On behalf of the International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW),
A new film "The Informant" opened this weekend to less than rave reviews. The movie is loosely based on the story of one individual who helped break the largest corporate corruption case (at that time) and involved a world-wide food price-fixing scheme. In the film, the protagonist is presented not as a troubled hero, but instead as a comic dupe -- and thus represents whistleblowers by implication (if not intent) as wild eyed caricatures. While we should all be able to laugh at ourselves; whistleblowing is not a laughing matter.
Maybe if the film was not based on such a serious matter or a true story, we could see the humor in it. But for real life whistleblowers the sacrifices made are too great and devastation suffered all too real -- and thus, not funny at all. Worse still, this comic portrayal demeans the very real sacrifices made and persecution endured for the public interest. Unfortunately, this depiction represents truth tellers and whistleblowers in a distorted and potentially dismissive light that casts a degrading pall by implication if not intention.
Famed tobacco whistleblower Jeff Wigand, and subject of the major motion picture the "Insider" asks where is the moral outrage. "Persons of conscience who see or observe harm being committed must come forward with legal knowledge, support and protection for this courageous act." Adding to Burke's Triumph of Evil -- All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. "No more BYSTANDERISM. Whistleblowing is the elixir for cleaning and cleansing the moral morass we are in. There must be protection for all."
Why should anyone care if whistleblowers and their contributions to our society are treated lightly, ridiculed, or dismissed altogether - particularly at this juncture in history? The answer is clear considering the recent near collapse of the economy and impending changes in healthcare that will redefine us as a people and a nation for decades to come. Where were the voices of the many thousands who watched the travesties leading us to the brink of collapse of our entire economy, who never spoke up at all, or who tried and were ignored or silenced? More to the point at the moment, where are those voices now and what they know? And how is it possible that the whole issue of what stopped or is stopping them from coming forward is not a central part of all debates in this country?
We need to come to an understanding of what happened and what we must do to prevent it from happening again. This is particularly pressing as we turn our attention to the future. The very legislation Whistleblower Protection Act that was pending at the time of our near financial Armageddon, that would have offered protection for those who would seek to step forward in the future, got quietly killed in Congress.
We do not desire to disparage or malign a motion picture whose only intention is entertainment. It is our intention, however, to make note of the contrasting realities ofthe majority of true-life whistleblowers and the under-protected and under appreciated service they provide to our country. We need to do this if we are to help bring our great nation back from the brink of destruction and utter collapse it barely escaped and still faces; and assure that the corruption by people and practices that brought us here can never again be executed in any form, let alone unhindered and unseen.
The facts are simple. As the trends that brought us here built over time, there were (and still are) many who wanted to come forward to reveal to the world the unethical and blatantly illegal activities that threaten the foundation and fabric of our country. The fact is, many tried. Many more wanted to. Ultimately, none were heard, and most were persecuted for their integrity, honor, and love of country.
The questions we put forward which the media often ignore are these:
1. What stopped those who desired and/or sought to come forward from being able to do so and/or be heard and supported by those in power and the media who could make a difference?
2. What governmental protections and social supports would have made a difference and resulted in the prevention of the catastrophic circumstances we are now in?