⚡ Exclusive Interview with Mike Barson from Madness! Russia, Skripal, Putin, Donbass, More!

Those who know me, or knew me growing up would tell you one thing – I was Madness‘ number 1 fan, going to every concert I could, buying every Madness record I could – even if the cost of one, if a rarity, could be most of what I earned in a month on my paper round.

(Myself in a Madness t-shirt, right, 1994)

In 2014, while working in Donbass, I began receiving messages, on Twitter from a ‘Mike Barson’, saying how much he supported my work, and on (read all the messages here). 2014, 2015 was an extremely busy, intense, stressful time – I remember just running the whole time trying to either film something in Donbass, usually the scene of shelling, or the frontlines, or the MH17 site, and more.

(Mike Barson, in an early incarnation of Madness, the Invaders).

I remember briefly having a look at his Twitter page, but did I believe that one of my childhood heroes was really writing to me, supporting my work? Not for a moment, I thought someone who knew what a Madness fan I was, was having some fun at my expense. I wasn’t biting, hardly replied to his messages.

In 2016, I had a bit more time, and decided to look into it. And, well, it turned out really to be Mike Barson. And this here really is his Twitter account. Mike graciously agreed to forgive my reticence of 2014, and give me an interview. Here it is.

GP: I have to ask on a personal level, when you first started supporting my work, and even wrote to me, you are aware that I couldn’t believe it was the real Mike Barson. Does this happen to you a lot, and how do you respond to that?

MB: With great patience 🙂

GP: On Twitter, you have your own account, and seem to chat with all your fans. In the 90s, I recall sending off quite a few letters to fan club addresses, perhaps you never got them. How do you feel about this new accessibility?

MB: Yeah we got a lot more ways to keep in touch these days! I try to answer a few things when I have time tho it’s not always possible.

GP: When fans and so find you on Twitter, they may be surprised that your views are not what we may expect of a celebrity, I say this in my own sphere of Donbass, and Russia. How would you define your views, broadly if so, and how do fans, and others respond to them?

MB: Well I’m not a fan of injustice and hypocrisy and not sure if I’m a celebrity (whatever that is?) but whatever one is in this day and age I feel its one’s duty to speak out as Einstein apparently said…

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”

It seems now more than ever this is a pertinent statement.

What happened in Ukraine was anything but democratic – a violent coup (my picture from Maidan, left) such as took place in Kiev would never in a month of Sundays have been allowed in a European or American city and yet it was cheered on by the so called ‘international community’ and in particular by many American government officials. It lead to a dangerous schism throughout the country.

This illegal undertaking has been the cause of much suffering for the people of Ukraine and many many innocent people being killed (many of which you yourself have documented) the tragic shooting down of a civilian aircraft above Donbass (why was air traffic not stopped above a war zone??? – obviously because it was a war they were pretending wasn’t happening) and then finally having voted Crimea was returned to the Russian federation.

(My photos from MH17, above, and Crimea in March 2014, below)

It’s difficult to argue that this was not other than Russia’s responsibility-duty to protect the historic Russian people of Crimea and the naval base from the danger arising in the aftermath of the coup which was made vividly apparent by the military attacking their own people – a scandal of grotesque proportions that was hardly reported in western mainstream news. One cannot but notice how the coup in particular is very rarely mentioned which skews the whole question of the situation there.

So seeing this injustice, seeing the results the shelling/killing of –
old ladies in their apartments/houses, going about their ordinary business, shopping etc, and young kids playing football etc and seeing it all ignored in the west is shocking and makes one wonder.

When looking into these affairs also those such as the ghastly Odessa Massacre (picture, right) it’s apparent how these ‘far off places’ are treated very differently in the western press. I could only conclude a kind of racism was taking place against the people in Donbass.

They didn’t matter and yet we destroyed Libya because Gaddafi we were told ‘threatened’ his own people – in Donbass we didn’t seem to have the slightest interest they were being killed by their own army.

So my views are that these events expose an enormous hypocrisy in the western press that is very concerning leaving aside the fact it is totally lacking in any kind of morality. When people are dying as a result of this hypocrisy I feel it is ones duty to call it out if one has the opportunity.

To say nothing of the fact there seems to be a program of demonisation against Russia (Newsweek cover, December 2017) in play that has been repeated many times in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya & Syria even leaving aside the ugly immorality of such subversive propaganda exercises the danger that the world is being pushed into and for the benefit of whom should be of great concern to all rational people.

