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The Whistle Blower Archetype



The Whistle Blower archetype is driven by a strong desire to uncover and expose misconduct, fraud, corruption, and other unethical practices that might otherwise remain hidden from the public eye. Individuals who identify with this archetype courageously bring confidential or sensitive information to light, sharing it with the public or relevant authorities to spotlight injustices and become a catalyst for positive societal change. Whistle Blowers frequently put themselves in precarious positions, navigating complex and often dangerous paths to reveal hidden wrongdoings or illegal activities within organisations or other governance systems. Their actions can be pivotal in fostering transparency and accountability, making them indispensable agents of change.


The Whistle Blower archetype plays a vital role in society by promoting transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. They have been instrumental in revealing significant cases of corporate fraud, government abuse, and other systemic problems that might otherwise remain hidden. By speaking out, Whistle Blowers often face severe risks, including job loss, harassment, or social stigma. Despite these challenges, their disclosures can lead to investigations, legal actions, and essential reforms to address the issues they uncover. They ow the whistle’ to prevent further harm and to alert others to the wrongdoing they have discovered.


The decision to disclose sensitive information can involve difficult trade-offs and moral ambiguity. The fallout from whistleblowing can sometimes lead to unintended negative consequences, such as the weakening of organisational trust, disruption of important projects, or harm to broader societal interests. In extreme cases, it might even exacerbate the issues they aimed to resolve.

The stigma associated with being a Whistle Blower can lead to a sense of alienation and abandonment. Whistle Blowers may become isolated from their peers, friends, and family due to the controversial nature of their actions. Whistle Blowers frequently face severe retaliation, including job loss, harassment, legal battles, and social ostracism. The personal and professional toll can be immense, leading to significant stress, financial hardship, and mental health issues.


The Light Side

As with all archetypes there is a light and a shadow, the light side of the Whistle Blower archetype underscores the vital role these individuals play in maintaining ethical standards, promoting transparency, and fostering justice in society. Their actions not only address immediate issues but also contribute to the long-term health and integrity of institutions and communities. The light side of the Whistle Blower archetype embodies the positive and transformative aspects of individuals who choose to expose wrongdoing. These aspects highlight the Whistle Blower's role in


¨  Commitment to Truth and Transparency

¨  Display of Courage and Integrity

¨  Advocacy for Justice

¨  Protection of Public Interest

¨  Catalysts for Change

¨  Inspiring Others to speak up in the name of public interest


The Shadow Side

While Whistle Blowers often act with noble intentions, the shadow side can manifest in questionable and hidden agendas that are associated with exposing wrongdoing of others when they are acting out of revenge, personal gain, or attention-seeking. The Whistle Blower archetype can also lead to an excessive focus on identifying and exposing wrongdoing, potentially creating an adversarial or paranoid atmosphere, hindering collaboration and fostering a culture of mistrust within organisations.


Examples of Whistle Blowers with a Global Footprint

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) an African American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman who, after escaping from slavery, became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. His first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, published in 1845, exposed the brutal realities of slavery. His writings and speeches provided a firsthand account of the atrocities of slavery and played a significant role in raising awareness and promoting abolitionist causes.


Thomas Nast (1840-1902), a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist considered the ‘Father of the American Cartoon’ was instrumental in exposing the corruption of New York City's Tammany Hall, led by William M. Tweed, through his cartoons in Harper's Weekly. Nast's cartoons brought public attention to Tweed's corrupt practices, leading to his arrest and conviction. Nast's ability to communicate complex political issues through powerful visual imagery made his work particularly effective in mobilising public opinion against corruption.


Frank Serpico is best known as a Whistle Blower who exposed widespread corruption within the New York City Police Department (NYPD) during the late 1960s and early 1970s. His efforts led to significant reforms in the department and his story became widely known through the media and popular culture.


Julian Assange: the founder of WikiLeaks in 2006, supported the mission of promoting transparency and exposing government and corporate misconduct by publishing original source materials. In 2012 Julian sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden as he feared this would lead to the further extradition to the United States being faced with charges related to his work with WikiLeaks and knowing that he would not be able to refer to the first amendment clause 4 freedom of press. The asylum by the Ecuadorian government was revoked in 2019 and British authorities arrested him. He has since been held in Prison in the UK, fighting extradition to the United States. Julian Assange's actions and the operations of WikiLeaks have sparked widespread debate about government secrecy, freedom of the press, and the ethical boundaries of whistleblowing.


In 2010 Chelsea Manning, an intelligence analyst from the U.S. Army leaked the most extensive collection of classified documents in the history of the United States. These documents contained descriptions of prisoners’ detention, abuse, and torture, among other sensitive information. While some viewed her actions as a courageous stand for transparency and accountability, others saw them as a dangerous breach of national security that put lives at risk. In 2013, Chelsea Manning was convicted of several charges, including violations of the Espionage Act, and sentenced to 35 years in prison. In 2017, her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama after she had served seven years.


Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor, is best known for his role as a Whistle Blower who exposed the extent of global surveillance programs conducted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its international partners. In 2013 he leaked a vast number of classified documents to journalists outlining mass surveillance of internet and phone data, global surveillance programs, surveillance of foreign leaders and intrusion into private communications. Edward Snowden: expressed his ethical concerns regarding the global surveillance programs carried out by the American National Security Agency. He has been granted asylum in Russia, where he lives to date.


In 2021, Frances Haugen a former employee of Facebook appeared before the US Congress giving evidence, against Facebook, to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. In testimony to Congress, she said that the social network’s products harm children, polarise people in the US and that its executives ignore safety concerns to focus on profits.


Can Whistle Blowers Cause harm with their Exposures?

Whistle Blowers can expose critical secrets, potentially destabilising governments, damaging reputations, and endangering lives.


In the early 2000s, Thomas Drake, a former NSA executive, exposed inefficiencies and privacy violations within the NSA's surveillance programs. While aiming to highlight government waste and overreach, his disclosures revealed operational details that could have compromised intelligence methods and national security.


Should countries incentivise Whistle Blowers?

What if instead of facing castigation and bullying, Whistle Blowers were acknowledged and rewarded for their courage? Often, organisations prioritise safeguarding their reputation over addressing the issues exposed by Whistle Blowers. However, embracing and incentivising whistleblowing could foster transparency and accountability, benefiting both society and organisations.


Encouragingly, some Whistle Blowers receive recognition for their bravery. In the United States, a Whistle Blowers, who is kept anonymous, received the second-highest award for exposing wrongdoing in 2018. This individual was granted a remarkable $50 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for pivotal information leading to the successful enforcement action against Merrill Lynch. Anonymity shields Whistle Blowers from potential retaliation and encourages others to disclose valuable insights on securities violations and financial misconduct.

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