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Bahrain Opinion: "Loonies" and The Sins of Bell Pottinger

See also Bahrain Special: 4 More Revelations about Qorvis, the Regime's PR Firm
Bahrain, Uzbekistan (and Beyond) Special: Bell Pottinger, PR Agency for the Regimes, is Busted

Bell Pottinger's Peter BingleTwo months ago, I was browsing Wikipedia and noticed a disturbing trend. Many articles about Gulf Arab states looked as if they had been tinkered with to distract readers from human rights abuses. I sent out a tweet for the record: 

Is it just me or have the articles about Gulf royals on Wikipedia been all white-washed to minimize human rights abuse issues? 

Now thanks to some brilliant journalism by The Independent and bloggers Tim Ireland and Marc Owen Jones, we know a British public-relations firm, hired by the Bahraini regime, has been carrying out that white-washing. Bell Pottinger's employees have tampered with Wikipedia entries, helping their clients by ensuring that unsuspecting readers would not pick up knowledge of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy equality protesters and the human rights abuses committed by the regime.

After persistent questioning by journalists about the issue, Bell Pottinger is starting to feel the heat. And this is what Peter Bingle, its head of Public Affairs tweeted on 7 December 7: 

After a visit to Priscilla I don't really care what hostile journalists and loonies think about us. BPPA [Bell Pottinger Public Affairs] remains best in class ... 

Of course, if he meant by "best in class", the best of PR firms that take money from King Hamad of Bahrain or President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, that would be a very fair point. Public relations companies exist to ensure that their clients get a fair hearing whoever those clients are. However, the line is drawn for the "best in class" when promotion moves into manipulation of information for propaganda. 

If Bingle wants to put food on his table from money received by defending men who arrest and prosecute doctors for treating injured unarmed protesters, or who boil people to death that is something with which he has to live. But there are ethical ways of carrying out that professional activity. When the means are far from ethical, the people asking questions are not hostile journalists. They are also professionals, doing their job of asking others about unprofessional conduct.  

Bingle's tweet and Bell Pottinger's conduct have not just shown questionable morals. They have demonstrated a failure in how to do their jobs, one illustrated when staff have to get lessons from Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales on how exactly to follow the encyclopedia's guidelines. In the words of Wales yesterday:  

Some press are now receiving a statement from Bell Pottinger that they followed Wikipedia guidlines. That is flatly false. 

Bell Pottinger behaved unethically and broke several Wikipedia rules in doing so. The public record can be seen by anyone. 

Bell Pottinger continuing to insist that they did nothing wrong at Wikipedia is a total farce.

So how far are people willing to sink their professionalism for money? In this case, pretty damn far. Ethics can be ignored. Personal attacks against professional journalists are self-defense.

I'm not sure what else Bell Pottinger has in store for us, but whatever it is, it better be carried out more effectively --- if not with a shred of ethical standards --- than their fumblings for Bahrain. Otherwise, Peter Bingle's "loonies" might have only gotten started.

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    Response: weblink
    Fantastic Web page, Continue the beneficial work. Thanks a lot.

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