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Eeben Barlow’s Military and Security Blog

IS ‘THE BELL’ DABBLING IN DISINFORMATION?

The disinformation piece published by ‘The Bell’ on 29 January 2019, seems to be steadily gaining traction, and creeping across the informational domain. I initially thought that people would see through the deception in the article, but sadly, they didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

The piece, titled “Private army for the president: the story of the most delicate assignment of Evgeny Prigozhin“ (https://thebell.io/41889-2/) tries to connect Executive Outcomes (EO) with the formation of the Russian PMC ‘Wagner Group’, and furthermore implies that I am/was an advisor to the Russians. The Bell’s article, amongst other ‘valuable insights’, states:

“In the official program of the St. Petersburg economic forum in June 2010, Barlow’s name is listed as a participant in one short session …. the main reason for his visit was a closed presentation for a small delegation of the General Staff”.

It is sometimes difficult to defend oneself against a lie that has gained momentum. I can only suppose that it is irrelevant that such a ‘closed presentation’ with the Russian General Staff was never on the cards and never happened. Another irrelevant fact is that I certainly wouldn’t compromise EO’s reputation—or even that of STTEP—in favour of a foreign government-sponsored company—especially in Africa.

The origins of The Bell can be found here: https://thebell.io/about/?utm_source=desktop_topline

The same piece, with ‘additional reporting’ recently surfaced on ‘Veterans Today’  (https://www.veteranstoday.com/2019/09/13/russia-a-private-army-for-the-president-the-tale-of-evgeny-prigozhins-most-delicate-mission/), dated September 23, 2019. Veterans Today puts itself out as ‘a journal for the clandestine community’.

When a journal that supposedly focusses on ‘clandestine operations’ get its ‘facts’ so wrong, it becomes suspiciously clear that they base their ‘clandestine intelligence’ on disinformation, and definitely not on irrefutable and verifiable facts. Basic research is no longer a requirement; instead, acting as an extension of a Russian disinformation piece is. It seems Veterans Today are trying hard to give credibility to a Russian disinformation piece—I wonder why?

The fact that the original ‘journalists’ were paid to produce this masterpiece of deception came as no great surprise to me. Their paymasters are also no great surprise to me. Apparently, the fact that EO closed its doors more than a decade before the Wagner Group was even a thought in the minds of the Russians also seems to have passed them by. But then again, EO/myself have frequently been blamed for things that happened long before the company came into being, and even long after the company closed its doors.

Although I cannot comment on the rest of The Bells piece, I feel I am more than qualified to comment on EO/myself.

What was a fleetingly nice comment was that the ‘journalists’ promoted me to the rank of Lt Gen—I almost fell for this promotion until I realised I was reading a carefully prepared piece where fact and fiction were interwoven with one another to create a specific narrative and perception.

Given that I have also spoken, lectured, and participated in numerous forums in the traditional West, I suppose EO/myself were also instrumental in creating all of the foreign PMCs now running around Africa, and acting as their advisers as well.

Sometimes, I can only shake my head and wonder why, in this world of scientific wonders, a tablet has not yet been developed to counteract stupidity. The reality is that in our interconnected world, deception, through mobilising disinformation and fake news, now sadly carries more weight than verified information.

A shame indeed, but I suppose ‘The Bell’ and ‘Veterans Today’ also took some of their lessons from the EO-era SA Intelligence Services and the media, and achieved their deceptive aim.

After all, if a lie is repeated enough times, it eventually morphs into the ‘truth’. As Lord Tim Bell, the founder of the disgraced and now defunct PR company Bell Pottinger once claimed: “Why tell the truth when a lie will do.”

The Bell seems to have adopted that approach.

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