Whistleblowing seems to be a hard choice that is often looked down upon. Whistleblowers used to be derisively referred to as “muckrakers”, implying that all they did was sift through muck, looking for an issue to disgust the public while not providing any solutions to the problem they expose. I believe this term does a disservice to those who act as whistleblowers. As Roger Boisjoly said, “[whistleblowing] destroyed my career, my life, everything else.” Clearly whistleblowing is not done for glory or public approval when it is about so dire a topic. What good then is whistleblowing, if it will destroy your life? I think the answer can be found right in the name. You blow into a whistle not just to create a harsh, shrill sound that grabs peoples’ attention, but also to notify them of something urgent. The public has a right and a need to be informed about crimes and injustice, even if that information comes with a price.
Despite the necessity of whistleblowing, it is a huge and hard decision to make. Each one of the whistleblowers we read about this week reflected and agonized over the decision to come forward with the critical information. They understood that sharing such information can destroy your life. Was revealing the hidden information really worth that? What obligation do they hold to the public, that warrants such self-sacrifice? I do not know if I could make the same decision, if I knew the consequences that would follow. And when you blow the whistle, how much information are you going to share? In some instances, like exposing a cover-up of a safety issue in a car, whistleblowing is easily justified. But when it bleeds into the gray area, whenever you have the choice to leak sensitive government information, does the same justification remain? How much of a right does the government have to secrecy, if any? Revealing classified information can harm government officials and agents, but if it exposes criminal overreaches would it not also hold those people accountable? I think there is a lot of consideration that must be had about what information should be shared, but ultimately I believe if you witness the government’s hidden abuses of power, you should reveal the information.
I think the most important reason to blow the whistle, to expose the truth and put your neck on the line, is the hope for a better future. The only way to stop hidden injustices to to shed the light of day upon them. There is no guarantee that revealing the hidden crimes of the government, corporation, or whatever will actually result in change. What if the public is uninterested or simply accepts the crime as an unfortunate reality? What if they care, but only for a week? Unfortunately, this can and has happened. But if we want to right the wrongs of the world and hold people accountable for their actions, the first step is to put the truth into the public domain. What is done with the information afterward is for the world to decide, but the chance for correction should be taken.