Not too long ago a squealer was considered one of the lowest forms of human life. They were also called “rats” and nobody wanted to be a rat for fear of certain retribution! These strong feelings were held by both males and females starting in early elementary school. Today you hardly hear the squealer word and it has largely been replaced by the word “snitch”, generally a milder term lacking the passionate disdain that was associated with a rat. But even the snitch word currently is not commonly seen or heard let alone condemned.
Now there are no commonly used words for good squealing or snitching. For example, if a bunch of guys plan to beat up and rob an old lady then snitching on them is laudable.
Today, mainly driven by the self interest of the powerful general media, the word “whistleblower” which generally applies to people who snitch or squeal on corporations or the government is now part of the national vocabulary.
Please note that the media- and practically everyone else including parents and educators - hardly criticize anyone who falls into these three categories. The 24/7 media is highly competitive needing breakthrough stories and pays off squealers, snitches or whistleblowers or whatever you want to call them as their main source of information. For this reason you rarely see media attacks against these informants. It’s simply a matter of self-interest by the media folks which reflects normal human behavior. If you don’t have a breakthrough story you won’t be promoted or may even lose your job!
Regarding practically everyone else who tolerates these informants, it has become part of our culture. The result, and nobody has told you this, is that we have now created a nation of increasing multiple spies invading the privacy of both individual people and organizations because of their self interest ranging from mostly vindictive personal or financial interest to much rarer nobler national interest ones.
Fearing punishment from the government, spying on one another, even family members, was common in the Soviet Union which created a culture of fear making it possible for the Communists to maintain control over the people.
Informants are now everywhere. Students in high school are urged to reveal the names of those who have violated a school code. I recently met a senior student who was a leader. He and other leaders were told to “tell on” other students who are not following school rules. He told me that some did indeed, let’s say it, squeal! And they, would you believe, felt good about it! The movie, Scent of a Woman, staring Al Pacino powerfully defends the honor of a student who refuses to snitch. This should be shown to all pre-college students as well as their teachers.
Here’s the latest on whistleblowing: A recent piece of financial legislation authorizes the Securities and Exchange Commission to payoff or make “financial rewards” to Whistleblowers on the financial community up to 30% of a penalty above $1 million if they inform the government of illegal financial transactions or fraud. As a result a clever lawyer entrepreneur has started an advertising campaign to potential Whistleblowers to come to him with the information and he will manage the case for a fee.
The New York Post, in plain effective language warns, “Wall Street crooks, watch out! Your ex-wife or accountant, or both, are champing at the bit to make a quick buck ratting you out.” I would add your wife, children, your best friend and your trustworthy colleague either acting alone or in cahoots.
Make no doubt about it, this is one of the many dangerous trends that is weakening our country. What is most alarming is the lack of leaders to sound the alarm and bring about effective remedies.