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.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

370 thoughts on “The Extraordinary Rarity of Whistleblowing

1 9 10 11 12 13
  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Crab; I see. I didn’t suggest a panacea, but it’s a start toward attracting those who seek public service, versus those who spend a shitload on a campaign, then spend their tenure padding their own accounts, or pandering to their biggest donors. It’s a start; a start which would have many hiccoughs.

  • Vronsky

    “How are UK election campaigns funded, public or private?.(think I know)”

    If you think they are funded privately, you are correct. If you think they should be funded publically, you are wrong. I utterly refuse to pay taxes to support gangsters, which is what Lab/Lib/Con are. And perhaps the SNP becoming?

    The SNP grew on the physical and financial efforts of its members, who worked with the willingness of ordinary people to give money to something that seemed worthwhile and relevant to them. For a long time I ran a local lottery (very small prizes) but people around the town were happy to take part. We made a lot of money, financed a few campaigns. What’s wrong with a little bit of political optimism, and the chance to win a hundred quid? We worked for and deserved our growth.

    I’m not sure about the ‘deserved’ bit now. I wouldn’t want to be around the streets trying to sell lottery tickets for the scheme emerging now. Pound a week, missus. What for? More of the same.

  • nuid


    Ah yes, the Black and Tans. Hardly Sandhurst were they. My grandfather (and father, aged about 4 or 5) had a run-in with them. They arrived in a jeep and surrounded my grandfather when he was working in the field (it didn’t warrant being called a farm) – badgering him and threatening him, for sport. My father was with him and was terrified that they’d either kill him or take him away. In the event, a regular British officer rode up (on a horse, I mean) and told them to “piss off and leave the man alone”.

    Oddly enough it was a Sandhurst graduate who taught me to use a rifle many, many years later … but that’s a long(er) story and I won’t bore everyone.


    “the eedjits happy to run after a mammoth armed with a sharp stick”

    But think what 30 of them could do! Isn’t that how/why we humans learned to cooperate? More successful hunting, safer villages, one group of women minding the children while the others gathered firewood, etc. Eventually political parties and banking cabals. “We” are continually making “progress”. 😉

    “Israeli activist Yonatan Shapira accused the IDF of using taser guns against activists during their takover of the Gaza-bound ship Estelle.”

    Yes, so why is Israel announcing that it was entirely peaceful and involved no violence? Is there such a thing as a non-violent taser?? Liars!

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    ” I utterly refuse to pay taxes to support gangsters” Without getting into the internals of your system, this is exactly the purpose of PFE. (getting the money motivations out) Of course, they can still do end runs around it, but with the proper transparencies, you can still proscribe an elected official from being hired by a Lobbying firm for a specified period of time, after leaving office.

    If you object to the ‘tax’ levied on you personally, as a single issue, then what is the alternative?

  • nuid

    I gather that this year’s U.S. presidential election is on track to costing a gigantic $2 billion – for a choice between two right-wing candidates. What a disgrace, when 46 million Americans are on food stamps.


  • nuid

    “you can still proscribe an elected official from being hired by a Lobbying firm for a specified period of time, after leaving office.”

    And how do you police that? It doesn’t work with retired British admirals, apparently.

    “If you object to the ‘tax’ levied on you personally, as a single issue, then what is the alternative?”

    And what do you do about independent candidates?


  • Mary

    Nuid You mentioned the size of the Irish diaspora earlier, a massive figure by any measure.

    This is the estimate of the Palestinian diaspora post 1948 published by the PA in 2006.

    ‘The immediate results of the Nakba were the occupation of more than three quarters of Palestine land, destruction of 531 localities and displacement and expulsion of about 85% of the Palestinian population.

    Population and Demographic Balance
    The estimated number of Palestinians who were expelled as a result of the Nakba is about 750,000 persons in addition to approximately 350,000 persons in 1967. The Palestinians in the Diaspora are estimated currently to be about 5.1 million. They are mainly in Jordan (about 3 million), 1.6 million are distributed in other Arab countries and the rest are in Western countries including Europe, U.S.A and Latin America.

    Refugees make up about half of the Palestinians in the Diaspora and are represented in the Palestinian Territory also. Based on UNRWA records for the end of 2004, the number of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza total 4.2 million, many of whom live in 59 camps, distributed as follows: 10 Camps in Jordan, 10 camps in Syria, 12 camps in Lebanon, 19 camps in the West Bank and 8 camps in the Gaza Strip.

    The average size of the Palestinian household in Jordan is about 6.2 persons, compared to 5.5 persons in Syria and 4.9 persons in Lebanon. The illiteracy rate for Palestinians 15 years and over in the neighboring countries is 17.6% in Jordan, 19.0% in Syria and 33.9% in Lebanon.’

    Terrible that this is still the situation all those years later.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)


    British Military are elected?

    “And what do you do about independent candidates?”

    They qualify for funding.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Cynicism is an end-game. Think of solutions, and I don’t mean intoxicating liquids.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Speaking of whistleblowers…

    This clip is from several years ago, but remains relevant. In it, Alexander Litvinenko, ex-FSB officer, talks about Putin’s regime and about the assassination of the investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya.

    I found it on the web and it sort of brought back memories of Anna, whom I did not know well, but with whom I had the honour of meeting and sharing a stage at the Edinburgh Book Festival, back in 2005. Little did any of us know that she had only months to live.

    She was an amazingly courageous woman. She looked terrified all the time – on stage, in the Authors’ Tent, everywhere – that was my over-riding impression. She’d been advised by everyone to get out of Russia, but she refused, saying that ‘how can a journalist properly work on Russia when they no longer live there?’ Her testimony of undergoing a mock execution, an attempted poisoning and of course about the mass atrocities the Russian Army was committing in Chechnya at the time, was shocking.

