War, and Information War

Graham Phillips

I’ve been covering the situation in Donbass for 3 years now, and on December 22nd, returned from covering war in the trenches by Debaltsevo to find that those sitting thousands of kilometres away in cases, from their laptops, had decided to launch the latest fusilade of the information war at me.

It started with Bild journalist Julian Röpcke. a long-time critic of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, quickly coming out with the tweet that I’d ‘exposed positions of the Russian army‘, as he referred to them. I’d add that I found out about this through the back door, as despite limited interaction ever, Julian long ago blocked me from following his tweets, for some reason.

At least Julian, who, reading his tweets, seems to have a pathological hatred for Russia, admitted in a subsequent tweet, the intention behind this – to try to cause problems for me.

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This is a reference to the Russian state-owned tv channel Zvezda having done a story, simply stating facts, that Ropcke had claimed I’d ‘revealed positions’. There’s no indication that this represents any such sentiments, from the ‘Russian military’, however I’d add that the article was also written without any attempt to defend me, and nor do I expect any special treatment from the Russian, or any, media.

Graham4As for Julian, I’m not sure what war he thinks he’s actually reporting on here. He’s certainly not been to Donbass for a long time, and never covered conflict here. But, from a desk at Bild in Berlin, he’s more than happy to, deceitfully, malevolently, attempt to cause problems for myself, a journalist who has, without wishing to big-up oneself, put his life on the line for years, even wounded doing so, to bring the truth out of Donbass, from Donbass.

But, unless he thinks he’s covering World War II, Julian would have known that, in 2016, modern warfare, positions can’t be ‘exposed’. Drones fly over positions all the time, there was a drone flying in this piece even, these positions, by Debaltsevo, have been in much the same place for almost 2 years now. Each side knows to within a few inches the position of the other.

However, having myself filmed on the frontline what must be almost 100 times now (this from May 2014), in Donbass, I still take my responsibilities seriously. I showed the commander in charge of this unit the footage of Ukrainian shelling pounding by Donbass militia positions (which Julian has imaginatively called ‘RU army’, despite all of the men I interviewed there being from Donbass). He gave the green-light to include the shots, from positions, of Ukrainian shelling hitting. And that was that.

But that wasn’t that for those who, from thousands of kilometres away, would love to cause problems for me in Donbass. Just yesterday, Aric Toler, of Bellingcat, began repeating these claims on Twitter.

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Again, I found out about this through the back door, as, once more, despite limited interaction, Toler has blocked me from reading his Tweets.

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This linked to an article on Medium, authored by the ever anti-Russian Atlantic Council’s DFR lab, which fleshed out earlier claims, and added information provided by a tweet from a long-dormant Twitter, never active account that one of the militia members I’d filmed, Rumin, had been ‘wounded‘ that night after a ‘Ukrainian attack‘.

Medium have deliberately chosen to misinterpret my replies to this, completely unsubstantiated tweet, linked to a member of Ukraine’s ‘Tornado’ unit. My replies were –

1. Никакой ‘Румын’ не был на место.

No ‘Rumin’ whatsoever was there. (I used hyphens, to avoid confusion,as his name literally translates as ‘Romanian’ in Russian)

2. Что ополченец ‘Румын’ ‘был ранен там’. Просто бред – такой человек не был вообще.

That militia member ‘Rumin’ ‘was wounded there’. Just nonsnese – this person simply wasn’t (wounded) at all. 

And those replies were exactly what I knew as fact. That ‘Rumin’ was not at the position we’d filmed at – as we were leaving, he was soon to change positions, and return to base, and when I met up with Korshun, who’d taken us to positions, a couple of days later he informed me that everyone we’d filmed was present, and correct.

Even the Medium article had to, reluctantly, conclude that there was no evidence my videos had helped the Ukrainian military, and absolutely no evidence anyone had been wounded because of them.

However, this didn’t stop Eliot Higgins, of Bellingcat, tweeting out ‘did @GrahamWP_UK get a separatist killed?’….

Again, Eliot has blocked me from following him, so while he added my tag, to make it look like he was tweeting at me, I had to go through the back door to find it, and he won’t see my reply unless he does the same.

I’ll add a few words about the Ukrainian reaction. Due to my reporting the war in Donbass from a different side to the almost universally Ukraine-friendly, anti-Russian western media, as in that I’ve been in Donbass, and reported what I’ve seen here, also due to my Graham Donbass workworking methods being, at times, unconventional, Ukrainian media have zoned in on me as a hate figure, and their tactics alternate between creating fictitious claims about me, and some imagined connection to Russia, accusing me of all sorts of things, and, a favourite, attempting to cause problems for me.

Without any evidence whatsoever to back up these claims, Ukrainian media have reported any number of ‘heroic victories’ at this position, with the reported loss of all I filmed etc etc.

What’s the purpose of all of this? It’s one of the oldest tactics of information war – you can’t say you hate your ‘enemy’, as it shows weakness, so say you like him, and more, say he has helped you, to attempt to cause problems for him. What’s the ultimate purpose of it all? To stop his work.

julian-roepckeBack to Ropke (pictured), Toler, and Higgins, and what’s their purpose? Also to stop my work, yet more. In the case of Toler, and Higgins, they are trying to push their brand of ‘open source journalism‘ on the world, meaning they can earn large sums of money sitting at laptops, analysing Google Maps etc, telling the world it’s journalism. I’m here on the scene, telling you that’s not journalism.

No question, that Higgins and myself have also had frequent exchanges, disagreements online. However, I would always draw a line, and would never attempt to put someone’s life in danger. By fabricating the claim that a ‘separatist‘ was ‘killed‘ because of my reportage, Higgins is attempting to do just that. It’s totally untrue, entirely malicious.

In actuality, in the immediate aftermath of that video, fighting calmed down by the Svetlodarsk Bulge, and remains, relatively, calm to this day, again, even Medium had to report this. 

And, in response to requests that I ‘just go back there and film it all again to prove it’s ok‘. There were several fighters on the scene that day, all of them on rotation, changing positions, now on leave for holiday even. Unless I could go back, and film all of them, the one I couldn’t film would be publicly buried all over Ukrainian media, and beyond. And, even if I could, there would be something else: ‘Graham Phillips confirms positions of ‘separatists’ ‘, and it starts over again. I say this, to those making claims: show me some evidence, and I’ll react, but I don’t go chasing around trying to disprove claims without any evidence to back them up.