Do we need WW3? For whose benefit? I’ll be happy when Tony Blair, Bush (pictured) and Cheney are in the dock for previous war crimes committed and country’s work together for their own people and abide by international law.

I don’t know what people expect of a ‘celebrity’ but concerning people who ‘look the other way’ and neither say anything nor engage their brains I guess Mr Einstein spoke on that subject already.

GP: Do you chat about political matters with the band members? If so, how do they respond to this.

(recent promo photo of Madness)

MB: Yeah sometimes, but when the press is giving blanket wall to wall coverage that Putin & Russia is to blame for everything its difficult for people not to be effected as Goebbels said “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”.

GP: Madness are a British institution now, but early on in your career, you got a rough ride from the press. There’s even a scathing Madness song about journalists ‘Don’t Quote Me on That’, which slams into the lies, and lack of ethics of the trade.

Has journalism changed much in the almost 40 years since this song was written? And what made you start following, supporting my work?

MB: Yeah that was an example of where the press used to have a very unfair advantage, they can say what they like and you have no means to respond, these days it seems one has the possibility to respond within social media which is possibly why the mainstream press is going thru hard times?

These days newspapers seem to be rather removed from ordinary people and their concerns though its encouraging that people are reporting independently I guess like yourself.

(Madness in the early days)

Well that’s quite a point actually what I think has changed is that in that time if someone wrote something that wasn’t true in a newspaper…. (the infamous ‘fake news’) you had very little means to respond, its like someone slapping you in the face and you can’t do anything back.

But now with social media people are able to respond to things that are said that are not true and there is suddenly an accountability for journalists and some of them don’t seem to come out in such a great light.

(recent photo of Mike Barson)

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out a while back, in the political world many of them are simply stenographers repeating what they’ve been told – not really journalism. Also it seems that the variety of news stories and opinions have been very diminished where they now act like one big echo chamber.

For example when MH17 was tragically shot down (I used to live in Amsterdam) it was astonishing how all the western press blamed Putin almost before the aeroplane hit the ground – and they blamed him personally.

(The Week, UK magazine, right)

To me this was not logical or rational – (unless you suffer from a deep bias) – Most people were not following the news from East Ukraine so didn’t know there was a war going on and that many military planes were shot down in the preceding weeks. It was clearly not safe.

The worst case rational scenario is that MH17 was mistaken for a military aircraft ie they were defending themselves in a war and mistakenly shot down the jet? There is no sensible rational reason to blame Putin yet that’s exactly what all the press did. Again avoiding the bigger picture of who was actually attacking who.

(Infamous Sun headline, pictured)

All these newspapers were all carrying the exact same illogical argument which makes you question how, why? Either they are full of bias.. or else there is a less savoury reason there was an intention to blame it on Russia for other reasons.

I became interested and started following your work after the overthrow of the government in Kiev. When the troops and tanks started heading east how western governments backed it all when it was so obviously wrong.

(One of my early videos, Slavyansk, April 2014, a local militia blockpost attacked by Ukrainian forces)

I was pretty shocked to see how the EU who were supposed to be guarantors of the agreement between Yanukovych (pictured) and the opposition simply ignored the agreement signed… European values? That incident really put me off the EU. They actually supported a coup – just look how they treat Catalonia now for a taste of hypocrisy.

You were one of the few people reporting on the situation so I started watching your videos. When the Crimea stuff started happening and everyone started talking about the infamous little green men “were they or were they not Russian soldiers” thing was it didn’t really have any relevance to what was happening, a coup had taken place in Kiev! Why was that ok?

(My video from Kiev, January 19th, 2014)

The lack of any greater unbiased perspective in the news (BBC speciality?) shows the narrowness of the debates in MSM these days.

Slowly it became apparent that the US was involved in the overthrow with things like the release of the Pyatt/Nuland tape (below) in which American diplomats were heard discussing who would be allowed in the new Ukrainian government! These facts was totally excluded from the western press not even recognised let alone discussed.

This injustice was racism, not for black people but for poor East Ukrainians. Such a bias in the press and with such disastrous results. Women going shopping killed in their own flats, kids playing football hit my mortar shells, dropping bombs on town halls blowing up innocent women and all these people were simply dropped by western press like Untermenschen. It was reprehensible and no one seemed to care.

So you were one of the few who was recording these events, I consider you did some kind of service to those poor people who died so unjustly in registering what happened to them. One had to cry seeing some of that shit.

(My video, Donetsk, January 2015)

GP: Your music has been an ever-present in my life for about 30 years. During some of the tougher times in Donbass, I remember listening to the song ‘I’ll Compete’.

