Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 03, 2015

Media's Beloved "Expert" Eliot Higgins - Wrong Again And Again And Again

Eliot Higgins aka Brown Moses, the founder of Bellingcat "by and for citizen investigative journalists", is beloved by NATO media. Higgins is always able to "prove" by amateur "analysis" of open source data that the "bad guys", just as the U.S. or NATO claim, did indeed do the bad thing that happened. The problem is that Higgins is no expert of anything. He was an unemployed office worker who looked at Youtube videos from Syria and tried Internet searches to find out what weapons were visible in the videos. That is all that made him an "expert".

But Higgins claimed to prove that the Syrian government launched rockets with Sarin on Ghouta, an area south of Damascus. An MIT professor and real expert proved (pdf) that he was wrong.

Higgins claimed to "prove" that rockets launched from Russia hit Ukraine by looking at aerial pictures of impact craters. But a real expert of the method said that crater analysis is “highly experimental and prone to inaccuracy” and warned against its use without further corroboration.

Now another "expert" of Bellingcat, who's source of "expertise" is unknown but likely also low, tries to prove that Russia manipulated some aerial pictures it published about the MH17 airline incident in Ukraine. That made some splash in the usual NATO media but is complete nonsense. Yes, the pictures were obviously "manipulated" as labels were added to them. But that the visual content of the pictures were changed, as the "expert" claimed to prove by a JPEG compression analysis, is clearly bullshit. The "expert" claims that "all image content should present roughly the same [compression] error levels if the photo has not been altered." That is nonsense. JPEG compresses a flat white surface with low error level and a rough multicolor part of a picture with a higher compression error level. That is digital compression 101 which I myself learned when I was doing a bit of math work on the early PNG format definition. So it turns out that the "expert" simply does not understand how JPEG compression works.

Out of three big "finds" that made it into the media Higgins and Bellingcat had three that were proven to be wrong by real experts. Any media who further quote "analysis" by the "experts" Higgins and Bellingcat should be regarded as propaganda outlet and not as a serious source of news.

Posted by b on June 3, 2015 at 11:20 AM | Permalink

Comments

While not disagreeing with this flame of Higgins for his lack of "expertise," I wonder how wide spread the problem is, what with tens of thousands of bloggers foaming at the mouth every day. Like, what training and experience does the author of this site have in the various topics posted?

The last post is a good example. Here's a quote:

My believe [sic] is that the global crisis we see is one of overproduction, an excess or glut of supplies and on the other side a lack of consumption.

OK, so what expertise, training, experience in economic theory do you have that helps the reader put your belief into context? My guess is, no more than Higgins.

We got a pot, we got a kettle.

Posted by: Denis | Jun 3, 2015 11:54:17 AM | 1

Quite simple, Eliot Higgins has no training in science, only women's underwear sales. A background in science is absolutely critical if you want to comment on missile ballistics or WMD or satellite photography. Economics is a completely different matter, because it is more of an art than a science. If you don't understand that Denis, perhaps you should go back to school and learn the difference between art and science, and no economics is not a science, no matter how much you neoliberals and neocons want to claim otherwise.

Posted by: uknowhowitis | Jun 3, 2015 12:06:19 PM | 2

b.. thanks.. i think doing battle with the msm has limited traction.. and i think many people are influenced by the msm.

@1 denis quote "OK, so what expertise, training, experience in economic theory do you have that helps the reader put your belief into context? My guess is, no more than Higgins." b isn't getting regular support from the msm.. higgins is spreading packaged lies while the b takes them down.. one serves the empires interest portraying the syrian gov't using chemical weapons, while b's position is of no use whatsoever... it is a concerted effort on the part of the msm to do the work of the mic/fic.. i think you are missing the message here..

Posted by: james | Jun 3, 2015 12:09:22 PM | 3

It's jolly decent of Higgins to call his blog BellTheCat. That expression refers to a pussy with a bell on its collar to warn potential prey...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 3, 2015 12:09:40 PM | 4

I can't get by the absence of a contrail. Seems a missile ought to leave a distinct contrail from the ground to the target long enough for someone within eye shot to snap a picture.

