We Are Bellingcat: Global Crime, Online Sleuths and the Bold Future of News by Eliot Higgins. Bloomsbury Publishing. 272 pages.
This was a book that my daughter purchased and thought I would be interested in. She was right. I spent the past 23 years teaching journalism in various forms while watching the face of reporting change in front of me. Citizen journalism has become more and more a necessity, and it is chilling for me to hear from my own students that they don’t listen or read the news anymore because they don’t believe it.
Bellingcat is in direct response to the challenge of fake news and disinformation that starts with Russia and extends to anyone who wants you to believe their way and doesn’t want you to see for yourself what the facts are. Bellingcat is an organization based (now) out of The Netherlands and staffed by 30 full-time researchers with hundreds of volunteers around the world. The sole intent is to research open source information on the Internet regarding news events. Most of them are not news people at all. The founder, Eliot Higgins, started off working in an office and started doing it in his spare time in the UK. But since they started in the past 20 years, they have discovered the truth behind many atrocities in the Syrian Civil War, the shooting down of a Ukranian airliner by pro-Russian separatists, the identification of attackers in Charlottesville, North Carolina, and helped track down Russian spies. In fact they discovered they were so good at what they do that they could find the answers faster than any high-powered news agency or even the CIA or MI-6.
The author writes this story not to entertain, and tells the story matter-of-factly, giving point-by-point explanations as to how they went about gathering their information. You get the feeling sometimes that perhaps even he is surprised at their success. But he also goes into the dangers inherent in revealing secrets that Russians, right-wing extremists and other dangerous people don’t want the world to know about, including the emotional trauma associated with what they do.
It’s a great book. I need to tell you that there is a website (bellingcat.com) and a documentary that is available. I am inclined to volunteer to help them. Visit their site and see the good work they are doing.
Five of five stars. Thumbs up on a job well done.