Theater of Cruelty

With spine and ethical compass intact

Arne Ruth
Arne Ruth
Ruth is a former editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter.
NOTICE We need a media culture and a society built on accountability and truth. We do not have that today.


Co-author John Y. Jones

The Swedish language does not have a separate word for «notification» or «notifications». They only use the English whistleblower directly translated to "whistleblower". In Icelandic it is called revealing, one who enlightens, one who brings out the truth.

The truth is in vain if the knowledge of it ends up in a document in a desk drawer or remains with a disillusioned and despairing victim. Therefore, we need a good interaction in the triangle between the whistleblower, the journalist and the publicist. Only then can the truth reach out, be taken seriously, create a good and informed debate and perhaps change the company, the school, the local community, yes, nations for the better. Then the press and the media can become the fourth state power one often talks about.

Consequences of the alert

The auditing and consulting firm Deloitte writes about whistleblowers: "An effective whistleblower scheme gives employees, board members and others the opportunity to report irregularities and illegalities in a timely manner, so that consequences and financial, regulatory and operational risks can be reduced."

A member of the Norwegian whistleblowing committee, lawyer Birthe Eriksen, writes that "[whistleblowing] must be seen as a channel for critical information that in a well-functioning organization strikes when the ordinary systems fail". Good notification thus strengthens the organization, will lead to a better corporate culture and can provide income on the bottom line in companies.

Then everything should be fine? Deloitte and Eriksen show that whistleblowers are needed. The whistleblower finds something wrong and says no, and then the good forces come and clean up.

But what if the company loses on the notification, what if the notification has negative consequences for the bottom line in the company? For the director who receives the notification? For the corporate reputation? For the stability of colleagues' workplaces? For the industry that gives the country billions in income, or for the jobs in the village? For people in the prosecution who have hidden facts, removed discrediting documents or ignored or sabotaged human rights in their eagerness to get convicted effectively and according to what people expect? Or for the general or the politician who will be put on trial, or for the country that is exposed as a lawless apartheid state or is based on mafia income or tax evaded money?

In other words: What happens when notification is a threat and not an undisputed good? Then other forces come into play.

Spine and ethical compass

The Norwegian whistleblower Kari Breirem has written about when she and her daughter lost their jobs because they did not want to participate in cheating in the law firm BAHR (read interview with Breirem on and her article in this appendix). They were also punished and criticized by many in the media, but they still could not act differently – as Luther put it in his time. Fortunately, there are such people – with the backbone and ethical compass intact. But sometimes it does not work to warn, as when journalist Seymour Hersh shouts at the warn soldier (see page 26) that he rather "has to shut up" about the war crimes he has experienced, since Hersh knows that other soldiers are no strangers to killing – also their own. Then it is understandable that Hersh warned that the cost of warning was too great, even though the soldier was shaken into the margin over the atrocity he had witnessed. To be whistleblower cost too much.

To some, the herald is a hero, a woman of honor. But those who feel threatened by the warning are tempted to use words such as traitor, traitor, defector, saboteur, disloyal, well-pissed, contrarian, self-righteous, vengeful, fascist, conspiracy theorist, racist, anti-Semitic, communist – the possibilities of demonization are many, depending on one thinks "works" in the situation. The counter-attack blackens the whistleblower and diverts attention away from what is revealed – you take the player and hide the unpleasant ball. In football it is called ironically enough professional foul.

All fabrications that incredibly were captured and swallowed raw by an uncritical media world. Assange was stripped of his razor so that he would appear more unkempt than Saddam Hussein when he was dragged out of his "cave".

A plan to blacken Assange

Historian and journalist Vijay Prashad told in the program On Contact April 14, 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges on a leaked document from the Cyber ​​Counterintelligence Assessment Branch [in the US Department of Defense] dated March 8, 2008. The document contained a strategy to blacken Julian Assange for many years to come. A campaign was to be set up to remove "people's trust in the whistleblower website WikiLeaks" and destroy the founder Assange's reputation. The press became the echo chamber for this work, says Prashad.

Rumors were circulating that Assange had gone mad. The Ecuadorian embassy, ​​which housed him, suddenly got "enough of him", the media could report, who also said that he smeared feces on the walls and was mean to the cat. All fabrications that incredibly were captured and swallowed raw by an uncritical media world. He was deprived of razors so that he would appear more unkempt than Saddam Hussein when he was dragged out of his "cave".

Old propaganda tricks

Such demonizations and blackouts as mentioned above are old propaganda tricks. When the American Creel Committee (CPI) as early as 1917 made plans to motivate the United States to war against Germany, the Germans were demonized according to all the rules of art in brochures, comics, magazines and movies. The modern propaganda apparatus was born and systematized. Opinion in the United States changed in a few months, and contributed to the Americans joining the war.

A few years later, Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels perfected anti-Semitism in his attempt to exterminate the Jewish people in the 1930s: Jews were rats, unclean, stingy, and uncultivated. The "neutral" judge Baraitser in the case of extraditing Assange to the United States from Storbritannia called him a "narcissist."

The Swedish magazine The flame wrote in a leadership position on 2 January this year that «Julian Assange is in all probability a pig». Maybe they had veterinary knowledge and intelligence research to rely on?

British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been protesting against racism, anti-Muslim attitudes and anti-Semitism since the age of 12, was blackmailed as an anti-Semite. The Murdock press wrote extensively about this. At the same time, they ignored the fact that it declared the Jew-hater and Nazi sympathizer Lady Astor got a statue of himself in the fall of 2019, unveiled by former Prime Minister Theresa May and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

When the media channel Media Lens meets press people who come down on Assange, they ask "Do you know him?" They never get an answer. What's true about Julian Assange? What do they really know, those who speak about him?

But, also, what is true about economic crime in Jersey? About the use of tax havens? About the war in Iraq? Or gas attack in Syria? Who should we believe in? And do we really need to care?

Anyone who feels threatened by warning is tempted to use words such as traitor, traitor,
saboteur, disloyal, well-pissed, contrarian, self-righteous, vengeful, fascist, conspiracy theorist, racist, anti-Semite or communist.

There are many who suffer in secret

When the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, finally went to Sweden and sat down in the case against Julian Assange, he found a deep black hole of illegalities under the auspices of authorities, reinforced by the media. Melzer is an honest advocate in the fight against torture who has acknowledged that Julian Assange is worthy of effort. But Assange is only one thing, one fate. There are many who suffer in secret.

Where to start? Sometimes you meet people you trust. Melzer is such a person. There is an ethically common space, a platform, of accountable eyes, hearts and voices from which the triangle of whistleblowers, journalists and publicists can work.

We need this space and this triangle that stands firm and that constitutes a, in the literal sense, critical mass and bases its work on honesty – and navigates ethically and truthfully.

A group of retired US intelligence experts has formed an investigative group called VIPS. We need such experts, who do not think of prestige, honor, money, revenge, or fear, but who are simply revealing, who dare to ask critical and unpopular questions and tell what they have found. We need a media culture and a society built on accountability and truth. We do not have that today. Such a critical triangle is not a matter of course in today's society. This whistleblower magazine presents someone who has shown the way.

Illustrations: Top: The Guardian April 11, 2019,
as well as a poster from the CPI before the First World War (screenshots).

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