One side of war, is war, another is information war. However I’d add in the case of Higgins, et al, they’ve decided to make it a particularly dirty information war.

Eliot Higgins BellingcatFor me, it doesn’t affect what I do, other than having to write an article like this to explain the real situation. I believe in real journalism, from the scene, and reporting the truth. Why wasn’t the attention on Ukrainian forces blatantly violating Minsk, by using heavy artillery? Because that’s not convenient for Higgins (pictured), Toler etc – rather they use this as a distraction, with the bonus of their vendetta against myself.

I go forward, focus on work, reporting things as they are, as always, and don’t get embroiled in trying to cause ill for those ‘on the other side’ of this, nor have their attempts succeeded here. However, that’s not for a want of their trying. They are simply immoral men, doing a dirty job.

Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, Who is He? Everything You Need to Know…

This is part of the series, Who’s Who in Ukraine Propaganda (#3) 

Graham Phillips

In 2016, I’ll be returning to my country of the UK, and there’s a man I’d certainly like to meet for an interview. While I was working on the scene from the war in Eliot Higgins 2Donbass, Eliot Higgins, of Bellingcat, was the man sitting on a sofa taking, and manipulating, YouTube videos (including my own) of Donbass, MH17, Syria, using them to disseminate misinformation, lies, to the world.

However, he’s unlikely ever to agree to an interview with me, because, you see, Higgins, from the UK, born 1979, avoids sources who may raise uncomfortable questions much like critics have accused his work of avoiding basis in science, or fact (see below for more on that).

So, who exactly is Eliot Higgins? The man western media fawn over to the extent you may think it’s Eliot’s own mum writing the press, with headlines like ‘Putin’s Fullscreen capture 28022016 123353.bmpMH17 Nemesis‘ and ‘One-Man Intelligence Unit‘ (and that, enthusiastically promoted by the UK government in Ukraine, and not only them – US, Estonian government sources and more, open fans of his work).

Well, this is how a standard Eliot Higgins piece, and they are manifold, begins, in the western press – As rockets fell in Syria Eliot Higgins was asleep at his house 2,300 miles away, in Leicester. He woke a few hours later, roused his toddler daughter, Ela, and padded downstairs to make her porridge.’

That from the Telegraph, March 29th, 2014. Higgins affectionately portrayed as a kind of Winnie the Pooh meets a Beautiful Mind as he goes on to crack the enigma which had eluded the world etc etc.

Here, the Independent from January 18th, 2015 – 

Eliot Higgins 1‘Any of us can pause a YouTube video or find an old friend on Facebook. But only one man has used these simple online tools to expose the world’s darkest secrets. No wonder everyone from the police to Google wants a piece of the blogger from Leicester.’

Newsweek –  from June 2015 – 

‘Sipping a can of beer and devouring french fries in a Brussels hotel room, Eliot Higgins doesn’t look like the type to get involved in armed conflicts. The Englishman has a baby face, slumped shoulders and a soft Midlands accent. But over the past three years, the 36-year-old former administrator and obsessive gamer has spent hundreds of hours scouring the Internet to find out the truth about faraway wars – from the use of chemical weapons in Syria to Russian troops invading Ukraine – all from the comfort of his couch.’

But what if it’s not really like that, at all?

What if the ‘Founder of Bellingcat. Visiting research associate at King’s College London. Nonresident Senior Fellow – New Information Frontiers @AtlanticCouncil.‘ (his own Twitter description), isn’t really that?

Chauncey GardinerWhat if Eliot Higgins is, at best, a latter day Chauncey Gardiner , (pictured, the Peter Sellers character  from film ‘Being There’ who rose to success on the back of mental limitations mistaken for genius)? Or what if it’s even worse – what if Higgins is actually a liar, a faker, a fraud?

Let’s have a look at a 10 Higgins bullet-points –

Higgins is from Leicester in the UK, born in 1979, He never finished college, dropping out of the Southampton Institute of Higher Education. When asked for interview what he studied at university, his answer was , “Media . . . I think.”

He once worked as payments officer at a women’s underwear company. (“I’m more interested in lingerie than asylum seekers,”)In 2012, the hardcore online gamer (a World of Warcraft addict), Higgins was laid off from his job as an administrator at a non-profit providing housing for asylum seekers, turns to blogging, under the pseudonym ‘Brown Moses‘, from a Frank Zappa track.

Сredited, by some, with uncovering chemical weapons in Syria in 2013. Whether he actually did this, is the subject of debate (what he is documented as doing is agreeing to suppress information that the rebels had chemical weapons, Eliot Higgins Bellingcatand were behind chemical weapon attacks on Aleppo which had killed civilians). In any case, Higgins’ chemical weapons revelations were enthusiastically disseminated across western media, the US, UN, glowingly endorsed by western governments, but comprehensively debunked by Theodore Postol, a professor in the Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group at MIT –

It’s clear and unambiguous this munition could not have come from Syrian government-controlled areas as the White House claimed.”

While the western media fell in love with tale of the ‘expert who exposed Syrian chemical weapons from his bedroom‘, other, real, experts (and Higgins has always been completely open about his lack of expertise) were less convinced. Higgins, Postol said,has done a very nice job collecting information on a website. As far as his analysis, it’s so lacking any analytical foundation it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about.”

In January 2015, Bellingcat published a report into events in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 9th, 2014, when Ukrainian forces entered the city, opening fire, resulting in a death count given by Ukrainian sources as over 20, but by some sources as high as 100. Bellingcat took the figure down to 13. Despite video of Ukrainian forces opening fire on unarmed civilians, Bellingcat entirely exonerated them, described them as ‘acting with restraint’.

This exoneration of the actions of Ukrainian forces, and others of its kind, has allowed Eliot Higgins MH17western governments to continue their unconditional support for Ukraine, in the war in Donbass, without question.

