Why don't we like snitches?

spooje’s stupid question o’ the day

I was watching the abominable film Radio the last month. In one scene, several basketball team members play a little joke on the title character. They trick him into entering the girl’s locker room. Of course, the presence of a developmentally challenged black man stumbling into the girl’s locker room causes quite a stir.

The athletic director knows it wasn’t Radio’s idea to go in there. He asks Radio who it was that tricked him. Radio will say nothing. he takes the blame himself rather than give sombody up. The director says “you’re a better man than I am” or some such schlock. We see stuff like this all the time. From mundane siuations like grade school ( “nobody likes a tattletale” ) to important situations like professional organizations not wanting anyone in their ranks to talk ‘out of school’, as it were.


Rules, for the most part, exist for safety. Either the safety of the individual or a larger group. Those that violate those rules put indivuals or the larger groups at some kind of risk. (physical injury or exposure to liability or other costs)

Why would we consider someone who speaks up about rule violations a ‘snitch’ and think less of him? More to the point, why would we think highly of someone who, through his silence, shields rule-breakers from consequences?

And would you be a snitch? Say, for example, you have an ethically challenged co-worker. Said co-worker has broken some rule and it ends up costing your employer a considerable amount of money. Your Employer does not know who violated the rule, but you do. Do you tell? What if your employer might think that you broke the rule?

I guess it’s because snitches are seen as not being loyal and you don’t want to have to worry about being snitched on yourself.
Me? I have been known to be a snitch, I admit. Of course, I’ve never been the type to be worried about being popular. :slight_smile:

I’d snitch if somebody was doing something that could harm themselves or somebody else because that is what I was taught in elementary school.
I was taught that before you snitch to ask yourself if the person is doing something that could effect them or another person in a negative way.
I would also snitch to protect myself, I can’t see getting in trouble for another person.
I am not really into telling on people though, they would have to be doing something really detrimental for me to speak up, otherwise I say have fun.

I have known a few people who tell things that are not even important enough to be told, “Oh teacher he said a bad word”," yes, and…".

Not loyal to who? Loyal to the offending (rule breaking) party? Or loyal to the organization or society? To whom is loyalty owed?

And if one has to worry about being snitched on, isn’t one breaking (or likely to break) some rules?

I was taught not to “snitch” because it was seen as a brazen and ham-handed way of trying to curry favour with authority figures.

And even when you think someone might get hurt, you still get screwed over if you snitch. It causes animosity and distrust among peers. If the behaviour is serious enough, it draws the attention of the right people in the end anyway. Most of the time.

We’re worried they’ll eventually snitch on us.

This is a good question.

I think that part of it is due to the fact that many “snitches” do so for less than selfless reasons, turning in someone they don’t like or suddenly revealing something that they had turned a blind eye to when the situation suits them.

Because, shma, see, those coppers’ll never take me alive see? The snitches’ll be sleepin’ with the fishes, see?
Honestly, I think some pretty good answers have already been given by lavenderviolet and kung fu lola. It was not above my mom to say “YOU! X punishment for doing it. YOU! 2X punishment for being a tattletale.”

X punishment was usually pretty mild but could include “picking a switch” for ourselves for more severe infractions. Later when we wisened up to which switches would hurt and which wouldn’t, we’d have to pick each other’s switches. That would often lead to . . . interesting results :).


I wrote this post three times (due to inadvertent browser tomfoolery). Fuck rewriting it. Fuck Cliff’s notes, which I tried to write the last time the post was erased–only to see my Cliff’s notes get erased as well. I’m just going to state the point and get done with it: it’s not whether or not you snitch that matters to people, it’s whether or not you make that decision with the well-being of other people in mind. Get a bunch of high schoolers in big trouble for a mostly harmless prank: get disliked. Take down a CEO who fucked with major world economies and stole from thousands of employees: get liked. I’ve snitched in a drug investigation before because I felt at the time that it would reduce the damage done to all parties involved (there were extenuating circumstances which I don’t care to explain for the fourth time :smack: ) and nobody, including the people who I snitched on, dislikes me for it; they all recognize that I did what I did because I felt that it would be beneficial to all. As something of an amatuer advocate of drug legalization, I’m saddened to see that one of the people I snitched on got more blame than he deserved and is facing serious consequences because of it, and I’m saddened that I helped the War on Drugs take more political casualties. But that’s the breaks.