It’s maybe one of Madness’ lesser-known numbers. Do you have any personal favourites among the perhaps not so well-known Madness canon? And, btw, Michael Caine, the subject of a classic Madness song is also noted for views differing from his contemporaries, do you ever chat with him?

MB: No I never heard Mr Caine was not following the status quo! Unfortunately never got to meet him. We recorded him at an airport for the track Michael Caine – “I think we got it there don’t you” and that was that!

Strange you were playing ‘I’ll Compete’ in that difficult time!

Personal favourites… not so well known songs… “Never Ask Twice” I guess which we played recently at our House of Fun weekender in Butlins in Minehead, and also I like “Around and Around” which is a number that kept its head down thru the years, a sardonic look at ’success’ which I wrote with Mr Lee J Thompson lyricist supreme, that was a b-side from ‘Lovestruck’. There was an old track called ‘Crying Shame’ I have fond memories of –

I remember playing it in Belfast back the 80’s when life was still… full of promise! 🙂

Also Mr Speaker was not bad.

GP: Many have written to me from Russia saying what massive Madness fans they are. Can you tell the story behind your Red Square gig in 1992.

Last year, notably, Robbie Williams pulled all his Russia gigs – would Madness gig there? How do you feel about your Russian fans?

MB: That’s nice to hear we have some fans out there! Red Square 1992, we did a gig that was to be streamed live to Top of the Pops. We stayed in the Rossiya Hotel, biggest hotel in Russia so they said where we stayed had seen its best days.

We had a stage set up right in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral that was pretty cool. Unfortunately there was no audience and it was bloody cold! We did a radio show or two as well while we were there, It was just after the disintegration of the Soviet Union a very historic period but when Yeltsin was implementing western economic shock therapy they were difficult times.

We also played at the Kubana Festival in 2014 a stones throw from Crimea which I invited you too but unfortunately you gave me a blank at the time (as explained above, and again, sorry – Graham). We flew along the border close to East Ukraine over the clouds on the way back which was very close to where MH17 was shot down and only a month later which was weird and very sad.

GP: I think it was Suggs who said that he couldn’t imagine doing it all when you’re 30. Now, you’re almost 60 yourself Mike (actually, Mike is 60 today, April 21st!), and on a creative high – Can’t Touch Us Now is an incredible piece of work. When some bands come and go in a year, how have Madness stayed going for 40 years? What’s next?

MB: Yeah indeed who would guess all that time ago. I remember seeing a teacher at school who was 40 years old back in the 70’s, i was about 11 thinking what an old git! verging on the end of the road! who could have guessed life begins at… 59! 🙂

I suppose we lasted as we were mates before we formed a band and always got on – even to this day it remains a congenial bunch! ha ha.

(Single from ‘Can’t Touch us Now’, Mr Apples)

We don’t work as full on as we did in the early days (which drives you round the bend). We just finished a tour of Scandinavia and had a most enjoyable time.

Thanks for the kind words regarding the latest album, I think as long as one doesn’t lose touch with ones inspiration and love of music then all those years only improve ones talent like a good wine 🙂 !

We gained a lot of experience over the years so I think were in a good place at the moment.

GP: Apologies if this is indulgent, but I attach a photo of my collection of Madness singles. How would you rate it? (We can do albums another time 🙂


MB:
10 out of 10 for the single collection!

GP: I’m sure people will read this, and come away with things they didn’t know about Mike Barson. They may not also know that you can tell jokes in Dutch.

Is there anything else to know? 🙂

MB: Without a doubt.

As a post-note, I asked Mike his opinion about the Skripal situation: 

I think its horrible what happened to the Skripals, especially his daughter and I hope they will both fully recover.

Regarding the government handling of what happened I find it painful to see British MP’s failing so completely to apply the basics of law in this country – That one is Innocent until proven guilty. Its ugly seeing people baying for revenge without any proof – and then attacking Jeremy Corbyn for posing a rational civilised question simply asking for proof first. Are MP’s barbarians these days? – rather more like clowns!

In a fast-moving situation, Mike has been vocal with his opinion on the Skirpals, Syria, and other themes, find him on Twitter here – https://twitter.com/MikeBarson108

A Channel’s Correspondent to a Crowdfunded Correspondent

Graham Phillips

Sometimes the question comes up ‘how did you go from working for tv channels, to working through crowdfunding?’ So, here we go. In the past few days, I’ve got a few things off my chest, particularly in relation to the channel RT, for whom I started working as a tv correspondent, over 2 years ago, in Donbass.

