Following the Count Dankula controversy in Britain, where a YouTuber nearly received jail time for training his girlfriend's pug to issue Nazi salutes with his paw, authorities in Austria have locked up a man for the crime of having several joke bottles of wine with Hitler's face on it.
According to Mirror UK, the 31-year-old man has now been given six months in jail "after being found guilty of glorifying the activities of the Nazis - a crime in countries like Austria and Germany." The sentence will be added to a non-related drug offense of 18-months.
The man's name has not been made public due to "strict privacy laws," because the Austrian government apparently values privacy rights over free speech rights.
"The bottles were labeled with messages such as: 'Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer' ('One People, One Empire, One Leader'), 'Hitlerwein' ('Hitler Wine') and 'Die Anhangerschaft von Hitler' ('The Fanbase of Hitler'), according to the prosecutor," reports the Mirror. "The man admitted he had found the wine amusing upon purchasing it. But he said he had lost interest and described himself now as 'rather left-wing orientated.'"
The bottles were legally purchased in Italy, where Nazi symbols have not been outlawed like they have in other European countries. Mussolini wines, the Italian fascist dictator and Hitler ally, can also be purchased there.
"One souvenir shop owner claimed 'it was mainly youngsters' buying such items, saying 'there is a huge demand' for wines with the labels of Mussolini, Hitler and other fascists and Nazis," the Mirror notes.
Obviously, anybody who sells or buys a wine with Hitler's face on it has serious problems, if not in taste, then in empathy. Training a pug in Nazi salutes is equally foul, even if it's done jokingly as the British man insists, but neither offense should warrant jail time — not because the flippant promotion of Hitler and Nazism warrants no outrage, but because the government could easily use such hate speech laws to silence innocent people who speak true but unpopular ideas.
As an example of how quickly such policies can escalate, during the Alfie Evans tragedy, the Merseyside police warned protesters that their social media posts were being "monitored" for incendiary speech, which ranged from calling for actual violence to calling the government fascistic.
God bless the First Amendment.