Charlatan Higgins does a disservice to NATO officials’ authority

In an age of neoliberalization of society according to its privatization dogmatism even the core business of the state, their monopoly to use violence, is being outsourced to private parties. Mercenaries from private corporations like Dyncorp or Academi enter the battle fields to provide their special “security solutions”.

Actually these are not the only military services privatized. Recent years show non-governmental organizations are encroaching the sphere of propaganda services in the political realm of warmaking, in the old days strictly top-down managed by state organizations. Though the organization of propaganda in the West always took a less centralist approach than for instance in the Soviet Union, these days one might experience an increased appearance of NGOs marketing the official state sanctioned points of view in direct relations with the media. One could say propaganda is being privatized too, outsourced to non-governmental “infowar mercenaries”.

The role British “citizen research project” Bellingcat is playing in “the Infowar” between the West and Russia, is very disturbing for that matter. It is gladly welcomed by NATO commander general Breedlove, with an expression of hypocrisy as American as apple pie. In a tweet he praised Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgins for their “innovative way” in tracking invasive Russian actions in Ukraine.

Some people may remember the “citizen inspections” at airforce base Volkel in the Netherlands, when activists tried to reveal the presence of US nuclear arms, held in secret by the Dutch and American governments. This had nothing to do with vigilant citizenship though. This was a terrorist operation, according to Breedlove´s predecessors. Probably Breedlove thinks too citizen involvement in military business should only be applied if it works for “us”.

Meanwhile Higgins has been adopted as an expert by the Atlantic Council , a well endowed think-tank developing NATO policy and its intellectual basis, and is one of the coauthors of a key anti-Putin report by the Council leadership which was published on May 28. Higgins is described as “a Visiting Research Associate in the Department of War Studies at KingCollege London”. The Council also sponsored him on a trip to Ukraine.

Eliot Higgins aka Brown Moses, the founder of Bellingcat “by and for citizen investigative journalists”, is beloved by NATO media. Higgins is always able to “prove” by amateur “analysis” of open source data that the “bad guys”, just as the U.S. or NATO claim, did indeed do the bad thing that happened. The problem is that Higgins is no expert of anything. He was an unemployed office worker who looked at Youtube videos from Syria and tried Internet searches to find out what weapons were visible in the videos. That is all that made him an “expert”.

But Higgins claimed to prove that the Syrian government launched rockets with Sarin on Ghouta, an area south of Damascus. An MIT professor and real expert proved (pdf) that he was wrong.

One of the problems with the Bellingcat methodology appeared to be its use of Google Earth images for reference analysis. Google Earth assembles their presentations with SATs from very different days, sometimes months apart from each other. So the images will be unfit for use in forensic research and date based reference analysis. Google Earth itself explains this too.

Higgins also claimed to “prove” that rockets launched from Russia hit Ukraine by looking at aerial pictures of impact craters. NATO military intelligence units, fully trained military professionals with combat experience and superior knowledge of how these weapons work, have had months to analyze images from satellites, sensors (whatever they are), social media and even Google Maps (which is actually NSA/CIA) of all the military activity in that area at that time, and I’m sure that if there was conclusive evidence that Russia had bombed Ukraine then there would have been an Adlai Stevenson moment at the UN SC from warmonger Samantha Power. But such an Adlai Stevenson moment has not occurred. Moreover, a real expert of the method said that crater analysis is “highly experimental and prone to inaccuracy” and warned against its use without further corroboration.

Blogger Elliot Higgins, aka Bellingcat is getting debunked everywhere for his amateurish MH17 reports.

In an interview with the respected German publication Der Spiegel, image forensics expert Jens Kriese slammed the investigative group. “From the perspective of forensics, the Bellingcat approach is not very robust. The core of what they are doing is based on so-called Error Level Analysis (ELA). The method is subjective and not based entirely on science,” he told Der Spiegel.

“What Bellingcat is doing is nothing more than reading tea leaves. Error Level Analysis is a method used by hobbyists,” said Kriese, who is a professional image analyst and former scientific researcher. When dr. Neal Krawetz, developer of the tool Photoforensics, distanced himself firmly from the investigation and even said “This is a clear example of how NOT to do ELA”, the case was settled. Outside the media that was.

Not only have his methods been criticized by real experts and actual scientists. For example Charles Wood, an expert in digital images and metadata, takes issue with Higgins’s treatment of image data. A Russian blogger NTV makes similar objections. And a Dutch blogger provides credible evidence that Higgins has himself been faking his key photographs.

А video of a rebel held BUK driving on his own to the launch site lacks credibility too. It came up a few hours after the crash, posted on Youtube by an account which was only used once for this special purpose and then deleted. Fortunately Higgins could download it in that half an hour the video was present and so at this moment he can be traced as the first known source ever posting the video (back) on the net.

You have to ask why this amateur is given this level of political prominence. Blogger Deep Resource identifies  some of his backers. Obviously the way to proceed was to propel the arguments by a well known PR technique: disseminate your point of view by a so-called “objective third party expert”.

Out of three big “finds” that made it into the media Higgins and Bellingcat had three that were proven to be wrong by real experts. And now this “investigative group” is accusing Russia’s Defense Ministry of faking videos of airstrikes on Islamic State targets! How can we take it seriously?

Elliot Higgins is nothing more than a simple charlatan. But clearly Bellingcat isn´t neutral. It can´t be seen (any more?) like just another citizen research collective, but is in fact a well organized cover, maybe even an “astroturf organization”, working for a particular geopolitical mission. At a level playing field perhaps this is not worrisome. But when it is becoming a force in wielding the powers of Empire, a fair degree of suspicion is suitable.

Their one-sidedness, their non-scientific approach and lack of doubt, their dogmatic thinking, and their deeply ideologically motivated attitude is almost becoming a kind of religious fanaticism in which they implicitly think of themselves as crusaders of truth. It´s a narcissist self image we know so well from the inclinations of the lords of the anglosaxon dominated world orders. Moreover, this all raises questions about their methods too (for example: their investigations always smell from confirmation bias). From that on it should be clear Bellingcat operates like a team of infowar mercenaries, recycling and reinforcing alleged evidence originating from dubious parties. Any media who further quote “analysis” by the “experts” Higgins and Bellingcat should be regarded as propaganda outlet and not as a serious source of news.

Source: Ahmad Salah أحمد صلاح

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