Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Privileges of Rank

On Tuesday, the world was made a little safer for political correctness (and more dangerous in every other respect) when Naval Captain Owen Honors was removed from duty as commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier...for making humorous videos in which he used "inappropriate language" like the f-word. Several years ago.

Captain Honors, whose career has been both exceptional and unblemished until now, performed in short video skits which had a distinctively "locker room" quality to them - but seem far more tame than the average primetime sitcom. The purpose of the videos, which were shown aboard ship via closed circuit television on movie nights, was to raise morale. Which they did.

But because some of the skits had content which could be construed as anti-gay (sailors were shown soaping up each other in the shower a bit too happily, although even in the skit Honors simply shrugged it off and moved to another shower stall), and because the skits made liberal use of the f-word, the powers-that-be are now saying that he has to go.

Of course, anyone with half a mind fully expects men to speak in a raunchy way when they get together. Especially military men. So was the crime doing it on video, where it could be seen by six thousand entertainment-starved sailors?

Well, no. Because Joe Biden, who would become commander-in-chief should Barack Obama suffer a serious basketball injury, previously said that the signing of Obamacare was a "big fucking deal" on live television, for the entire world to see.

Granted, he thought he was simply whispering it to the president of the United States. Because, even at that level, that's just how real men talk to each other - right?


The hypocrisy here is stunning, but not surprising. The Navy loses a good man, additional fear is instilled in every commanding officer, military morale plummets, and our nation takes another step in the wrong direction as it strives to make our warriors more sensitive. All because it's unacceptable for anyone who's putting their life on the line to "swear like a sailor."

But apparently it's still okay to swear like a vice-president.



Bobo said...

Hey sailor, new in port? Isn't it amazing how our so-called "celebrity heros", college & professional athletes, and politicians whom the media just adore are forgiven for having drug and alcohol problems, sex and marital scandals, serious criminal activity (dog fighting), going into rehab multiple times yet, when a person of responsibility (military person, police officer, doctor/nurse) does something that isn't PC or displays a potential lack of judegment that doesn't affect their job performance, they get raked over the coals.

I have heard nothing in the news that Honors was a bad military leader, that he showed poor judgement under fire, or lack the proverbial moral and ethical backbone to be a military commander. As a matter of fact, based on his rank and accomplishments, he probably is a very capable, competent military leader who may or may not have showed bad judgement within the confines of his command. Did anyone on ship complain or, did they view the video for what it was...ship-board entertainment?

We all recognize the media is in the business of selling papers or airtime on TV/radio. The more they can hype up a story the better for them...whether factually true or not.

If people actually knew, and if the media reported how politicians talk and act amongst themselves (a special law which exempts them from prosecution for sexually harrassing their employees comes to mind), what Honors did wouldn't amount to being a gnat on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise.

John the Econ said...

I'm sorry, but I can't condone this. There's not a PC bone in my body, but the "performance" by Captain Honors was not that becoming an officer and gentleman, and certainly not appropriate as a leader at the spearhead of America's global military force.

Yes, we've come to expect such behavior as de rigueur from our popular media celebrities and loathsome wanna-be-hip progressive politicians of low moral caliber like Biden. But we need to expect and demand more of the leaders of our military forces. Just because the Administration and Congress is full of undisciplined and morally inept clowns cannot justify the same in our military, which already suffers enough from the social engineering tendencies of the morally corrupt left.

Angry Hoosier Dad said...

You claim there's not a PC bone in your body, but you prove exactly otherwise by your inane complaint about the harmless actions of one of the "rough men who go in harm's way" so you can sleep in peace at night. Our military exists to kill people and break things; not to conform to your genteel ways. That they sometimes get rough or raunchy is one way to deal with the truth of their existence and mission and harms nobody. Not even you. Go back and read Stilton's piece on this and, when you get a chance, learn the word "perspective". You clearly suffer from lack of it.

Suzy said...

Wow you know what...the media is portraying this as worse than it was....when I quickly read over the news article I got the vague idea this guy was making pornographic videos. But if its just locker room humor...well....that's pretty crazy.

I suppose its a political stunt following the repeal of "Don't ask, Don't tell" because obviously now nobody is allowed to offend gays. Its too bad his career is suffering at the hand of politics.

John the Econ said...

Hoosier: I'm sorry that I expect so much more from the leadership of our fighting men and women than that I've come to expect from of our politicians and pop-culture icons.

And it's not just that he was "raunchy" that is the problem here. (I'm hardly so naive) It was that a man in a position of respect and leadership thought that appearing this way to his charges was an appropriate thing to do. It demonstrates very poor judgement from a man who as commander of one of the most powerful instruments of policy and destruction on the planet, we as citizens must rely upon to have impeccable judgement.

As for perspective, perhaps it's you who've been in the boiling pot of cultural decay a little too long not to find any of this objectionable.

Suzy said...

John I don't really think he's saying its not objectionable...I mean, I find it objectionalbe...but I just think he's trying to make a point that the government is extremely unfair who they choose to pull out to make public examples of....they ended this man's career for less than most politicians are guilty of...and for what purpose?

I truly think its because of "Don't ask, don't tell"....

Tristan said...

I'm with Hoosier on this one. Being from a military family, pranks, skits, bad language aren't really that rare. It's a tension breaker, and a pretty "damn" good one. To be perfectly honest, there is no better way to help those under you relax than to see you doing something stupid. You have to keep in mind that these were videos of the Captain from YEARS ago. It's not like it was recent. That's basically taking homemade movies and showing them to your friends.

