May 22, 2018

The Editor Speaks: When is a whistleblower a snitch?


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Colin WilsonwebI have already done an Editorial on “The persecution of whistleblowers” see iNews Cayman November 14 2013 at:

In that Editorial I stated: “Here in Cayman we don’t have too many Whistleblowers but we do have our activists who also face persecution…..”.

Almost prophetically I said, “Anyone whistleblowing on his employer who sees fraud, mismanagement must be a very brave man or woman. Especially, if the organization is large and well known. If it’s a government, you are in big trouble.”

Even further I said, “The whistleblowers I am afraid will become a figment very soon. Gone are the days they were hailed as heroes.

“They are traitors every one.”

Now we have just learnt from Cayman Islands Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams after she launched an investigation into whistleblowing in Cayman’s civil service she found 80% (4 out of 5) civil servants who report wrongdoing are fired. See iNews Cayman story published March 16 2014 “LET THE WHISTLE BLOW” says Cayman’s Complaints Commissioner” at:

So when is a whistleblower a snitch?

Williams own take on that is,” Some people who want to characterise or disparage whistleblowers saying they’re snitches, they’re traitors, they’re grassers and describe them in derogatory ways. Whereas reporters of wrongdoing are what they are people who report what they observe,” she said. “They should be encouraged to report. They shouldn’t have to worry about being dismissed. But there are lots of other ways to punish people short of dismissal.”

However, nothing is clear cut. How certain must we be of our own moral consideration before we rightly make ourselves the judge of the case before us?

Whistleblowing, even when it is taken notice of, often doesn’t mean a change for the good. It has resulted in destruction and hundreds of persons losing their jobs. Take for instance WorldCom and Enron. Blowing the whistle there did not prevent harm nor did it reform

D.E. Wittkower, a philosopher at university put it well in an article he wrote in Speakeasy when he said:

“….while the violation of trust involved in whistleblowing makes it deeply questionable, that trust has a flip side: the fact that only trusted members of organizations have access to certain information puts them not only in a relationship of special trust with their organization, but also into a relationship of special trust with the rest of society. The entrusted organization member has a responsibility to the organization to keep the private information private, but she has a responsibility to the public as well, as one of a very small number of members of the public who has access to this information. To make this information public involves a violation of the trust the organization has given her, but to keep it private, conversely, may involve a violation of the trust we all ought to have in one another as members of civil society. The trust placed in the whistleblower makes her choice seem in a way arrogant—and yet only someone entrusted in this way is able to even consider whether the public good may demand making use of this information, forcing her to take responsibility for far more than she might feel justified to decide about.”

When I was away a few years ago in the , various local authorities asked persons to whistleblow on their neighbours who weren’t obeying the rules as to placing the right garbage items in the wrong garbage containers.

Now that is NOT whistleblowing that is snitching.

And snitching on your neighbours was what the asked people do in World War II. These persons who did this after the War were tarred and feathered and even worse.

I leave the last word to professor Wittkower, “It’s no wonder whistleblowers are so often so controversial–and are sometimes called snitches and traitors. Whether or not you agree with their choice, they embody the strongest moral fiber, even as they embody betrayal and disloyalty. They remain true to public values of honesty and democracy, even as they are making a personal choice about right and wrong of a kind and at a scale which should be made by institutions rather than by individuals. And, inevitably, they are both traitor to their organization, whether a company or a government, and the most faithful employees and truest patriots, for they act in the service of the founding ideals of the organization when they, rightly or wrongly, believe that that organization has strayed from its path.”

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