Opinion: Putin has created an unexpected opportunity 2022-04-28 19:48:03

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If you look closely, you can see the common thread. The distance between them may be thousands of miles in geography and substance, but at the heart of both lies a concern about the future of democracy.

Whether it’s Ukraine fighting Russia’s efforts to destroy its independence as a democracy, or France resisting the populist far-right and apologist for Putin, or apprehension of what might happen to Twitter – that cauldron where conspiracy theories, electoral lies and disinformation campaigns can cook up a brew capable of infecting society and tearing the country apart – we are all witnessing. The great challenge of our time is playing around us.

Over the past 16 yearsAccording to the watchdog Freedom House, democracy is in decline in the face of authoritarian rule around the world. Freedom House warns authoritarian leaders work together To undermine democracy and human rights around the world, seek to discredit competition and propagate their own model of governance.

The challenges to global democracy are deeply troubling, but they are not all bleak. Indeed, the current crises have created unexpected opportunities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to wipe out the state of Ukraine and confront NATO has backfired on multiple fronts. By inadvertently strengthening and unifying NATO, strengthening Ukraine’s national identity and undermining Russia’s prestige, Putin may have created the conditions for strengthening the forces of democracy.

For several years, Putin, along with other authoritarian leaders, tried to use propaganda battalions Sow divisions among Americans In an attempt to weaken the West and prove to their people that their system is superior. This did not help divisive controversies dominate American political discourse, many of which were raised by politicians Populist tendencies. No wonder democracy was losing steam as people became weary, apathetic and disgusted with politics.
But Russia A brutal and unjustified warResulting in Thousands of civilian casualtiesShow us what’s at stake. And many who took democracy for granted and looked at it with sad eyes, now realized that it needed protection.
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In Europe there early glimmer The wave of anti-democratic populism may have reached its peak.

In the US, the country is still deeply divided, but it is uniting on the Ukraine issue with intense partisanship that was hard to imagine just a few months ago.

Americans overwhelmingly support Ukraine’s right to determine its own democratic path. and almost Three out of four Americans Support efforts to supply Ukraine with weapons, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, with strong majorities among Democrats and Republicans alike saying they favor candidates in the November midterm elections to support arming Ukraine.
And a war waged by a Russian leader was overturned Fuzzy conspiracy theories In government policy shows how dangerous misinformation is.
In the United States, majorities of Democrats and Republicans say the spread of misinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a major issue, according to one study. AP-NORC Poll.
Americans are also worried about their democracy, telling pollsters they worry that Russia will do it Attempting to interfere in the midterm elections Through disinformation and misinformation on social media.
Interference fears also played a role in France’s presidential election last weekend. One of the main issues was the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and her party Still outstanding loans from Russian banks. She also had it before Liked And respect for Putin, and denied the truth That Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, all of which raised questions about its independence from the Kremlin.
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Given that Russia has used social media to further its goals, it’s no wonder that there has been a fierce debate about the future of Twitter. The platform, which provides a direct outlet to the American political bloodstream, has tried to rein in extremists, conspiracy theorists and those who used it in division of the country with hate speech, Misinformation and propaganda.
It’s unclear exactly what Musk’s plans are for Twitter, but his rhetoric suggests it might make it more, not less, radical and divisive. During an interview on stage at a TED conference earlier this month, Musk said“If in doubt, leave the speech there. If it’s a gray area, I’d say, leave the tweet there. But obviously in the case where there’s probably a lot of controversy, you wouldn’t necessarily want to promote that tweet.”

And of course, there is the question of whether former President Donald Trump — who used Twitter to rise to power and perpetuate a conspiracy theory about widespread election fraud that inspired a mob to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 — will be brought back. Under Musk’s leadership in a move that could return him to the political spotlight ahead of the 2024 elections.

And the prospect of Twitter emerging even more spectacular amid a raging war already riddled with disinformation makes the danger all the more clear to democracy-conscious Americans at home and abroad.

Of all the polls about Americans and Ukraine, perhaps there is nothing surprising in this: 78% of Americans They said they support the resettlement of 100,000 Ukrainian refugees in the United States, according to Gallup.

This level of public support is the highest Gallup has found for refugee admissions since 1939. For context, only 26% said they supported bringing in 10,000 refugee children from Germany in 1939; 16% said they supported more Jewish and other European refugees than the law allowed for admission in 1946, just after World War II.

It is clear that the war in Ukraine has touched a nerve in the American psyche. Deep sympathy and concern for the Ukrainian people and anger over Putin’s attempt to usurp their freedom have led to a renewed appreciation for democracy.

But this growing consensus will not alone save America from ills. It will not alone reflect the tide of tyranny sweeping the world. However, it presents an opportunity. Americans don’t have to agree on everything. But going forward, the country needs to cooperate on at least two key points: the necessity for democracy to survive and respect for this fact. This consensus is not achieved very soon.

those who were worried about a pro-Putin populist victory in France; about turning Twitter into a more powerful weapon of disinformation, hate and division; And on the fate of Ukraine, he opened the door to responsible, eloquent and principled political leaders. They must seize the opportunity and try to bridge the widening divisions that have emerged in the United States in order to put it back on the path of transition to a stronger, unified and lasting democracy.

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