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Who is the real Bellingcat? The pioneers of open-source journalism have been widely celebrated — yet we know little about them

"And the Russian missile was THIS big." Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

"And the Russian missile was THIS big." Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images


February 8, 2021   6 mins

At a time when faith in the media is historically low — when reliably reported news is almost as likely to be branded “fake news” as the real thing — there is one glaring exception. One source whose reporting is treated as the new gold standard. In less than 10 years, an organisation has emerged from the obscurity of a bedroom in Leicester to enjoy almost universal respect. It’s almost too good to be true.

The mysterious creature known as Bellingcat bounded into the public consciousness in September 2018, when it “outed” the would-be Salisbury assassins. The two Russians who poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter had been identified by the UK authorities as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, but it was assumed that these names were false. Bellingcat found that the pair, who had presented themselves as tourists in a widely ridiculed interview on Russian television, were in fact intelligence officers: Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga.

Bellingcat commanded headlines around the world for its discovery, naming first Mishkin then Chepiga on its website, two weeks apart. What is more, unlike most traditional media, it revelled not only in its scoops, but in explaining step by step just how it had outsmarted the competition, by using information entirely in the public domain: Russian military academy yearbooks, open databases of car registrations, passport numbers.

Even before the Salisbury incident, Bellingcat had a reputation. It put itself on the global sleuthing map in 2014 by publishing its painstaking research into the downing of MH17, just four months after the disaster. Bellingcat showed that a Buk missile system had been transported to Ukraine from a military base in the Russian city of Kursk, before being spotted on the return journey without one of its four missiles. Its evidence has been key in the criminal trial of three Russians and one Ukrainian believed to have been involved, which opened last year in The Hague.

Again, Bellingcat researchers said they worked entirely from sources — such as various Google platforms, press photos, crowd-sourcing and social media — available to anyone with the time and curiosity to look.

Most recently, Bellingcat has garnered headlines for the help — though the extent and precise nature of that help is not entirely clear — that it provided to Alexei Navalny during his five-month stay in Germany after he was poisoned. Bellingcat also established that a top-secret FSB (Russian security service) team had shadowed Navalny around Russia for at least five years. It is not clear whether the team ever had orders to kill him. But Bellingcat describes it as a “poison squad” and says it included people with chemical weapons expertise.

Apparently, no issue is too daunting. Over a decade, the organisation has fixed responsibility for atrocities during the war in Libya; found evidence of the Syrian government’s use of chemicals weapons against rebel forces; located ISIS sympathisers in Europe; and identified neo-Nazis in the Charlottesville protests. It has also been tackling disinformation connected with the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, it was nominated for an Emmy award, in the Outstanding New Approaches category.

So it’s worth asking: who is Bellingcat? This is the question its founder, Eliot Higgins, sets out to answer in his new book, We are Bellingcat. The story told is of a shape-shifting feline that grew from modest beginnings in a Leicester family home to become the global byword for open-source journalism. Higgins now has staff and a research fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley. Bellingcat has its claws hooked to a bunch of collaborative international ventures and is ever on the prowl for more. “This is only,” he concludes, “the start.”

In many ways, the evolution of Bellingcat has depended on a climate in which traditional journalism and traditional funding models are in difficulty. It is a non-profit; its methods are collaborative, transparent and moral — and enable it to prove what others cannot. Its early “staff” began as volunteers; they work from home, or wherever they may be. Bellingcat does not deal with commercial concerns; it crowdfunds where it can. It does not hack anyone or anything — or, just for argument’s sake, curry favour with anyone from the murky world of intelligence. That is olde worlde investigation; Bellingcat is the new.

The small team Higgins originally assembled — including an ex-Stasi agent, a Dutchman and a Bulgarian who first “met” through their obsession with social media investigations — would perfectly meet Dominic Cummings’s specification for “weirdos and misfits with odd skills”. Its motto is “Identify, Verify, Amplify”. The appeal should be obvious. It doesn’t matter where you come from or how many degrees you don’t have (Higgins himself dropped out of university): you are your results. In fact, he and his crew find a certain satisfaction in their lack of formal qualifications. They acquire their expertise — for recognising weapons, say, or reading satellite images — as they go along. But so skilled have they become, Higgins suggests, that old-fashioned professionals increasingly approach Bellingcat when their own investigations reach a dead end.

