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Don't Shoot the Messenger

Entry 1563, on 2013-08-15 at 13:15:11 (Rating 4, Politics)

There's an old saying which I think can be applied to many situations in modern life. It's "don't shoot the messenger" which (by my interpretation) means not to blame, harm, or harass the person who brings bad news.

There's a tendency I have noticed in our modern society to make the person who brings the bad news to everyone's attention the problem instead of admitting that the problem is the source of the bad news itself. Of course, there is a very simple explanation for this tendency: the people who break the bad news tend to be non-conformers and misfits and the people who are the real cause (and who do blame the messenger) are senior politicians, managers, and other "leaders".

Some well-known messengers are currently prominent on the international scene: Julian Assange (and Wikileaks in general), Edward Snowden, and Bradley Manning, but the phenomenon exists on a much smaller scale in everyday life as well.

It's true that sometimes the messenger has to break the law to deliver the message, but surely if the message is important enough this shouldn't be a cause for concern. No one should ever believe that every law should always be interpreted literally and without consideration for the individual circumstances of the case.

And breaking the law doesn't seem to be a major concern for those ranked high enough in society. For example the GCSB (government "spy" bureau) here in New Zealand broke the law (there's some debate over the technicalities but that's the real effect) and there were no consequences at all. The government simply started the process of changing the laws so that what was illegal suddenly becomes legal. There was no trial, no consultation, no fair process at all. It just happened because it fit with current political expediency.

As I intimated above, I have seen a similar phenomenon on smaller scales in everyday life. My friend Fred (not his real name) who works in a similar area to me has reported being harassed by management for pointing out the inadequacies in the systems his organisation manages.

Everyone knows the system is poorly managed and performs badly but apparently it's not OK to admit to that fact. Instead he has been asked to report the problems to people further up the hierarchy. Of course he says he has been doing this literally for years and nothing has happened because management really just don't want to know. The whole process of reporting in this organisation is very top-down. But the people at the top are both ignorant and uncaring so nothing ever gets better.

So the answer to clear problems in the system is to persecute those who point them out rather than trying to fix them. It's like Bradley Manning being persecuted for showing the world that American forces are killing innocent civilians and apparently enjoying the experience. Surely a sensible response here is to say "thanks for showing us that, we'll fix that in future" rather than saying "don't show people what we are really doing".

Either the people at the top are incompetent and can't fix the problems making disguising them their only option, or they are immoral and just don't care but want to hide the fact that attitude. So which is it? Incompetence or Immorality? I'm sure it's a bit of both.

It's very obvious why the "powers" would love to shoot the messengers: they just don't want the message to be revealed to the public. It's a lot less clear why some in the public don't fully support the messengers. I guess they just don't want to know.

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