If the idea of trawling through thousands of hours of YouTube videos, and endlessly scrolling social media sound tortuous, the journey of Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins from internet-obsessed admin assistant to global open-source intelligence superstar is thrilling.
Formed by a team of online data analysts in 2014, Bellingcat has fast become a byword for the unlikely resurgence of investigative journalism in our data-driven age. From the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria, to directly implicating Putin in the downing of flight MH17, and a trove of government-backed atrocities in between (including, at present, being an essential part of the military information ecosystem debunking Russian propaganda in Ukraine) We Are Bellingcatexplains how video footage, social posts, meta data and freely accessible geo-spatial location information (think Google Maps) can be rigorously triangulated to cut through walls of mis and disinformation to reveal the facts. That intelligence agencies are increasingly reliant on their findings is a testament to their achievements.
Refreshingly un-activistic, Eliot and the rest of the Bellingcat team have no agenda, political allegiance or corporate obligations, leaving them, unlike most legacy media institutions, free to obsessively seek truth amid secrecy and subterfuge. And after a pandemic that has turned even the most outgoing of us into fully-fledged hikikomori, reliant upon screens for access to the outside world, adrift in a virtual reality of alternative facts, the mission of Bellingcat has never been more urgent. When the chasm of internet miserabilism (the sense that nothing good will come of our tech-driven futures: btw, nothing good will) is yawning wide open, We Are Bellingcat is the remedy.
[We have a copy of We Are Bellingcat in the library.]
Reviewed by a library member