Why did I, from Great Britain, go to work for Russian media? Well, Euromaidan (pictured) Euromaidansaw the shattering of all my, what turned out to be, illusions about media. When you’ve stood on a street and witnessed chaos, mess, terrorism, yet see it on BBC, CNN, depicted as a ‘revolution of dignity’ etc, masks slip pretty quickly.

There are no objective news channels at all. Every channel has an angle, agenda.

It so happened, that on Euromaidan, Crimea, and Donbass, the angle, agenda of the Russian channels was much more truthful than that of the western media. Not completely objective, no, but no media is. We live in an age where every channel or newspaper is owned, either overtly or not, by corporations, businesses, states. BBC, for example, governed by a BBC Trust comprising several members with connections to big business, including Roger Carr, chairman of defence contractor BAE systems, with lucrative arms contracts across the
world. 
 The famously ‘independent’ Guardian, owned by the Guardian Media Graham RTGroup, with its famously secret ‘externally managed investment fund’. 

RT, famously owned by the Russian state. So, what’s it like working for them, what are the terms? They offered me $300 a day to to a week’s work reporting in Donetsk back when things were kicking off there in April 2014. That may sound like a reasonable amount, but you have to stay somewhere, it was hotels back then, and, when it got to Slavyansk, my agreement with RT extending beyond a week, but not every day, it was necessary to get a fixer too. I had to take care of all of this, and getting expenses back was always a struggle, on not one occasion finding myself questioned about receipts for taxi fares for a few pounds.

Also, it’s hard work. When you are on a day’s shift, you are ‘on call’, and RT called, all the time. There would be several producers on shift at any time, and it seemed to be the thing to do to regularly call correspondents. I found this initially frustrating going up to really pretty irritating, as here –

– as I was always running about trying to film things, the phone would frequently be going off during this. But then, new to it all, perhaps I’d simply misread the role of correspondent for a channel. I wanted, in an erupting war situation as it was, with things flaring up all over the place, literally all the time, to be chasing
all the stories, filming all the action. RT mostly wanted me to be in the quiet centre of Slavyansk doing link ups to satellite camera. I didn’t see the point of this, standing in a calm street while things were flaring up all around.

Then, RT would want to send me places, having ‘hot tips’ of action somewhere. Sometimes they were hot tips, other times stone cold. They were a bit obsessed at Graham Phillips Luganskthe time with all sorts of things supposedly going on in Izyum, so kept sending me there, to no real result, but in fairness got it bang on with the Lugansk uprisings of the end of April (pictured).

Now, I’ve written about not wanting anything to do with RT, not liking working for the channel, and that’s true. But I don’t echo the sentiments of other former RT correspondents out of terms with the channel in respect of being told what to say, report etc. I had a free reign, would record and report what I saw. There would be times when RT wouldn’t use all the material I’d send them, or may select parts for edit, but in any case I’d upload all the material onto my YouTube channel, they knew I did that, there were no restrictions on that. RT did, on occasion, tell me about preferred terminology, but I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to that, and it was never an issue.

I would say this – it was hard work. When RT knew you were on a working day, they knew you were on a working day. There were times I’d get back to the hotel after being on my feet filming the whole day, shattered. Then there’d be a call ‘we
Fullscreen capture 09062016 100803.bmpneed you to do a Skype interview’. I’d do the Skype interview, be preparing to hit the hay, another call, another, and so on. Other times, called out on the street late at night for a satellite link up. But again, this isn’t a beef, being a correspondent on the ground when the ground is as active as it was in Donbass back then, is always going to be hard work, and there’s an adrenalin which powers you through.

The reason for my discord with RT is simply, when I’d do a story which got some heat, it was all ‘RT’s Graham Phillips’ and so, but when I was ever in a position of needing RT’s support, on the field, they would as a first option, throw me under the bus.

My employment with RT ended after my 2nd deportation from Ukraine, in July of 2014. Now, I fully accept they’d told me not to go to Donetsk airport during battle, but I went, got taken captive, many of my possessions, including car, stolen by Graham Phillips deportedUkrainian forces. I got released, deported into Poland, called by as it seemed everyone at RT, congratulating me on release, saying they’d fly me to Moscow etc, they went huge about it on air, booking me into a studio in Warsaw for a special feature. And after that, literally, dumped me there. There was a meeting, where it was decided I’d ‘reached the end of my useful life‘, and that was that. No Moscow, no visa support, nothing. They’d gone so big on my having had my car and money stolen, huge features about it on air, but no compensation for that. They knew I couldn’t return to the home I’d left to report for them, in Graham Phillips WarsawOdessa, now banned from Ukraine. Again, nothing. I’m pictured here in Warsaw, just, taking it all in, wondering what to do next. And more, I didn’t at all feel at the ‘end of my useful life’, felt I was just starting.