Through 2015, Higgins’ Bellingcat rises to become one of the key agents in the MH17 investigation, with Higgins himself frequently trumpeting his appearances across the world’s media. This is despite Bellingcat’s frequently being caught out in fabrications – those MH17 videos which formed the bedrock of Bellingcat’s claims, comprehensively debunked here. Then there was the humiliation of Der Spiegel, one of Europe’s largest publications … issuing an apology for using Bellingcat’s work as a reliable source.  German image forensics expert Jens Kriese tore Bellingcat apart here –

‘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 Bellingcatmethod is subjective and not based entirely on science. This is why there is not a single scientific paper that addresses it. Contrary to what Bellingcat claims, Error Level Analysis does not provide clear results.

The conclusion is always based on the perspective of humans, on their interpretation.’This, along with stringent criticism from a range of sources – from the ‘Off-Guardian‘ site -‘Even casual conversation with him reveals the embarrassing truth that his “research”, so lauded in the popular media, consists of entry-level computer skills and an awful lot of smoke-blowing. You or I or literally anyone over the age of seven with internet access could do it. If we thought it was worth while.’

The criticism hasn’t just been limited to text, this German satirical programme did a quite unerring take-off of Higgins –

Higgins is actually becoming rather an internet joke –

These have done the rounds –

Eliot Higgins internet joke Eliot Higgins

And just have a look on Twitter with the search #Bellingcrap

Higgins either vehemently hates, or has been told to hate Russia, and Russia’s president Putin. Have a look at his Twitter timeline, of some 127,000 tweets, and it can read at times like one man trolling an entire country. A stream, a barrage, of anti-Russian tweets, retweets, and Higgins doesn’t even try to hide that he despises Russia, or has been told to – this just from a quick ‘Russia‘ search of his recent tweets, and just a small sampling –Screen CapturesWith this taken into account, what conclusion was Higgins’ Bellingcat ever going to come to, apart from that it was Russia, indeed Putin himself, responsible for the tragic downing of MH17? And for the ‘expert’ on Donbass, Higgins has made his feelings similarly clear –Fullscreen capture 28022016 163501.bmp

Higgins hates RT now, never missing a chance to tear into them. Typical tweet –Fullscreen capture 28022016 145812.bmpBut, he used to be proud of their endorsement – this, from 2013 – a list of media he was happy to advertise his connection to.Screen Captures1 So what happened there? I’ve worked for RT, and will say this with all due respect, they are quite modest in the payment they offer. It’s not hard to find channels, and outlets, who pay a lot more.

In the early, Brown Moses, 
days, Higgins used to make frequent appeals for finances, with support links prominently displayed. However, the current Bellingcat site doesn’t even appear to have a ‘donate’ / ‘support’ option. And Fullscreen capture 28022016 154321.bmpBellingcat has grown to an operation which lists itself as being run by ‘eight volunteers’ but is clearly far in excess of that – a professional website which is updated sometimes with several articles a day, on which extensive research has been expended. But when it’s Bellingcat, all the evidence shows that the research is done to back up a conclusion already arrived at, rather than arrive at a conclusion based on research.

Higgins now works not from home, but from an office, in his hometown of Leicester. So where’s the money coming from for Bellingcat, clearly now an operation requiring considerable financial support?That’s unclear, Higgins has yet to publish any record of where the finance comes from, all the ‘About‘ section of the Bellingcat site says is -‘Bellingcat uses open source and social media investigation to investigate a variety of subjects, from Mexican drug lords to conflicts being fought across the world. Bellingcat brings together contributors who specialise in open source and social media investigation, and creates guides and case studies so others may learn to do the same.’

For a lot of people, it’s highly convenient that Eliot Higgins is an ‘expert’, and his agency Bellingcat taken seriously. This is a man who, with his agency Bellingcat, will absolutely always back the position of western governments, and powerful western organisations. And they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Eliot Higgins expert 1he’s taken seriously, lay on all the the trappings, auspices of highbrow, on trend terms like ‘open source investigation’ and ‘error level analysis‘, be sure he’s given awards, plaudits, made a ‘fellow’, ‘expert’, at sympathetic organisations, appears at the right seminars, conferences, everything to apply the sheen of credibility.

When it comes to defending himself from criticism, Eliot is adept at deflecting criticism of himself onto the seemingly ‘too cool to criticise ‘open source investigation’, of which he is a leading practitioner. These tweets, from today, in response to his being told this article would be coming out –

Fullscreen capture 28022016 144044.bmpFullscreen capture 28022016 144338.bmp

Yet, what if behind the new, buzz ‘open source’ investigation of Higgins lies just plain old falsification?

This recent, absolutely comprehensive, article makes the point, one yet to have penetrated the public perception of ‘open source Fullscreen capture 28022016 152434.bmp
investigation’, that all this new jazz can be used as the respectable front for one of the oldest scams, falsification – see this tweet on the theme.

Creating social media accounts to post misinformation, free of all the source checks, verification of other sources as this is ‘citizen journalism’ and all things cool, which can’t be questioned because a lot of people don’t really know what they are. This, then passed off, and on, into Bellingcat, and up it goes higher into the food chain of mass media, unquestioned, unchecked.

So you can see why a lot of people really have an interest in making Eliot Higgins out to be an authority, a Fullscreen capture 28022016 153608.bmpreputed source, an expert. Have a look at his profile on the Atlantic Council site, an agency funded by governments across the world (25, no less), to promote their position under the guise of being a ‘think tank’. Higgins now works with them, and they call him ‘

Eliot Higgins – Nonresident Senior Fellow, New Information Frontiers, Future Europe Initiative, Expertise Topics, Digital Forensic Research and Open Source Intelligence.’

There’s a real convenience about Higgins. He’s positioned himself as one of the foremost exponents of the still-being-defined ‘open source’. Higgins himself has shaped and defined what we currently know as ‘open source investigation’. And he’s made one of the tenets of it never, ever, needing to go to the place in question.

Eliot Higgins expert

Higgins has never been near the MH17 site, Syria, or anywhere else on where he’s an apparent ‘expert’. Higgins may not go to any of the places he ‘investigates’, but he does travel the world being an ‘expert’ at various conferences, receiving awards – all of these used (and used by Higgins himself, who doesn’t shy from self-promotion , making extensive mention on Twitter of his own participation at conferences, using a photo from such for his profile) to propagate ‘Higgins, the expert.