Granted I'm less of an expert than a non-expert.

Posted by: IhaveLittleToAdd | Jun 3, 2015 12:28:54 PM | 5

Brown Moses - now that's a blast from the past. I assumed he was unemployed or dead.

It's nice that he has found added purpose now in the media war against Russia. I suppose you whistle the tune your master asks when the alternative is slipping back into your pants and playing Call of Duty on the Xbox which, to be fair, when cited as a military expert, he jokingly referred to as his only military experience.

He's a charlatan, but he didn't put himself up on a pedestal. No more so, b, than you do with your blogs. Though entirely more erudite, you are ignored by those same people championing Higgins' "insight" because you deviate from the narrative. Higgins is an idiot, but a useful one, and I suspect he's fine with that as the money rolls in.

I remember the BBCs dreadful reporter/MI5 spook Ian Pannell, 4 year disseminator of anti-Syria propaganda (who also later positioned himself as chief Crimean reporter as the Russians entered, funnily enough), as he urged people on twitter to donate to a crowd sourcing fund set up for Higgins to allow him to continue his "expert analysis" aka Anti-Syria dross. Unbelievably, thousands of dollars was raised. Who knows what money has reached him since.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jun 3, 2015 12:30:29 PM | 6

OK, so what expertise, training, experience in economic theory do you have that helps the reader put your belief into context? My guess is, no more than Higgins.
We got a pot, we got a kettle.
Posted by: Denis | Jun 3, 2015 11:54:17 AM | 1

Wrong question. Wrong answer.

If you want to compare b's expertise with that of Higgins, you'll have to find a topic upon which both b and Higgins have expressed an opinion.
b has found one and my guess is that b has more expertise than Higgins.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 3, 2015 12:33:03 PM | 7

When Mr. Celente said that anyone interested to move into a profitable business, should consider the propaganda business (he said that sarcastically), I bet Brown Moses/Eliot Higgins listened carefully. Because any idiot will be endorsed by the propaganda machine, as long as he parrots what it wants.

Eliot Higgins, when the dust has settled though, will find rest on the bottom barrel of humanity.

Posted by: Stefan | Jun 3, 2015 1:45:19 PM | 8

@ Denis #1

IIRC since I am not a regular on this blog, b has military experience under his belt whereas Brown Moses is an unemployed bean counter, married to a Turkish woman and living in the UK where as a couch potato taking care of his first born, he tries to be a $--t disburber on the payroll of someone in the DC area.

Brown Moses has no military experience - whether as a Tourist soldier embedded with a western military group or as an expert going in war areas to find the real truth. Yep he studies You Tube videos sent to him by some 'activist groups" and from those pictures , he makes assessment that the biased HRW publicised.
Instead of making a remark about b's English , as someone whose mother tongue is not American English , I must say that he writes damned well as compared to some.

Posted by: Yul | Jun 3, 2015 2:17:05 PM | 9

Kudos b for yet another exposé of a true charlatan. His latest Russophobic fit is the report with the pictures you alluded to, which Bellingcat published in anticipation to the presentation made yesterday by Almaz-Antey, producers of the BUK missile system, on the shooting of the MH17. Following the link provided to the "forensic analysis" that tries to prove the Russians manipulated the images, I found a comment to a Der Spiegel article (German) Interview on the alleged MH17-manipulations: "Bellingcat operates out of coffee cup reading" (Google translate) blasting Bellingcat's unscientific and subjective methodology. Enjoy.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jun 3, 2015 2:32:54 PM | 10

Kudos b for yet another exposé of a true charlatan. His latest Russophobic fit is the report with the pictures you alluded to, which Bellingcat published in anticipation to the presentation made yesterday by Almaz-Antey, producers of the BUK missile system, on the shooting of the MH17. Following the link provided to the "forensic analysis" that tries to prove the Russians manipulated the images, I found a comment to a Der Spiegel article (German) Interview on the alleged MH17-manipulations: "Bellingcat operates out of coffee cup reading" (Google translate) blasting Bellingcat's unscientific and subjective methodology. Enjoy.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jun 3, 2015 2:43:12 PM | 11

whereas Brown Moses is an unemployed bean counter, married to a Turkish woman and living in the UK
I didn't know his wife was Turkish. That at least adds to his knowledge of the ME.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jun 3, 2015 4:28:29 PM | 13

@11 I'm assuming the Iran/syria move is true. It's going to be hard for the US to block it.

