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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Columns

Whistleblowers are necessary evil to keep government accountable


I’m going to start this column with a quote from Lord Acton, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Though this quote gets perpetually overused by those advocating for the evils of governments — anarchists — the quote is still quite legitimate when you take a look at what government inherently is.

We live in a society dependent on government, the body that fix (or attempt to do so) our problems. Our society has become willing to trust government and see it as a positive entity since it has done so much for us — beneficial or otherwise.

That has made us apathetic to the powers that be — the hegemonic force of government that controls us.

That is why the existence of men like Julian Assange and sites like WikiLeaks are so important to the people.

For freedom

These entities let us know what the government is actually doing with its inordinate amount of power. They are what media should be: A check on the government to make sure it is not overstepping its boundary.

Take the example of Edward Snowden, who risked everything and revealed that the NSA was illegally spying on the people and violating every American’s civil rights.

Whether you see him as a traitor or a patriot, there’s no denying that he stopped the government from doing something inherently illegal. We are a freer people, or at least we try to be, because of him.

The media has fallen down on its job. To steal a quote from “V for Vendetta,” “People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” The media is supposed to be the voice of the people and stop the government from doing unlawful actions.

It is rare to see a major member of the U.S. media have to save themselves from the government because they had informed the people of what was secretly happening?

We now have to rely on those individuals within the government willing to risk it all. The government is not afraid of the people because the voice of the people is no longer a threat.

This is why people who have willingly alienated themselves to let the world know what is happening in the dark are so important to us. We are, in a way, indebted to them for willing to sacrifice their life so we can live more freely.

Assange gave an interview in 2010 at TEDGlobal, “Why the World Needs WikiLeaks,” where he quoted his father who said, “Capable, generous men do not create, they nurture victims.”

Many people criticize what Snowden, Assange and Chelsea Manning do by saying that their intention is to harm countries and their citizenry. That, though, is never the point.

There are certain private things that need to remain so — like your medical history. Yet when the government has willfully forgotten their place and whom it serves, someone needs to step in to “nurture” the victims.

True informants

There is a chief question among all these facts, figures and people: What of our humanity are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of being ignorant to what our government is doing?

WikiLeaks was brought to prominence because it released a video of U.S. troops firing at what they called insurgents. The assault led to the deaths of many Iraqi citizens and two Reuters war correspondents.

People were understandably up in arms over this, contending that this video harmed U.S. soldiers as it perpetuated hate from the citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange said, however, that the people on the ground see this every day.

Are we, as a citizenry, willing to let the government do whatever they want as long as our consciences are ignorant and clean? This was a deplorable act that killed innocent children and had no thought for ordinary citizens.

The world needs “traitors.”

Traitors are the only ones who truly keep us informed and allow us to be free. The government is not an inherently good entity as we have been conditioned to believe from years of lackluster media attention and projects done on the government’s behalf.

We are only whom we allow ourselves to be and we need to allow ourselves to be free. The world needs whistleblowers more than we want to admit.

Senior staff columnist Jorden Smith is a political science junior and president of the College Republicans. He can be reached at [email protected]

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