Truth, Society, and the Whistle-Blower
It is perhaps the real measure of how truly a society honours and respects truth in how it responds to its whistle-blowers. In the case of the Iraq War Documents, published by WikiLeaks, the name of private first class Bradley Manning has been all but eclipsed by that of Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks (who many people, apparently frightened of truthfulness, have named “the most dangerous man in the world”, which was the former title for Osama bin Laden. Now Assange’s truth-speaking has become equated with terrorism). The virtual anonymity of others persecuted and prosecuted for whistle-blowing says a great deal about a society’s real (and not just pretentious) respect for truth, despite the lip-service it so often pays to values of truthfulness, sincerity, and honesty.
“Honesty is the best policy”. So says society. But, in effect, it is your honesty and your sincerity that is requisite and mandatory. I myself, however, reserve the right to be as dishonest and insincere as befits my own “pursuit of self-interest”. And my pursuit of self-interest by even devious and deceptive means necessitates that you be morally responsible, truthful, and honest. Thus commands society (and pollsters).
This article, appearing in The New York Times on the War Logs, names two others, besides Bradley Manning, who have recently been, more or less, quietly disappeared through anonymity or imprisonment. Their names represent embarrassments for being the contradiction to the self-serving social fiction that society-in-the-main honours and respects honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness. The whistle-blower is an evident contradiction and refutation of that pretense. Rather than face the truth about itself, however, society-at-large connives to make the whistle-blower and truth-speaker disappear through inglorious anonymity, so that mainstream society’s fictions and lies about itself can be preserved and conserved (the truth about our present “new conservatives”) without the irritation of the bad conscience or the moral embarrassment and hypocrisy; that is to say, without actually having to face the truth about itself — the truth that the name of the whistle-blower represents as if a reflection in the mirror “warts and all”, as they say. In contrast to the media-generated socialite and celebrity, whose names are celebrated by the masses for being no more than “media personalities”, the name of the whistle-blower as truth-speaker is dishonoured and reviled, and is forcibly buried and entombed, because his or her name is always a reminder to society-at-large (Nietzsche’s “herd”) of its own innate falsehood, hypocrisy, and pretense.
The pressure on the potential whistle-blower to remain silent about the truth he or she knows is society’s pressure. This is why it takes genuine courage and bravery to disclose the truth against the pressure to remain silently obedient and “dutiful”. But, in fact, society does not honour at all such courage or bravery except as these serve it’s own self-interest and the self-interest of its members. The whistle-blower is an anomalous true individual because society-in-the-main is fakery. And the whistle-blower suffers greatly for his or her courage because an ungrateful society-in-the-main reviles and detests those who remind it that its “absolute” morality and pretentious claims to truthfulness are fictions that have no grounding in truth and no moral foundation whatsoever.
Those who have been “disappeared” today as well as during the Inquisition of the Late Middle Ages (my, how things have changed!) are always mainstream society’s attempt to preserve itself against the truth-speaker by forcing truth-speakers to become nameless and anonymous. (The example, a la Socrates, who was given the choice of exile or death, might become socially contagious). The whistle-blower today (and there have been many who have been made to disappear into anonymity) expose the falsity of a society that claims to respect truth and truthfulness.
The word “exile” is quite instructive in that sense, for it means literally “forced out into the silence” (ex-silio).
Such is Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history”, too. The alleged triumph of a supposedly truthful society.