Tattletales – Whistleblowers

Today, I came across another video dealing with some of the issues whistleblowers have. I thought I would share this as an introduction to the body of work below: many individuals keep society in moral check but suffer because of their loneliness when taking a stand. Alice Dreger describes herself as “a professional pain in the ass … working to find out what’s true in the hope it will lead us to treat each other better.”

This little piece tries to answer the question: Are we educating our young properly when we label tattletales negatively without using discernment.

Tell tale tit,
Your Mother can’t knit,
Your father can’t walk
Without a walking stick.

Tell Tale Tit
Your tongue will be split
And all the little puppy dogs/ dicky-birds
Will have a little bit

Tell tale tit
Yer mammy cannae Knit
Yer fathers in the dust bin
Eatin’ fish and chips.

So with those renditions just in the various books in my keeping, there must be hundreds around, and the message is that if you are a tattletale, then you are “mummy’s pet”, “teacher’s pet”, perhaps a nerd, and someone who isn’t “nice”. Obviously, anyone who’s grown up knows that to make friends, you can’t tattle. The social norm is that to have friends, you need to shut up about anything that according to your own particular set of rules or morals is not right.
This starts from the moment a child utters his or her first words. As a mother, I remember my daughter tattling on her brothers for not washing their teeth, although water was on, toothbrushes wet, toothpaste tube left open, and washbasin messed up. And then as a mother, I didn’t act on this information – but I felt smug for I was now “in the know”. I didn’t act on the information. Why? because she had tattled, and I judged this wasn’t fair game for the boys?

In the new Oxford American dictionary, the definition of tattletale is the following : a person, especially a child, who reveals secrets or informs on others; a telltale. Whilst whistleblower is a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity. What is striking to me is the resemblance of both these definitions.

Today I watched a “Test tube” video about the risks of a whistleblower:


My point is the following. We bring up our children to select their friends among the non-tattletales. We then require of them to value their schooling, and to honour their teachers – no questions asked. Sometimes we take them to a religious place of worship where we “teach” them to be good people, to follow a moral code, and the laws of the land. We make a big deal of the leaders of the country, and we give them a place of honour in our conversations. And then we tell our children to make sure they respect their employer so as to keep their first job. There is no teaching on “illicit activity” of some leaders, only of the drug dealers. There is no teaching on “bribes” when they are offered and how to deal with it. Honestly as parents we are doing a shoddy job. We need whistleblowers. We need to scrutinize people in authority. So lets honour our little tattletales. Maybe we should immediately think of them as interns in journalism. So sometimes tattletales are OK it seems, and sometimes they are not. It seems whistleblowing is as poorly defined as the playground version.

And then I re-watched Edward Snowden just because.

and a year later:

Today, Sept 13 2017, surveillance is again brought up at Stanford University by Jennifer Grannick