The Extraordinary Rarity of Whistleblowing 370

The outpouring of evidence about Jimmy Savile shows that scores of people working in the BBC, Hospitals, childrens’ homes and even the police knew – not had heard gossip, really knew – about Savile’s paedophilia, but did not blow the whistle.

To me this correlates with the fact that scores of people in the FCO, MI6, MI5, Cabinet Office and other government agencies knew about extraordinary rendition, but did not blow – indeed still have have not blown – the whistle.

Savile had come to be seen as a big and peculiarly “Establishment” figure. The extreme rarity of whistleblowing in society is a strange phenomenon it is worth taking a few minutes to consider. Why did none of those now coming forward with their stories – not the victims, but the eye-witnesses – come forward at the time? Fear is probably the main answer, in particular fear of losing your job if you rock the boat. One problem in modern society is that people’s job is too central to their identity – most people when asked who they are, will reply what work they do. It is not just the need to earn money; your social status and personal relationships are often dependent on your position at work. To lose your job, or to become a social pariah within the organisation where you work, is too much for most people to contemplate.

That is why BBC producers who knew about Savile, saw him at it, did not blow the whistle on one of the Corporation’s biggest stars. It is why so few whistleblowers spontaneously come forward who have seen corruption in local government planning departments or defence procurement, to give an example. For most white collar crime there are people who are not directly involved bu see it and keep quiet. There is also the deterrent of self-incrimination – after a time silence becomes complicity.

In my own case of blowing the whistle on the international torture network, I know for certain that many other Ambassadors and diplomats knew just what was happening, most of them didn’t like it, but nobody but me blew the whistle. One Ambassador sent me a cheery “Rather you than me!” Some were actively complicit by being involved in rendition arrangements, others passively by not trying to stop it. This is why the Gibsom Inquiry into Complicity in Torture was shelved – it could not have proceeded without revealing that scores, possibly hundreds, are guilty, many of them still high-ranking civil servants. It was to protect them and the institutions in which they work, rather than to protect the high profile war criminals like Blair, Straw and Campbell, that the Establishment closes ranks. I always knew I would never be allowed to testify before an Inquiry into Complicity in Torture.

Whistleblowers are not just thrown out of their jobs. They almost never find new employment, as the one quality every employer values above any other quality is loyalty to the employer, right or wrong. Nobody wants a “disloyal” employee, whatever their motives. And if your whistleblowing involves the world of war and spying, they will try to set you up on false charges, like me, like Julian Assange, and not just sack you but destroy you.

Whistleblowers are rare because it is a near suicidal vocation, and everyone else is too scared to help. The Savile case teaches us far more important lessons than the prurient detail of a lurid life. Think about it.

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370 thoughts on “The Extraordinary Rarity of Whistleblowing

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  • John Goss

    “Whistleblowers are not just thrown out of their jobs. They almost never find new employment, as the one quality every employer values above any other quality is loyalty to the employer, right or wrong.”

    I worked out too that loyalty to employers is the purpose of certain psychometric tests. I went for a very basic job which involved a psychometric test. There were mistakes in the logic of the questions and how questions were phrased, being geared towards finding out how loyal an employee might be. I could see what they were after but I was not prepared to tell lies. If something is wrong you should question it. I did. I did not get the job.

  • Gideon

    Very true and very sad. This is also how the smear of anti-semitism works, and why it is so powerful in preventing people speaking out against Israeli crimes.

  • Mr Whicher

    There’s also the problem of knowing your report will never be treated seriously, because the behaviour you’re trying to report is normalised and accepted by too many people.

    I know of a group of men who like cutting children’s genitals while others watch – but who the hell can I report this to?

  • Mary

    I hope that a video is being made of the speech just made by Deepa Naik outside Isleworth Crown Court. She is the wife of Trenton Oldfield who has been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for his protest in the Thames in April which was seen by the media as an attack on the Boat Race itself. Shock horror. We can’t have this sort of thing going on in our country.

    Her words were amazing for their truthfulness on the current state of affairs in our ‘democracy’. She covered many aspects of government and even referred to the fact that the Queen signed off the Health and Social Care Act which WILL destroy the NHS. Well done to Sky News for carrying it and to this brave couple.

