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#DemExit

Kill the Messenger Syndrome and the DNC

"#DemExit" refers to Sanders delegates walking out of the DNC and is an appropriate title for this blog because the hacking incident referred to in this blog may have contributed to Sanders losing to Clinton and stoked the anger of those delegates.

The “Kill the Messenger Syndrome” refers to the desire to ‘kill’ the person who is the bearer of bad news that the receiving party does not want to hear. It happens in business when a whistle-blower comes forth and informs top management of a financial fraud only to be retaliated against for such an action. In this instance no one wants to hear about, especially top management.

The phenomenon of killing the messenger is first mentioned in ancient Greek plays by Sophocles and Euripides as far back as 442 B.C. In the Shakespeare drama, Antony and Cleopatra, the beautiful Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, upon hearing the news that her beloved Antony has married Octavia, flies into a rage and tries to kill the messenger.

You may be wondering why I am blogging about this topic today. Well, blame it on the Democratic Convention. The news that someone had hacked into the DNC website and released almost 20,000 emails that led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz was met by some as a sinister attempt by the Russians to help Donald Trump to become elected President of the U.S.

Those who (allegedly) hacked the DNC clearly committed a crime. If it’s the Russian government behind the hacking, then counter-measures must be taken and President Obama needs to talk to Putin and make it clear in no uncertain terms that interfering in our democratic process will not be tolerated. If it’s private hackers who acted alone – i.e., WikiLeaks – then the guilty must be brought to justice. I would be just as incensed as any other person if this is true.

I want to make two points about the event. First, how stupid some people are that they tweet or write emails containing, at best, questionable language and inappropriate material given we are in 2016 where anything that can be embarrassing will be leaked. I suppose it’s like the child who does something dumb and figures he or she will not get caught (assuming they even think of the consequences).

One email appears to show DNC staffers asking how they can reference Sanders' faith to weaken him in the eyes of Southern voters. Another seems to depict an attorney advising the committee on how to defend Clinton against an accusation by the Sanders campaign of not living up to a joint fundraising agreement. So much for objectivity, the basis for trust, on the part of Wasserman Schultz and the DNC.

The bigger issue is the DNC and its supporters are trying to deflect attention away from the fact that some of the emails are downright embarrassing and include statements that lead one to believe the party may have been trying to influence the democratic process and make it more difficult for Bernie Sanders to be chosen as the Democrat nominee for President. That is the message brought front and center in the hacking incident.

The DNC has been trying to kill the messenger – those that hacked and released the emails – rather than deal with the ethical violation. This doesn’t mean we should ignore an attempt by the Russians or others to illegally access information about our Presidential candidates or for any other reason. What it does mean, however, is the DNC must be transparent and take responsibility for irresponsible behavior and attempting to influence the political process.

Last Friday the story got more bizarre when it was learned that computer systems used by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were hacked in an attack that appears to have come from Russia’s intelligence services, according to a federal law enforcement official. Clinton’s campaign said in a statement that intruders had gained access to an analytics program used by the campaign and maintained by the national committee, but it said that it did not believe that the campaign’s own internal computer systems had been compromised. Time will tell whether this is true or not.

My guess is there is much more to come and hacked emails will continue to flow throughout the next three months. I believe it is a separate group with ties to the Russian government called “Fancy Bear,” which is connected to the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence service. We need to leave no stone unturned in making a definitive determination of guilt.

Still, the bottom line is some people seemingly never learn their lesson. In the mid-1970s the country was riveted to the Watergate hearings where the Republicans were looking for embarrassing information about the Democrat party. We all know how that ended.

The embarrassing emails of the DNC and underlying motivation for them, and the Watergate incident, bring to mind what Albert Einstein said years ago: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 2, 2016. Dr. Mintz is Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.

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