And this might be the nub of it. Bellingcat has, through its undoubtedly dogged and impressive work, achieved huge success and, with it, such standing that reporters lap up its every finding. Bellingcat basks in universally warm journalistic profiles.  The BBC routinely gives its findings top headlines and its Newsnight programme worked with Bellingcat on its research into the Salisbury “third man”. Higgins recently had “lunch with FT”, where he was presented as a doughty fighter against misinformation.

A recent article by Tom Burge, who works for the FCDO, a defence-related think tank, offered some insights. He noted that not only could such groups ferret out hard-to-find information, but that at a time of declining trust in officialdom, Bellingcat et al enjoyed a credibility Western governments have largely lost.

But is it not here that the alarm bells — from which, incidentally, Bellingcat’s name derives — might start tinkling at least a little? Why should Bellingcat be exempt from the scepticism that journalists are trained to apply to every source and every conclusion? How does its (now considerable) self-regard stack up?

Yes, Bellingcat’s methods are new in that they exploit the precision and global reach of new communications. But the opportunities — provided by the quantity of information out there — are newer than the actual methods. To probe beyond the “usual suspects” is fundamental to investigative journalism. Bellingcat, it should be realised, has antecedents. The Troubles in Northern Ireland provided fertile territory for digging up facts inconvenient to the governments of the day. The revelations about rendition and torture during the US-led “war on terror” relied on dogged research — using flight manifests among other things — not dissimilar to the methods used by Bellingcat. Such investigations were at least as challenging to the establishment of the time as Bellingcat, which has mostly discomfited foreign governments.

Another, more important, question rarely asked among the blizzard of facts kicked up by Bellingcat’s investigations is how transparent is the organisation really? How genuinely open are all its sources? Higgins is impressive in his insistence that every fact and every conclusion is tracked, so that any amateur with sufficient application can, as with the scientific method, replicate the findings. But this boast, it emerges, is not quite true.

Many of the Russia-related investigations have relied to a greater or lesser degree on enormous data bases that somehow came into Higgins’s possession; other information has, at one time or another, involved payment, both above and below board. Sometimes Higgins notes these exceptions in his book and the possible qualms they might prompt; at other times he skirts delicately around the subject.

And a central question that proceeds from that is whether Bellingcat might, at any stage, have cooperated with a nation’s security services. With very few exceptions — including a report of a US strike on civilians in Syria — Bellingcat’s findings bolster what might be called a Western case: for anti-Assad rebels in Syria, against the Kremlin (MH17, the Salisbury poisonings, Navalny).

Does Higgins know with whom exactly he is consorting? He is upfront about funding from, and cooperation with, the US-based Atlantic Council, which in turn has received money from the UK Foreign Office. But where does the initial information or the tip-offs come from? How trustworthy are they? Those leaked Russian databases — who acquired them? Might they have been doctored in advance? Higgins doesn’t even hint at the possibility.

When Bellingcat identified Mishkin and Chepiga as the culprits in the Salisbury poisoning — and a third, more senior, character called Denis Sergeyev — did this information really come as news to the UK security services? Or was it helpful, shall we say, for that information to be released by a source that journalists, and the general public, might find more credible than the guys whose duff intelligence triggered the Iraq War? It is admitted (usually behind closed doors) that launching this war on a false premise has undermined trust in the intelligence services for a generation.

Likewise, does the tracking of Navalny by Russia’s security service imply orders to kill? Bellingcat’s own headlines give that impression, but surveillance and hit squads are rather different things.

Higgins’s partial answer is that some recent Russian actions — restrictions on conscripts using social media, better data-base security — amount to an admission that Bellingcat got it right. But always, everywhere? If Bellingcat wasn’t beholden to anyone at the start, is it now? And even if it isn’t, are there ways in which it has knowingly or not been co-opted? Tom Burge argues that organisations such as Bellingcat provide cover for information that governments want out there, but do not want to sign. He also notes, with disarming frankness, “unaffiliated analysts are harder to smear”.

Which might prompt the biggest question of all. Just who is Eliot Higgins? Beyond the barest mention of his failure as a student of journalism, his obsession with gaming and his Leicester home, he refers only to having held some “administrative” jobs, before what had been an absorbing hobby made him an expert and progressively became his work. We are Bellingcat, says the title of his book, and by the end we know something about Bellingcat as “an intelligence agency for the people”, as the subtitle has it. What we don’t know is: who’s the “we”?


