Book Review: Snitch Culture

Snitch Culture:  How Citizens Are Turned Into The Eyes And Ears Of The State, by Jim Redden

Snitching is widely recognized as a major social problem, but who is to be blamed for that depends on the perspective one has.  This particular book looks to blame snitching on a combination of goals for social control held by companies, government, and institutions like public schools.  In some respects this is a paranoid worldview, but it is not ridiculous simply for being paranoid.  If people are out to get you, you can hardly be blamed for being paranoid.  And the author of this book, which comes from a small niche press that apparently deals with leftist political matters, apparently has good reason to believe that people are out to discredit those who oppose a corporate mindset.  If some snitch books are focused on the minority community and the troubled relationship between such people and a government that has not always sought to represent or respect their interests or regard their well-being, this book is focused on the relationship between the public and private world in favor of snitching as a way of people to maintain control of institutions and to gather information that can be used to control others through fear and intimidation and the threat of harm, ranging from losing jobs to jail time.

This book is a bit more than 200 pages and it is divided into four parts and seventeen chapters.  The book begins with an introduction that discusses the crackdown that began with the Patriot Act after 9/11.  After that the first part of the book deals with Big Brother in the 21st Century (I), which includes chapters on constant surveillance (3), the corporate origins of snitch culture (5), and the federal intelligence infrastructure (7) as well as the problem of mass media propaganda (9).  The second part of the book discusses the national security surveillance state (II) and the government’s war on citizens (10), how whistleblowers are punished (13), and the influence of schools in encouraging snitching (14).  The third part of the book is a short one and it deails with the shape of things to come (III), including a discussion on the infiltration of the anarchists (15), the coming global snitch culture (16), and how to stop snitch abuse (17).  The fourth and last part of the book then discusses various case studies (IV) including the legacy of McCarthyism, asset forfeiture, the ADL spy scandal, the Italian and Russian mafia, Infowar, and gun control snitches, after which there is an appendix.

One of the fascinating aspects of this book is the way that the author praises whistleblowing when it is done against corporate and government interests but abhors snitching when it is conducted against activist groups that are opposed to government behavior and corporate interests.  One would think that someone who appreciated the shining of light into dark places in institutions would be equally willing to have light shone into the dark places of him and his activist associates, but clearly the hypocrisy of the left is strong in this author.  It would probably be better to ponder what it is that allows us to think well of whistleblowing and poorly of snitches, if the two can be separated on any grounds other than self-interest.  That said, the author clearly has some things that are well worth saying and appreciating when it comes to the problematic nature of governments depending on information that comes in a secretive fashion that cannot be properly countered by those against whom the information is used.  Protecting the security of dubious sources even as they do harm to potentially innocent people is not the sort of trade-off we should be comfortable making.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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