Posted by: dh | Jun 3, 2015 5:31:44 PM | 14

Thanks, b. Higgins/bellcatwhatever is being reviled throughout other parts of the web as a charlatan.

Posted by: MRW | Jun 3, 2015 5:35:42 PM | 15

@jo6pac@11

Thanks for the links. I distrust www.syrianperspective.com accuracy on Syrian news due to its triumphalist propaganda, but I double checked the news and it seems Iran is putting "boots on the ground," still uncertain how and in what dimension. General Qassam Suleimani, "Iran's Vo Nguyen Giap" according to the article in VT, recently visited Idlib province, held meetings with the Syrian Army and Hezbollah,and made decisions accordingly. Here a few other sources with the groundbreaking news.

VT Exclusive: Iran Raises the Stakes on ISIS in Syria

Iran’s Soleimani vows
Syria “surprise”

Iran's military mastermind promises a 'surprise' in Syria

http://www.mulhak.com/show/Arab/222404/ (Arabic)

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jun 3, 2015 6:26:18 PM | 16

Charles Wood, an expert in digital images and metadata, takes issue with Higgins's treatment of image data. A Russian blogger NTV makes similar objections. And a Dutch blogger provides credible evidence that Higgins has himself been faking his key photographs.

In relation to MH17 Russia Insider blogger Byzantium provides an outstanding survey of all the key evidence issues, in the process further discrediting Bellingcat.

The BUK missile system’s manufacturer Almaz-Antey gets into the picture. The company had been the subject of European sanctions over the use of its missile on MH17 and appealed to the European Court of Justice:

On the strength of a technical study of the aircraft damage Almaz-Antey claims MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile of a type not made in Russia since 1999.

Almaz-Antey claims the BUK was launched from near the settlement of Zaroschshenskoe, which is in the area where the Russian satellite imagery show a Ukrainian BUK missile launcher present on the day of the tragedy.

Almaz-Antey rules out on technical grounds any possibility of MH17 having been shot down by a BUK missile launched from Snizhnoe, which is the theory favored by those who say MH17 was shot down by the militia.

Meanwhile Higgins has been adopted as an expert by the Atlantic Council and is one of the coauthors of a key anti-Putin report by the Council leadership which was published on May 28. Higgins is described as "a Visiting Research Associate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London". The Council also sponsored him on a trip to Ukraine.

You have to ask why this amateur is given this level of political prominence. Blogger Deep Resource identifies some of his backers.

Posted by: damien | Jun 3, 2015 6:58:49 PM | 17

Charlatan. That's an excellent word for the guy.

How amazing that it turns out that this "citizen journalist" has come to find that the world is just exactly as the US state department and CIA say it is! Really, how amazing. "Citizen journalists" are just the same shit as the mainstream journalists with even less of an incentive to be truthful because they don't even have the reputation of a news outlet to concern themselves with.

Ethical considerations? None. Reputational considerations? None. Monetary considerations? Everything.

Seriously, how quickly could the CIA turn a "citizen journalist" trapped in a war zone with no one to protect them into an asset?

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 3, 2015 7:30:36 PM | 18

I didn't know his wife was Turkish. That at least adds to his knowledge of the ME.

His wife was in the UK as an "au pair" and when they got married , she managed to get employment at the Post Office.
Brown Moses' only trip to the ME was when he brought his new born to the in-laws in Turkey - he has never been to Syria and was paid twice to come to the US since he started his blog. He knows computer games but not geopolitics except his new found "hobby"

Posted by: Yul | Jun 3, 2015 8:23:56 PM | 19

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jun 3, 2015 6:26:18 PM |

Thanks for the links

I trust Ziad and when he is wrong he admits it, what a strange concept.

