Whistleblowers Essential to Democracy
Posted on September 7, 2016
Democracy is an activity carried on by citizen volunteers. An overwhelming bulk of that work is carried on by a rather small minority who devote a major share of their time and energy and money to citizenship. Among the elite of these, in my opinion, are whistleblowers.
By definition, a whistleblower reveals important information needed for informed public action but held in secret by her organization. Therefore whistleblowing is nearly always perceived by the organization as an act of extreme disloyalty. Even though whistleblowing is protected by a series of laws, whistleblowers who get caught are nearly always punished by the organization. Although much whistleblowing is done anonymously, the most effective whistleblowing depends on the individual coming forth to give public testimony.
Whistleblowers have a powerful need for professional advice and help. The first and best advice they get is: don’t come out publicly unless you feel driven to it and are willing to devote the next few years of your life to it. Even after you resign or are fired, the organization is likely to seek various forms of retaliation. In particular, you will find it very difficult to get another job in your field. Even though the law provides for damages from an organization that does this, in most cases you will lose a great deal of money on net if you blow the whistle.
There is one and only one organization that consistently supports whistleblowers even when there is no money in it. That is GAP, the Government Accountability Project. GAP takes on upwards of 200 new cases each year. Many of these lead to important reforms. GAP is well worth your support.