When is the truth a liability and why would those who fear the truth attempt to silence you?
Not just in politics or “real life” does this happen but behind the scenes of all forms of media rests the sleeping giant that no one speaks of (because they can’t… legally)… the confidentially agreement or non-disclosure agreement. These two items are similar enough that I will group them together yet they do vary in notable ways but for purpose of this article they are attached at the hip. These terms are that when you work for a company you are disallowed from revealing what you see/hear/do/experience to the outside lest you incur some form of penalty. A confidentially agreement is meant (in theory anyway) to protect proprietary secrets and sensitive business/trade information from leaking out… but in practice a confidentially agreement is mainly meant to stop ex-employees from telling the truth about what they had happen to them… I know this all too well from first hand experience… but I can’t talk about that… legally.
In the media of movies, television, music or comics these things are equally as common as they are in the corporate world but if you really break it down, isn’t the media just another form of the same corporate world that uses these silencing methods anyway? When you are on the crew of any media production that is in any way associated with a corporation you will have confidentially or non-disclosure agreements shoved at you before you are allowed to see too much, not before you start working but before you encounter something that they don’t want you talking about. In the media there is really no reason for a confidentially or non-disclosure agreement unless you are doing something wrong or that could be perceived to be wrong, remember these things are locks on the doors that the public is never meant to see behind. Say you work with a star that is a real dick or you notice rampant sexual harassment of the PA’s or you see flagrant violations of safety standards… well you are not allowed to tell anyone about that… not even the authorities or you will be in violation of your confidentially or non-disclosure agreement*. Why not just refuse to sign a confidentially or non-disclosure agreement then? Because you don’t work without one… yes you HAVE to sign one or you don’t get the job, it’s a racket the same as any other, if you want to work here you will sign away your soul or we will just find someone else that has less moral fiber than you.
When you hear commentary tracks that tell it all or read interviews with no filter one of two things happened in regard to the confidentially or non-disclosure agreement issue… either there was never one (they were less common before the 80’s) or the person telling the stories just does not care what happens to them. “But isn’t truth a defense against slander/libel”? Yes it is but we are not talking about truth here, we are taking about the willful violation of legal terminology, it does not matter if you are telling the absolute truth that you have evidence to back your case and the facts are not in dispute, you still violated your agreement. Truth is not a defense against violating a confidentially or non-disclosure agreement and you can (and will) still be sued for violating it which is where I have a problem. It should not matter what you signed (almost as a form of intimidation really) if that agreement violates standards of conduct or even the law.
Lets use the movie The Insider for an example… these are quotes from the movie version since we obviously can’t know what was really said in CBS offices at the time but these quotes sum things up very succinctly. Jeffery Wigand broke his confidentially or non-disclosure agreement with Brown and Williamson and talked to 60 Minutes and was vilified for what he did… not once was he accused of NOT telling the truth… not once did Brown and Williamson refute his claims… no, they went after him for violation of his confidentially or non-disclosure agreement.
[su_quote cite=”The Insider”] Lowell Bergman: “You pay me to go get guys like Wigand, to draw him out. To get him to trust us, to get him to go on television. I do. I deliver him. He sits. He talks. He violates his own fucking confidentiality agreement. And he’s only the key witness in the biggest public health reform issue, maybe the biggest, most-expensive corporate-malfeasance case in U.S. history. And Jeffrey Wigand, who’s out on a limb, does he go on television and tell the truth? Yes. Is it newsworthy? Yes. Are we gonna air it? Of course not. Why? Because he’s not telling the truth? No. Because he is telling the truth. That’s why we’re not going to air it. And the more truth he tells, the worse it gets!”
Mike Wallace: “I mean, he’s got a corporate secrecy agreement – give me a break! I mean, this is a public health issue! Like an unsafe airframe on a passenger jet or some company dumping cyanide into the East River, issues like that! He can talk, we can air it! They’ve got no right to hide behind a “corporate agreement”!”
Wigand tells the truth and is still having the fallout of his “violation” crashing down on him and what does that do to future whistleblowers who might want to come forward with some damning truth (remember in this case it was a health reform issue, not some celebrity scandal, this mattered)… it sends a chilling effect out which is precisely what those who force these agreements want… they want you scared to talk.
Refusing Non-Disclosure Agreements
I have had to sign a few of these… I am not going to transgress past what I signed… sure, I regret signing it now but I did so and I have to live with what I did and what I know… for now… who knows what the future will hold… in the meantime though these confidentially or non-disclosure agreements are being used to keep the public from knowing real things that effect their real lives at the same time they are being used to keep a movie star’s sexual habits secret. There is really a broad cover that these things offer.
All of that said though does it not strike you as odd that the movies you love, the music you adore and the television you consume are all so full of these confidentially or non-disclosure agreements that you as the consumer can never really know the truth? What are they trying so hard to hide and why go to these lengths to hide it if it’s not something worth protecting right?
I will never sign another confidentially or non-disclosure agreement again, I am ashamed I have signed them in the past and I would like to see a wave of change move over the industry which pushes these things out as the very act of getting the job. One of the reasons I was kicked from being on that “reality” show was that I would NOT sign a confidentially agreement to keep secret how they were going to fake a large portion of my “reality” for the screen. I was “nippicking” the language they were using and when I brought up issues with faking footage “to make the episode flow better” I revealed to them that I was not going to stay quiet for this. I never signed the non-disclosure agreement and they dropped me from the show.
What would I like to see happen? I would like to see truth prevail over conspiracy and most of all I would like to see the facade of all of this dropped and the emperor revealed to be stark raving naked. What are they hiding? It’s not that everything is running as planned or that what you see is what you get, it’s that something duplicitous is going on and they can use confidentially or non-disclosure agreements to skirt the law or at least reduce exposure. The news should report the facts and not be concerned over whether there will be legal liability down the road, facts are facts and if you fear legal ramifications then YOU are doing something wrong in your fact checking. When a director or any crew member on a movie wants to talk about what they witnessed they should never be bound by a legal maneuver that seeks to only protect the corporate entity and to conceal the truth and most of all it should be illegal to force a non-disclosure agreement to work in a field. By using these, frankly strong-arm, methods you are showing just how untrustworthy you truly are.
*You CAN tell authorities with protection under the whistleblower statutes but good luck not still being sued for violation of that document you signed stating that you would not do exactly what you just did do.