Mary Dejevsky was Moscow correspondent for The Times between 1988 and 1992. She has also been a correspondent from Paris, Washington and China.

marydejevsky

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Richard Powell
Richard Powell
3 years ago

The quality of Dejevsky’s investigative journalism is indicated by her description of the FCDO as “a defence-related think tank”. FCDO is of course the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and as such is responsible for the formulation and implementation of British foreign and development aid policy. It is stunning that Dejevsky not only doesn’t know this, but can’t be bothered to find out. Really you tarnish your brand by publishing such ill-informed articles.

Robert Walker
Robert Walker
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

I’m not a fan of hers, but that looks like sloppy editing to me: Mr Burge works for the FCDO, and the article to which she refers was published by RUSI, which is indeed a defence-related think tank.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago

“At a time when faith in the media is historically low ” when reliably reported news is almost as likely to be branded “fake news” as the real thing ” there is one glaring exception.”

At a time when purportedly serious news outlets like the BBC, the NYT and even the once-reasonable Guardian have given up any trying to be objective, people are hankering after something that smells a bit like unbiased, investigative journalism. The closest the BBC and the Guardian come to being unbiased is in their laughable protestations that they are so. The NYT has not been worth taking seriously in any way at all since it failed to fire Sarah Jeong.

There is clearly a glaring problem in news reporting today. Bellingcat might not be the answer, but perhaps part of it. Also, I am optimistic about GB News – which I had not really read much about until the Guardian predictably expressed angst about it – thus suggesting that it will be a valuable thing.

Here’s a great description of why GB News is so important:
wwwDOTspiked-onlineDOTcom/2021/02/08/stop-funding-hate-are-the-true-bigots/

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

How can you possibly be optimistic about GB News? They are just apeing Fox News which could hardly be described as impartial except by the most rabid Republican. Fair enough I suppose if all you want is a news channel that reflects your opinions.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

I am optimistic because:
1.) Andrew Neill is heading it, and he is one of the best political commentators around (which is why the BBC let him go).
2.) GB News will be bound by the same impartiality rules as other broadcasters – and, unlike the BBC, will probably take them to heart (because of #1).
3.) Even if they are unwatchably right wing, they will adjust the Overton Window and thus temper the toxic effects of the BBC.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Why is the focus only ever on Fox regarding bias in US media. MSNBC and CNN are even more partisan just on the opposite side. And CBS and NBC are not far behind, including providing only sympathetic coverage of the Democrats and softball questions for Biden as well as burying potentially embarrassing questions. Don’t kid yourself that the UK is much better, the bias of the BBC has been clear for years, Channel 4 news is essentially a propaganda channel fronted by activists not journalists and Sky News has disappeared up its own backside in wokeness

Pierre Pendre
Pierre Pendre
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Fox and MSNBC are partisan in a different way to CNN whose market is basically Washington and the the rest of the media. It’s a platform which sets the agenda for the mainly liberal MSM across the country which is why Zucker said under Obama that no one could be elected president without CNN. Trump promptly proved him wrong but CNN then led the broadcast opposition to him. CNN has had the lowest ratings of of the cable news outlets but a much higher quality of viewer than either Fox or MSNBC which cater to the non-elites.

George Kushner
George Kushner
3 years ago

It’s refreshing to hear a sceptic voice in the English media. Normally all western media are entirely united in their refusal to see any nuances in the Russian political situation and swallow wholesale whatever saves them from a unbiased analysis . So I was expecting a round of applause to bellingcat but was pleasantly surprised
And by the way it is indeed slightly suspicious why an independent investigation outcomes fit so comfortably the official anti Russian narrative

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  George Kushner

And by the way it is indeed slightly suspicious why an independent investigation outcomes fit so comfortably the official anti Russian narrative

That’ll be because they are either spooks, or are working on behalf of spooks. Or maybe they’re telling it how it is…? Who knows…?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  George Kushner

nuances in the Russian political situation

Like what?
Putin is a thief, he inner circle are thieves.
And he just tried to poison Navalny.

niesluchowska
niesluchowska
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Your answer is the perfect example of lacking nuance. You must be Russian or at the very least, Slavic.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  niesluchowska

Wrong on both counts.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

He’s a good deal less of a thief than Yeltsin. The problem for the US is it that he’s comfortable with oligarchs – they were welcomed with open arms in the 1990s as they bought up real estate, industry, and football clubs in the West as the Russian economy collapsed. The problem is that he then turned against the West, particularly in Syria.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I’m not sure he is less of a thief than Yeltsin, one way or another Putin is a master thief

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Oh he is. The whole place was looted in the 1990s. Putin is popular because he stopped a lot of that.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Are we forgetting that UK/USA froze Russia out of the wests central banking system after the Iron Curtain melted away in 1990-91? If they’d have got a seat at the table the chances of Kleptocracy taking over would have been small. I am not a big fan of Putin but he does have a distinguished service career behind him notably in the GDR. How many western politicians can say that? None from what i can see, unless you stretch the definition of distinguished service to include the opium smoking chap, Rory Whatsisname?