Thanks b for providing the site of the truth.

Posted by: jo6pac | Jun 3, 2015 8:39:41 PM | 20

Speaking of bullshit: U.S. official: Airstrikes have killed over 10,000 Islamic State fighters

Sure they have...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-islamic-state-airstrikes-20150603-story.html

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 3, 2015 8:51:14 PM | 21

@ Denis@ 1

Well, when RT or a simillar Chinese site (for instance) starts citing MOA as "expert analysis" in favor of Russia's or China's media hype then you can pull out your corny "we got pot we got kettle" metaphor. That was the point of the whole post. Sure it was fun watching a puffed up nobody like Higgins take some flaming, but that was not the real point. "NATO media" are not credible. They are professional liars and they aren't ashamed to use an amateur liar like Higgins to further their bullshit.

Posted by: psakiwacky | Jun 3, 2015 9:32:02 PM | 22

@ ihavelittletodd@todd @ 5

I think the contrail is a water vapor condensation phenomenon associated with high altitude airplane flights. A trail of rocket engine exhaust leading back to the position the rocket was fired from is a decidedly bad operational characteristic for a ballistic missile weapon and I think they had worked that bug out by WW2. Old Congreve rockets used in the late 1700's and early 1800's left those kinds of trails.

Posted by: psakiwacky | Jun 3, 2015 10:12:12 PM | 23

@ 1 / Denis

Well the great thing about economics at this point is that "experience" should actually discredit rather than bolster the speaker's points. Seriously I would not listen to any economist who did not see the crisis of 2008 looming a mile away and that leaves only a handful. Of those the most penetrating critiques of our political / economic system come from Michael Hudson and Steve Keen. Perhaps Rubini.

The others you can literally just laugh at whatever they say. It's a rare historical opportunity to enjoy purportedly smart, well educated people makes asses of themselves every day.

(I would not include non-ideologue forecasters like Mosler and his ilk. They are paid to be right.)

Posted by: Oddlots | Jun 3, 2015 10:46:08 PM | 24

Of course the amerikan empire has been doing this forever. How many remember the first objective report into deaths and casualties resulting from the invasion of Iraq? A bunch of academics from big name universities in europe and amerika hired locals to gather samples for a survey. They used exactly the same algorithm as the state department used in their surveys of conflicts - most often to prove some regional leader was 'killing his own people'. The only real difference was that the Iraq casualty survey sampled a much larger number of people across the whole of Iraq. Basically what they did was visit randomly selected homes and interview the residents. "how many people do you know to have been killed or injured by violence since the invasion?" and "Describe your relationship to each person who has."

As we know the result was huge - much bigger than the incorrect official amerikan 'Iraq body count' number which had put deaths at under 100,000 Iraqis whereas the survey concluded that at least 1 million Iraqis had died of unnatural causes since the invasion 3 years before.

A bloke from a town a few hundred clicks down the road from me, an academic with a degree in maths - afaik statistics wasn't his speciality, tore the numbers apart, he was looking for something, anything, to get the empire off the hook.
Eventually he published a paper which claimed that the survey was flawed because a disproportionate number of citizens surveyed in the sample group lived on or close to main thoroughfares.

This ambitious greedy didn't try to adjust and/or resample - much less adequately explain why that issue would cause such a large discrepancy, perhaps he had determined doing so wouldn't give him a 'useful' result. No, this wannabe just put out a press release after first persuading some publication ( maybe even a vanity journal) to include his work.
Every media outlet in the western world latched on his claims, ignored the great qualifications of those who compiled the original report, and immediately used the 140,000 deaths the number he had alleged, imo without sufficient evidence to support it, from then on. That despite the fact his work hadn't been subjected to nearly as intensive a peer review as the original survey.
According to a local fishwrap which did a story on him when he came 'home' for a holiday, his recognition, aided him to finagle a choice gig as a 'pentagon consultant' plus academic tenure at some ivy league diploma factory. Whoopee $$$$ much better than any junior academic slaving over study groups and assisting research could ever hope to pull down.

