Global Concerns - 11 - Suppression of Whistleblowers & Truth-Tellers

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” - George Orwell

“When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.” – Dresden James

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” - Malala Yousafzai

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” - Maximilien de Robespierre

“Our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past, while we silence the rebels of the present.” - Henry Steele Commager

“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” – Benjamin Franklin

“The origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation.” - Mercy Otis Warren

1. Those in political, economic or corporate power are very keen to suppress and persecute those who investigate them, criticise them, ‘blow the whistle’ on their deeds, or ‘tell truth to power’.

2. People have been distrusting governments, institutions and corporations for a very long time. The reasons for distrust have kept on growing, as has the desire to call them to account. In our own era governments, politicians, political parties and corporations have continuously shown that they cannot be trusted. There is a major gap between what they tell us and the real truth, as seen from an ethical standpoint. So, more and more brave whistleblowers all over the world have sought to expose them.

3. Some of the world's bravest and most famous whistleblowers are described in a list here. The list includes men and women from various parts of the world in diverse fields of activity. A quick look through even a few of these will reveal a great diversity of corrupt practice among governments, corporations and others.

4. At the present time the most prominent of these whistleblowers is probably Edward Snowden (more about him here). He, and all the other whistleblowers and truthtellers around the world have done (and are doing) this at great risk to themselves.

5. The mainstream press and media also cannot be trusted to consistently expose government or corporate ‘deceptions’. Mostly they act simply as a conduit for the views / propaganda of governments and corporations (more about this here).
This is not surprising because most of the press and media in most countries are owned, controlled or funded by corporations – directly or through advertising. This explains why we badly need whistleblowers and truthtellers. In this first example you can see how the media (in this case the BBC in the UK) is a dumb conduit for a corporate PR message - only this time it backfired badly ! Indeed, most of the mainstream press and media deliver little or no real news and current affairs. They mainly deliver entertainment in diverse forms - feeding and sustaining the 'Celebritocracy' - the bringers of distractions and escapist distortions. In this second example the entertainment is a song really critiquing television as ...'The Drug of the Nation'.

6. However, those media which do have some news and current affairs output are normally soaked in the deceptions and distortions of a neoliberal ideology or in the ideology of an authoritarian government, or both. Most of the so-called ‘free press’ try to ensure that the highly defective status quo is not seriously questioned but normalised. For example, one of their jobs (which they do in collaboration with their political and corporate friends ) is to keep persuading us that planet-wrecking consumerism is the only meaningful basis for a political and economic system on which global humanity is supposed to proceed. Their role is to normalise such madness.

7. That is why the Internet has become an important home for independent critique and deeper truths. So, in this context whistleblowers and truth-tellers are vitally important. Their work is essential to expose wrong-doing, and try to improve the chances of good governance. In recent years the best-known example of this independent and critical work has been WikiLeaks (more below).

Truthtelling & the Arts

8. Another home for independent critique and deeper truths is the arts. Red Line Art Works is largely about encouraging truthtelling through the arts. When they take on the role of truthtelling, the arts can be a centre of counter-culture - the late 1960s in the US and Europe is a good example of that. It is obvious that in the current era not all art or all artists take up this role. Some artists share the values of mainstream culture so deeply that they are unable to critique it - they may not even think of doing so.

9. However, the arts can be a place where real truthtelling is highly valued, where the public know they can search out and
find bigger truths. The arts do not have to always be a branch of the light entertainment industry or the home decor industry. They can be a place where big truths are exposed by the most intelligent and observant artists; a place where distortions of the truth are not slavishly accepted (as they are in mainstream and consumer culture). The arts are a place where audiences can find deeper truths revealed by very creative people. The history of the arts includes many examples of real truthtelling like this and we show some of those examples in our Art & Politics section. If you are an artist or creative person then we are keen to show your truthtelling art works in our Main Gallery here.

Whistleblowing & Truthtelling - Global Example : Wikileaks

WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation of global volunteers which supports principled leaking. It upholds the whole of the U.N.’s ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, and its work is particularly focused on Article 19 :

WikiLeaks was launched in 2007 and since then it has broken numerous globally important stories. It is being persecuted extensively by the US government - for example for leaking documents about various aspects of US foreign and military activities (e.g. in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay).

WikiLeaks provides a secure online and anonymous way for sources (such as government officials, bureauocrats or corporate workers, etc ) to leak information which should already be (but is not) accessible to the public. Sources can pass information to WikiLeaks who check and verify it.

If verified, they then write the story and pass it (and some of the original documents on which their story is based) to publishing and media organisations around the world, who themselves decide whether or not to publish it. WikiLeaks are not seeking to compete with other media but to supply them with key information which they (and the public) might never otherwise see. WikiLeaks never reveals its sources - in order to protect them.

By helping to get this information into the public domain WikiLeaks informs and empowers citizens. This serves to disempower wrong-doers in governments, institutions and corporations.
WikiLeaks says : ‘We are fearless in our efforts to get the unvarnished truth out to the public.’ It seeks greater transparency, better scrutiny, reduced corruption and stronger democracies - so it aims to improve governments, corporations and public institutions.

In its short life WikiLeaks has already withstood considerable legal and political attacks designed to silence it, its journalists and its sources. Its attackers have included : the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former president of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Churches, the largest Swiss private bank, Russian companies, and numerous others. When needed, WikiLeaks is defended by a global network of lawyers who are committed to its principles.

WikiLeaks has already grown into a major global ‘voice’ in the struggle against government and corporate deception and corruption. Since it began it has released more classified intelligence documents than the rest of the world press combined. It has won many awards - from human rights organisations, from those critical of censorship and from those working to protect freedom of expression worldwide.