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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Whistleblowing - an attack on or support of trust in organizations and one's peers? How does it impact on our trust in public institutions and in society in general?

This case is taken from the military institution where a whistleblower has documented illegal incidents. This cannot be confronted by the military authorities and the allegations are dismissed. Still, there is a silent agreement in the forces that misdemeanour does happen. At the same time military missions are losing their credibility in view of lost causes in e.g. Afghanistan and Iraq. Loyalty and trust are then projected not into the ideals of the military mission, but into the military group of peers who act or are trained to act under extreme conditions of war, resulting in the idealization of the fellowship of soldiers that forbids any criticism of their doings. The relevance of somebody being held legally responsible for the transgression of international law is denied. I interpret this as a defence against acknowledging the controversial aspects of Denmark's participation in a war which is further underlined by the public split image of the Danish military as either wholly good or bad. A whistle-blower originally refers to a referee who blows his or her whistle in order to indicate that one or more persons have been trying to get an advantage by using illegal tricks, hoping that it would pass unnoticed. But the sound of the whistle makes it clear to everybody that the referee - the local authority - has seen an assumed misconduct and is ready to punish the individual(s) or the whole team. However, in this context I am concerned with whistleblowing as it is widely used about an act where a person exposes alleged wrongdoing to superiors inside an organisation or outside in the media. In research on whistleblowing little has been said about the internal social control of the activities within institutions and organizations and how organizational norms are enforced in a process where occupational misconduct is exposed and reacted to (Pershing, 2001). In a qualitative analysis of the reception of a case of whistleblowing in the military, I am going to take up these themes in the following and look at them from a psychosocial point of view (Hollway, 2010).