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

I don’t think his KGB career was that distinguished, he was just one of many mid level officers adrift in the 1990s. It seems he arose without a trace on the basis of luck, good judgement on his part (and poor judgement by others), diligence, sycophancy as well as his natural intelligence and cunning.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

The events at the KGB offices in Berlin 1989 may have been exaggerated since. However i expect if it was completely fake, like Hilary Clinton landing under fire in Bosnia, Putin’s enemies here and in Russia would be quick to keep telling us. I expect the likes of BJ and Biden would find a man with that level of courage very frightening.

Michael Joseph
Michael Joseph
3 years ago
Reply to  George Kushner

A sceptical voice? That may be the case, but that’s not all Dejevsky is. Let’s just say that no matter what the Putin regime gets up to, she will pop up sooner or later to obfuscate, point in other directions and generally indulge in whataboutery.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago

Bellingcat Is obviously a front for some intelligence operation. A hell of a lot of the conclusions are suspect.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

And the facts that Bellingcat was praised by BBC on Newsnight, then “at lunch with the FT” immediately make it a suspect organisation.
It seems to me that some of their ‘exclusives’ start with the conclusion and then find ‘evidence’ to demonstrate them. There are those who dispute Bellingcat’s proof of chemical attacks by the Syrian govt onto the rebels. They include, investigators who worked for the team of the World organisation for Chemical Weapons Investigations.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jean Fothers

Yes, I read another article on Bellingcat a couple of weeks ago – in The Spectator I think – where I was surprised at their assertion that the chemical attacks came from the Syrian govt. Obviously, I don’t know the truth, but I know there are a lot of credible people who believe there is evidence to suggest that the rebels ‘staged’ the attacks.

organic.almonds
organic.almonds
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraser, quite frankly there is not one single credible person who believes there is evidence that the rebels ‘staged’ the attacks. The UN has recorded scores of attacks perpetrated by the Assad regime in opposition-held territory. You can find a timeline of their use recorded here, read a report about the logic of their use here, watch a video of chlorine gas being released after a regime helicopter drops a payload here and read about the UN report which found the Assad regime guilty of dropping sarin gas on civilians here. In future please avoid reading the words of conspiracy theorists and look for evidence instead.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

Robert Fisk, who received numerous awards for his journalism, had considerable doubts about such narratives.

organic.almonds
organic.almonds
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

You mean the same Robert Fisk who reported on the Middle East for decades despite never learning Arabic? The same Robert Fisk who used a translator connected to Assad’s Mukhabarat? He received awards for his early journalism – his later work was as worthless as his equivalents such as Pilger and Tariq Ali, all of whom are old guard lefties who lost the plot as they grew older.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

The same Robert Fisk who actually went to Douma, as did Ian Henderson and other OPCW experts who expressed doubts about the official narrative.

organic.almonds
organic.almonds
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Ian, I hereby express doubts that you are an expert on this matter

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

Are you suggesting that Fisk and Henderson did not go to Douma?

organic.almonds
organic.almonds
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

No, I’m suggesting that their presence in Douma means nothing

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago

The same Robert Fisk who was slandered by Neo conservatives, yes.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Whist I hold no particular candle for Bellingcat and suspect that they, at the very least, have their own political biases or motivations, I don’t think Robert Fisk’s opinion counts for much, He was a fabricator and fantasist of long standing

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

One needs to understand the nuances( the dialects); what was said and unsaid; family and tribal relations perhaps going back five generations; who are the Mothers ( when a man marries several wives this influences status of the children), appreciating slight differences in physique and clothes between tribes; all these factors influence the relations between arabs.
In most arab countries, Western Governments only know what they are told by the rulers.

