The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is back this year and screening films that focus on a variety of important social topics that span the globe. Running from June 13th to June 20th participants will be able to expand their knowledge and learn more about the world around them. One of the featured films this year is Bellingcat: Truth in a Post Truth World. It follows the rise of the controversial “citizen investigative journalist” collective, which is committed to redefining breaking news through the use of open source investigation.
Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and is the starting point for the discussion of this investigative journalism collective. He shares what prompted him to create this group and with his interview in connection with audio and video clips from the media it expounds on what this group does. Higgins also shares some of the projects he has been involved in, including work that was done to research and reveal White Nationalists in the United States. He has discussed his work and citizen investigative journalist ideas in a TED Talk and his goal was to teach others how to do this work and reveal the truth in a world where truth seems entirely subjective. Outside of Higgins a few other members of the Bellingcat collective are shown and these other members also share some of the work they have done and the information they have uncovered to reveal truth to the global community. This collective spans the globe and the work they do has been noted in connection to the MH17 disaster as well as the poisoning of a Russian spy in the United Kingdom.
Bellingcat: Truth in a Post Truth World not only reveals information about these citizen investigative journalists, but also on how truth is presented in the media. There are discussions of how institutionalize journalism, i.e. the mainstream media, has a reputation, which provides it with a level of trust. Citizen journalism though does not have this default level of trust and in order to get people to trust them they must show direct evidence. In order to gain their evidence they must delve across the internet and find any sort of information that they can. They then need to analyze this information and be able to back up what they are claiming immediately. I was remarkably intrigued by this feature and felt the discussion of how humans perceive truth in the world to show the flaws in our perceptions. What this shows is how human beings can be tricked by all of the information out there, but that there are ways to find unbiased evidence, even if this has to be done by citizens of the world themselves. I also applauded the inclusion of direct examples of research and work that Bellingcat had done. As a member of the human race, this film is something that is vital to your understanding of the world around you. In order to combat falsehoods that surround us, we must be open to finding the truth ourselves and seeking out those who are working to find the proof that is out there.