant offence in which disgraceful and utterly offensive material was very widely distributed by the appellant. This was to the considerable distress of the [Jewish community] and — just as disturbingly — to the apparent approval of a large number of persons who appear to share the appellant’s racist views,

Both the Trial Court and the Appellate Court rejected Meechan’s claim that the video was meant as a joke. Instead, they claim that it was meant to stir up anti-Semitism and suggested that Meechan shared those views.

Meechan, for his part, claims he will not pay the fine, and would have to be forced to prison for non-compliance. He seems to prefer taking a principled stand rather than “bending the knee”, as he refers to it. He has gone very public on the matter, and is now a free speech champion.

It offers some consolation to Meechan that there is widespread public support for his challenge. See: (a) here; (b) here; (c) here; (d) here; (e) here; (f) here, (g) see here, (h) see here and (i) see here. Comedians, politicians, and commentators inside and outside the UK condemn such a crackdown on free speech. As distasteful as this stunt was, it does not warrant an arrest, nor a trial, conviction and fine. The wider public sees this video was meant as a joke.

Meechan/Dankula may be sent to prison if he refuses to either: (a) pay the fine; or (b) appeal further. This matter is not over it seems.

Bigger than this case, the Sentencing Council seems to be pushing for harsher punishment for what it deems “offensive“.

Other Instances:

Like most of the commenters about this story, this is shocking, though not surprising abuse of power. Agreed, teaching the dog to do a Nazi salute is of very questionable taste. However, in seeing Meechan online, it is far more likely that it is immaturity/bad humour, not actual promotion of hate. Admittedly, I had a chuckle at how juvenile this 30 year old man is. This is not worthy of criminal charges at all.

(1) Unfortunately, the UK is moving towards censoring of ideas, words and jokes deemed “offensive”. In March 2018, three activists: Lauren Southern, Brittany Pettibone, and Martin Sellner, were refused entry into the UK for “hate speech”. Southern was actually detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. The trio are now suing the UK, on the grounds that they were discriminated against primarily based on political beliefs.

(2) Also in March, Tommy Robinson, had been arrested for livestreaming outside a UK Court, regarding the “Grooming Gangs” trial. The 13 month sentence and conviction is under appeal. Interestingly, Brittany Pettibone had gone to the UK to do an interview of Robinson.

However, people should not be tricked into thinking the UK is an intolerant nation after all. Even if you fight for ISIS, you are still welcome back. But those with right-wing opinions, just stay away.

While it is depressing to see freedom being whittled away, I get some hope in seeing people fight back.

European Union Censorship

(Provocative, but you get the point)

September 12, 2018 — the European Union passed this law, the “Copyright Directive”, in a 438-226 vote.

Other media on the subject can be found: here, here, here, and here.

The “Copyright Directive” was originally stopped in July of this year, primarily over concerns over Articles 11 and 13. And to a degree, the concerns were over the same thing. Responding to, or critiquing another’s work is very common, and makes way for advancement of discussion of ideas. As long as there is some educational, critical or reporting use (and not blatant copyright), then using portions of a person or institution’s work is fine. In fact, this very website, Chimeratsk.com, cites Canadian “Fair Dealing“, and American “Fair Use” provisions.

Article 11, a.k.a. the “link tax”, concerned ways for original content creators to get paid via taxes or royalties. In practice though, how would one know who the original content creator was? Perhaps the royalties would be going to someone who is at least in part responding to another person’s work.

Article 13 had to do with platforms such as Facebook and YouTube being blocked from sharing protected content. Apparently there is to be a huge database on protected material, which by itself sounds creepy. To be fair though, the law says that encyclopedia-type platforms like Wikipedia will be exempt. However, as many images, text and music can sound similar, how would the original creator be identified?

Further, copyrighted material does not last forever. For example, the book “1984”, written by George Orwell (a.k.a. Eric Arthur Blair was written in 1949, so after 1999, a Canuck should be free to use it freely. Under Canadian Copyright Law, 50 years after death, copyright protection would disappear. Yes, ironic to use the Orwewll book here. However, would this EU driven database(s) know when copyright on each image, unique, phrase, text, etc… lapse?

On a semi-related note: there is an academic database — turnitin.com which college and university students would upload digitial copies of essays and other papers. This is an anti-plagiarism site which was to ensure that students were handing in original work. The site would compare and contrast the student paper against millions of others and look for regions of overlap. Sounds great, except for problems those arose in this.

At its core, the Copyright Directive seems to nullify what may be considered Fair Dealing/Fair Use exemptions (by listing the original content creator as the copyright owner of any and all of its content, and responses. CLICK HERE, for an article on the proposed revisions of Article 11 and 13.