Agree with the whole loyalty/betrayal idea - you have to be in on the secret to be able to snitch. Also snitching generally involves bucking authority in some way. You don’t snitch on someone who is below you in the hierarchy (whatever its nature may be) - you snitch on someone who is your ‘superior’ or your peer.

Hierarchy is so fundamental to social cohesion that it is considered a priori (thought it was time somebody brought some latin into this discussion) to be more important than the offense you’re revealing.

Let me ask a different way:

How is keeping a violation of rule (or law) a secret a good thing? How is the greater good served?

Say you are a police officer. You know there is a another police officer who breaks the law. He…accepts bribes not to do his job. Yeah, that’s it.

Now, a police officer that accepts bribes not to do his duty is a bad thing. I think we can all agree on that. But if Internal Affairs asks you direct questions about this corrupt officer… What is best? To lie and say you know nothing? Then you wouldn’t be a snitch. You may get a reputation as a stand-up guy (the logic of which escapes me) amongst your fellow officers.

But then, the bribery still exists.

Are you now complicit, seeing as how you kept silent?

Well, not saying this is right, but I think the fundamental principle is that revealing the bad cop’s malfeasance hurts all cops, and weakens the power of the Police Force more than the original offense.

United against outsiders seems to be one of the ‘hard-wired’ rules of social groupings.

I snitched just a few days ago.

I’m doing a group project, (a presentation) and a member of the group wasnt/isn’t pulling her weight. She joined the group late, and has only turned up to one group meeting. She’s says she’s done some work, but we have yet to see it. Myself, along with the rest of the group sent an e-mail to our tutor telling him what’s going on.

There’s no way I’m letting that bitch affect my grade.

So basically, I’d snitch when not doing so would disadvantage me.

To expand on what enigmatic said, I think there’s a difference between ‘snitching’ in order put a stop to a problem, and ‘snitching’ in order to get someone in trouble or improve your image in the eyes of an authority figure. While some (including the characters in Radio) confuse the two, I think its the latter that draws the most ire. Rightfully so, in my mind, because often the snitch doesn’t care about setting things right, only about using the rules to his own profit.

So the snitch doesn’t care about settings right. But hasn’t the snitch *done * what’s right, albeit for selfish motives?

It depends on the situation, and whether one considers ‘right’ in terms of good/bad or by the rules/against the rules.

The situation I suppose could also depend on such things as whether the snitch were capable of correcting the situation himself without going to a higher authority, and who (if anyone) is affected by the thing being snitched on.
Strictly my opinion:
Calling the authorities because your neighbor is dumping motor oil down the sewer drains - ok.

Telling your boss that a co-worker is making inappropriate comments in the office - ok, but could be better handled by a simple face-to-face talk.

Telling the teacher that a classmate’s socks don’t match the rest of his uniform - snitching.

>So the snitch doesn’t care about settings right. But hasn’t the snitch done what’s right, albeit for selfish motives?

Interesting point. I think a person is morally obligated to snitch if snitching serves the greater good, whether or not the snitcher is doing it for that reason.

A snitcher in this case would have to consider carefully whether the snitching would in fact serve the greater good, versus the possibility the snitcher only imagines it would serve the greater good as part of rationalizing what he wants to do for only the wrong reasons. He might also find himself in the position of trying to convince others that he had to snitch for moral reasons despite his base desires.

But it’s not as if either having unfortunate motives, or anticipating being hard pressed to explain his actions convincingly, would relieve him of his obligation to the greater good.

By people who have nothing to say on whether you remain unemployed. Or at least you’d have to switch to the nonprofit sector.

The way it plays out in most enterprises is that you are expected to just quit and leave if you see something intolerable happening in your organization, and maybe then, on your exit, you tell the boss what’s happenning. I’ll never understand why that is considered more moral or more loyal than denouncing the wrongdoer and having them be punished.

The snitches that I have been around generally don’t have any redeeming values themselves. To me it always looked as if the snitch is operating on the belief that if he makes everyone else look bad, he’ll look better.

Hmmm… y’know, there’s something to that. There seems to be a sort of “understanding” that is someone really is a “stand-up” kind of fellow, he will be proactive in trying to keep others from doing wrong just as soon as the very first hint of irregularities arise; that this will get noticed by the less-ethical people, and they will take extra steps to keep him “clean” – and out of the loop.