Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Truth to power

In large organizations, whether governmental and corporate, the lone conscientious person who speaks up often pays a terrible price for telling the truth and especially if he then doesn't acquiesce when power wants to cover it in bullshit. Roger Boisjoly was one such man.

Boisjoly was not the only engineer who attempted to stop the launch and suffered for blowing the whistle. Allan J. McDonald was Thiokol's program manager for the solid rocket booster and became the most important critic of the accident afterward. When he was pressed by NASA the night before the liftoff to sign a written recommendation approving the launch, he refused, and later argued late into the night for a launch cancellation. When McDonald later disclosed the secret debate to accident investigators, he was isolated and his career destroyed.

The tragedy was particularly hard on Boisjoly, who would sometimes chop wood in the Utah winter to work out his anger. In a 2003 interview with The Times, he recalled that NASA tried to blackball him from the industry, leaving him to spend 17 years as a forensic engineer and a lecturer on engineering ethics.
The exact reason it's important to protect whistleblowers is so that those of us who are interested can hope to learn the truth.

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