Crisis of Conscience –
Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud
By Tom Muellert
Atlantic Books – £25.00
A time comes when silence is betrayal.
(Martin Luther King Jr – ‘Beyond Vietnam’)
Resolved, that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds of misdemeanours committed by officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.
(US Congress, 1777)
This book fundamentally forces us to embrace and confront fundamental questions about the balance between free speech and state secrecy, along with that between individual morality and corporate power.
Really big stuff in other words, which, when one considers we currently have two of the worst leaders ever known to humankind at the helm of the English speaking world (the overtly terrible Donald Trump in the US and the equally ghastly Boris Johnson in UK), would rightly suggest Crisis of Conscience – Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud could not be more timely.
Not to mention appropriate, as nigh most of its 537 pages (excluding Notes and Index) traverse a-number-of repercussions for which said two may not be solely responsible, but most certainly did/do not help.
For instance, in chapter Three’s ‘The Money Dance,’ the gospel according to one Arvin Lewis, vice-president of Patient Business and Financial Services at Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida, openly subscribes to the following:
The only thing better than cash is lots of it.
The system is a beast and it is always hungry (for cash)
We do not have any problems that cash can’t fix.
Regardless of what the bank commercial says, I did want to grow up to be a money man.
Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get, and I just want some cash.
Clearly, a despicable disciple of the most-ghastly belief and persuasion; each of the seven chapters herein contain an abundance of just such ideological imbalance and greed induced rhetoric. In and of itself, this goes some way in substantiating what David Hume professed in The Natural History of Religion in 1757: ”The corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst.
This is something, which if you really care to think about it is where great swathes of today’s US finds itself, as touched upon in the book’s final chapter (‘The Banana Republic Wasn’t Built in A Day’): ‘’Yet in Trump’s America – in our America over the last quarter century […] behaviour has routinely been justified with pragmatic talk of free markets, deregulation, costs and benefits, and of running government like a business. We’ve dubbed our homegrown oligarchs billionaires, and now name buildings and libraries after them, let them secrete their wealth in offshore tax havens, allow them to pay politicians unlimited funds to buy access and push through the fiscal ‘reforms’ and government downsizing they cherish, to buy sports teams for which they build new stadiums with tax payer money, complete with sky boxes from which they can look down upon the taxpaying multitudes. And many of us revere these homegrown oligarchs as paragons of the American Dream.’’
Throughout Crisis of Conscience, Tom Mueller fully investigates the rise of whistleblowing amid a series of controversial cases, as drawn from the many worlds of healthcare and other businesses throughout both Wall Street and Washington. By drawing on in-depth interviews with more than two-hundred so-called whistle-blowers and the trailblazing lawyers who prepared them for battle (along with government watchdogs and politicians, cognitive scientists and intelligence analysts); Mueller essentially determines what inspires some to speak out and others to remain complicit in their silence.
In fact, we come to realize that whistle-blowers per se ‘’are the freethinking, outspoken citizens whom we must emulate if democracy is to survive.’’
So, to describe Crisis of Conscience as very tough and as such, very brave (and American), would not be too far off the mark. It is indeed as written in Kirkus Reviews: ‘’Engrossingly examines the ethics, mechanics, and reverberations of whistleblowing of all kinds, emphasizing how bitterly controversial the practice remains, posing a clash between group loyalty and individual conscience… Superb reporting on brave people who decided, ‘’It would have been criminal for me not to act.’’’’