Tjebbe van Tijen via Chello on Sun, 8 Sep 2013 20:43:17 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] A tableau for Edward Snowden: "In the land of Moles the Whistleblower is King"

A tableau for Edward Snowden: "In the land of Moles the Whistleblower is King"

the tableau picture can be found at:

Whistleblowers – by their very nature – are pawns in the power games they try to expose and in the case of Snowden anyone can sense how many reversed versions of Snowden are active in the business of intelligence. 

The whistleblower has the mole as his mirror image and whereas whistleblowers are a rare species, moles are not. When they do their undercover work well, they simply are invisible. Whistleblowers differ in the way they whistle according to their habitat. What is exposed where by whom for what reason, needs to be clarified.

We hardly would call Khrushchev and his exposure of the terror reign of Stalin, right after his death in 1953, a whistleblower. Still one may consider doing so. Likewise Deng Xiaoping exposed Mao – this time during his life time – and was put away for some time, to rise later to a position of state control. 

One could find many examples of this kind of ‘whistleblowers’ and the exercise helps to clarify the role of people like Manning and Snowden. They were not in any position of power and they have not been striving for power either. Assange has a slightly different profile and some minor aspirations to enter politics. 

The cause of whistleblowers like Manning and Snowden is to subvert the power structure without attempting to take it over, or overthrow the existing rule. One can thus clearly distinguish 'undemocratic' from 'democratic' whistleblowers.

When those in power would be able to listen better to the song of democratic whistleblowers, they would – not publicly – but secretly applaud their actions, because someone had the courage to point to circumstances where ‘means’ and ‘ends’ of the state are very much out of balance.

Below I reproduce the USA "Code of ethics" for government service, and as with all behaviour codes and laws, reality is more complex. An act maybe classified as 'wrong' according to a factual reading of a set of rules, but could in some cases be 'right' when one judges an act according to the intend of the set of rules. Though Snowden seems to have worked not directly as a state functionary, one may argue that these rules also apply to him as working for the National Security Agency. 

Point 8 stipulates "Never use any information coming to him confidentially..." but also adds "as means for making private profit." Snowden can be accused of may things but nobody has yet been able to charge him with being out for 'private profit', on the contrary, he has endangered himself by blowing his whistle, 

Point 9 "expose corruption wherever discovered" is the rule that needs to be examined to establish how the word 'corruption' should be or can be understood. Corruption in this code of ethics points - implicit - to governmental agents acting for personal profit, but one may also read it differently and see 'corruption' at a more abstract level, as the corruption of the principles of democratic government rule. When read thus it may be classified - in certain cases - as a 'patriotic act' to bring 'confidential' information into the open in order to 'expose' 'corruption' of the principles of democratic government rule. 


Any person in Government service should:

1. Put loyalty to the highest moral principals and to country above loyalty to Government persons, party, or department.

2. Uphold the Constitution, laws, and legal regulations of the United States and of all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion.

3. Give a full day's labor for a full day's pay; giving to the performance of his duties his earnest effort and best thought.

4. Seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished.

5. Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not; and never accept for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties.

6. Make no private promises of any kind binding upon the duties of office, since a Government employee has no private word which can be binding on public duty.

7. Engage in no business with the Government, either directly or indirectly which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his governmental duties.

8. Never use any information coming to him confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means for making private profit.

9. Expose corruption wherever discovered.

10. Uphold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust.

[Source: U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee]
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