BANGKOK — The anonymous blogger known for his prolific anti-Western conspiracy theories and unfounded accusations against the pro-democracy movements in Thailand is no longer anonymous.
If his account is to be believed, the pseudonym “Tony Cartalucci” belongs to American citizen by the name of Brian Joseph Thomas Berletic.
Writing in a recent blog post on the Land Destroyer Report, Berletic said he is behind Tony Cartalucci and several other identities. The self-described “independent geopolitical analyst” said he had to conceal his identity to protect his family from attacks arising from his critical works against his homeland.
“My name is Brian Joseph Thomas Berletic. I am a 38-year-old American industrial designer living in Bangkok,” he wrote.
“Since I began writing about politics, I have used pen names to conceal my identity for a variety of very common reasons many journalists, commentators, and pundits use pen names for.”
For years, the blog and other affiliated websites like the New Atlas, the Global Research, and the New Eastern Outlook have been running articles vilifying former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters, as well as accusing the United States of meddling in Thailand’s domestic affairs.
Their focus shifted recently toward the ongoing student-led demonstrations, with reports claiming that they were secretly supported by the United States to instigate a regime change in Thailand.
“The real goal of U.S.-backed unrest in Thailand is similar to its motivations for sowing chaos in Hong Kong,” Berletic said in one of his blog posts. “Obviously the U.S. would prefer a client regime completely dependent on Washington financially and politically.”
Although the articles routinely refer to the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy’s funding of multiple NGOs in Thailand – including the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and iLaw, a group that monitors arrests and legal actions in freedom of expression cases – they never present any evidence that prove the protests were sponsored or engineered by the U.S. government.
Despite questions over its credibility, Berletic’s works are followed by many pro-establishment politicians. Hardline conservative news sites in Thailand also often present Tony Cartalucci as a legitimate source of information.
“Exposed by foreign media! The U.S. sent NED, a civilian version of CIA, to interfere with Thai politics and society, hoping to punish Thailand for sidelining the U.S. in favor of friendship with China,” a report by News 1 channel said, citing a website linked to Berletic as the source.
Most famously, Suthep Thaugsuban, who organized street protests in 2013 that paved the way for a military coup a year later, once cited Cartalucci’s work onstage to accuse Thaksin of employing lobbyists to portray the protesters as violent.
A YouTube channel operated by an army public relations center also shared a video of Berletic attending a royalist gathering in front of the Grand Palace on Sunday.
In the video, he introduced himself as Berletic and was asked by a local what he felt about the event.
“Back then, I didn’t know what to do with life,” Berletic spoke in accented Thai. “But when I learned about the self-sufficient economy, I realized what to do with life. It’s practical. I can help others and solve problems. I feel that my life has been fulfilled.”
In the Shadows No Longer?
Prior to Berletic’s revelation, the real identity of the writers involved in Land Destroyer and its network of other sites had been shrouded in mystery for years – and a topic of much discussion among foreign correspondents covering Thailand.
Berletic said he decided to give up his anonymity and speak up about the alleged U.S. interference in the kingdom to avoid being falsely branded as a “misinformation” by his critics, who routinely insisted that his true identity was an American expat Michael Pirsch.
“Being anonymous at this point is more of an obstacle than an asset,” Berletic wrote.
“By coming out now, I am actually providing more protection for myself and my family than by staying semi-anonymous,” he added. “I will be able to openly speak up about U.S. interference and military aggression publicly, and in ways that cannot and will not be censored.”
When Khaosod English reached out to Berletic for an interview, he declined and accused the news organization of publishing false information about his identity.
“Organizations and individuals similar to Khaosod English and its staff have lied for the past six years claiming I was elderly expat Michael Pirsch,” Berletic wrote in an email. “So my question is, who would believe anything people similar to you or Khaosod English have to say about anything, ever again?”
Khaosod English has never referred to Cartalucci as Michael Pirsch in its stories.
In his blog post, Berletic said he had served in the U.S. Marines Corps for several years, where he worked as a mechanic based in Japan, before he left the force and moved to Thailand.
He said he had grown fond of the country when he first visited the country as part of the Cobra Gold joint military exercises and inspired by the teachings of the late King Bhumibol, especially his concept of the self-sufficiency economy, which “changed his life and gave him purpose.”
Khaosod English was unable to independently verify his service records.
Berletic’s publications have also come under the gunsight of social media firms amid their effort to combat disinformation campaigns in recent years.
Last year, Facebook removed the Land Destroyer, the New Atlas, and the New Eastern Outlook pages for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.”
The first two pages said they are Bangkok-based, while the latter listed an address in Moscow. They appeared to be under the same network of self-styled news outlets.
Their Twitter accounts, as well as those belonging to Berletic himself, were also suspended, though the blogs remain accessible on the internet.
In 2016, Berletic also urged his supporters to harass BBC’s British journalist Jonathan Head for his coverage of King Bhumibol’s life and death.
“Groups able to organize and peacefully control a crowd could also follow him around and make his life as difficult as a liar’s life should be,” Berletic wrote. “Heckle him, make him uncomfortable, make him look bad, but don’t be “’red shirts’” and resort to violence.”