Some accidental incidents of censorship occurred here, here, and here.

While the E.U. has passed this Copyright Directive, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic:

First, even if nothing is done, this seems absurd on its face to implement. (See the earlier criticism on logistical issues). Yes, content is still getting blocked, even the most innocuous stuff. While this is done under the guise of “protecting” creators, the complications that will arise will cause more and more headaches. Oddly, creators will “lose” money if research and ad revenue plummet.

Second, the law will undoubtedly face legal challenges and be tied up in the courts for years.

Third, each memberstate will implement their own version of this law, and that will likely not happen for a year or 2. Harder to enforce when the rules aren’t uniform. And on a related note: what about the UK, who is leaving the E.U.? What about any other member who may leave? What happens if governments change and their successors don’t agree with what they see? And won’t any inconsistencies in member laws make it easier to challenge the law?

Fourth, what if any E.U. members decide to just ignore the directive altogether? The EU has shown itself to be rather toothless in enforcing its own rules and orders.

Fifth, how will this be enforced when using material from, or creating new content in countries that do not have these laws, or subscribe to this version of them?

Online creators decry this EU directive, and they do have reason to be worried. However, there are many options available to fight it, and many hurdles it will face.

Review of the Book ”An Advocacy Primer”

(3rd edition of the book by Lee Stuesser)

This book was released in 2005 by Lee Stuesser, a law professor at the University of Manitoba. It is basically a reference book for how to litigate different types of cases.

The book itself was written for law students in how to work for clients. However, the information provided is very straightforward, and many self-represented persons could get a leg up simply by reading through and following along. Self representation, as discussed here, is possible by many people, on the more simplistic cases.

”An Advocacy Primer” details: (a) how to go about the many steps in litigation; (b) gives many tips on how to prepare documents; (c) organize arguments; and (d) common pitfalls to avoid.

A brief outline of the book:

Chapter 1: Developing a Trial Plan
Chapter 2: Draft of the Pleadings
Chapter 3: Civil Case — Disclosure
Chapter 4: Criminal Case — Discovery
Chapter 5: Making Submissions
Chapter 6: A Trial Notebook
Chapter 7: Running a Civil Trial
Chapter 8: Running a Criminal Trial
Chapter 9: Opening Arguments
Chapter 10: Closing Arguments
Chapter 11: Your Case — Direct Examination
Chapter 12: Using Exhibits
Chapter 13: Principles of Cross Examination
Chapter 14: Impeachment
Chapter 15: Objections at trial
Chapter 16: Special Witnesses
Chapter 17: Appellate Advocacy
Chapter 18: Ethics of Advocacy

Stuesser’s work can be used in one of two ways. First, it can be read straight through as a non-fiction book. Second, it can be used in pieces, as needed for a representative in a legal matter. This 475 page book also gives many templates of legal forms, and exact wordings to include.

The second option is obviously far more practical. The first is possible, although it would be a very tedious read to do in one sitting.

Overall, the book is great source of information, both for self-reps and other legal enthusiasts.

Critical Thinking #2: “Logical Self Defense”, (Review)

(The 3rd edition of the book, by Johnson & Blair)

This book was published by two philosophy professors from the University of Windsor, in Windsor, ON, Canada.

While not directly related to law, the content can be applied to people involved in legal matters. In such cases, a person will try to make factual, logical, and well reasoned arguments while trying to refute the facts, logic, and reasoning of the other side. Being able to debunk an opponent, while preventing yourself from being debunked is a sign of a well put together case.

Of course, one trying to make an argument (or a legal case for that matter), may be lacking in facts, logic, or reasoning. In that case, there are 2 basic pathways: (#1) admit they have nothing; or (#2) try to debate using less than honest tactics. While (#1) does happen often, (#2) is by far the more frustrating one to deal with.

In a legal sense, (#2) will mean going to court/negotiation/arbitration knowing that you don’t have any basis for being there. It adds to time and expense of these proceedings. Happily though, dishonest argumentation can usually be defeated by having stronger arguments.

Here is the previous post on canucklaw.ca, and here is the original article. Here, Mr. Reed goes through the vast array of dishonest tactics used in debating.

As for the Johnson/Blair book, it goes through many types of arguments and statements. Various logical errors and gaps are explained, as is cause-and-effect. Many examples are shown of drawing conclusions where the available information is insufficient or irrelevant. By deconstructing those fallacious arguments, you will likely make far less of them in the future, in order to avoid the same thing from happening to you.

