Snitching on others

Posted by | July 22, 2020 | Social Support | No Comments
I recently read about medical workers in Russia who apparently were thrown out of high windows. They all had complained about something the government was doing or not doing. 
That news made me think of an expression introduced to me by my research assistant: Snitches get stitches. That expression comes from prisons. Inmates may not have a great deal of honour, but they do have one rule of conduct: No snitching. 
There are many colourful names for snitches. The names vary depending on age and whether we like the person: finks, rats, squealers, stool pigeons, whistleblowers, informants, tattletales. 
I once tried to snitch on a classmate of mine in the U.S. I read in the newspaper that a muscular Black man with a limp had used a tyre iron to hold up a convenience store in town. I called the police and learned that they also knew who it had to be. There was no one else around like the fellow. He was a nice guy when I interacted with him — I bet he later got into drugs.
My most exciting involvement with stool pigeons came when I helped slightly with legal representation of men charged with importing drugs. They were all eager to sing like a canary in exchange for lighter sentences. I doubt though that they agreed to name the kingpin supplier of the drugs. That might have been a suicidal act. Revisit the Russia story above. 
Governments and organizations hate individuals who blow the whistle on upper-level misconduct. High-up people like to sweep problems under the rug. 
However, the same officials support snitching when the target is an ordinary employee. In some employment situations, officials encourage and reward snitching, just as a prison warden might. 
Snitching is not necessarily a bad thing. But both criminals and ordinary employees know that falsely dobbing in someone can pay off. In addition to false accusers there are misinformed dobbers. Put in this category people who call the police to report a neighbour breaking quarantine when the neighbour is going to work at a hospital. 
Why do people snitch? Many want to do the right thing. Some are pressed into the role by officials. Some want revenge over a slight or want to exert power. Others want to remove a person who is an impediment. 
If you watch the documentary Tiger King, you will see that snitching dethroned the King. All the possible snitch motives may have applied there. 
Photo by Jacky Lam on Unsplash

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