  • bulliedofMMU

    Prof. Ian Parker of Manchester Metropolitan University was recently suspended on a charge of Gross Misconduct for sending an email asking why an academic appointment process in his department excluded all members of academic staff in that department:

    Bullying in the workplace is rife in the UK and to an extent that goes some way to explaining why people are scared. One of the statements released to the press by the Management at MMU claims that Parker was guilty of insubordination! Should any employee be described as a subordinate? Surely that is a term at home in institutions such as the military or police force, where there are ranks and orders and such-like. But no, university managers it seems see their academic staff as subordinates

  • Parky

    However with Savile it was more than just whistleblowing failure, reports were made to several seperate police forces, there were much more than rumours known to journalists, it seemed to be known at the top tiers of the BBC and yet still nothing was done about it until after his death. There is more to this than meets the eye. It is possible that some of the reports have been exaggerated but without a serious no holds barred investigation, we will still not have the whole truth of this affair. As for Craig’s ordeal, if you join the Establishment, the FCO being part of it, then you must expect to find out things that you would rather have not known about, and signing the Official Secrets Act is accepting that you will not blow the whistle.

  • larry Levin

    we only know from the police that no one blew the whistle maybe they did and the police hushed it up.

  • Clark

    How can we best help Julian Assange and other whistleblowers?

    Blow, Blow, Blow those whistles! Spill as much of the corruption into the sunlight as you possible can!

    Come on, folks! Courage is contagious!

  • Sophie Smith

    More than once I have blown the whistle on paedophiles both within the family and at work, none of it turned out well for me. The stress involved has seriously damaged my health and well being but, having said that, I will continue to expose it when I see it. As in this case with Jimmy Savile many more victims, some of them still children, came forward to be heard – not all of them were believed!

    Well done for having the courage of your convictions.

  • Mary

    The Jimmy Savile police inquiry becomes a criminal investigation involving other living people, with over 200 potential victims.

    12:38pm UK, Friday 19 October 2012

    Claims against the late DJ go back six decades

    The inquiry into alleged child abuse by Jimmy Savile is now a formal criminal investigation involving other living people, Scotland Yard says.

    Detectives have established there are lines of inquiry involving “living people that require formal investigation”, and Operation Yewtree had moved from an assessment to a criminal investigation.

    Scotland Yard said two weeks of gathering information has involved assessing more than 400 lines of inquiry and has identified more than 200 potential victims.

    The force said: “As we have said from the outset, our work was never going to take us into a police investigation into Jimmy Savile.

    “What we have established in the last two weeks is that there are lines of inquiry involving living people that require formal investigation.”

    More follows…

  • Komodo

    Even Private Eye knew something, in 1990. But it didn’t dare put it out en clair:

    “Suddenly a figure looking very different began to move towards the satin dais… Jimmy Savile, a man who had devoted his life to the welfare of others, especially the young…. Charles was bewitched by the great man’s informality, charm and infectious enthusiasm. He leaned forward and spoke earnestly to the newly en-knighted philanthropist.

    ‘Fascinating. You really must meet Diana.’
    Sir James looked momentarily puzzled. ‘Is that your daughter, Your Maj?’
    Charles shook his head. ‘No, no, my wife.’
    ‘No thank you very much, Your Maj. Bit old for me. That’s not Jim’s scene at all.’

    What could he mean? Sometimes these holy men spoke in riddles.”

    (Heir of Sorrows, by Sylvie Krin -reprinted in current issue.

  • Komodo

    Recommended reading for the post-PC generation: – Guardian’s Lost In Showbiz

    Great days! As those baby boomers are always so keen to tell us, we certainly won’t see their like again. Who would have believed that this was the kind of climate in which people would simply turn a blind eye to a famous disc jockey and television personality’s rampant paedophile tendencies?

  • kingfelix

    Whistleblowers kept schtum for some of the reasons you cite, Craig.

    There’s one point to add, though:

    It seems that there were plenty of complaints made by victims or their families, but that the police were generally not inclined to investigate. Why was this? Was it, again, that there was too much deference paid to a successful man who raised a lot of money for charity and was a friend of royalty?

    In some cases, it seems Savile or those in his circle may have intervened to crush newspaper stories about his activities.

    It seems to me that men like Savile deliberately court authority figures at whatever level of the organization. We need to know how many police officers were interacting socially/received hospitality, etc, from Savile, the production team on his shows, the BBC. Were there any particular officers or forces that were continually employed by Savile during his activities, and so on.

    A police investigation that doesn’t examine their own behaviour will be the usual partial exercise, but I won’t be holding my breath.

    Expect a few celebrity suicides in the coming weeks.

  • larry Levin

    if a child was being molested they could ring childline a hotline run by ex bbc presenter

  • lwtc247

    Despite what you write here, I take it you will still STAND by your opinion that 9-11 was pretty much what the official narrative because someone would have blown the whistle by now.

  • MJ

    “That is why BBC producers who knew about Savile, saw him at it, did not blow the whistle on one of the Corporation’s biggest stars”

    I think there is a reasonable distinction to be made – one you are not making here – between “whistle-blowing” and “reporting a crime to the police”.

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