Welcome to the Snitch Organization
What is a snitch? Someone acting as an informer (snitching), or decoy for the police, or perhaps give away confidential and damaging information by snitching about somebody who has done something wrong, illegal or immoral.
Unfortunately, there's a phenomenon promoting
a "no snitching" code of silence regarding reporting
crimes to the police. Many young people (under 25 in particular)
feel it's a crime in the community to be a snitch."
This no-snitching "value" has transcended through
time and remains an active cultural directive among various
criminal gangs, prisoners and parolees.
Presently, this no-snitch culture now exists within the mainstream.
In fact, it's so common that commercial enterprises are now
profiting from the sales of bumper stickers, window decals,
T-shirts and other items of clothing which contain the
"no-snitch" logo. These items are sold online
and in any number of retail outlets. Hip Hop music is
rife with the "no-snitch" message and now the
effects of this commercialization are showing its impact
here in our own communities.
There are many reasons given by supporters of a
"no-snitch" value. The predominant value that
informs this phenomenon is the community cannot and
should not trust the police. There are a few examples
of police misusing their authority for sure, but the vast
majority of officers are among the best of all of our
citizens in terms of ethics, morality, respect for our
constitution, and for having a selfless interest in serving
others. Contrarily, the criminals who are urging others
to clam up from the police are, well, just criminals.
Criminals are clearly the benefactors of any social trends
that keep them shielded from the law.
Those who are the biggest advocates of not being a snitch
by not reporting crimes or being a witness and
have a an interest in staying out of the law's reach. By intimidating
potential witnesses and victims into avoiding the legal
system, illegal drug and gun dealers, murderers and the
like can enjoy lower chances of going to prison. Curiously,
these criminals are finding that their self-serving message,
which attempts to make snitching socially unacceptable,
is resonating with a surprisingly large number of persons
within our society.
In local area communities, the local police
are finding that the "no-snitch" message has
caused negative outcomes for individuals, families and
neighborhoods. I can think of a number of instances in
which there was a homicide, drive-by shooting, major fight,
or other violent event. When the police arrive, those
present disperse like rats jumping off a sinking ship.
As for any remaining stragglers, most all of them deny
having heard or seen anything. The officers know better,
as the circumstances of many of these cases involve large
parties or other group gatherings where any number of
people could not have missed all or part of the event.
As expected, these crimes have a significantly lower chance
of being solved and the perpetrators caught.
The majority of this society's members do not ascribe
to the "no-snitch" rule - fortunately. But young
people in the 14-25 age group are the generation most
exposed to the "no-snitch" mantra and, not surprisingly,
they are the ones who will most suffer from the lawless
consequences. It might appear to be no problem at this
time for them, but as crime continues and the number of
victims grows to unacceptably high levels, the aforementioned
generation of this society may well regret their past
actions. Clearly, the seeds they sow today are likely
to haunt them later when criminals become more emboldened,
fewer crimes are solved and more people feel as if in
a state of imprisonment. Their ignorance is setting the
stage for a life sentence of living in a society overrun
Our criminal justice system is founded on the concept
that the majority of people are good, and as such, those
members of the community will not tolerate crime without
taking appropriate action to inform the proper authorities.
This is the essence of partnership between the community
and law enforcement. In the absence of this active partnership,
we all will lose the rule of law and consequently, will
start experiencing the early stages of anarchy.
It is easy enough to consider only the immediate impact
of not snitching on those individuals who break the law,
especially in cases of violent felonies. Witnesses and
victims who assume that position may well be spared some
retribution, harassment or finding themselves as social
outcasts. Over time, however, the negative cumulative
effect and outcome on our community will have devastating
consequences on present and future generations.
Essentially, criminals will, in effect, hold these new
victims in a virtual hostage situation, subject to their
treachery, whims and desires. This phenomenon is totally
unnecessary and completely avoidable. For one, the word
"snitch" is negative in nature, and does not
recognize the honorable actions of those who are willing
to take a stand for themselves and their community. To
snitch is to steal, rip off, or walk away, just like the
criminals who advocate this way of thinking. As members
of our democratic society, we have an obligation to report
crime, or be willing to bear witness against those who
commit the crimes, in order to keep a safe place to live
for ourselves and future generations. We all know the
difference between right and wrong, we simply need to
live by what we already know.
Many communities across the country now offer the "silent
witness program" for people to come forth with knowledge
of crimes and remain anonymous.
