By, Tony Norman
April 7, 2015
I’m a big fan of snitches. From Edward Snowden and CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling to the anonymous insider who uploaded images to YouTube of his fraternity brothers engaging in a racist chant on a bus, whistleblowers do what the media, civic and religious institutions are increasingly reluctant to do — hold a mirror up to our sordid reality.
Recently, a former member of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State University tipped police to the existence of an invitation-only Facebook page that documented hazing, drug sales and nude women at the frat house.
The women, who were unconscious, were presumably unaware that they were being photographed for nefarious purposes. Within hours of the first reports, plans for campus protests were put into motion. This was not going to be a Rolling Stone-style imbroglio. No one could claim it was a rush to judgment a la Duke lacrosse. Unless the photos are photoshopped, heads are going to roll at KDR.
Because of the photos, Penn State suspended the fraternity for a year and appointed a task force to review the entire Greek system at the university. Meanwhile, the police have launched an investigation and have begun interviewing some of the women in the photos.
No one has been arrested yet, but it is inevitable that more leaks and interviews with terrified frat boys eager to save their own skins will eventually produce enough clients to keep the well-heeled defense attorneys of Happy Valley smiling in perpetuity.
Again, hurray for the whistleblower who decided the culture of abuse and casual criminality that defined life at Kappa Delta Rho at Penn State shouldn’t be allowed to fester and corrupt another generation of eager conformists. He did something about it that will have major consequences for the local chapter of the fraternity and the national organization going forward.
Having said that, I know that I’m in the minority in extolling snitches at every level. There’s a visceral aversion to it whether on the streets where T-shirts denouncing “snitches” are popular, in police departments, in frat houses, in the military and in corporate suites.
Even in the media, the one place where one would think the virtue of whistleblowing would be considered sacrosanct, there’s an ambivalence about those who leak government secrets — especially those secrets dealing with national security.
There’s a notion out there that our national security state has a right to spoon feed us on a need-to-know basis after 9/11. This week CounterPunch published a well-documented piece about the increasing hostility toward whistleblowers held by members of the elite Washington press corps. John Hanrahan’s article reinforced my own suspicions about those who identify too closely with the interests of the powerful government insiders they cover.
Whistleblowers are also held in contempt by the Obama administration, which is unfortunate because it makes a mockery of Mr. Obama’s long-ago campaign promise to preside over the most transparent White House in history. Instead, he presides over the most secretive White House ever.
Historically, cops abide by a nearly impenetrable “thin blue line” that discourages good cops from aiding efforts to root out their corrupt colleagues. Whenever there is a revelation about bad behavior in the ranks of law enforcement, it is usually because some conscience-stricken officer, spouse or observant citizen has had enough and comes forward with information that gets an investigation going.
The result of these tips is usually spectacularly embarrassing for the institution. Last week, four cops in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., either quit or were fired because their exceptionally racist text messages to each other became public knowledge thanks to the fiancee of one of the cops.
One of the officers, Alex Alvarez, even made a video for their private amusement that would give D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” a run for its racist money. Of course, all four officers deny that they harbor extreme animus toward Blacks, Hispanics and homosexuals, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I’m relieved these bozos are off the force, but the fact they were in good standing as long as they were is truly depressing.
Snitching ain’t easy, but it is often necessary.