The star of the parliamentary protests surprised his online audience by announcing his arrival in the country.
Conspiratorial influencer Chantelle Baker has landed in Ukraine, posting live streams from Odessa on her Facebook page. The new page, set up after the first was banned by Facebook, is part of a project described as “a completely independent media group” that “will open your mind to new ideas, innovative concepts and new perspectives. “.
Before the parliamentary occupation in February, most people probably hadn’t heard of Chantelle Baker. The self-proclaimed fashionista and former reality TV contestant had been posting fashion and beauty videos on Facebook for a few years, but had more recently found her biggest hit with videos that challenged the official narrative around Covid and the response to the government to the pandemic.
By the time the “Freedom Convoy” began its journey to the Parliament grounds, she was one of the community’s most prominent influencers, and over the next three weeks became a star of the event, with its live streams from Parliament reaching tens of thousands of viewers live on Facebook, with thousands more watching the recordings later.
Baker’s streams from the last day of the occupation received, according to The Disinformation Project, more online viewers than mainstream media companies combined, and his live claims that police started the fires that engulfed the camp have become ground truth for supporters of the movement.
In her first live stream from the country on Saturday morning New Zealand time, Baker apologized for not updating her followers in recent days before explaining that the reason was that she s secretly traveled to Ukraine to talk to people first hand.
Before landing in Odessa, a city hundreds of miles from the front lines of the war, Baker and his partner had traveled across Europe to interview controversial figures. Most recently, she published an hour-long interview with Dutch politician Thierry Baudet, a conspiracy theorist who has repeatedly drawn attention for his climate-denial, anti-NATO and pro-Russia stances, as well as for his various racist and anti-Semitic remarks.
The couple’s European excursion began with their attendance, along with Chantelle’s father, former New Conservative Party leader Leighton Baker, at the Vienna leg of the Better Way conference, an event described by Vice News as “the Davos Covid conspiracy theorists”.
While in Ukraine, Baker told live viewers that she would not post any of the footage they captured on the ground, nor would she post any of her thoughts on the war or politics in Ukraine. would be removed by Facebook, YouTube and others. Instead, she says, the occasional cellphone live stream is all she will offer while in the country.
In the weekend live streams, from the largely spared city of Odessa, she mostly expressed surprise at people’s moods and the fact that the city is obviously no different from other big cities. European cities. Thanking viewers who donated to her ANZ bank account, she said: “You have allowed us to come into Ukraine and be able to tell stories of people who are here on the ground and what they are going through, which is amazing. and is so different from what I thought [from] the media and what I have seen so far.
“What is happening in Ukraine is…”, she continued, before specifying that she is quite far from the front line, “and obviously we are only in Odessa, which is a city that has not been very affected”.
Its announcement video had racked up nearly 100,000 views by the end of the weekend, and although Baker did not express his thoughts on the war, many controversial opinions were expressed among the 1,500 comments on the video. Facebook.
“I think maybe you know Ukraine is NWO [New World Order] deep state agent, used to perpetuate destabilization for their reset,” Russell offered. “The US and NATO, not Putin, are the agitators who want war to fuel the military-industrial complex,” Cindy wrote, receiving over a hundred all-positive reactions from other viewers.
Elly wanted to make sure Baker and other viewers knew what to make of the Russian leader in all of this: “I really don’t think Putin is bad. I think it’s just presented as such by the media/governments. Looks like he’s standing up to the elites. It was a position met with about 125 positive reactions.
Many viewers, seemingly unfamiliar with Ukrainian geography, felt its 12-minute live stream was, on its own, enough to demystify the media narrative of the war. “Wow doesn’t look like a war-torn country,” Denis said, of the well-lit cobblestone streets and local nightlife. Margo was also struck by the lack of tanks and bombed buildings: “It makes you wonder if there is a real war in Ukraine.
In his second major livestream from the city, Baker reported that “private police” followed them and ordered them not to film (although they still appeared to be filming) due to martial law. She marveled at the presence of high fashion stores, hairdressers, nail salons and an Italian restaurant, before revealing that despite having booked train tickets to travel to Kyiv, a much more affected city , they had chosen to miss their trip because they (reasonably) felt that the city was currently too dangerous.
Although we don’t really know Baker’s views on the war and its participants, it is widely held among those who remain active in the many channels that have formed the online core of parliamentary protest that the war is not not as presented, and in many cases that Russia is the “good guy” in the conflict. Many who have followed Baker since the Occupy share this view and apparently expect her to uncover a truth that the mainstream media apparently hides.
So far, it seems likely that we won’t know how Baker views and chooses to portray the war until it’s safely out of the country.
Dylan Reeve is the author of Fake Believe: Conspiracy Theories in Aotearoa (Upstart Press, $39.99), which can be ordered from Unity Books Auckland and Wellington.