By Ulson Gunnar
As tensions once again build in eastern Ukraine where a fragile ceasefire appears to be on the brink of collapsing and the deadly contest of wills between East and West begins anew, the West’s prize propaganda story, downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has again taken center stage. As part of a much wider campaign to demonize Russia and justify further encroachment east, attempts to cement the narrative that Russia was responsible for the incident before long-awaited investigations present their findings is well underway.
While Russia has provided all documented evidence it possesses since the incident first occurred, data including recordings and radar readouts from NATO and Ukraine have been suspiciously withheld. Instead of presenting documented evidence, the United States and its partners in NATO have worked tirelessly to stand up innuendo and baseless accusations in its place.
Perhaps understanding that appealing to the emotions of the general public rather than their intelligence and reasoning seemed a better strategy to achieve the swaying of global opinion against Russia. And perhaps a lack of actual evidence, or perhaps the existence of self-incriminating evidence has forced the United States and its collaborators to opt for this alternate tack.
While Russia drew upon its intelligence community and military assets to acquire and analyze information regarding the MH17 tragedy, the United States and NATO, despite their immense resources have turned instead to literally the most unqualified individual within their borders to lead its own unofficial “investigation.” Since the US and NATO have clearly decided to try Russia in the court of public opinion, it is only suitable that the investigation unfolds there as well.
Meet Detective Couch Potato
Leading American and NATO efforts to manage public perception regarding MH17 is professional couch-potato Eliot Higgins. Previously a laid-off government worker living in the United Kingdom, Higgins began blogging from home under the pen name “Brown Moses.”
His work was not entirely malicious at first. By applying objectivity and serving as a resource compiling vast amounts of information regarding the conflict in Syria he acquired a large following. His work apparently caught the attention of corporate and state media operations, and in particular, the London Guardian.
It was his association there and an apparent financial arrangement was struck alleviating his unemployment and causing Higgins to cash in his objectivity to use his somewhat unique brand of citizen journalism as a sort of Trojan Horse. The established media of the US, UK and much of Europe has consistently betrayed and subsequently lost the trust of the public. By cultivating “alternative journalists” to repeat mainstream lies disguised as alternative commentary, it is hoped that lost ground in manipulating the general public can be gained back.
Despite Higgins’ complete lack of forensic, military, geopolitical and academic background he is endlessly deferred to and given column space throughout the largest Western papers, magazines and online journals.
Finding “Facts” Between the Cushions
When in August of 2013 chemical weapons were used in an attack near the Syrian capital of Damascus, the United States and its European allies immediately blamed the Syrian government. With unprecedented speed, the decision to topple the Syrian government through direct military intervention was made. Yet just as fast as the US declared its intents, its pretext for war was dismissed by a skeptical public. When it came time to produce evidence, it was withheld (and is to this day) under the excuse that revealing it would compromise how it was gathered and thus jeopardize future operations.
Higgins, in tandem with hired defense contractor Dan Kaszeta, were tasked with building a body of lies inside the void left by the United States’ official refusal to release what they claimed they knew about the attacks.
When award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh released his own report on the attack, the closest, most accurate and most credible account to date of what actually happened along the outskirts of Damascus during the summer of 2013, Higgins and his supporters throughout the establishment media shamelessly wrote Hersh off as old fashioned and out of touch.
Unlike Higgins, however, Hersh’s report was based on intelligence and security professionals working in the United States government and their reports drawn from some of the best information available … not compilations of YouTube videos, Google Maps, dubious e-mail conversations with unverified anonymous individuals and amateur photographic “forensics.”
Is Reading Stains on the Sofa Really Analysis?
Higgins’ attention now follows wherever the Western media needs it most. Lately that has been in eastern Ukraine. He has been the star non-witness cum non-expert regarding all matters Ukraine and in particular, MH17. Since the United States and the rest of NATO refuses to release what evidence they claim they have (again), it has been up to Higgins and the growing mainstream media circus surrounding him to once again fill the void.
This explains why Higgins consistently only finds faults with Russia’s side of the story. At one point Higgins accused Russia of using Photoshop to doctor satellite images it provided to better illustrate the state of the battlefield when MH17 was downed.
German paper Spiegel consulted a real expert to refute Higgins and his “Bellingcat research group’s” accusations. When Jens Kriese, a researcher and professional image forensics expert, was asked what his thoughts were on Higgins’ use of the analysis tool FotoForensic.com, he responded by saying:
…[FotoForensic.com’s] founder Neal Krawetz also distanced himself from Bellingcat’s conclusions on Twitter. He described it as a good example of “how to not do image analysis.” What Bellingcat is doing is nothing more than reading tea leaves. Error Level Analysis is a method used by hobbyists.
Of course, the practice of “reading tea leaves” is based part on fraud, part on superstition, using one’s fears, ignorance and insecurities to gain advantage over them either socially or financially or both by claiming to hold exclusive insight into what otherwise random tea leaves are telling one about their future fortunes. And that is precisely what Higgins and his dubious methods are all about.
He is compiling otherwise random and/or irrelevant facts and interpreting them under the guise of being an “expert” knowing that the general public lacks the experience or expertise to know whether he is being truthful or not.
Russia’s evidence can and should be examined and scrutinized. But those that accuse Russia of downing MH17 are not even underpinning these accusations with their own evidence, but, instead, resort to the intentional misinterpretation of circumstances, events and evidence presented by others to suit an already predetermined conclusion.
Like Syria in regards to claims Damascus was behind the deadly 2013 chemical attack, or before that in Iraq where the United States claimed the government in Baghdad maintained a dangerous arsenal of “weapons of mass destruction,” the US is again convicting its enemies of crimes with a suspicious lack of evidence.
When the United States and Europe find their media, the voice representing their collective civilization across the rest of the globe, deferring to an unemployed couch potato to bolster baseless lies through the blatant, intentional and systematic abuse of research and analysis, new lows have been plumbed that only reflects further on the depravity and intellectual destitution the once champions of science and reason have arrived at.
Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.