"Whistle blower" is a well-known term for a "Snitch"
The term "whistle blower" is connected in the
public's mind to words and phrases used to villainize
those who disclose information to the detriment of an
organization or betray their associates. "Informants,"
"snitches," "rats," "tattle-tales,"
"stool pigeons," "back stabbers,"
"squealers," "traitors," "turncoats,"
"double crossers," "narcs," and "finks"
all turn on their organizations, associates, or their
groups by exposing embarrassing information or evidence
of crime. Sometimes the words are doubled up for added
emphasis, as in "ratfink" or "back-stabbing
traitor. " Sometimes simply the names of historical
figures instantiate the ideas of organizational apostasy
and traitorous acts: "Brutus," "Judas,"
"Quisling," "Benedict Arnold."
The emotion behind the terms describing those who turn
against and undercut their organizations, whether those
organizations are as large as a culture or as small as
a street gang, is often a combination of loathing and
disgust. These informers divest themselves of trust, community,
and friends to expose the truth. But the pejorative terms
mentioned above originate in the perspectives of those
within the organization, those who feel or fear the consequences
of the betrayal and have little interest in understanding
or plumbing the reasons for the acts. Against these impulses,
Americans are famous for transforming "betrayal"
of the group into heroism when the well-being of society
Americans frequently deify the person who pursues truth
or right against the perverse and illegal actions of a
group. In film and literature, those who stand up against
the group are usually portrayed as heroic and courageous
and emblematic of the ideal citizen. In Serpico, The Insider,
Silkwood, and The Pentagon Papers people of rare courage
turn against their corrupt organizations for the benefit
of society. Thomas More, Peter Zenger, Jane Addams, John
Scopes, Sojourner Truth, Zero Mostel and many others have
been immortalized for risking their well-being in the
service of truth; in the service of all in society rather
than for the few in an organization.
Whistle-blowers are those who "commit the truth"
to their detriment and for the benefit of society. Whistle
blowing is a metaphorical suicide, hence the term "committing
the truth." But the effects are anything but metaphorical.
If death is a passing to a new life, so too usually is
whistle blowing. Their sacrifice for society costs them
their careers, skills, friends, families, wealth, and
sometimes their sanity. To those who understand sacrifice,
the term "whistle blower" connotes rectitude,
courageousness, justice, and self sacrifice, while to
agency managers whistle blowers are "traitors"
or "disgruntled employees." Getting past the
term is a job in-and-of-itself, for it imports both negative
and positive connotations and spawns ambivalence. Our
political leaders, at least, must get past that hurdle
and see the reality, see the people, see the pain, see
the heroism, and see the patriotism of whistle blowers.
Whistle blowers are brutalized by their own government,
by other public servants with less fidelity to the United
States and its people than to the masters they serve and
their career ambitions.
The very people appointed to protect whistle blowers
historically have no loyalty to the truth or to the good
of society. The Office of Special Counsel, ostensibly
the chief mechanism of protection for whistle blowers,
is a hopeless failure. From the beginning it has been
controlled by the desires of executive agencies and presidents
and has never had the objective distance to perform its
functions as intended by Congress. Early in OSC's history,
one Special Counsel referred to whistle blowers as "severed
heads," "uninformed, disgruntled or disaffected,"
"carrying bags and walking up and down Constitution
Avenue," "blackmailers," and "malcontents."
That ill-perception continues to this day. I have heard
whistle blowers referred to as the "undead,"
people "staggering toward the graveyard," "dead
men (or women) walking."
References to death in describing whistle blowers are
ubiquitous. Whistle blowers are isolated, shunned, and
"killed" within their organizations. Their friends
are warned not to interact with them and management exerts
its control over a whistle blower's 1 Westlaw 131 Cong.
Rec.H 6407-02 colleagues by threat and intimidation that
they will suffer the same fate as the whistle-blower if
they do not conform to agency desires. The whistle blower
is a spectacle inside the organization, an object lesson
put on display but disconnected from organizational functions;
he or she becomes an "undead" warning to others
not to commit the truth. But if this is what happens to
the "average" whistle blower, the fate of the
national security whistle blower is even worse.
National security whistle blowers are at even greater
danger and with less protection than whistle blowers in
other settings. At least in the non-national security
setting the federal whistle-blower has access to some process
and may resort to publication and news media, fully consult
counsel, and access evidence relevant to his or her case.
But national security employees are ensconced in secrecy.
They are hemmed in by security clearances and access,
threats of criminal prosecution, and non-disclosure and