Meanwhile the State Dept and HRW still uses their 'version' of the original survey technique in places like Syria to get the numbers they want from tiny samples.
Sorry I no longer have all the names (google if you wish) I gave up on telling that story because it, like so many similar rorts pulled on citizens, doesn't create a feeling of outrage for many citizens - they yawn and change the subject to the latest celebrity transgender or whatever.
By the time the outrages of empire do get those around us listening, prolly not too much longer, I reckon there will be more egregious tales of empire than that to retell, featuring more difficult to discredit victims, e.g. whitefellas living closer to home.

So it goes eh!

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jun 4, 2015 12:59:31 AM | 25

Wikileaks releases ‘largest’ trove of docs exposing secret TiSA trade deal

(...) A number of the world's economies, including all the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – are excluded from the TiSA negotiations, which purport to benefit the global economy.

The release of the 17 leaked documents on Wednesday is “the largest on secret TISA documents” and sheds light on “numerous previously undisclosed areas.” It includes drafts and annexes on such issues as air traffic services, domestic regulation, telecommunications services and transparency, with documents dating from February 2013 to February 2015. The papers were to be kept secret until at least five years after the completion of the TiSA negotiations and the trade agreement's entry into force.

Saying that the leaks “reinforce the concerns of campaigners about the threat that TiSA poses to vital public services,” Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said “there is no mandate for such a far-reaching program.”

“It's a dark day for democracy when we are dependent on leaks like this for the general public to be informed of the radical restructuring of regulatory frameworks that our governments are proposing,” Dearden said in a statement on Wednesday.(...)

Trade in Services Agreement

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jun 4, 2015 3:13:00 AM | 26

for those of you who read german:
https://gabrielewolff.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/ukraine-informationskrieg-um-mh-17-4/comment-page-1/#comment-48869

Posted by: jan | Jun 4, 2015 5:15:16 AM | 27

According to leaked Higgins personal mails, he spreads propaganda and deliberately lies so he could get a good job in one of US propaganda outlets or NED's. You could say he is trying to show his "value" to the future employer, and I wouldnt be surprised if he is already employed, just indirectly. Such "independent experts" are also frequently used, like SOHR and other mouthpieces for the West propaganda.

Its also not surprising he is cited as an "expert" by mass media and US run organizations like Amnesty or HRW, as it fits their line.

Posted by: Harry | Jun 4, 2015 5:40:08 AM | 28

guest77 @19
BBC had exactly the same headline yesterday. I didn't even bother to read it.

Posted by: okie farmer | Jun 4, 2015 7:49:18 AM | 30

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33003237
Ukraine's Poroshenko warns of 'full-scale' Russia invasion
1 hour ago

President Petro Poroshenko has told MPs the military must prepare to defend against a possible "full-scale invasion" from Russia, amid a surge of violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has denied that its military is involved in Ukraine, but Mr Poroshenko said 9,000 of its troops were deployed.

Clashes involving tanks took place in two areas west of Donetsk on Wednesday.

