So Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is to address the NZ Parliament next Wednesday. The address will be outside business hours (I will be interested to see how many MPs turn up) but it will please our Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, who has pushed hard to get this address. As she sees it:
“This address is a valuable opportunity to reiterate our support for Ukraine directly to President Zelenskyy and hear from him what the international community can do to continue to support its people, and its sovereignty.”
But the New Zealand people don’t appear to share the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for Zelensky. Just look at the negative comments this news received on the Twitter announcements of the address by the NZ Herald, News Hub Politics, and 1News NZ.
Gone are those Twitter activists from 9 months ago who proudly virtue-signalled their support for Ukraine and hatred for Russia. They seemed to be everywhere. Nowadays such enthusiastic supporters are few and far between. The mood is quite the opposite.
There is an occasional “Slava Ukraini!” But the vast majority of comments are hostile to this address. Comments raise issues of the corruption in Ukraine, Zelensky’s personal corruption, his attitude of entitlement and his insistent demands for money and weapons, and his support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
This surprises me as I expected that New Zealanders had blindly accepted the government’s position on Ukraine. Even accepting New Zealand’s UN vote against a resolution condemning the glorification of Nazis and racism (see Is New Zealand covertly supporting the glorification of neo-Nazism?). Western Governments and media have competed in glorifying Zelensky as a brave and charismatic leader. The Financial Times even listed him as their Person of the Year.
Has the person on the street resisted all this pressure and come to their own mind about Zelensky?
I realise that Twitter commenters can be unrepresentative because they tend to congregate according to their biases. But these comments were on news media Twitter posts, so I expect them to be more representative. Maybe Elon Musk has somehow changed the composition of Twitter commenters, but I doubt it.
Have more and more ordinary New Zealanders resisted the media and government pressures to conform over Ukraine and the war in Ukraine? Are more and more New Zealanders now thinking for themselves.
I think the more politically conscious amongst us have learned things about Ukraine and the causes of the war that they weren’t conscious of 9 months ago. The enthusiastic, but unthinking, support from Ukraine has dissipated. We have become more aware of the real nature of Ukrainian society and its recent history. We have become conscious of the 2014 coup which overthrew a democratically elected government. We now know now about the widespread influence of ultranationalists and neo-Nazis in society and in the military national battalions (see The subtlety of neo-Nazi influence in Ukraine – ignored by our media).
Whatever the reason I welcome this trend. A society blindly led by the government and media as happened 9 months ago is dangerous.