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An Afghan knifeman tried to assassinate a leading anti-Islamist campaigner at a rally in the German city of Mannheim on Friday, and murdered a young policeman in the attack. The stabbing, carried out by a failed asylum-seeker who had been living in Germany illegally for years, was a searing indictment of successive German governments' mass migration policies.

A week before the elections to the European Parliament, this attempted assassination of a critic of political Islam provided a graphic illustration of why support for the right-wing, anti-migration Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) has soared in recent times.

However, if you were to judge by European news media headlines, you might have thought that it was actually 'far-right' rally attendees who had stabbed the policeman. And if you believed the mainstream political reactions to the Islamist attack, you could have concluded that the 'divisive' AfD was really to blame for such political violence, so the party should be cordoned off, censored, or even banned to stop Germans choosing to vote for it.

This political inversion of reality is typical of what we have come to expect in a European Union dominated by the centre-left under European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. We might call it the politics of 'Ursula Through the Looking Glass.'

The campaign for this week's elections to the European Parliament has been marked by the Brussels elites trying to turn the truth on its head. The parties of the centre and left have insisted that these elections are about 'defending European democracy' from foreign — particularly Russian — interference and 'disinformation.'

To defend the EU leaders' version of 'democracy,' of course, they then attack the democratic rights and freedom of speech of European politicians and voters — specifically conservative ones.

Launching her bid for a second term as Commission president, von der Leyen set the tone at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit last month. She proudly announced plans for a new "EU Democracy Shield." The purpose of this grandiose-sounding defence system would not be to stop missiles fired from the east, but to suppress dangerous ideas being fired around online inside the EU.

The European Democracy Shield will seek to detect and remove online 'disinformation,' using the extensive censorship powers that Brussels has already granted itself through the Digital Services Act (DSA). The Commission's stated aim would be "inoculating" EU citizens against malign influences, by educating them to recognise the threat of disinformation. At a time when right-wing populism is often branded a 'virus' in the EU, there is little doubt which ideas they want to inoculate Europe's citizens against.

The DSA — introduced to coincide with the election campaign — hands the Commission extraordinary powers. Under the pretext of combating 'hate speech' and 'disinformation,' it can suppress the views of populist and right-wing parties that don't conform with Brussels' worldview, policing what voters are allowed to say, see, or hear online. As we argued in Democracy Watch last year, it means that "Big Brussels is Watching You."

Von der Leyen's 'European Democracy Shield' will put that system of censorship and control into action. How can they attempt to justify such an attack on basis democratic freedoms in the name of defending democracy? By pointing the finger at the Russians and blaming them for the rise of right-wing populists.

In case anybody had missed the point, President Ursula hammered it in further.
"We have seen far-right politicians and lead candidates from AfD in Germany in the pockets of Russia. They are selling their souls on Russian propaganda and videos."
This then becomes the excuse for Brussels to sell out democracy and free speech in Europe, in the cause of combating 'disinformation.'

As the EU elections approach, the Brussels elites have gone further still in their black propaganda campaign against the populists, by trying to focus attention on the 'Russiagate' scandal. They are in a panic, and looking for scapegoats to carry the can.

The Commission has sanctioned the media platform Voice of Europe, accused of paying conservative MEPs to act as mouthpieces for Russian propaganda. Meanwhile Brussels police launched a criminal investigation into an AfD MEP's assistant, accused of spying for the Chinese communist regime. Police then raided the parliamentary offices of a right-wing Dutch MEP's aide who had previously worked for the AfD, and linked the raids to their investigations into alleged Russian interference.

We cannot know the truth behind these specific allegations, since despite all the noisy headlines, the authorities have produced little or no evidence in public. Voice of Europe has vehemently denied acting as a Russian agent — and all the MEPs accused have called the claims absurd. But even now, three things about the politicised 'Russiagate' scare should be clear enough:

First, the timing of the crackdowns and raids, days before the elections to the European Parliament, is surely too much of a coincidence for any detective worth their salt to ignore.

After all, The European Conservative first raised concerns about the Chinese connections of that MEP's aide more than a year ago. So why make them official now, and mix them up with all manner of vague allegations around other conservative media and MEPs? It looks like a concerted effort to smear the entire Right in Brussels, on the eve of elections where sovereigntist parties have been predicted to do well.

Meanwhile other, much larger potential Brussels corruption scandals involving von der Leyen's allies and the Left, from Pfizergate to Qatargate, have effectively been shelved until sometime after the electoral dust has safely settled.

Second, serious allegations of political corruption and of MEPs acting as paid agents of foreign powers should of course be investigated. But let's be clear about what that means.

Questioning the EU's open-ended support for Ukraine in its war against the Russian invaders, and criticising European leaders who want to escalate EU involvement in the war, does not automatically make anybody a "Russian mouthpiece" or a megaphone for "Putin's propaganda."

Whatever any of us thinks of the war (and I remain a supporter of Ukraine's right to national self-determination), it must be perfectly legitimate for any European politician to criticise EU policy and advocate for peace negotiations now. It is particularly important for an elected national leader, such as Hungarian prime minister Victor Orbán, to be free to opt out of the EU's war funding for Ukraine, and insist on his sovereign nation's right to pursue an independent foreign policy, without being libelled as "Putin's puppet."

This freedom is of crucial importance for the real future of European democracy. Especially at election time, democracy must involve the liberty to make a genuine choice between competing political visions. But where's the democratic choice, if candidates are only considered legitimate when they all say the same thing?

Third, and most importantly of all. No doubt Russia is trying to spread its influence abroad; that is what all great powers get up to. But if millions of Europeans do vote for right-wing, sovereigntist, and populist parties in this week's EU elections, we can be sure it will not be because they have been misled by Russian-backed 'disinformation'!

The manipulated 'Russiagate' scandal looks like a blatant attempt by the Brussels establishment to pre-emptively shift the blame, in case the election results don't go its way. It is not the damage done by EU policies on everything from farming to migration that has turned voters towards the populists, you understand. No, no, it is the manipulation of European public opinion by Russian-backed 'misinformation' that has led the voters astray.

As always with such ploys, what appears to be an attack on foreign interference is really an attack on Europe's electorates, seen as such simple-minded and gullible children that they can be misled by Putin's paid-for pied pipers. This is straight out of the Left's playbook; from Brexit to Trump, the Russians are to blame. It could not possibly be that many voters might make a rational, reasonable decision to revolt against the old order and vote for right-wing populist parties. Somebody else must be to blame! The fear in their eyes is unmistakable.

Unfortunately for the EU establishment, European voters really aren't stupid enough to be fooled by their blatant black propaganda campaign, as shown by the AfD's resilience in recent German elections despite all the smears.

Of course, nothing is yet certain about the EU elections, especially since the centre has done its best to put people off voting at all by reducing the campaign to a dull debate about von der Leyen's future. But whatever the results, the struggle for democracy and free speech, against the centralising control freaks of the EU elites will continue. And not because of anything the Russians might do or say.