Say what you mean

I was talking to a friend this afternoon, socially distanced of course, and we were talking about books we’re reading at the moment. I’m reading ‘We Are Bellingcat’ by Eliot Higgins, an absolutely fascinating book, shocking and horrifying because it’s the story of how news is distorted and manipulated. This is the Amazon blurb:

How did a collective of self-taught internet sleuths end up solving some of the biggest crimes of our time?
Bellingcat, the home-grown investigative unit, is redefining the way we think about news, politics and the digital future. Here, their founder – a high-school dropout on a kitchen laptop – tells the story of how they created a whole new category of information-gathering, galvanising citizen journalists across the globe to expose war crimes and pick apart disinformation, using just their computers. From the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over the Ukraine to the sourcing of weapons in the Syrian Civil War and the identification of the Salisbury poisoners, We Are Bellingcat digs deep into some of Bellingcat’s most successful investigations. It explores the most cutting-edge tools for analysing data, from virtual-reality software that can build photorealistic 3D models of a crime scene, to apps that can identify exactly what time of day a photograph was taken. In our age of uncertain truths, Bellingcat is what the world needs right now – an intelligence agency by the people, for the people.

I really recommend it – it may sound tricky or complicated but it is so well written, written in a plain way to tell the true story and to make it intelligible to someone like me who has very little knowledge of many of the things Eliot Higgins is telling us about.

This may not seem connected, but here is something I wrote a couple of years ago about Stephen King who is one of my friend’s favourite authors, and she mentioned him as we we enjoyed a cup of tea this afternoon:

May 19th 2019: I saw a quote the other day from Stephen King the great American writer. Stephen was born to a very ordinary family in 1947; his dad was a sailor who abandoned the family when Stephen was only two and Stephen later changed his name to King. He was brought up in quite straightened circumstances with his mother working hard to look after her two children, and later her own parents in their old age. So he had no particular privileges, no-one to support him with financial aid, helpful contacts, or influence… just an ordinary boy, teenager, young man who became a writer… just like any child, teenager, young person might be able to do. His sold his first story when he was twenty, and kept writing and selling stories while he was trying to find a position as a teacher. He became a teacher (like so many of us) and began submitting his short stories and beginning to write novels. His fourth novel was Carrie… the first of his novels to be published…

I haven’t read many of his novels, they are not a genre I’m a particular fan of, but the books I have read are so gripping, the characters so believable, the situations so horribly imaginable. What strikes me is that he is an ordinary person with an extraordinary talent, and great determination and writing stamina. In many ways – although he had early and deserved success, he really is no different from most people. He’s written a great deal about writing, and is full of common sense and practical ideas on how to write better.

So what was the quote I saw?

 Say what you mean. Say what you see. Make a photograph, if you can, for the reader. 

My featured image is of a photo… a mystery photo… my grandma on the left, my aunty on the right, and the mysterious Mrs hart in the middle… I have tried my best to find out who she was… I’ll have to write a story explaining who she might have been!


Say what you mean – Eliot Higgins writing about Bellingcat says exactly what he means, and he says exactly what he saw.

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