Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Whistleblowing Cognitive Dissonance

I'm not a fan of over-government.  I'm not a fan of security theatre.  I'm not a fan of the product of over-government and security theatre, which is a fair description of the recent public disclosure of the security services data collection apparatus.  So it might surprise you to know that I'm not a fan of Edward Snowden.  And to put all my cards on the table, I'm also not a fan of Julian Assange.

So why do I have this cognitive dissonance - the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions.

I have to look at who really benefits, who really pays, and who gets hurt along the way.

In the specific security cases that are in the news today, who primarily benefits is easy - the whistleblower.  There is no doubt that Julian Assange has managed to create and nurture a cult of personality around himself to the point that even WikiLeaks are distancing themselves from him.  It is equally true that none of us would have ever heard of Edward Snowden.  But both of these gentlemen have manipulated the media into thrusting them into the international spotlight.

Remember that the mission of the NSA is to do exactly what they are doing.  As is GCHQ and DSD.  The public mission statement of DSD is "Reveal their secrets, protect our own".  The subtle part of this is to use the secrets that are revealed to grease the wheels of international diplomacy.  The recent disclosures have manifestly damaged international diplomacy, so not only have we as a society not benefited from them, we've actually been hurt instead.

The irony is that the outraged public also have a level of cognitive dissonance here.  It's fine for us to spy on the untrusted foreigners, but it isn't fine for us to spy on our own.  We are all foreigners to someone!

Real whistleblowers that do it for the public good - like Erin Brockovich - stay and fight for what they believe in.  They don't immediately flee and seek protection in non-extradition countries.

Phil Kernick Chief Technology Officer
@philkernick www.cqr.com

No comments:

Post a Comment