It’s very handy for some people, having a guy who doesn’t need to be sent anywhere, who, from his sofa, can quickly come up with the conclusions so beloved of western press, and governments. He’s also clearly a hard worker, dogmatic, persistent, the man who used to spend endless hours gaming now happy to spend that time on Bellingcat ‘investigations’. Higgins took part in the official  MH17 investigation, and even boasted about knowing the result of the MH17 report before it was released – so sure was he, he even challenged me to a bet over it (I declined).

So, make your own mind up.

Who is Eliot Higgins, and Bellingcat, really? Are they indeed the experts the western media would have us believe? Or are we

Eliot Higgins Bellingcrapbeing stitched up by a man either of limited abilities plunged into the limelight, making the most of all that goes with it – fawning western media write ‘He often doesn’t finish sentences, as if his mind is racing elsewhere‘ – but could it be, that Higgins is actually rather simply rather a dim man, being used, and fine with that, by higher powers?

Or is Higgins actually an intelligent calculating individual, who has exploited the opportunity to make a name for himself, make a lot of money? One thing about Higgins is sure. He’s a liar. A conman. A charlatan. And whatever associations the name ‘Higgins’ and ‘Bellingcat’ have now, the future can surely only be these names associated with fabrication, fraud, a scam. All that will be debated, is whether Higgins is a latter-day Donald Crowhurst, a hapless man forced into a web of deceit, or a Bernie Madoff, who knew just what he was doing all along.

The Latest ‘Russian Tanks in Donbass’ Nonsense

Graham Phillips

Graham Phillips tank1I could have written this a couple of days ago, but was working on other projects. And do I really need to be an ‘instant response’ unit every time nonsense western propaganda comes out?


Graham Phillips tankComing up to a year since the liberation of Debaltsevo (and I’ll be doing a special series of video reportage, with English subtitles on that), it’s inevitable that western and Ukrainian media will bring up the ‘that time Graham Phillips showed Russian T72 B3 tanks‘ thing.

Here’s what I think about that –

1. I’m not bothered about it. I don’t think anyone in Russia is bothered about it, no one’s ever said anything to me about it.

2. They think I’m really bothered about this – let’s show there was a ‘Russian invasion’ in Donbass, and really wind up Graham too‘.

3. I’m very proud that in my work in Donbass, I always reported and filmed everything there.

T72B34. Is that really all? Almost 2 years of reporting in Donbass, and the most they can find is 3 tanks, which they say are Russian.

5. Where’s the evidence that these tanks are ‘Russian’? I mean real evidence, not just arrows pointing at things. There is absolutely none, it’s pure speculation. What happened to Bellingcat (main proponents of the T-72 B3 nonsense) actually doing their own, real, investigation? Serial numbers? (The OSCE checked all of this stuff by the way, no report of Russian tanks in Donbass).

No, not one Bellingcat representative has even set foot in the Donbass they claim to be ‘expert’ on. Instead we have the the trendy ‘open source‘ tag, making out that making stuff up from screenshots is somehow something more than that.

6. Ok, let’s imagine that the tanks I filmed are T-72 B3s (above). Where’s the evidence that they were sent into Donbass in time of war? I keep asking Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat that. He never answers.

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7. You do know that Bellingcat, so keen to spread this ‘fitting the Western narrative’ story everywhere, are funded by Western agencies, and governments, to generate material to fit the Western narrative?

8. It’s clearly a personal vendetta with the main purporters of this nonsense – Eliot Higgins has taken pains to include this in as many of his presentations, articles, tweets, as possible –

Fullscreen capture 10022016 004152.bmpFullscreen capture 08022016 180047.bmp
Likewise, Julia Davis, a pro-Ukrainian fantasist (more on her, and her fantasy world of Hollywood ‘friends’ to come, you can read Irina Galushko’s article on her here).

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Davis calls me ‘Fiblips‘ by the way, because that’s clearly how rational, serious ‘journalists’ behave…

9. It’s a real shame, that some people actually believe these lies, and these lies are spread on by people representing (unfortunately) widely-believed sources. Jumping to major conclusions based on some screenshots … it’s not journalism, it’s warmongering propaganda.

10. And this all ties in to the latest western attempt, a mishmash of screenshots, extensively from social media, various geo-location, a watch, and enormous, extraneous conclusions derived from each of the fore-mentioned, to Fullscreen capture 10022016 152323.bmpshow that apparently Putin himself ordered the operation on Debaltsevo.

This attempt to expose myself, ‘Russian involvement in Donbass‘, instead exposes the desperate tactics deployed by western, and Ukrainian propaganda. All, of course, carried off with ‘expert’ affectations, and lots of shiny screenshots to lure the gullible into believing that indeed this is something more than 21st-century snake oil.

Sadly, some have fallen for this, some who should know better. On any reading more cursory than that on a smartphone as one exists a tube train, this ‘expose’ exposes itself for what it is – deceptive, manipulative, malevolent propaganda, perpetrated by the dishonest, believed by the easily deceived.

 

Open Source Investigation – the Modern Snake Oil?

Graham Phillips

Open Source investigation sounds really cool. On-trend. Similarly ‘citizen investigative journalism’. It’s reading Vice in Brick Lane on an Apple 6, while paying £5 for a bowl of cereal.

snake oilBut then back in the day ‘snake oil’ sounded quite the thing too, the elixir to cure all ills enthusiastically gobbled up for over a century across the US before finally being exposed as –

So what are the constituent parts of the ‘open source investigation’ Bellingcat have become such celebrated exponents of. Striped of the #trendyfancy nom sobriquet? Well, let’s take as a case study the Bellingcat report which played such an integral part in the MH17 investigation (cited as such in numerous media), and round up with what happened when ‘open source’ investigation tried to catch me out.

Taking photos from anywhere and everywhere is a huge part of open source investigation. Here, in the Bellingcat report, photos published on Paris Match of Fullscreen capture 14102015 025741.bmpwhat it claims are a BUK launcher moving through Donetsk on July 17th, 2014, between 10 and 11am. Bellingcat can’t be sure of the time of photos, as they admit. And that’s another key component of open source investigation – not really being sure about stuff.