In my return to Donbass, after doing some work for RT during the World Cup 2014, I’d negotiated a higher rate of pay, $500 a day, but only got 3 days of that in the end. So, all told, taking into account the loss of my car, equipment etc, my RT career ended with my actually having perhaps broken even, if you don’t take into account the apartment I’d effectively lost. If you do, well, I’d certainly have been much better off materially just staying at home!

But I’d never been about money. The big money was always in western media. I knew guys who’d sit in Kiev, crack out columns on Donbass for Newsweek, New Statesman etc at a couple of thousand dollars a pop. Russian media simply doesn’t offer that. I’d gone with that option because it gave me the chance to report things as I saw them.

Anyway, deported by Ukraine, dumped by RT, I saw in Warsaw in early August of 2014 wondering what to do, sure neither what, nor how to do it. The idea of doing a crowdfunder to continue reportage from Donbass just didn’t occur to me at that time – crowdfunding was still fairly new. I figured just get back there, to Donbass, and take it from there. I decided on Lugansk, and needed to hurry, with Luganskthe city further under siege each day and access nigh-on impossible. I returned from Poland, rushed to the visa embassy in London, got a tourist visa for Russia, took off for Moscow, headed down to Rostov, and found someone who got me in to the city of Lugansk, at that time cut off, under relentless Ukrainian shelling, no power, water, phone signal and the one internet connection in the city provided by the other Russian channel there, Life News. There were no other western journalists, in fact hardly any journalists, and I spent the next month filming as much as possible and, without a channel, submitting my videos to agency.

Working as a video journalist is just about as precarious a profession as it gets. There, there is – as is the nature of the trade – absolutely no loyalty, it’s simply who’s got the hottest video. So to make a living, you have to be in the hottest place a lot of times and your competition is anyone with a cameraphone! So, it’s tough, but at that time in Lugansk there was (sadly) enough action to mean that my work was taken up almost every day.

(August 22nd 2014)

However, I’ve never seen myself purely as a video journalist, enjoying filming but also being an ‘on camera’ correspondent, so was looking for offers from a channel. In September 2014, the Russian channel Zvezda approached me to work
for them. Now, I knew they reported into the Russian Military of Defence, but, was assured all my work would be presented as it was, no directives etc.

So it was, I started work for Zvezda, filming my reports on YouTube, sending them to the channel. And I have to say, working for them was actually far smoother than RT – almost no calls, or Skypes. I’d just film my report, send it off, Fullscreen capture 08062016 232532.bmpand if they took it, I’d negotiated 500 Euros, an excellent rate (although I needed to pay a camerman to film my stand-ups from that), but there would sometimes be a couple of weeks and more when they wouldn’t take anything.

Did I like the Zvezda edit of my pieces? Well, I spoke English, and they dubbed it into Russian. I wasn’t always totally enamoured with how the pieces came out, but then anyone who makes material, and hands it over for edit, will feel the same. The Russian angle, agenda in the Zvezda pieces was a bit more overt, as is the nature of the channel, and ultimately that resulted in my decision to cut ties with the channel, in February of 2015.

And, after that, I found myself at an impasse of a crossroads. I’d now become known for my work in Donbass as working with Russian media, and had seen the impact that had in the west. The result was the west immediately discounting my Fullscreen capture 08062016 233115.bmpwork ‘don’t listen to Graham, he works for Russian media‘, ‘Russian propagandist etc. When you put your life on the line, and I got wounded while working in November of 2014, to deliver the truth, it’s of course far from gratifying when there’s a palpable barrier put up to that getting over to a wider audience. Of course there are a lot of people who want it that way, have made up any number of nonsense stories and claims about me in attempts to discredit my work – I’m a Russian agent, British agent, sex tourist, gay’... it goes on.

Anyway, post Zvezda, I made the call to go it alone. I had offers to work with Vice News, but couldn’t associate myself with a channel who I felt had been entirely dishonest in their coverage of Crimea, Donbass. The BBC contacted me several times, but, after their coverage of Euromaidan, Crimea, Donbass, BBC News exists to me only as a propaganda agency I want nothing to do with.

