The Student Union has rejected an event request for the controversial YouTuber Mark Meechan, or as he is better known Count Dankula, to talk at the university.
The union received a request for the event to be held by the Libertarian Society and rejected it due to Mr Meechan’s previous conviction under the Communications Act 2003, as the union felt that this conviction would violate their inclusion policy.
The conviction that prevented Meechan from speaking at the university was when he was fined £800 at Airdrie Sheriff Court earlier in the year for making a video showing him training his girlfriend’s dog to perform Nazi salutes in response to statements such as “Seig Heil” and “gas the Jews.” Sheriff O’Carroll ruled that the video was “anti-semitic and racist in nature” and “grossly offensive,” yet Meechan defends the video as a prank on his girlfriend and has received support and defence from former EDL leader Tommy Robinson and celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and David Baddiel. Meechan’s conviction itself became a controversy and sparked a debate surrounding free speech.
VP Communities Jamie Grant said: “On Wednesday 26th September, the Union received a booking request from the Libertarian Society, for an event hosting Mark Meechan. On researching the speaker, the Union found them to be unsuitable under our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy, on the grounds of Mark’s conviction of an offence under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 on 23rd April 2018, for posting an internet video found to be ‘grossly offensive’ on the topic of the Holocaust. The Union responded to the booking request the same day, outlining the above.”
In a tweet criticising the union, Meechan claimed that the event had been planned for months, although Grant said that the union had no knowledge of this until they received the event request on the 26th September.
The President of the Libertarian Society, Stuart McLuckie, spoke with Brig about why the society invited Meechan and how they felt that his experiences as a YouTuber and with the justice system would make an “entertaining lecture.”
McLuckie said: “The Libertarian Society invited Markus Meechan because we felt that, as a comedian on YouTube, he would provide an entertaining lecture for those concerned with vaguely defined “criminal speech” laws. He has first-hand experience in dealing with the Scottish legal system in this field and has, since that point, been dealing with a diverse range of political and media personalities. It is worth mentioning that he has also spoken about this topic at Glasgow University and the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Therefore, he has the necessary experience, knowledge and relationship to this issue to provide an informative talk and was not invited simply due to his perceived controversial reputation.”
He also stated that the Libertarian Society have never been either for or against Meechan’s comedic style and that their criticisms are for the Scottish Justice System, specifically surrounding Mr Meechan’s conviction:
“It is also worth noting that our society’s Facebook page has released several statements on this particular case for the past year. Not once have we made a post which defended or opposed his style of comedy. Our argument is that the current legal situation, whereby Scottish Sheriff courts are able to disregard particular facts when adjudicating over charges such as “gross offence”, is dangerous and betrays established legal traditions over the status of “motive” and the general common law definition of “harm.”
He also went on to criticise union policy on the issue:
“Regarding the Union’s rejection of our application for the event, we do not wish to inflame grievances with the Union. We could, of course, criticise various aspects of the Union’s rules, such as the absence of strictly defined terms of offence under EDI policy. The upshot of such rulings is that we essentially have to make “trial and error” applications and rely on the judgement of the current sabbatical team before actually knowing whether an event can go ahead.”
“This is an issue which needs to be discussed separately, however. Our club has agreed to abide by Union rules in exchange for affiliation, so this is a decision which we cannot antagonise if we are to remain politically consistent. We will instead seek to promote discussions on this issue, propose new rulings whilst abiding by normal procedures and hopefully come to a situation where members of all distinctions can be content with the Union’s rules, policies and administration.”
Brig also contacted Mark Meechan, to ask him to comment on the issue, he responded to our request saying:
“Universities are supposed to be a bastion for discussing and debating ideas, no matter what those ideas are, for a student union to deny a speaker to talk to its students simply on the basis that they do not agree with them, yet allowing speakers that they do agree with shows that the student union does not believe in the principles upon which the very institution they represent is based.
“They are supposed to be encouraging the development and learning of their fellow students, they instead have rigged the system so that they can perpetuate their own biased ideology. By them doing this they are essentially branding their fellow students as too stupid to think for themselves and have taken it upon themselves to adopt a “nanny state” paradigm of “we decide what knowledge you have access to and we will do your thinking for you because we don’t trust you to do it for yourselves, because you might be convinced to not agree with us.”
“Banning certain speakers has only proven that the student union’s ideas are so weak that a person simply speaking can destroy them. They think that banning certain speakers has saved their failed ideology, it has instead only convinced people that their ideology is a failed one that they are trying to dishonestly keep alive by running away from the debate. This has probably convinced more people of this than my actual talk could have.
“They are abusing the system for their own again and are acting directly against the principles of what a university is supposed to be. I find this disgusting and the people within the student union who have encouraged this should step down as they have no business being in that position.
“If any of them wish to challenge me on the principles of freedom of speech, I will more than happily accept.”
Details on an alternate venue for the talk are unknown at this time.