The opposition is behaving just like a Kremlin troll factory the aim of which is to attack its adversary, influence public opinion and render its institutions unworkable. Only this time, the sights have been set on our own country and its people's right to decide matters of the state, Henn Põlluaas writes.
I'm sure everyone has by now heard the claim that Estonia is run by a xenophobic, racist, lowbrow and intolerant government and that the coalition has dismantled everything we have achieved in the last 30 years.
Such claims have become so common that their absurdity is missed even by those who condemn political mudslinging and urge tolerance and courtesy. The media the task of which should be to ascertain and disseminate objective and true information is busy amplifying and spreading such attitudes instead.
Such stereotypes are created and used to render people's attitudes toward the government negative and make them renounce a system of values that has repeatedly proved itself in time and space and that the coalition represents.
No attempt is made to prove these claims. Dialogue has been replaced with name-calling, lies and dissemination of fear – the more pronounced, the better. Whatever kind of fiction will do. However, it works to undermine social cohesion, the democratic system and people's trust in it.
Fierce opposition to allowing the people to decide how society should proceed in terms of the marriage referendum is a telling example. Around 70-80 percent of journalistic articles are against the referendum, ca 5 percent are neutral and another 5 percent support it.
At the same time, around 65 percent of people want to protect true values and provide marriage as a union between a man and a woman with a layer of constitutional protection – in other words, say "yes" at the referendum.
The media is not reflecting the actual situation or common social attitudes and is instead trying to sway and change them. Drastic depreciation of independent, objective and trustworthy press and (left-wing) radicalization of the media constitute a pivotal change of the past decade.
The opposition and the media that supports it are shaming, badmouthing, accusing and generally trying to paralyze the coalition's capacity and amplifying signals according to which the government is to blame for everything and anything. Society is kept in a permanent sense of anxiety.
This was referred to as post-truth policy some time ago, while I'm sure it would also fit inside so-called hate speech. At the same time, criminalization of hate speech, censorship and new regulations are sought by radical liberals who consider themselves the most tolerant, champions of freedom and free speech.
Suddenly, existing rules and regulations governing unacceptable criminal behavior are no longer enough. This behavior that ignores the people's will, freedom of thought and speech clearly reflects the desire to remove unsuitable opinions and political opponents from the public sphere.
Liberalism has become a radical and totalitarian ideology which fact even has Reform Party members startled. A poll by Norstat showed that most of them do not support the party leaders' campaign to criminalize so-called hate speech. What is truly surprising is the media's silent approval of the plan that would eventually mature into muzzling of the press.
All of it also has an international dimension. Fiction and slander are actively being disseminated in international media, among foreign diplomats and various global organizations.
Opponents are making efforts to attach a foreign policy dimension to statements by coalition politicians that are turned upside down and overamplified. The local media revels in covering isolated echoes that make it to the foreign press to demonstrate just how low Estonia's international reputation has sunk.
In the course of this confrontation and irresponsible political struggle, Estonia is made to look like an undemocratic, pro-Kremlin pariah run by extremists. It has not succeeded so far.
The fact some of our politicians express their ideological preferences that rub liberal opponents the wrong way does not interest other nations nor does it harm our reputation. The line between reality and the opposition's information noise carried by their thirst for power is clearly perceived.
I can confirm as much based on international contacts that come with my position. Estonia's relations with friends and allies near and far are excellent and the government has succeeded in keeping their eyes open regarding Russia's true ambitions and actions.
However, in a situation where the opposition keeps placing us outside Europe and among pariahs with increasingly horrendous statements, especially with support from two presidents, our international reputation crumbling could be the result in the long term. Believing that our allies, security and defensive capacity are not affected by consistent efforts to demonize the government is either naive or malicious.
Badmouthing the government in the eyes of the international public overlaps with the Kremlin's goal of undermining trust in Estonia among European countries, people and organizations; driving wedges between different social groups, fanning in-house conflict, dismantling social cohesion and weakening our defense and security. Even the rhetoric is the same.
Could blind hate for the government truly keep people from seeing that? The consequences do not matter and the ends seem to justify the means down to a deluge. This kind of socially divisive action serves a single goal: to mobilize the ideologically likeminded and come to power no matter the cost.
That is also how the Reform Party and Social Democratic Party's attempt to paralyze the work of the parliament by filing nearly ten thousand empty motions to amend to the referendum bill comes across. Processing the motions could take months and cause all other necessary and important bills to be shelved. All legislative efforts will grind to a halt.
The opposition is behaving like a Kremlin troll factory the aim of which is to attack its adversary, influence public opinion and render its institutions unworkable. Only this time, the sights have been set on our own country and its people's right to decide matters of the state.
Base obscenity included in some motions to amend constitutes a telling example of how eagerly the social democrats bear bolshevist legacy, ignorance and boorishness and how arrogant their attitude toward the people as the bearers of supreme authority. One is left with the sad realization that morality and normality do not sit well with some political forces.
Obstruction is a tool at the opposition's disposal it can use to demonstrate its protestation of certain matters, but it has its limits. Crossing over the threshold of common sense, harming the Riigikogu's legislative actions and the functioning of parliamentarism is no longer mere obstruction. It constitutes a direct attack against the constitutional order, state and democracy. What happened to statesmanlike conduct?
The opposition is following Lenin's doctrine of dismantling parliamentarism using its own tools. Most journalists' gloating approval of the situation adds another dimension. Which (or whose) power was journalism supposed to be again? However, this inescapably leads us to the age-old question of whose interests does all of it serve?
I hope that Estonians' characteristic common sense will prevail and this confrontation will be replaced by realization that dialogue is better than conflict, that values that have served us and proved their merit through the ages mustn't be discarded and that the only thing able to take us forward is considering the will of the people and working together.
Editor: Marcus Turovski