So, I got by last year on earnings from Zvezda, my YouTube channel, and sponsors. As for the latter, people see a lot of hits, my channel is near 50 million now, and equate that with serious coin. But it’s not quite like that. A thousand hits in much of Europe, the US, can bring in about $4, quite reasonable. If those are in Russia, where rates are far lower for advertising, it’s only 0.40 cents, if Ukraine 0.20 cents. So, in the early days, when the eyes of the west were on droneUkraine, and Donbass, it did generate a decent amount. But since late 2014, the audience has been mainly Russian, from Donbass, or Ukraine so, the hits may still be high, but the sum can be a few dollars.

I did my first crowdfunder, in April of 2015, to fund a drone, it seemed to capture people’s imaginations, went very well. And in September of the year I set up a Patreon account, donations on that, a little less than $200 a month, significant to my work. That, along with donations to my Paypal account, and fairly modest expenses while working in Donbass, Crimea have allowed me to get by.

Coming back to the UK a couple of weeks ago has been a shock in a lot of ways. When I last returned in 2015, Donbass did have some resonance here, but, sadly, that’s entirely gone now, it seems like a different world. Then there’s London, it Graham Phillips UKchanges so much every time that it’s not just buildings which are different, it’s entire streets. New trends, atmosphere, it’s coming back to a city which moved so quickly it didn’t miss a beat when you left, reintegrating. And realising, this is the real world – for me, my world. You can go away and be a ‘big man’ somewhere else, taking a position against your own country’s government as I have, with my work having resonated in Donbass, and Russia (though I’d like to think not just because of that, but due to the quality of reportage, my having worked very hard – over 4000 videos on my channel), but if you’re unknown in your own backyard, there’s a discord.

Of course, being known personally is not what it’s about. I’d like people to see the reportage, know the truth. It’s hard to have friends back in Donbass, suffering under a war situation ongoing because, in large part, the west has switched off allowing the predicament there to perpetuate. But of course, as a correspondent, there are a lot of things interesting to me, which I want to report on. And there’s a bonus in doing so, that if I can win a new audience through work which resonates in the west, I can hopefully take them to know the truth about Donbass.

But how to do it, when both roads are closed, for the above reasons, to Russian, and to western channels? Well, I have go it myself, via crowdfunding.

Set up a project, find people to support it, finance it, make it happen. This is my new project, UK referendum reportage – currently at 25% of the funding target –

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/uk-referendum-reportage/x/12236308#/

So how does this compare to being a channel’s correspondent? Well, there are extra stresses – having to raise finance, of course, is stressful. Despite the perception with crowdfunding that you put a project up, and that’s it, it flies, crowdfunding is actually, usually, a fight to get financing. After my first, lucky, Fullscreen capture 09062016 015443.bmpdrone project, I did a Baltics one which ended up well under target. And this latest one similarly, tough. There are no incredibly wealthy benefactors who with the click of a moneyed finger, make the whole project happen. There are normal people, pledging mostly 10 and 20 pounds. And, in the real world, to make a project even with minimal costs happen, you need a lot of that.

However, on the other side, if it happens, the result can be, simply, the ultimate correspondent’s dream. Freedom to report everything, exactly as it is, not beholden to any one or organisation. Knowing that people support you, support your work, it’s a wonderful feeling. The potential to make a unique project happen because of that.

It’s still new though, the idea of a crowdfunded correspondent. I sometimes ask myself how it came to this, because in some ways, you are alone, everything stands or falls on you. But in another way, it’s the best thing of all, no one calling Graham Phillips journalistyou, telling you what to do, where to go. I hope to build a career on the unique opportunity that crowdfunding gives. Of course, I can only do that if people support me, and people will only support me if the work deserves it. There’s no safety net, it’s live or die.

Be sure, I’ll give it my all to realise this incredible opportunity. People pledging to me now are fairly low in number, but huge in significance. To make it happen long-term, I’ll need more people to see the worth in true, independent reportage. That could even be you, reading this. If so, be sure, from my side, your pledge to me will be met with a pledge from me to turn your support into reportage which can change the world.

3 More Lies You’ll Hear about Me, Versus Reality, by Graham Phillips

Ahead of my going to the Baltics, Europe, and elsewhere to report, I’d just like to address a few points, before they come up, which, be sure, they will. This follows on from this article here.

Graham PhillipsWhat they Say: That I work for RT, was sacked by RT.
Why they Say It: They either want to have a go at me for working for RT, or supposedly being sacked by them. It all feeds into the idea the western media are keen to put out there that if a journalist works for RT, they are agents of the Russian government etc etc. Or, with the latter, that I’m supposedly such a ‘super-propagandist’, even RT sacked me. 
The Reality: I haven’t worked for RT for almost 2 years – July 2014 – and I wasn’t sacked. RT gave me the option of continuing working for them, outside of Donbass, or returning to Donbass and our working relationship ending, and I chose Donbass. 

