Saturday, September 10, 2022

Under The 1st Amendment The Federal Government Should Have No Role Policing Thought

mises |   There are themes in the West that are difficult to question without running the risk of receiving sharp criticism. For the following themes, for example, there is a position considered “correct” by Western collective opinion: “Welfare State,” “climate policy,” “multicultural society,” or “covid-19 vaccination.” It is implied that the “acceptable” position to each one of these themes can and should be adopted without any prior critical analysis at the individual level.

The list of these themes is not static; new ones rise to prominence in society, while others become less important over time. In recent years two new themes have emerged: “authoritarian Russia” and “communist China,” which is not surprising considering that Washington, and thus, by extension. the West, has decided to treat these two nations as strategic enemies. A recent study shows, for example, that in a very short time the percentage of Americans with a negative view of China increased dramatically, from 46 percent to 67 percent. This is not a coincidence, but the result of a media communication strategy.

The Critique of the Antiwar Position

As far as Russia is concerned, the “correct” attitude to have in the West, especially since the start of the Ukraine conflict on February 24, 2022, is no less than an absolute condemnation of that country. Support for Ukraine must be comprehensive and can receive social confirmation by a small blue and yellow flag on Facebook. Unconditional support for the economic war waged by Western leaders against Russia is also socially required for Europeans, even though they will be the first to suffer from it.

It is for this reason that the Amnesty International report of August 4, 2022, which confirmed that “Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas” became a media bomb, not only in Ukraine but also in the West. This report disturbs a lot of people because it is not in line with the black and white view of Russia as a criminal aggressor and Ukraine as an innocent victim.

The people who do not take the “correct” stance on the conflict in Ukraine are often accused of being “pro-Russian,” even when this stance simply consists in being objective; by considering the recent history and behavior of the various protagonists. They are considered “pro-Russian” because they do not express unconditional support for Ukraine, but more often, propose conditions for peace. Indeed, the position of most of these critics is not at all “pro-Russian,” but “pro-peace” by supporting active Western efforts to reach a ceasefire, thus sparing as many Ukrainian lives as possible.

Western media did not react when, on July 14, 2022, the Ukrainian government published a black list of Western politicians, academics, and activists who, according to Kiev, “promote Russian propaganda.” This list includes leading Western intellectuals and politicians, such as Republican Senator Rand Paul, former Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, military and geopolitical analyst Edward N. Luttwak, the political realist John Mearsheimer, and award-winning freelance journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Though this Ukrainian blacklist should obviously have been condemned in the West, it has hardly elicited any reactions at all, because the Western media already agree with its conclusion: the people on the list are already criticized in their own countries for not adopting the pro-Ukrainian position. Moreover, would the Ukrainian government have dared to publish such a list if it had not had the prior agreement of Washington?

The Formation of the Collective Opinion

What is happening in the case of the attitude toward Russia, as well as in the other themes mentioned above, is not surprising or new. In his famous work, On Liberty (1859), John Stuart Mill is perhaps today best known for his prescient early warning of the dangers of the “collective opinion”; the “tyranny of the majority” in the form of “the dominant opinions and feelings that society is trying to impose” on a minority.

Society’s majority is naturally intolerant of nonconformism, because thinking like everyone else gives psychological comfort and strengthens social ties. Yet, though society depends on collective opinion for its social cohesion, paradoxically it also depends for its well-being on views that run counter to this majority opinion. Just as natural science progresses only through the sometimes tortuous but generally respectful process of peer review, society also needs minority opinions and dissident voices to curb the permanent search for consensus on the part of the majority.

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