A Brief Outline of the book:
Chapters 1-2: Identifying and Constructing Arguments
Chapters 3-7: Fallacies
Chapters 8-9: Analyzing and Constructing Arguments
Chapter 10: News Media

On some level, the book is a rather dry read, as is the John T. Reed article. If this topic is not of interest to a person, there is nothing I can do to make it sound exciting. However, it picks apart many common errors, and goes through the errors. For someone looking to improve their reasoning and argumentation, it is a tedious, but worthy read.

The techniques shown here are not solely applicable to Canada or the United States. Being able to defend one’s self logically (hence the title), is a universally applicable skill. Defend yourself!

Critical Thinking #1: Honest v. Dishonest Debate Tactics, (Review )

Note: This is a response to a posing in August 2015 by John T. Reed. Mr. Reed goes on to list the 2 ways which you can HONESTLY debate someone, and then the myriad of ways one can DISHONESTLY debate another. Mr. Reed has no affiliation with this site, and this review is based on reading his website.

The webpage can be found click here.

Mr. Reed lists 2 ways to HONESTLY debate. They are:
1. pointing out errors or omissions in your opponent’s facts
2. pointing out errors or omissions in your opponent’s logic

He then goes on to cite dozens of ways you can DISHONESTLY debate. Here are a few:
(1) Name calling;
(2) Changing the subject;
(3) Straw-Man arguments (misrepresenting a person’s views);
(4) Conflating facts and opinions;
(5) Manipulating language;
(6) Badgering a person (keep repeating the question);
(7) Finding small errors (arguing the minor points while avoiding the major ones);

Mr. Reed early on expresses his frustration at how people debate. To quote him:

One of the great disappointments of my life is discovering how thoroughly dishonest most people are. Some people will, on the slightest provocation, fire off a statement or paragraph that contains three, four, five, or six different, intellectually-dishonest arguments in a matter of seconds. Alan Colmes who regularly appears on Fox News is one of them. Juan Williams is another.

The page is well worth a read. Going through it, these examples can regularly be found in both the media and politics. People do get exposed to these dishonest tactics and often do not realize it.

Why This is Important to This Site
Aside from being a very interesting read, the lessons here are applicable in the topic of law.

Mr. Reed argues that debate consists of: (a) Facts; and (b) Logic. In other words, the logic which connects those facts form the basis of argument. Similarly with the law, it mainly consists of: (a) Facts; and (b) Law. Facts are tried, and their applicability to the law is then contested. Actually, the practice of law really is just a form of debate.

Overall it is a very thorough list.

E.U. Punishes Memberstates for Daring to Exercise Soverignty

Hungarian Parliament Building

(September 12, 2018), The European Union has triggered Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Many reasons were given, but it is widely believed that the main one has to do with immigration. Hungary has blatantly refused to accept forced migration quotas, and has run on a “Hungary for Hungarians” platform. While Victor Orban’s policy is extremely popular, and helped his re-election in April, the E.U. is angered at the open defiance.

Nationalism is alive and well in Europe. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are 4 central European nations known as the “Visegrad 4”. They are against open borders. Sebastian Kurz in Austria and Matteo Salvini in Italy recently won on populist platforms. Hungary is hardly alone.

While the E.U. professes outrage, Orban is actually running on the agenda he specifically set out to do. He sealed Hungary’s borders and stopped 99% of the illegal immigration. He has also stopped all funding for illegal migrants, and banned NGOs from aiding and abetting. While claiming these to be “human rights abuses”, it seems there is little the E.U. can do about it.

To give some perspective, there are many more legal hurdles to clear before anything actually happens. Poland, for example, had Article 7 triggered against it in December 2017, almost a year ago, see here, and also see here. Yet nothing has actually happened.

But ultimately, Hungary could lose its voting rights within the E.U. (as could Poland). Should this happen, they would be subjected to laws which they have no say in enacting or repealing.

Critics have loudly advised Hungary and Poland should just leave the European Union altogether. In 2016, the UK invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in order to begin to leave the EU. Nigel Farage of the UK, and Marine Le Pen of France openly mock the E.U. as violating the will of sovereign European nations.

More insight to the European Union and their laws will be given on a future article.

    Author’s Views

: From my perspective as a Canadian tourist, an integrated Europe and common currency does make travel, movement, and purchasing easier. However, it is disappointing to see how much sovereignty is eroded in the name of “unity”. A nation should be able to control its own borders, currency, language, culture, economy and way of life. While this union may have at one time been useful, it is undermining the autonomy and independence of the host countries.

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