What they Say: That, in May 2014, I stood on a tripwire, and claimed I was shot at (and even RT threw me under the bus)
Why they Say It:
 To attempt to damage my credibility as a reporter.
The Reality: There’s no question, that s a new correspondent, reporting in a situation which quickly escalated from conflict to war, I made a mistake here. And, as a new correspondent in the field, there can be some hard lessons to learn. However, my mistake wasn’t stepping on a tripwire, it was claiming something had Graham Phillips 1happened, my being shot at, which I hadn’t captured on camera.

It was a rookie error, and I learned a lot from it. Never report something you’ve not captured on camera. And never sensationalise – despite my seeing a soldier pick up a gun and hearing shots fired, I could only correctly say ‘shot at’, if they’d actually hit me. What I learned from this incident formed the basis of a career which has seen me cover more hotspots than perhaps any other western correspondent over the past 2 years (including my being wounded while reporting) – never sensationalise, only report what you’ve filmed.

This was May 2014, I continued working for RT until July of 2014. However, I wasn’t at all happy that RT initially changed their story to match the ‘tripwire’ version, before subsequently saying my version may be correct. I like, and watch, RT, have many good colleagues there, however have no plans to resume our working relationship, though we are on good terms and they always have my gratitude for the opportunity given to me.

What they Say: That I was a ‘sex tourist’, ‘sex blogger’ in Ukraine, wrote about my time with prostitutes etc.
Why they Say It: Try to show I’m not a real journalist etc, just a ‘sex blogger turned journalist’ etc. 
The Reality: I worked for a year at What’s On Magazine in Ukraine, writing about every subject connected to Ukraine, and life there (including articles on prostitution), and later, I did indeed write a blog on Ukraine. Indeed, around 10% of the articles were about subjects related to sex. I’ve written about prostitutes, and I’m Graham Phillips 2actually proud of all the articles I’ve written on the theme. I considered these valid subjects to research, and write about. At the time, they were. Now, it all seems a bit inconsequential, to be honest, but that’s the difference a war makes.

It was of its time, I’ve got no real plans to write more on the theme. But, I do believe these areas fall within the scope of valid journalism, Louis Theroux, for example, has done a lot on the theme, nor is he alone in that. But you could find almost as many articles about abandoned buildings (a subject of interest) on my former blog, as you could about ‘sex’ (and most of that was in the context of Ukraine as it was – ‘wife-hunting’ tours etc – of which Shaun Walker of the Guardian has written a book)! So I’m about as much of an ‘abandoned building blogger’ as a ‘sex blogger’, it just doesn’t quite have the same ring! If I threw myself a bit deeper into the subject than others – so be it, I try to do that with everything I cover!

And on we go!

Crowdfunding (#2) My (Crowdfunded) Reportage Plans for This Year

Graham Phillips

Of course, plans in journalism can always change, but with work on my film Aramis drawing to a conclusion – the premiere next week in St Petersburg, here’s how my crowdfunded journalism in 2016 may look –

Graham at workMarchBaltics Reportage Trip

AprilCovering Dutch Referendum on Ukraine

May – I’d like to do some reportage from Germany, on the refugee crisis, en route back to the Baltics to continue reporting there then –

JuneBack to London to cover UK Brexit referendum (and arrange screening of film ‘Aramis’).

July – A couple of proposals for this, we’ll see!

AugustA return to Crimea to continue my reportage there

Graham Phillips at workSeptember – Lugansk for City Day, September 13th, and likely the rest of the year in Donbass, reporting from there, and working on projects.

Of course all of this depends on my raising enough, via crowd-funding, to fund these trips. I’d like to say a huge thanks to my patrons on Patreon, here, for being with me, and everyone who supports my work – in every way!

I know we’ll do some great, world-changing things this year, together!

Aramis the Film, by Graham Phillips – Press Release

 

1AramisI’m very pleased to announce the upcoming premiere, in St Petersburg, of my first film, Aramis, and when I return to London I’ll be arranging a special viewing in my home city.

In August of 2014, I met a remarkable man, while I was filming in Lugansk at the time of the Lugansk blockade. A member of the people’s militia. A parachutist, a furniture maker turned frontline fighter, 34-year-old Denis Somov (call-sign Aramis) was really quite remarkable.

