Whistleblowing is defined as: ‘The disclosure by a person, usually an employee in a government agency or private enterprise, to the public or to those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some wronging’.
I’ve never been comfortable with the term ‘whistleblower’ because, for me, the term seems to conjure up the notion that ‘whistleblowers’ are individuals who have committed a wrong, an act of deviance or betrayal rather than a search for truth and an act to expose a wrong and a call to right it. In my world, rather than seeing individuals as ‘whistleblowers’ I prefer instead to think of them as ‘truth warriors’; people who see wrong and try to right it.
History is filled with incidents involving individuals, ‘truth warriors’, who bravely risk their careers, and sometimes their lives, in search of truth.
The United States of America have given us a litany of ‘truth warrior’ incidents and one of the more famous one involves the political scandal that became known as ‘Watergate’.
The truth warrior in the Watergate scandal became known as Deep Throat and supplied critical information of clandestine and often illegal activities of US President Nixon’s administration to Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The information provided by Deep Throat, plus voice activated tapes of conversations in the White House Oval office, led to numerous criminal convictions and the resignation of President Nixon.
Conjecture surrounding the identity of Deep Throat has been rampant in America’s public, political and media circles for many years and the mystery was finally solved in 2005 when lawyers acting for retired (FBI) Associate Director, Mark Felt, identified him as Deep Throat.
In more recent times Frances Haugen, a product manager at Facebook (now known as Meta)left the social media giant and took with her documents that exposed alleged Facebook activities including that Facebook knew that its products, including Instagram, were damaging teenagers’ mental health, that Facebook was being used to foment ethnic violence in countries such as Ethiopia, and that it had taken little to no action to check or remove misinformation on its platform before the January 6 Washington riots.
In October 2021 Haugen was called before US senators on Capitol Hill and one of her memorable statements was an accusation that Facebook puts its ‘astronomical profits before people’. In 2020 Facebook was reported as having a net profit, of $US29bn. To give this some perspective a study that looked at the question: ‘How large would Tech companies be if they were countries?’ reported that Facebook with its net worth of ‘$763 billion, that it is wealthier than Switzerland, Sweden and the UAE combined’.
Australia too has its share of truth warriors. In 2003 the Australian government decided to send troops to fight in the Iraq war, a decision based on what Independent MP Andrew Wilkie claimed to be a fatally flawed and deceitful case. Wilkie was concerned that the Australian government knew that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction and that its ‘program is very disjointed and contained by the regime that’s been in place since the last Gulf War’. He added that ‘there is no hard intelligence linking the Iraqi regime to al-Qaeda in any substantial or worrisome way.’
Writing in the Tasmanian press about his experience as a truth warrior, Wilkie wrote that ‘There were death threats… I lost a great many friends, including some who dumped me for what I had done. Others, I walked away from because I discovered during all of this that we did not share the same values, or because they did not understand the risks to them by continuing their association with me.’
The UK conducted its own Inquiry into the decision taken by then British PM, Tony Blair and his Cabinet to join the US in the war against Iraq. Chaired by Sir John Chilcot the final report of the Inquiry is scathing of the decision to send British troops to Iraq, declaring; ‘We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.’
The claims that Iraq likely did not possess weapons of mass destruction, was not a threat to Western powers, and was not a haven of al-Qaeda have been vindicated by the findings of the final report of Britain’s Chilcot Inquiry.
Truth Warriors are vital to any human setting, without them social and political discord, plus human misery, grows exponentially.
Someone once said; ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.’ The old ones taught me to never be silent in the face of injustice.