‘Paris Match has claimed that the images were taken around 11 am on July 17,[5] and social media posts indicate that the Buk was in Donetsk after 9:40 am. SunCalc shadow analysis by the Ukraine@War blog suggests that the time the photograph was taken was approximately 10 am to 10:15 am.[6]

Another core of ‘open source’, the use of the word ‘claim’ – do an f and search
for the word ‘claim’ on Eliot Higgins’  ‘MH17 – The Open Source Evidence’ and watch the article light up. And one of the key ‘open source’ tenets – blurry photos, that you can say whatever you like about. 

Never mind that the ‘claimed’ (see what I did there?) BUK photos above are a Fullscreen capture 14102015 003958.bmplittle muffled, what about these of a low-loader, supposedly in 4 different places with the clarity of photos varying so much they do look like an Instagram filter has been applied. ‘Open Source Investigation Blur’, perhaps….

Once again, our audience are whisked along in the thrall of those bedroom geniuses who’ve cracked enigma, found Jack the Ripper etc and so on… they do so due to another must-do of open source, make an awful lot of all this stuff. But before that don’t care who puts this stuff out there – another open source ever-present. A screenshot taken from the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior slapped up there without so much as a passing mention that taking material from a party which could hardly be more ‘interested’, is a bit, you know, biased. So maybe that should have been choose stuff from whichever side you’re on, treat it as bible, ridicule any stuff the other side put out – as anything Russia has put forward is given short shrift indeed.

‘Since the July 21 press conference, it has been possible to establish that all four claims were false, and, in some cases, involved the Russian Ministry of Defense Fullscreen capture 14102015 002258.bmpproducing fabricated evidence to support their claims.’

So that’s that then. Another open source cornerstone is just get anyone to confirm the location of your photos (actually, these photos are usually screenshots of course, that guaranteed fuzziness they bring fertile ground for open source speculators indeed). This shot, absolutely key in the alleged ‘BUK trail’, confirmed by a ‘Luhansk local’. Well, that’s encouraging then.

Then, there’s stuff in the distance and the shadow stories – the further away it is, the more open source loves it. And those shadows, from a place of course the budding open source sleuth has never been – another open source favourite, never actually bother going to the places in question – well, just as good as a digital clock, to our open source Sherlock.

As for who posted all of this open source gold (another one below)? ‘Locals sharing information on social media’, ‘posted online several hours later’, ‘Buk missile launcher appears in one photograph and one video shared online’. The answer leads us to another sad Fullscreen capture 14102015 023234.bmptruth of open source. Sad, because I really believe open source has a part to play in journalism.

It should be an insightful augmentation to the real work of journalism – going to the place, speaking to people, ascertaining reliable source, examining evidence on site. But, that’s not how it’s worked out on MH17. Instead it’s been take the content of absolutely anyone online if it matches what you want to say, completely dismiss anything that doesn’t. 

I’ve interviewed dozens of witnesses for MH17, photographed, and video-d thousands of parts of the plane. But have Bellingcat ever once shown any interest in using my material (apart from their misusing it, another article entirely)? No, not once. Clearly I’m just not open source enough.

Maybe not. What I believe in as a journalist, is getting to the scene. The location gives you tangibles and intangibles a sofa YouTube screenshotter could never capture. There’s real people, recorded video statements (something notable by entire absence in Bellingcat report). There’s intangibles such as spending time in the place, feeling the place. To spend time on the MH17 site, just taking moments reliving events of that day, is to comprehend what happened in a way an open source shadow analyser never can.

Fullscreen capture 14102015 040834.bmpAnd on the scene, if you really put yourself there, things happen – a man gave me an important part of MH17, which had fallen by his home. I tried to get that into the official investigation for over 2 months, then yesterday, put a photo of it online. What happened? A budding, Bellingcat-aligned open-sourcer swiftly identified, from a screenshot of my GoPro footage, a ‘bow-tie fragment’ in the part (connected to the BUK missile connected to Russia), enthusiastically sharing this to followers more than keen to tweet it on – indeed it was retweeted by Eliot Higgins himself.

What did I do? Well, I had the part to hand, upon seeing this latest open source gem, took high resolution photos, posted them up on my own Twitter. 

1part 1part1

The result, an immediate open source backtrack, with ridiculous accusation that I’d somehow altered the part with a screwdriver!

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And that’s what it’s come to now. Open source, so used to being feted and fawned over that, even when it’s caught out, and called out open source never admits it’s wrong. 

Snake oil was reduced to a stock joke in western movies, a part of speech. Open source is unlikely to go the same way. However it would be good to see it used in the proper way – an accompaniment to real journalism, rather than replacement. A theory based on interpretation, not a scientific validation.

My MH17 documentary will be released soon. I’ve been on the site over 60 hours now, using new technologies there – GoPro, a drone. I believe in incorporating new technologies into the work of a journalist. However the rush to embrace open source just because it’s new and ‘cool’, has come at a real cost to factual reporting.

(18+) The Most Experienced Western Journalist on MH17 You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Graham Phillips

Eliot HigginsTurn on any news channel today, and speaking back at you with apparent authority, on MH17, may well be Eliot Higgins, of ‘open source investigation’ agency, Bellingcat.

This ‘expert’, so beloved by western media, will go on at length about his findings, conclusions, the works. However, he will say if asked, but won’t volunteer, one thing. He’s never actually been to the MH17 site. Not even near, despite its having been safe to access for well over a year.

Patrick LancasterThere is another western voice, a video journalist you won’t see on your screens today. Unlike Higgins, he’s spent over 70 hours at the site. He was actually there shortly after MH17 came down, on July 17th, 2014, and has been to the site many times since then, continuing his work.

It’s Patrick Lancaster, and here’s just a selection of his videos for you to see. Unique, invaluable, but the western media prefer the word of someone never once at the scene. Someone who has sat at home, and taken screenshots of YouTube videos.

I hope those coming here value the real journalism Patrick has done on MH17.

Rushing to the crash site, shortly after MH17 went down –

His first video report from scene –

Patrick’s report from the next day, July 18th, 2014 –

Patrick’s footage from July 20th, as he was once more at the scene –

And as I say this, just a selection of Patrick’s work from MH17. He’s not on one western channel today…

Patrick’s channel here. 

