A group that can "Jedi mind trick" my responses in negotiations is removing my free will to get what they want. Who let them decide what's best for the universe? Jedi use magic tricks and force to shape the universe into the image they desire under the guise as peacekeepers. To me, that's evil.
I think you're reading too much and too little into that scene. It's exacerbated by the storytelling shortcuts the movie had to make, and taking too many things in the movies at face value.
The Jedi were there to figure out what was going on, the blockade made little sense and was verging into illegality. Nute and Dofine were worried the Jedi would figure out that it really was an invasion plan...maybe even who they were working for. Who needs a mind trick when you can ferret out what's really going on and report back to the Chancellor? "Forcing" doesn't have to mean mental domination, it just means exposure and the possibility of political censure. Plus, mechanically a mind trick wears off, if the Jedi ran around mind-tricking everyone to behave they'd never have held the position they did, there would be too many reports of abuse.
It's hard for me to watch the movies anymore. TCW does a much better job of laying out the bigger picture with these kinds of political confrontations.
I completly agree about the storytelling shortcuts altering "perception" of the events. They needed to get the point across that the bad guys were bad and give them some justificaiton for their actions.
As for the Jedi's mission, this is from the scroll:
While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of
events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights,
the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the
Jedi were sent to settle the conflict, not investigate it and report back. One could simply think that this would mean through peaceful negotiations. But, why were Jedi Knights sent in secret? Why not an ambassador? Isn't there a seperation between the Jedi Order and the Senate? Why is the Supreme Chancellor relying on under the table methods? Jedi are guardians of peace and justice, but they are also armed warriors. I would contend that Jedi were sent to make a point, and that point was to strike fear. Granted, they are good guys and striking fear in the hearts of the bad guys isn't bad in context of a story, but when you remove the blunt good/bad natures of the character you start seeing shades of gray in the Jedi's actions.
The TCW sounds like a great show. I passed on it early because it seemed like just a kids show, but the couple times I've watched it, it has been really good. Showing political issues in a realistic light is hard in the limited time of a movie, especially when it's a Space Opera and not a Political Thriller, so a TV show format would have the time to be able to go into more depth to show how it actually went down. I'll have to watch TCW one of these days. Perhaps get Netflix again, if it's on there.
The guilty are frequently frightened by those who have the will, the mandate, and the capability to hold them accountable. That doesn't make those who dispense the justice evil. Indeed even the ability to force someone to acquiesce isn't in and of itself evil, whether by magic mind trick or overwhelming superior force, it's how that power is used and dispensed that determines whether or not it is being used in an evil fashion.
I completly agree, which is why the morality of force users can be an interesting discussion, when held by level headed parties. It's great that the Jedi do things for good. Really, their greatest downfall is that they are written by someone who isn't a Jedi, so some of their actions and words can be easily viewed from a negative perspective. This bit of dialogue is just before the Jedi are attacked.
OBI-WAN : Yes, Master...how do you think the trade viceroy will deal with the chancellor's demands?
QUI-GON : These Federation types are cowards. The negotiations will be short.
I'll admit that the words were chosen as storytelling shorthand to get the point across. The bad guys are cowards and would do anything to not have to negotiate the chancellor's demands, which is why they try to gas the Jedi. However, if we don't just give it a pass as shorthand we can read things into what was said. I find it interesting that Qui-Gon said "cowards". It could be read into it that the Jedi reputation preceedes them and the Federation would just give in to the demands without any negoations.
And really, all of this could be taken a step further. Perhaps Jedi didn't have an overly good or bad reputation. Perhaps Sideous had already planted those thoughts into the Trade Federation people so that they'd start the war. Perhaps this is just showing how out of touch the Jedi Order had become and why the major upheaval was needed to restore ballance.
Great discussion. I love it. I think at the heart of it all we agree on our answer to the OP's question. Jedi are a force of good and how they are portrayed depends on how your own game/story goes. I just enjoy digging a little deeper and seeing the shades of gray that are either intentional or that my perception fills in for me.