There was a "colossal threat" that large-scale fighting would resume, the president told parliament in Kiev.
~~~

Posted by: okie farmer | Jun 4, 2015 7:57:34 AM | 31

@ psakiwacky @ 21

Maybe? But I'm pretty sure you can't "work out" laws of physics. Burning rocket fuel is probably going to linger.

Posted by: IhaveLittleToAdd | Jun 4, 2015 8:35:38 AM | 32

@psackiwacky@21

Nope. Missiles leave trails of burning fuel. Nothing like a jet's high altitude vapor contrail at all. Have you never seen video of ballistic missile launches or spacecraft?

I was in the Navy and have witnessed numerous missile launches. They all leave very noticeable trails. Once I was outside my assigned radar room when one left my ships launch rails - I could feel ejected hot particles from the engine striking my skin, I had to turn away it was so uncomfortable.

I agree that it is a bad characteristic of missiles but thats just the way it is.

Posted by: sillybill | Jun 4, 2015 10:41:26 AM | 33

The embarrassing thing is that he became a western intel patsy for almost no pay. He's just a politics forum poster who watches youtube videos. He really think he's an expert, it's pretty funny.

Posted by: Crest | Jun 4, 2015 11:08:13 AM | 34

Quite simple, Eliot Higgins has no training in science, only women's underwear sales.

A snow dropper, eh? I can see why the nato carrion eaters picked him for their agitprop.

Posted by: Some Guy | Jun 4, 2015 3:16:13 PM | 35

@Dennis @1 - thanks for the correction, now applied.

Note:

- I am not a native English speaker and do make lots of such mistakes. Sorry, but I don't plan to spend money to pay a copy editor for this blog.

- you ask: "what training and experience does the author of this site have in the various topics posted"

Well, if you had really read what I wrote above you would have noted these words: "That is digital compression 101 which I myself learned when I was doing a bit of math work on the early PNG format definition."

You see? I worked on this stuff. I worked on the definitions for some compression algorithms. I programmed some. I fucking know this stuff better than 99.9% of the people on this planet and for sure better than some Eliot Higgins or you.

Now you asked for background on economics.
Here a bit that I had also published earlier on this blog. The regulars here know this.

1. I am German
2. was once an officer in the German army
3. have a Master in economics & management and done extensive computer modeling in these fields
4. also have a Master in industrial engineering with specializing in production automation & IT
5. worked five years as researcher & academic teacher in the economics department of the University of Hamburg
6. worked as Chief Information Officer in a big international online access & media company
7. worked as consultant/project leader on various industrial IT projects in big international companies
8. liked to travel a lot
9. reads and writes too much

Now, the sum of that gives me probably a bit more credit on economics as well as IT stuff as some laid off administrative assistant with zero academic background like one Eliot Higgins.


Posted by: b | Jun 4, 2015 3:52:03 PM | 36

@36
Brilliant Riposte b
Keep up the good work...
... It is really heartening to hear from someone
who values truth amidst festering insanity :-)

Posted by: DavidKNZ | Jun 4, 2015 5:13:59 PM | 37

@ Bernhard #36

"Now, the sum of that gives me probably a bit more credit on economics as well as IT stuff as some laid off administrative assistant with zero academic background like one Eliot Higgins."

Well . . . OK, dude. But I'll bet Higgins knows more about selling women's underwear than you do.

You more than resolved my skepticism as expressed @ #1. Very reassuring. You should add that CV to the "about" page.

I didn't respond to the comments kicking me for asking about your creds viz a viz Higgins' b/c it wasn't worth it, but I really appreciate you clearing the point up.

As for Higgins, I don't think we can blame him b/c the MSM are so stupid as to think he is an expert on anything. He always impressed me as being a shill for the anti-Assad folks (i.e., Turkey) -- I mean there's something behind his "media success" that goes beyond what's on the surface. I'm certainly no fan of his, although I have found some of his images helpful. On my blog I went after his idiot analysis of the Ghouta massacre and his insane "geolocating" the precise place James Foley was supposed to have been decapitated. But, in truth, his analysis of Ghouta was probably not that much worse than HRW, the NYT, and UN/OPCW .

The best pharmacological analysis of Ghouta pretty well established that those kids were not killed by sarin but by carbon monoxide or cyanide. It's amazing how since mid-2014 the MSM and the Obama administration have gone absolutely silent on all their accusations about Assad being a monster who gassed children in their beds. It was probably al-Nusra who gassed the kids to try to draw Obama into kicking Assad's ass. Of course, Higgins was helping that effort, which brings us back to the shill for Turkey hypothesis.

Posted by: Denis | Jun 5, 2015 12:29:44 AM | 38

Higgins looks like a chubby Ziomole.Brown? Moses,and he's as white as an Askenazi Khazar.

Posted by: dahoit | Jun 5, 2015 9:38:14 AM | 39

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