Bellingcat – Caught Up, and Out in Yet Another MH17 Falsification

Note from editor, Graham Phillips

The discredited ‘citizen journalism’ agency Bellingcat has, from the beginning, pushed the line of a ‘Russian BUK’ responsible for downing MH17, on any number of spurious grounds, key in this has been the BUK supposedly originating from the Russian ’53rd Russian Air Defense Brigade’ –

“The Bellingcat MH17 investigation team also believes the same Buk was part of a convoy travelling from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade in Kursk to near the Ukrainian border as part of a training exercise between June 22nd and July 25th” 

Key to the Bellingcat polemic, one ‘Ivan Krasnoproshin’ –

“Images posted to the now-deleted profile of brigade member Ivan Krasnoproshin also show vehicles that are part of the convoy.”

Here are two photos of a the same truck, the first image is from the video in the Krasneyskiy area and the second was uploaded by Ivan Krasnoproshin who serves in the 53rd brigade.”

By Anna Vatavu

A small introduction: there are two types of army service in Russia – conscription and professional contract service. Conscription service takes exactly one year (apart from fleet, where it can be 2 or 3 years) and it is compulsory. As for the contract service, one can sign a contract for at least 3 years. 53rd brigade has soldiers of both types.

I decided to find out, what type of a sergeant Krasnoproshin could have been. From the photos of his (now deleted) VK page we can estimate, that he started his army service in June 2012 (he took the oath on 22/07/2012). So, by 2014 he would have already left the army, if he was a conscript. And if he had a contract, he would not have been able to leave the army until 2015. So, his dismissal in June 2014 looks suspicious indeed.

But how do we know that Ivan was dismissed in June 2014? Mainly because Correctiv tells us this:

Ivan Krasnoproshin

“Note of the dismissal – stamped and dismissed: In June, a week before he and his unit went to Ukraine, Ivan Krasnoproshin and some of his colleagues were dismissed from the Russian army. Coincidence? Or intent?”

However, if we look at the photo of the journal, that Ivan posted, it is very clear that he was dismissed in 2013.

The first line says: “was dismissed due to the end of service term according to the order №225 on 13(5)/06/13“. Other three soldiers were also dismissed in 2013. One does not have to know Russian to see the numbers clearly. They were all dismissed in 2013, more than one year before the tragedy. So, everything is crystal clear now – Krasnoproshin joined the army as a conscript in June 2012 and in June 2013 he finished his service. This fully corresponds to the Russian laws and regulations. Knowing this, we understand that this part -“This alleged dismissal of a lot of soldiers seems to be happening with one special reason: the Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to be able to claim that there are no Russian soldiers deployed to Eastern Ukraine” is complete bullshit.

Correctiv team were sure – if they say “In June, a week before he and his unit went to Ukraine, Ivan Krasnoproshin and some of his colleagues were dismissed from the Russian army“, nobody will look at the journal closer. What is more, in the Russian version of the report, Correctiv says that it is impossible to see what is written in the journal after the phrase “was dismissed due to the end of service term according to the order…“, though in fact we can clearly see the numbers. Obviously, they knew that Krasnoproshin and the other soldiers were dismissed in 2013 and had nothing to do with Ukraine and MH17 in particular.

Now we see, how they manipulated only one small fact, but it destroys Correctiv’s/Bcat’s credibility immediately. They claim to be “investigative journalists”, but they hide and manipulate facts to fit their story line. The most disgusting thing for me is their style of writing – they attack you and make you think they are 100% sure in the truthfulness of their words. Just look at this: “The online investigative team Bellingcat was able to identify the 53rd Russian Air Brigade from Kursk as the unit which employs the soldiers who possibly launched the deadly missile at Flight MH17. One guy who really helped to uncover this unit was Sergeant Ivan Krasnoproschin.

Piers Mellor and the Bellingcat Exposure

By Graham Phillips

A few days ago, I announced an event to be held in London, a charity event to raise funds for Donbass/ Novorossiya. After a hate campaign, online, calling the establishment with threats etc, by pro-Ukraine supporters, the venue due to be hosting the event cancelled due to security concerns.

Subsequent to this, I was contacted on Facebook by a friendly man, named Piers Mellor, offering advice on finding an alternate venue. I met Piers again today, at a nice little pro-Donbass/Novorossiya gathering in London. Even this small gathering had taken place against the backdrop of threats from the pro-Ukraine side.

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In the event, they didn’t materialise, everything passed off nicely, calmly, and I tweeted about it upon return. What happened next chiefly concerns Piers Mellor, pictured, the bald man with the ‘UK Stop Supplying Weapons to Ukraine’ placard – 1Don 1Don1

And Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, tweeting about me for several hours while keeping me at the disadvantage of having me blocked, due to an earlier disagreement, meaning I was unable to reply –

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Now Bellingcat are an agency perhaps best known for having, through incompetence or design, passed on, passed off, incorrect MH17 information – this on the MH17 Bellingcat piece written by Daniel Romein –

Checking on timeanddate.com using the visible time stamp also comes out as 19:23, not 18:23 as claimed. This is an error that is repeated in the Bellingcat report and indicates there were no internal checks at Bellingcat.

It continues –

The basic flaws in the Romein piece are

  • No provenance for the image files
  • Basic checks on authenticity not performed
  • Unjustified assumptions made from the checks they did do
  • Writing on areas completely outside their expertise – weather conditions, rocketry, satellite image interpretation, image forensics
  • Failure to use publically available data to verify the images
  • Failure to release image data to support their claims
  • Failure to have effective internal checks before publication

This analysis will show that the skills and methodology of the ‘Bellingcat Team’ fall way below any accepted standard, and in the process they may have caused destruction of evidence.

Bellingcat was started on 15th July 2014, funded by a Kickstarter campaign, just 2 days before the MH17 tragedy by Higgins, formerly known as Brown Moses, has a long track record for selling his ‘citizen journalist reports‘ to anyone willing to Eliot Higginspay. Who exactly pays is something Higgins has always been tight-lipped about, from 2013 he received a’£5,000 donation, which he says is from an anonymous source‘. Back when he called himself Brown Moses, Eliot, from South Wigston, near Leicester, the United Kingdom, was advertising what £250 could buy –

– The £100 reward, and a video blog dedicated to you, or an individual/organisation of your choice, with a 10 second dedication at the start and end of the video. Also, a note of personal thanks sent from me to you, as well as inclusion on the page of thanks. I reserve the right to exclude offensive organisations or individuals.

