Keeping democracy alive: Whistleblowing, civil disobedience, and discourse  | Allison Stanger
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Keeping democracy alive: Whistleblowing, civil disobedience, and discourse | Allison Stanger

November 16, 2019


It’s really important to realize, whistleblowing
is in America’s DNA. It has been a concept since before the Constitution
itself was ratified. The first whistleblower protection law in
the United States was passed in 1778 during wartime. It is used to bring down the first commodore
of the United States Navy, Esek Hopkins. Hopkins was a Rhode Islander. He was someone who had been involved in the
slave trade, as the Brown Project illustrates quite clearly. And people think that the reason that Hopkins
was removed from his post is because he was torturing British prisoners of war — and
he was doing that, as the whistleblowers Marvin and Shaw revealed, but that was just the tip
of the iceberg. The real reason he was removed — and research
in digital archives shows to be so — is that he was defying George Washington who was telling
him to engage the British in the Revolutionary War effort in certain positions on behalf
of the Congress of the United States, and Hopkins was instead directing his fleet to
The Bahamas to serve, effectively, Rhode Island elites who were still very much involved in
the slave trade even though slavery was illegal at this time. So I think this is a really interesting example
because it shows how important the founders saw fighting corruption right when you first
see it. Whistleblowing is a cousin of civil disobedience. Hannah Arendt thought that civil disobedience
was a uniquely American institution, very much connected to Tocqueville’s emphasis on
the importance of civic associations and the vitality of American democracy. Civil disobedience is different than whistleblowing
because civil disobedience is about highlighting unjust laws, and you break the law in order
to get public opinion on your side to believe the law is unjust and should be overturned. Whistleblowing is different because it’s not
about breaking unjust laws. It’s about serving the rule of law itself. So whistleblowers expose illegal or improper
conduct that is at odds with self-government. So whistleblowing is related to civil disobedience,
but they’re two distinctive enterprises. You might say that civil disobedience starts
with outsiders and slowly gains popular support and that’s how change comes about, whereas
whistleblowers are insiders who see behavior that they believe is improper and expose it
either to the authorities or to the press. And this is a really important way of keeping
our elites honest because if we don’t have honest elites, you can’t have self-government. You can’t have liberal democracy. The first whistleblower protection law actually
says you have an obligation to report misconduct when you see it, and this is intimately connected
to democracy. And I really believe the Founders were right
on that point, and you can see this in a number of examples today where, you know, take the
#MeToo movement. That very much started with insiders exposing
horrific misconduct. And then slowly you saw through social media
that actually — I think it’s some statistic like 40% of women on Facebook came forward
with #MeToo, ‘this has happened to me as well.’ But that started with elites pointing out
that this has happened and it’s wrong, and that rallied all sorts of other people to
say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I might have kept quiet about that. I might have thought that was partially my
fault, but you know what? It’s not my fault.’ And that to me is also an instance of whistleblowing,
and these are important if we think that democracy is something that belongs to all the people,
not just some of the people.

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  1. The question remains off course, at when point does whistleblowing protect your own citizens and at what point is it a real danger for your nation?🤔

  2. This story is a tale that is old as time. Whenever there is corruption almost anywhere, you can bet someone will expose it (e.g. Wikileaks)

  3. Absolutely!! Whistle blowing is holding the powerful accountable. #MeToo started as an essential movement, exposing true evil and corruption. It's just a damn shame it was taken over by the ideologically challenged

  4. This is good timing. There is some talk going around that the alt right, white supremacist domestic terrorists are engaging in civil disobedience. This clearly show the cowardice behind such a false claim. It is a false analogy because they would have to be protesting laws against mass shootings. Clearly, they are not. One could have an easier argument the Trump is engaging in civil disobedience by en citing violence and hate action in order to change immigration laws. I'm not saying that's what's going on. But I would not be surprised to see criminal and/or civil action against him once he is out of office. Time will tell. And the couirts.

  5. You're seriously using 'me too' as an example of whistle blowing instead of highlighting real whistleblowers like Jillian Assange and Daniel Elsberg? Weak!

    Most of the 'me too' allegations are of woman purposely sleeping with powerful men in order to get movie roles or climb the corporate hierarchies…

    Very few have anything to do with actual coercive behavior like was the case with head of the soviet secret police, NKVD chief Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria who abused his power to rape young girls…

    If anything 'me too' has severely damaged workplace trust so that men fear have anything to do with women lest they be falsely accused…

    Once again Big Think is showing that it is out of touch and using it's influence to push mainstream media corporate propaganda…

  6. It's amazing that all these supporters of "minorities" insist on ruling everyone by the majority. The minority loses in a democracy. Democracy was responsible for African slaves in the US, prohibition of alcohol, and all the recent US wars. You idiots deserve what is coming for your children. #victimsoflife

  7. This would've made a much stronger case if it focused on true whistleblowing heroes like those at Wikileaks over populist witch hunters.

  8. Funny how Edward Snowden, the modern definition of an actual whistleblower is treated unjustly and isn't even mentioned in this video.

  9. Whistleblowers are great if they take responsibility for their actions. For example, Snowden defected (eventually to Ruzzia) and went from whistleblower to traitor as a result of his inability to accept the consequences for his actions. His actions, while shedding some light on keeping government agencies in check also leaked sensitive info that put people's lives at risk and ultimately his (now ex) country in danger. See 'S`pies' used to defect secretly, but now information is so powerful a spy can fein innocent and publically announce their actions and people will believe them. Crazy times

  10. Whistle blowing is not enough. Prosecution and imprisonment is the next step to breaking the law. If American citizens are expected to follow the law then who is the president to break the law? The president is supposed to be a servant to the People. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. A double standard is nonexistent.

  11. “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”
    – Howard Zinn

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  13. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Why would anyone want to keep that shit alive?

  14. 3:33 – 4:23 Some 40% of women on Facebook have responded with their own experiences to #metoo !?!
    Could this be accurate?

  15. Judging by the comments on most of these videos, everyone who watches this channel is a pseudointellectual dumbass who thinks atheism=intelligence.

  16. What do you call a society that persecutes and tortures whistleblowers? What has the US become when it treats Snowdon and Assange as enemies of the state, when the truth is that they are the exact opposite?

  17. The USA is not a democracy. The USA is a constitutional representative republic. The founding fathers knew very well the dangers of a democracy. They understood that democracy is mob rule. And they did everything to prevent it. From the 3 equal branches of government. To the electoral college. You don't like it, leave.

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