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Official channels

Official Channels

Brian Martin

Sparsnäs, Sweden: Irene Publishing, 2020

ISBN 978-91-88061-44-7

PDF available for free at

Printed copies from

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Official Channels ‒ available as a free download ‒ is written by Brian Martin, emeritus professor at the University of Wollongong, and published by Irene Publishing, a non-profit operation, committed to providing works relevant to grassroots social change.

Official channels are things like grievance procedures, ombudsmen and courts. They are supposed to resolve problems and provide justice. However, trust in official channels can be misplaced: in many cases they may give only an illusion of a solution.

In Official Channels, Martin tells what he has learned about formal procedures set up to deal with problems associated with whistleblowing, sexual harassment, plagiarism, Wikipedia and other issues. He says it is unwise to put too much reliance on official channels and that more emphasis should be put on developing skills, changing cultures and exploring alternatives.

Martin writes:

"After I became president of Whistleblowers Australia in 1996, I heard from whistleblowers every week. Many of them repeated the same story: grievance procedures and watchdogs (organisations intended to stop wrongdoing) were unhelpful. In the early 2000s, I developed the backfire model. When powerful groups do something seen as unjust, they regularly use a variety of methods to reduce public outrage. One of them is to use or set up official channels, such as government-initiated inquiries, that gave an appearance of providing justice, usually without much substance. In formulating this component of the model, I was influenced by my prior experience with whistleblowers, but soon discovered plenty of evidence that the same methods are used in many other circumstances."

Brian Martin is the author of 20 books and hundreds of articles on dissent, nonviolent action, scientific controversies and other topics. His website is

Published in Chain Reaction #139, national magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia, May 2021.

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