More, he decided not only to be a fighter, joining up with his brother after Ukraine’s bombardment of his home city compelled him to take arms, he also took about filming as much of his experience as possible. War was all new to Aramis filmingDenis, and with his basic, compact camera, he captured a daily record both of how it was to be a fighter in the people’s militia, as the Ukrainian blockade was broken, and a wave of new territory taken, and a period in history otherwise hardly chronicled – a dearth of, at least western, journalists covering this period has meant its realities remain largely unknown to the wider world.

Aramis was killed in action in the operation to take Debaltsevo, sustaining life-ending wounds in open conflict on February 11th, 2015. He left a great deal behind him – a vast archive of video material, his daughters, wife, brother, comrades-in-arms.

The film Aramis – Donbass Musketeer‘ is the story of Aramis. It’s also the story of how the blockade of Lugansk in 2014 was beaten. It’s the story of an amazing Aramis Parentsman, of many amazing individuals, the story of how an unexpected war made a man take arms against what had been his country, and of how life has gone on in the aftermath of the death of Aramis.

I will look forward to meeting you at the film’s showing in London, details to be confirmed.

Effects and production on the film by Aramis’ brother, Oleg Somov.

The 5 Main Lies You’ll Hear about Me, Versus Reality, by Graham Phillips

Ahead of my going to the Baltics, Europe, and elsewhere to report, I’d just like to address a few points, before they come up, which, be sure, they will. 

I know, there are certain things people say about me, will say about me. So I’ll quickly deal with What they Say, Why they Say It, and the Reality.

Graham Phillips SlavyanskWhat they Say: That I work for Russia’s FSB etc.
Why they Say It: They want to discredit my work in Donbass, which hasn’t fitted the narrative of western media, or governments. Those who write this nonsense know full well it’s not true. They are liars. 
The Reality: I have absolutely no connection, and never had, with any Russian agency or organisation. At the start of my career, I worked for a while with a couple of Russian channels (RT and Zvezda), that’s it. 

What they Say: That I took part in conflict in Donbass, ‘supported terrorists’, am myself a terrorist, etc. They’ll use photos like this – 

Graham Phillips shooting1Why they Say It: They want to discredit my work, get me arrested, get me killed – just all bad things.Graham Phillips shootingThe Reality: In 2014, at time of war in Donbass, I filmed quite a lot of training drills, and, always looking to get into the spirit of what I’m covering (within acceptable reasons), I took part in shooting practice. As I didn’t have my own Graham Phillips salutefatigues to wear, I was given fatigues to wear during some of this. 

As for the salute photo, on quiet day on the frontlines, some of the DPR fighters in Donbass were filming skits on their cameraphones, pretending to be Rambo. They asked me to take part in one, said it was just for personal use. So it got released on YouTube, which I wasn’t that happy about, but, it was just a 20-second bit of fun, and a bit silly on my part to take part, if I’m  honest. 

I never took part in conflict or combat of any time in Donbass, I’m a correspondent. An objective correspondent.

Graham Phillips medalWhat they Say: I got ‘given medals by Russia’, this means I work for their interests, have some sort of state endorsement.
Why they Say It: The usual – discredit my work, which they don’t like as it doesn’t fit their narrative.
The Reality: I do have one state award – from the Lugansk People’s Republic, for my work in covering events in Lugansk during the time of the blockade there in 2014. The other medals I’ve been given, by private individuals in Russia, as a token of gratitude for my work. They are simple ‘thank yous’, no state connection or bearing. But, see below. 

What they Say: I’m pro-Russian.
Why they Say It: Standard discreditation tactics. 
The Reality: It’s no secret that Russian people (as per the above) appreciate my work, more than, at this current time, people in my own country. However, I’m not IMG_0712‘pro-Russian’, or anything. I’m a proud British citizen, with no connection to any country, other than my own, and of my own, my own government have actually done what they can to obstruct my work in Donbass.

I like Russia, it’s a beautiful, friendly country, but I like a lot of countries, and none of that doesn’t register when it comes to my reporting, I’m only ‘pro’ reporting whatever the truth is, and fighting propaganda. 

Crimea filmingWhat they Say: I’m paid by Russia etc.
Why they Say It: All as above.
The Reality: No one pays me! I haven’t worked for any channel for over a year, and don’t want to either. Western channels can’t be trusted. And if I work for a Russian channel, it’s just used to discredit my work. 

I’m funded by crowdfunding, and my YouTube channel. I make a modest living, but don’t care about money. I live on the road, go to where the interesting news events are, and fight to get the truth out to the world. That’s my motivation.