That ‘Diamond Moses’ well below the £1000 ‘Ultimate Moses’, how much Higgins can be ‘bought’, the subject of the argument between us which led to his blocking me back in January. That heated argument resulted from myself, who was in Mariupol on May 9th, reacting to the whitewashing report of Eliot’s Bellingcat by accusing that such a report, an ‘altered reality’ could only have been written at the behest of a paymaster with a vested interest. Higgins was unable to offer an alternative explanation to my satisfaction, blocked me, then tweeted

Here’s the article that sent Graham Phillips crazy – A Reconstruction of Clashes in Mariupol, Ukraine, 9 May 2014

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Back in 2013, before the war in Donbass, Eliot was covering the war in Syria, despite neither speaking the language, or ever having been there, as is the case with Ukraine/Donbass. He covered Syria, and covers Donbass as a ‘citizen blogger’, analysing video evidence, despite admitting to having no expertise in the sphere – ‘before the Arab spring I knew no more about weapons that the average Xbox owner. I had no knowledge beyond what I’d learned from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rambo’. In 2013, pre-Bellingcat, Higgins, who dropped out of a media studies course at university before being employed as a finance and admin worker prior to his being made redundant, would try to sell his findings on. As this leaked conversation with one Matthew VanDyke (of whom more later), from 2013, shows, Higgins was always touting for work –

‘I’m trying to get some full time employment with a NGO, currently I’m doing part time work for HRW on cluster munitions’

In this conversation, Higgins refers to an invitation from a ‘counter terrorism’ company which may lead to a job, with a company named Allen Vanguard. In our Twitter conversation, Higgins stated – yes, they offered me the job as an analyst but said I had to give up the blog, so I said no. I’ve spoken about it in interviews – however, when pressed on facts, Higgins is evasive, quick to take recourse in abuse – (from tweet dialogue, March 15th) –

you’re awfully slow, as I said I didn’t accept their job offer, can I make it any simpler for you?

even spoke about it in my New Yorker interview, so much for research, eh Graham? t.co/zOriburNI9

those are two unrelated events, I never worked for Allen Vanguard as I said. Not very good journalism, Graham, must try harder

and – you do realise not everyone believes everything they are told without doing some fact checking first?

A pertinent point raised by Higgins, especially in light of his earlier tweets today, which came after pictures of Piers Mellor circulated, then pro-Ukrainians sent them onto Eliot on Twitter, accusing Mellor of being ‘far right’, ‘neo-Nazi’ etc.

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Eliot was quick to take the photos, come out with

Turns out one of @GrahamWP_UK fellow attendees at today’s Donbass protest is the far right’s Pier Mellor, oops

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Eliot, warming to the theme, went on to post numerous tweets in this vein, taking delight (as many on the pro-Ukraine side did) in my own opposition to the neo-Nazism of the Ukrainian forces and now apparent consorting with a ‘neo-Nazi’ at a meeting in support of Donbass, in the UK –

I wonder if Mellor (pictured below) nodded politely when @GrahamWP_UK told him about those awful Ukrainian fascists?

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An article extensively circulated in the debate, referenced (retweeted) by Higgins, on a site called ‘Hope Not Hate’, under the title ‘The nazi law man‘ , from October 2014, referenced Mellor’s alleged numerous ‘nazi’ connections, it must be said without listing references, links, just 2 photos of Mellor – one with Der Stürmer – a Greek band with Nazi ideology, another with controversial Holocaust ‘revisionist’ David Irving.

So, what’s the real story with Piers Mellor? To give you the basics before politics on him – almost 36, from Perth, Western Australia, in London since 2008, Business Development Manager for a law firm. Piers and myself chatted in person for a few minutes about general subjects at the good-natured demo, then parted ways. He seemed a perfectly nice, polite man, said or did nothing untoward. Of course, I was surprised to read these things about him, so via Facebook, I brought the matter to his attention, asked for his side of the story –

GPwhat’s the deal here?

PMBasically it’s due to the fact I once organized a black metal concert (in 2012) with a Greek band linked to Golden Dawn (far-right / neo-Nazi Greek party).

GP – what about all this linking of you to far-right groups?
http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/nick/the-nazi-law-man-4034

PMThe thing is, I’ve never actually been a member of any of the groups they mention in that article.
i need to issue some sort of statement on it
but not get bogged down in it
David Irving etc

OK, the photo of me with the Greeks is from that concert I mentioned, the pic with Irving is from a talk he held. He is an important historian of the WWII, to call him a “holocaust denier” is not accurate.

He doesn’t deny that mass murder of Jews etc took place.

GPand your links to far-right groups in the UK?
EDL etc?

PM – I’ve never been a member of the EDL, I was involved with the BNP circa 6 years ago.

Since then my views have changed on many subjects.

GPwhen was the last time you went to a far-right demo?

PMThing is I was never a member of any of the groups mentioned on HnH, I admittedly was a member of the BNP but never stood as a candidate or anything.

GPare you a member of any groups now?

PM – No I’m not a member of anything now.

GPand last time you went to a far-right demo?
position on fascism?

PM – Tbh I went to a demo connected to Golden Dawn year before last, it was just because of some people I knew who were organizing though. I think fascism died in 1945 and today sits in the dustbin of history along with other statist ideologies!

GPwhy do you support Novorossiya?

PM – I support Novorossiya as I think they are at the forefront of the struggle against the US-led, globalized world order. I also have strong personal sympathies for Russia, I train in Russian martial art Systema for some years, also my long term ex-girlfriend is a Russian from Estonia.

GPthe story behind this photo?

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PMThat’s a Saxon fylfot! It’s not a swastika! We actually got pelted with missiles that day by EDL members!  I’m a practitioner of Norse pagan religion hence the fylfot symbol.

Well I think it’s to be expected when you take a stand against the New World Order – they try to cut you however they can.

GP – how have your views changed?
what changed them?

PM – Well, I got disillusioned with the far-right movement partially because so many people involved were the total opposite of the ideals they claimed to represent.

Well, my views are that no part of one’s life is wholly positive or negative. It’s all part of a learning curve.

GPare you into football?
what team?

PM – Yes mate I follow Chelsea.

GP – are you a football hooligan or so btw?
what is your football participation?