    Now both she, and Litvinenko – and many other Russian whistleblowers – are dead. God rest her soul.

  • Mary

    “you can still proscribe an elected official from being hired by a Lobbying firm for a specified period of time, after leaving office.”

    And how do you police that? It doesn’t work with retired British admirals, apparently.
    Nor retired British army types such as Lt Gen (Ret) Richard Applegate, Companion of the Bath and Order of the Bloody British Empire.

    Elbit is an Israeli owned global defense (ie offense) aeronautics company.

    Applegate chairs this arm.
    United Kingdom – In 2005 Elbit set up a joint venture company in the UK with Thales, UAV Tactical Systems Ltd (U-TacS), developing the British Army Watchkeeper WK450. On 7 December 2007 it was announced that QinetiQ will join the programme as a sub-contractor to provide testing services at ParcAberporth, West Wales.[10] In 2007, Elbit acquired Ferranti Technologies (Group) Limited.[11]

    Shame on him and on all the other warmongers. His vast army pension is insufficient for his needs apparently. He will take the Israeli shekels on offer.

  • Mary

    Only available until tomorrow. Sorry it has only just come to hand.

    Radio 5 Victoria Derbyshire – 15/10/2012
    Victoria hears exclusively from a freelance journalist Miles Goslett who says he tried to persuade seven newspapers to run allegations about Jimmy Savile, but none were interested. Also hear claims that private care agencies have been employing convicted criminals to work unsupervised as carers in the homes of elderly and disabled people.

  • Jay


    What Barack Obama is not and that is in control.

    I think you will find the interests controling America are financial and empirical.

    What they are not are self serving to the AMERICAN people so how the fuck can they
    be right wing.

    America is on the verge of a catastrophic collapse whos interests will that serve not the proletariat.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Conflict

    So far agent Cameron has saved £289,000,000 from the government purse by killing off IB claimants on the WCA programme.

    WCA Outcome at most
    recent assessment
    Number of claimants
    leaving ESA with a
    recorded date of death
    Assessment not complete 2,200
    Work Related Activity Group 1,300
    Support Group 7,100
    Total 10,600

    Further culling can be achieved through your family doctor(under duress) putting 1 in 100 patients on death list, GPs told: Frailest to be asked to choose ‘end-of-life’ care.

  • Mary

    I have been watching You’ve Been Trumped on BBC2. If ever there was a cause to stand up for, it is this. A reenactment of the Highland clearances on the east Aberdeenshire coast. The residents adjoining Trump’s golf course, Menie no 1 being constructed, have been betrayed by the council, Salmond and the SNP, and harassed by Trump’s security men backed up by the local police. They even arrested journalists who were filming the destruction of the land and confiscated their camera and footage. One resident even had his water supply cut off by the Trump thugs. All very menacing.

    Apart from anything else, a SSSI and a dynamic sand dune system have been destroyed and are now gone for ever. Remaining residents are being subjected to compulsory purchase orders and other forms of harassment.

    Trump comes over as a vain bully and a monster. He comes with large entourages in range rovers with blacked out windows. You get the picture. Fascism in action. TonTon Macoute had nothing on this.

  • Mary

    It’s all unravelling at the BBC ref Savile and e-mails. All tomorrow’s papers have the story on their front pages. John Simpson is saying it is the worst crisis for 50 yrs. Entwistle goes to the Commons this week. Panorama tomorrow night. It is being said that Peter Rippon/Newsnight has quit.

    Do you think DG Mark Thompson left early for a reason? He is now sitting pretty in New York.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Mary – was watching some of that. I agree with you on that – except the last two sentences, which are exaggeration. Ton ton Macoute hacked people to death with machetes. Trump is an arrogant , bullying , tosser and the police were harassing people and arresting them for nothing on his orders – and i was disgusted at Salmond for backing Trump and for over-ruling a local council planning committee (and one chaired by a councillor from his own party), but neither Trump nor the police were hacking anyone to death.

    Destroying an SSSI that can never be replaced for some temporary jobs in (yet another) golf course was criminal ,as is trying to force people out of their homes by intimidation and cutting off their water and electricity and building earth walls round their houses

  • Mary

    cull- lottery A good new word there Mark. Nothing surprises us now does it.

    cull (kl)
    tr.v. culled, cull·ing, culls
    1. To pick out from others; select.
    2. To gather; collect.
    3. To remove rejected members or parts from (a herd, for example).
    Something picked out from others, especially something rejected because of inferior quality

    Brock the badger is getting some experience of man’s cruelty too of course.

    ‘Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
    By each let this be heard,
    Some do it with a bitter look,
    Some with a flattering word,
    The coward does it with a kiss,
    The brave man with a sword!

    Some kill their love when they are young,
    And some when they are old;
    Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
    Some with the hands of Gold:
    The kindest use a knife, because
    The dead so soon grow cold.’

  • thatcrab

    Mark sorry i was confused by your posts earlier, i thought your nick was nicked. The children of conflict site looks very good and direct. I feel subliminal writings on the emerald tablets and such would sit so strangely in it – maybe it was a passing notion? It sounds like a very interesting diversion…

  • Dave

    This is also a lot more pervasive than we think. The entire justice system in this country could easily be undermined by whistleblowers, if they existed.

    The whistleblowers that do exist, though, perhaps we ought to question where their backing comes from more often?

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    “Mark sorry”

    What’s up with his avatar?

1 9 10 11 12 13

Comments are closed.