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Does the end ever justify the means?


If you are living in Ōtaki Aotearoa New Zealand, the war in Ukraine is the work of Russian despots from a brutal militaristic culture. 

On the other hand, if you’re in Uglich, Russia, you’re very likely to think Ukraine is a heinous authoritarian state run by Nazis.

No doubt, too, the Russians have had confirmation of their view with the West imposing some nasty sanctions on their economy and a suggestion that Ukraine is faking genocide, by Russia, on their citizens. What else can the Russian Government do but stop this propaganda from entering the heads of the citizens of the motherland by imposing censorship?

Putin’s Russia has told its own people, and the world, that the attack on Ukraine is entirely justified. Ukraine, as well as Nato and the Western alliance, represents a threat to Russian sovereignty and Ukraine is, in most respects, part of a “Soviet bloc”.

It is simplistic and too easy to explain this away as the foibles of a foreign culture. People of all persuasions, political and otherwise, have fallen for the Machiavellian idea that “the end justifies the means”. One just needs to focus on the outcome and all else fits in like a jigsaw.

For example, it was particularly notable during the recent protests at Parliament, that both major political parties stayed well clear and marked the protesters as trouble-making desperados. 

At the same time, certain commentators suggested that the protesters had a point worth entertaining and that they weren’t simply rebels without-a-cause but had legitimate grievances. Given that most of these commentators have never owed a truck, lived in a tent or used a lawn as a lavatory, one can only conclude that the protesters, for a millisecond, looked like they might just embarrass the Government.

The conclusion is that the protesters (the means) could be justified because the Government would be dealt a blow (the end).

And was I the only one who noticed that the protesters looked very like the January 6 insurrectionists on the United States Capitol in 2021, especially as they began to set fire to things, and thrown bricks and poo at the cops?

Which brings me to what’s happening in the US and is as gobsmacking as anything Putin has dreamt up for Ukraine.

In 2020 America held a presidential election. Biden won by 7 million votes. Immediately the losing candidate, Donald Trump, claimed the election was fraudulent and went to work on having the results reversed, in his favour.

Nothing was spared in his efforts to scrub the result, including numerous court challenges and, in the end, a deadly mob attack on the Capitol Building, just as lawmakers were about to confirm the electoral result.

One could imagine that if some people (most Republicans) genuinely believed that the elections had been stolen and the wrong person was elected, that law-breaking and insurrection was justified. But no one has ever managed to produce a shred of evidence that the election was stolen, certainly not to wipe away a majority of 7 million votes – the largest vote percentage obtained against an incumbent president since 1932.

But, if one follows the principle of “the end justifying the means”, the attempt to overthrow an election is simply to counter the idea that democracy itself has betrayed America by allowing the wrong people to win. 

See what I mean? Democracy is OK, but only if our man wins. 

All this raises a question, given the lack of supporting evidence. 

Do Republicans actually, really believe the election was stolen? Clearly, that’s not the issue, when we read recently that Team Trump went to court to try, again, to nullify Biden’s victory and push back on investigations into attempts to overthrow the election results, by saying they could not possibly have committed criminal conspiracy, because those in and around the Trump White House had merely been acting on the basis of sincerely held suspicions.

Really? No evidence, just suspicions? 

We can only hope a court of law does not allow the end to justify the means. 

“The first sign of corruption, in a society that is still alive, is that the end justifies the means.”

– Georges Bernanos


You can contact Fraser here.

Fraser Carson is the founding partner of Wellington-based Flightdec’s kaupapa is to challenge the status quo of the internet to give access to more reliable and valuable citizen generated content, and to improve connectivity and collaboration.

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Does the end ever justify the means?

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