PMI have had those connections in the past, not today.

GPwhat about your being at a White Power event? (speculation online had linked Mellor to this)

PM – “White power event”, meaning the Steadfast thing? It wasn’t in any way a “white power event”… we were all having a laugh remembering things we were involved with back in the day. Some reporter covered it as if we were a bunch of extremists on the verge of bringing down the government.

GPyour support for Golden Dawn? 

PM – I supported them because I believed they are a party that stands for ordinary Greek people against the international bankers and EU-bureaucrats.
Golden Dawn have always opposed Pravy Sektor and supported Novorossiya since these things started, BTW.

GPbtw, has Eliot Higgins contacted you today?

PMNo he hasn’t. Who is he, btw?

Higgins was not only aware of Mellor, but aware of his actual Facebook account – tweeting that I had ‘friended’ Mellor –

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Higgins, on Facebook himself, made no effort to contact Mellor, no effort to ask his side of the story. I friended Mellor specifically for that purpose, to ask his side of the story. Any proper journalist should do that, get both sides, yet Higgins has never really hidden his taking sides, his ‘Facebook friends, like you are with Piers Mellor‘ refers to his own friendship with Matthew VanDyke, an American sometime journalist most noted for becoming a combatant in the Libyan civil war, then openly assisting in the Syrian uprising against Bashar-al-Assad in 2012. In leaked dialogue, VanDyke infamously asserted that it would be acceptable for the rebels to kill children, if it led to US intervention.

It’s clear they were much more than ‘Facebook friends’ from the matey exchanges between the two, as they discuss variously getting work (the two actually have a ‘mutual donor – one Anthony Salvo), and the most notorious incident, where Higgins agrees to suppress information that the rebels had chemical weapons, were behind chemical weapon attacks on Aleppo which had killed civilians. Higgins, working for HRW, continued to maintain it was the Syrian government, despite being aware of this. When pressed on this in our Twitter conversation, Higgins was evasive –

as I said, it was an off the record claim with no evidence when other incorrect claims were being made on CW regularly

Graham, I know this must seem all new and exciting to you, but this has been well covered by other nuts & conspiracy theorists

Higgins, who went so far as to post a photo of Mellor’s bookshelf, then launched into an attack on myself, repeatedly asking me to ‘@GrahamWP_UK do you reject the far right political views of your new friend Piers Mellor?’

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I didn’t answer these, because I wanted to speak to Piers to confirm just what those views are. To ask for his side, something Eliot never did. I’m a person, journalist, opposed to far-right politics, extremism, neo-Nazism, on every level. I believe politics must be defined by intelligence, tolerance, respect.

To accuse someone of being ‘far right’, a ‘neo-Nazi’, extremely serious allegations, without adequate verification is unprofessional, sloppy, shoddy work. The photos of Piers don’t look good, but there’s a story behind every photo worth asking, even essential to ask, if you’re a professional journalist.

I would say Piers has made some poor decisions in the company he keeps, the banners he has been photographed with, certain of his previous choices, affiliations. Yet the story, his story, is clearly far more complex than the simplistic, sloganistic branding of him as ‘far right’, ‘neo-Nazi’ etc.

I don’t support the choices Piers made before I met him, but do support the choice he has made in getting involved with the Donbass/Novorossiya movement, giving his time, effort, as a volunteer, to bring attention to the plight of civilians in that war-torn area.

He has expressed to me, as above, the severing of ties with the far-right, the changing of his views to come round to his current position, where he now stands against the multiple far-right, neo-Nazi groups on the Ukrainian side, even the widely pro-Ukraine Daily Telegraph has written of that.

There was something very interesting about the Ukrainian reaction, the way they seized on this story, as Ukrainian journalist Mikhail Golub tweeted ‘bald propagandist @GrahamWP_UK arranges a meeting in Britain of local fascists‘.

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In this glee, an admission on the Ukrainian side of the ‘fascist’ elements on their own side, a desire for decisive deflection. I’ve covered the Ukraine side for over a year, interviewed Ukrainian soldiers, interviewed civilians who described Ukrainian soldiers with swastikas, challenged Ukrainian soldiers on far-right views.

Higgins hasn’t done any of this. He’s sat at home writing what he’s been paid to write by sources he refuses to reveal. Recently, on Bellingcat, as well as any number of ‘the Russians did it’ MH17 articles, that exoneration of Ukrainian soldiers for their part in events in Mariupol on May 9th, 2014, where the far-right Azov Battalion entered the city, opened fire on unarmed civilians. In the words of Higgins’ Bellingcat, they were ‘restrained’.

But, why, with his supposed desire to work ‘16 hours a day‘ did Higgins spend so much time picking on Mellor? To have a go at myself, a vocal opponent of his, and Bellingcat. But in doing so, in writing this, more on Eliot Higgins, and Bellingcat, was illuminated than I could ever have asked for –

he suppresses information for money (the Syrian rebels chemical weapons information wouldn’t have fitted with the position of Higgins’ employer HRW, so he sat on it)

he takes sides (close friends with Matthew VanDyke, who never even pretended not to take sides)

he doesn’t do research (shoddy MH17 allegations, and in this case of Mellor, with access to him on Facebook just as I, didn’t even contact the man before launching an online smear campaign)

he doesn’t cover both sides of the story (you could actually cite any Bellingcat article for this, but let’s just take Mellor, clearly a man with a problematic past, but one much more complicated than the one side Higgins spent all evening thrusting)

– he shuts up when he’s got no answer –

My question in return @EliotHiggins – did you try to speak to Piers to establish the background, story behind these photos?

If not @EliotHiggins then is it standard practice of yours not to do any research / ask the subject, before making allegations?

Or @EliotHiggins – did you take a few photos sent to you by people with clear bias, and do no research or investigation at all?

And then @EliotHiggins launch an attack on a man, to attack me, without properly verifying or supporting your claims?

From an answer from Higgins every couple of minutes, to a now 4.5 hour wait –

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A proper journalist, or even blogger, always researches, covers both sides of a story. A decent human being gives a person the right to reply before attacking them. Eliot Higgins is neither. He’s a paid liar-for-hire. A falsifier. A coward hiding behind a keyboard who abandons even that when confronted with inconvenient questions.