Russell Caplan
Russell Caplan
3 years ago

I prefer to stick with the science on the question of chemical weapons use in Syria. Professor Theodore Postol a respected expert on missile defense and nuclear weapons has adduced enough evidence for at least one incident ascribed to the Syrian government, the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, to doubt the allegations made against it. This is further buttressed by the leaks coming out of the OPCW suggesting the politicisation and corruption of the OPCW as a useful source of verification. All this has to be considered against the question: What did the Syrian regime have to gain by the use of chemical weapons? The Obama regime had threatened that the use of such weapons was a red line that should not be crossed to avoid US involvement. Assad therefore had a lot to lose if his regime crossed this line. It was already winning the war by this stage and US intervention would have been a catastrophic setback. The only credible conclusion in the light of all this overwhelming evidence is that the use of chemical weapons was a false flag operation where they were used, and a fabrication in the case of Khan Shaykhun in a desperate attempt to provoke US intervention.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I see the smoke but not sure if there is a fire. Some of their “how to” pieces are pretty deep and methods using NavCom systems for marine and aviation are really stretching the terms of the products licence. These methods could be used against our states and their security apparatus as much as they could our enemies. Look at the intelligence and life losses caused by Messrs Manning, Asinge and Snowdon.

akcita
akcita
3 years ago

Given that “wikileaks” is deemed bad by the European and US intelligence community, it seems that as long as you are aligned, or perhaps controlled by the Atlantic Council, you have no issues…
It seems that peeling the onion back on who is feeding data to these folks would be a reasonable task…
All the “Open-Source” schtick smells like plausible deniability for the Atlantic Council aligned Intelligence Community.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

I enjoy many Bellingcat articles and their “how to” pieces on webveillance and geolocation. Like many below i see mission creep. They now follow the tropes of our MSM targetting Chinese (yellow peril) A-Rabs (dirty) and oh those Russians! Using the same geo-surveillance techniques it has been possible to track traffic movements at and around UK hospitals with A&E departments and medical/surgical wards. 4 of us did this last week with 4 hospitals in provincial towns, avoiding big cities as most workers and patients there will not drive to site. We started with Mar 20 -Jan 21 car park counting every 5th day at 10:30 and 15:30 hrs. Then compared this with the same from 3/19 to 1/20. The massive 50%+ drop in traffic in the last 10 months seems to indicate large scale under use of hospitals. Out of the many possible causes here are 6: Staff, patients and visitors have 1. learned to teleport or 2. all now walk to site, 3. Britons have become so healthy they don’t need hospitals. 4. Fear of SARS-CoV2 means people stay away even if they suffer other harm. 5. The govt is lying about the number of people with severe enough SARS-CoV2 to be treated in hospital. 6. Every journey to hospital is now a 4 person car share. So really the Bellingcat methods are the easy bit. We now have to test our various theories and falsify those that fail the test. I am quite sure 1. and 3. are false, but the others are very hard to test. 5 and 6 would produce the same result but 6 would massively spread SARS-CoV2. So have fun trying – i know we did. At least one colleague who’s been drinking the Covid Kool-Aid since 3/20 has done a total 180 and seems willing to chuck her lot in with the Corbyns!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

If the hospitals are indeed being underused that would explain why, apparently, according to the ONS, fewer people died in the UK in 2020 than 2019. Hospitals, especially NHS hospitals, are lethal and their underuse will lead to fewer deaths.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Very true, i know a number of elderly people who would not risk a visit even pre-covid, several of whom are retired surgeons and senior nurses. If the true figures for Hospital Acquired Infections were known i expect there would be great pressure to return to the cottage hospital model. Least worst when compared to centralised NHS IMO.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

according to the ONS, fewer people died in the UK in 2020 than 2019.

This is false. Firstly, ONS are responsible only for mortality figures in England and Wales. Secondly, assuming England and Wales is what was meant, their figures are: In 2019, there were 530,841 deaths registered in England and Wales. In 2020, provisional figures are 608060.

niesluchowska
niesluchowska
3 years ago
robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

Bellingcat is quintessential fake news, i.e., Five Eyes disinformation. Assange/Wikileaks is/was the genuine article.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

exactly. B’Cat gets roundabout NATO funding.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
3 years ago

Faith in the media at an all time low. No! Really? and there’s me thinking it didn’t exist at all. (And hasn’t for decades.)
I can’t believe that any serious person from anywhere would even give a moments attention to any ‘news’ source.
Do these er… people? Actually get paid? Now there’s a puzzle?

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

And how do they get these ‘jobs’? Is there anyone can’t see (post Charlie Rose, Roger Ales, Mat Leuer, …Hse of Cards), it’s not what you know but who you do?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

Britain used to produce people of the calibre of Burton, Bell, Stark, Lawrence, Dickson of Kuwait (who was fed by wet nurse which meant he was treated as member of the tribe ) and Glubb who spoke the languages, lived in the countries for years and travelled widely. This is when Westerners actually understood a country. Standing in front of a camera reporting an event is not understanding a country. Having British women (Bell ) who could gain the trust of wives of leaders would greatly improve the quality of reporting.

