Dysfunctional families come in all shapes, sizes, and all manner of chaos. But they all have one thing in common: When some truthteller finally gets fed up enough to name the core problem (whether it be Daddy’s drinking or Mom’s kleptomania or Auntie’s chronic lying or all of the above) — the entire clan will turn on the hapless truthteller, en masse, and blame that person for causing the problem.
A long-ago neighbor woman once came to my house raging because her husband had been caught committing incest with their daughter and her teenage son had been accused of molesting not one but three toddlers. Was she mad at Dad? Mad at the kid? Horrified on behalf of her abused daughter? Nope. She was mad at the cousin (mother of one of the toddlers) who brought the situation to light. And why get mad at Cousin? “Because it was family business and she should have kept it in the family!”
And she fully expected me to share her view. (I never let her in my house again.)
I suspect a lot of people who read this blog have found themselves in the position of being inconvenient truthtellers at one time or another — and have been pounded for it.
Last month Tahn, in the comments section, suggested that I write an article about why whistleblowers in corporations, bureaucracies, the military, etc. are treated so abominably. He offered me a lot of research material and I’ve been gathering more myself. But now Radley Balko has written the absolutely perfect article on that very topic — focusing on police and using several of the examples I’d have used.
And here’s another take on that sorry old tale from the great Will Grigg. That one’s also about police. But they’re hardly alone.
It’s universal. The one person who dares try to set matters to right is precisely the one who gets trampled by his own mob.
What’s almost as depressing is how few people see that injustice and harm to others needs, always and everywhere, to be exposed. And that the act of exposure is not the problem. To wit, here are some credulous quotes from a USA Today article inspired by Diop Kamau, one of the nation’s first and most persistent video cop-watchers:
The videos are so ubiquitous that analysts and police debate whether they are serving the public interest — or undermining public trust in law enforcement and even putting officers’ lives in jeopardy. …
“The proliferation of cheap video equipment is presenting a whole new dynamic for law enforcement,” says Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union. “It has had a chilling effect on some officers who are now afraid to act for fear of retribution by video. This has become a serious safety issue. I’m afraid something terrible will happen.”
To be fair, the article does look at the other side, the point of view of defense lawyers and cop-watchers. But the law-enforcement people quoted in the article don’t look at the other side. Nor does USA Today appear to probe much into the validity of their claims. They don’t ask, “How could video hurt a cop — if the cop’s own actions weren’t already hurtful?” They don’t ask, “Isn’t the public interest served by the truth?” Or “Isn’t it perhaps a good thing for people not to trust law enforcers who act like thugs?”
And you can’t read an article about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange that doesn’t repeat some equally blind-minded claim that they, with their releases of Pentagon information, are somehow going to cause deaths in Afghanistan or Pakistan. THEY are killing people? WikiLeaks and Assange? Even largely favorable articles like this one seldom stop to point out the obvious. It takes an anonymous and unpaid commenter to say it:
Funny how the president and his hand-wringing lackeys have yet to express much angst or outrage over the facts revealed to the world by the Wikileaks documents: atrocities committed in the name of the American people, violations of the Geneva convention, disregard for fundamental human rights, and the obvious failure of the “War on Terror” to do anything but expand the hatred of America. That doesn’t seem to worry them a bit. And isn’t it funny how they don’t seem to have a problem with leaks if they end up in the hands of sufficiently obedient stenographers in the mainstream media who as the helpful fools they are can further the administration’s propaganda goals?
How could WikiLeaks harm anyone — if the U.S. government hadn’t already put them in harm’s way?
No, it’s always the whistleblower, always the honest cop, always the truthtelling child of the family who gets blamed as the “cause” of the harm that any clear-eyed person should be able to see is actually caused by others.
Revealing a terrible wrong isn’t the same as “snitching” — though I grant that there’s a fuzzy line between the snitch and the good citizen, between the rat and the truthteller who’s merely trying to right a wrong. But the line is there. If the aim is personal gain, currying favor with authority, or some such slimy motive, then yes, it’s snitchery, and is the act of the lowest sort of slimeballs. If the end result is to bring trouble down on the head of someone who was doing no harm, then of course it’s damnable. But if the aim is to correct an error, uncover a coverup, empower the powerless, or prevent (or undo) harm to an innocent, then the whistleblower, the good cop, the truthtelling child deserves the highest respect.
And nearly always gets clobbered.
This trait of human organisms, this blaming of the light-bringers, is so bizarre it sometimes makes me feel like a member of an alien species. I don’t understand it. Not. At. All.
But one thing I know for sure: There’s little to no difference between the way blood kin and larger organizations act. It’s all one big dysfunctional family.
I write this not merely to get a very heavy old something off my chest. I write it in hopes that some young would-be truthteller will see it — and not change his or her actions one little bit. But maybe be a little better prepared when he finds himself beaten, rather than honored for bravely doing the right thing. You are not alone, and some of us out here do thank you.