A guest post by Sean Devine:
Free speech is only a means to an end. The end is for the people, as far as is possible, to know what is going on. Where this does not happen, so-called free speech ends up to be the right of the powerful to control the great unwashed.
The fact that the FBI and the powerful US institutions, by claiming the Hunter Biden laptop was Russian disinformation, suppressed the right of the people to know. The fact that trusted institutions could do this is a far more serious threat to a democracy than anything Hunter Biden might have done.
So too, with Ukraine. Until February, I was a signed-up member of “The Russians are to blame” brigade. But as the Russian threat grew, I tried to find out what was going on. What I found was that I, and people like me, were completely misinformed.
I discovered that the East of Ukraine did not accept the 2014 US supported coup against the last Ukrainian democratically elected President, even if he was naive. This seemed to me no different from Taiwan rejecting the Revolutionary Government of China. Russia annexed Crimea, but Ukraine initiated a civil war against the rest of the East. Not unreasonably, the Eastern states wanted a Federal structure within Ukraine. The US weaponized West Ukraine while Russia weaponized the East leading to an 8-year civil war.
I had not heard of the Minsk peace agreements. In 2015, the Federalists and the West Ukrainian Government, agreed to a ceasefire and a peace settlement known as the Minsk II. This was sponsored by France and Germany, supported by Russia and the UN. I found out that the 8-year civil war that killed more than 14,000, was still going on in 2022, and that West Ukraine made no effort to implement the Minsk agreement.
In February this year, President Macron of France, seeing the danger of war, called for the implementation of Minsk II, but President Zelensky was not interested. Russia inevitably invaded. In March, Denis Kireev, a Ukrainian delegate to the initial peace talks in Belarus, was assassinated on his return. Vlolodymy Struk, the mayor of Kreminna, was also assassinated. In both these cases, no formal investigation occurred, suggesting the Ukrainian government was not an open, democratic one.
By late March, as Russia took control of East Ukrainian territory, peace seemed possible within the agreed Istanbul framework. Putin and Zelensky had even agreed to a joint signing. But, at the end of March, President Zelensky, presumably with US and UK support, walked away from any agreement.
As Russia continued fighting, the West, by controlling the information flow, has been able to transfer all blame to Russia, implementing tough sanctions. These, by putting the global economy at risk, make famine in poorer parts of the world inevitable.
As it is unlikely that Russia trusts Zelensky and the Western leaders, unless diplomacy can prevail, the most likely outcome is that everyone will lose. The less we know about what is happening, the greater that loss will be, particularly for the poor Ukrainians caught in the middle of the war.
Without the freedom to know, we will be unable to counter threats that our global society faces.