Allan Edward Tierney
Allan Edward Tierney
3 years ago

UK and U.S. security networks will certainly have attempted to create the most opaque information shield around Bellingcat possible. The same was without doubt the case regarding the ‘White Helmets’ entity as it is with any other intelligence agency connected intimately with the CIA, MI5/6. It is clear however due to the subjects and issues dealt with by Bellingcat as it was by the areas operated in by the White Helmets exactly which narratives they wished to push and what targets they wished to undermine or narratives they wished to boost. The West is engaged in an unannounced war with all entities who pose an economic and influential threat to a long held western patrician dominance. Bellingcat, the White Helmets along with NGOs such as the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy are rather obvious intel cut-outs and significant weapons in the armory dedicated to the covert warfare push in this end game to maintain western elite dominance and our descent into a new Cold War without dialogue or detente, only demands… an ‘Ice Cold War’. The cut-outs of the West exemplify the all or nothing approach of sheer desperation by the elites of the West who see their influence waning due to the rise of China and allies such as Russia.

Jeff Bartlett
Jeff Bartlett
3 years ago

So, are you for or against Bellingcat, and if which, why? Do you believe they should be shut down, or what? If I understand you correctly, you are ‘blaming’ the West for a new Cold War; really? You’d prefer a hot war? Or are you deliberately totally ignoring (and thereby implicitly approving) the illegal activities of the non-democratic western nations who have been engaged in covert hacking, disruption and IP thefts for years? I, and I suspect others on Unherd, would appreciate honest answers to these questions. Thank you, in kind anticipation.

T VB
T VB
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Bartlett

I think on most issues Bellingcat have provided some great intel and have a well earned reputation. That being said on Syria they appear to be on the wrong side of the fence. You now have highly credible sources, Ex Head of OPCW, top OPCW weapons inspectors and also the Ex British Ambassador in Syria all providing plenty of evidence that the Bellingcat narrative is not only incorrect, but also totally aligned in providing evidence to support the Pro regime change narrative. It appears that the propaganda machine that allowed the Syria war to happen is beyond anything I previously could have imagined. A few journalists have covered the story, but there is almost a black out on the topic in UK media. Have a look at Aaron Mate ‘Push Back’ podcast on Spotify who interviews many of the OPCW top brass. I was surprised to find that Bellingcat have had a role to play in this particular story of disinformation.

Jeff Bartlett
Jeff Bartlett
3 years ago
Reply to  T VB

Many thanks for your input. Let’s hope that A E Tierney answers my questions!

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Yet another transparent anti-“elites of the West” post from this suspect sino-phile…ignoring and never acknowledging the Chinese intelligence penetrations into all western systems.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

Don’t see her mention China on the article. Also I thought the modern right was anti-elite. To its credit because if you think modern elites are on your side you need to look closer.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Which is no doubt proof in itself of Sinophilia.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

“There are none so blind as those who will not see”.

Time for a new song Eugene.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Well I looked again and no mention of China. It’s remarkable how people can be manipulated. When the capitalist classes were selling out workers and the industrial base to China, China was beloved. Xi got an invite to the Buckingham Palace in 2015, a 103 gun salute, the works. Now they threaten US hegemony in the south china sea and they are the new enemy. It inevitable if China got all of the world’s industry they would start to dominate, another example of the stupidity of our elites, they can’t do simple extrapolations. Rather than reject this, the man on the Clapham omnibus is convinced they are our enemy and always have been. Up there with Russia ( who met the Queen in 2003) and Assad ( who met the queen in 2002) the new enemies were not only our enemies now, they were always our enemy.

The threat to Europe comes from mass immigration, more from Turkey than from any other country, and not from Russia, or China, Or Assad.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I couldn’t agree more on Russia and Syria, particularly the outrageous attempt to dethrone the ‘pagan’ Assad.

On China again yes ; We, the West through our own insatiable greed have created this monster as even Nixon recognised in his dotage when he exclaimed “we have created a Frankenstein”. Now we have the dangerous task of trying to dismantle it.

‘Johnny Turk’ is an interesting case, and its attempt to play the trump card on immigration, will conjure up plenty of lurid memories of its Ottoman predecessor. Perhaps one of those Ohio class subs and its Trident II payload, that I’m always banging on about to should be tasked to vaporise Thrace when the barbarian hordes appear? Nothing less will suffice.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

C’mon, all top ten powers do that stuff.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago

spot on.