Oh, and if someone wants to say, "He's their commander, not their friend". Umm, you clearly don't realize how life is on a ship. Those you serve with ARE your family and ARE your friends.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

Readers- Lively commentary here today - maybe this really is a BFD! (grin)

John the Econ, I absolutely agree that our military leaders should be held to consistent and high standards. I was not offended by anything other than the amateurish quality of the videos, but I'll acknowledge (as did Honors, in the videos) that they could be construed as offensive by some. Which made it a bad idea, and which made it appropriate for Honors to be told "don't make any more videos" several years ago - which is what happened.

Additionally, at the time the videos were made, he wasn't commander of the ship - he was the executive officer, among whose duties were raising morale. Maybe this attempt was ham-handed (did I say "maybe?" No - it WAS ham-handed), but it was consistent with the man trying to fulfill his duties.

For the past several years, Honors has been the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise...and presumably the rest of his record supports his rise into that important position. During his command, there have been no reported incidents or problems, and certainly no "jock talk" videos.

The punishment just doesn't fit the "crime" here. Discipline? Okay (although it probably already happened). Removal from command? Ridiculous.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

Readers- A quick update; in the post above I stated that Honors has been commanding the Enterprise for several years, but I got that wrong. He stopped making the videos several years ago, and was promoted to the top spot on the Enterprise in May of last year.

However I still feel that dismissal was over the top. Discipline would be appropriate, but it's entirely possible that such discipline was already levied out at the time the videos stopped.

Bobo said...

My belief is that a great leader is also a friend who is RESPECTED by whomever he/she leads. Respect is gained in any number of ways, and being a human being and able to poke fun at oneself and to take a poke back from others when in a non-threatening atmosphere builds comaraderie and trust among the troops is one component...but not the whole way. Other components are TRUST, ABILITY, KNOWLEDGE, SKILL, REPUTATION, EXPERIENCE and JUDGEMENT under trying circumstances.

When I was working we had only a couple of commanders whom most of us would have willingly followed into battle (or civil unrest in my case.) One was "a strategist" and the other was "take no shit from anyone." The common thread in each, however, was they both were extremely competent and capable of leading so we trusted them with our lives to do what was needed and right. They both also had a good sense for comedy and were at ease with the troops, would sit and drink with us (coffee or other adult beverages), and listen to our concerns, complaints, and; support and counsel us when we needed it. But, when it was time to go to work, we knew who was boss and took no priviledge in skirting our duty just because we had an enjoyable gathering the previous day with them.

I suspect Captain Honors had similar leadership attributes and relationships with his subordinates.

Colby_Muenster said...

Don't you just love the idea of our Commander in Chief passing judgement on Captain Honors? Our Commander in Chief who bows to terrorists, who hangs out with people like Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright, who concentrates most of his efforts on taking as many vacations as possible, who has an uncanny knack for pushing legislation that completely fails to address even one issue that us "commoners" are worried about.

We all know that BO just LOVES shit like this that he thinks will divert attention away from his complete and utter incompentency. Hell, you'd think Captain Honors did something really bad like kill babies or tell old people when to die!

Anonymous said...

What happened to Captain Honors is chilling. And I don't understand why it happend now. I agree with Suzy that the timing of this announcement is very suspicious. The videos were made several years ago when Captain Honors held a subordinate position. (Stop the snickering.) Everyone on the ship would have seen or heard about the videos. If they were so offensive, why was he promoted and given command of the entire ship? What happened to appropriate and progressive discipline where someone is taken aside, told that their behavior is unacceptible, possibly "read the riot act", told to cease and desist, and warned that future offenses of this nature would lead to more punitive actions up to and including demotion and/or dismissal? Being relieved of command and assigned a desk job over something that happened four years ago seems overly punitive, particularly since by all accounts Honors was an excellent leader DURING A TIME OF WAR. And why couldn't this situation have been handled as a "teachable moment" (as our alleged president loves to preach). Political incorrectness (unlike treason or specific rule violations) offends people differently and sometimes not at all. I would think it impossible to tiptoe around every person's personal sensibilities while trying to maintain morale in a fighting force. Does every military person hoping to advance now have to look back at their careers and worry about every ****ing thing they said and did years ago? Is a gold star in PC the primary path to promotion? That's the quivalent of voting "present." Finally, why is no one else being held to the same standard as Captain Honors? Someone promoted him.

Anonymous said...

I meant "equivalent."

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

Earl (immediately above)- Very well said!

Joseph said...

John the Econ, have you ever been in the military? Maybe I'm just de-sensitized but once you've spent long periods of time doing menial labor or performing the same drills for the 45th time in 30 days at near minimum wage (or lower based on worked hours) in a God-forsaken place maybe you would not be so sensitive. Combine that with being away from your family and it just adds to the morale drain.

I've served with men who have done things Captain Honors did and can say those are the type of men who kept me going when what we were doing just plain sucked (uh oh, I said sucked...please censor).

moronpolitics said...

Has the military released a list of words that are acceptable to say when you take a 9mm through the chest? Is "Darn!" allowed? How about when you see you best friend's head disappear from his shoulders? Will stronger language be allowed if he was your lover?

During basic do drill instructors yell "you pathetic speller! User of incorrect syntax!! My grandmother would, of course, be able to do as well. YOU probably think she couldn't DON'T YOU, PRIVATE??? Xenophobe!! Racist!! Self-doubter!!"

John the Econ said...

Joseph: No, I have not been in the military. But I know and have known countless soldiers and officers. And of all the officers I've known (very established, competent and respected men) I can't imagine any of them participating in what Captain Honors did.

Jim said...

I do not agree that this man should have been fired for what he did. The video was made for private consumption (him and his men) and not for the general public. That being said, as a general rule, I am not a fan of the use of the "f" word or other words of the same variety, especially among those in leadership. I deal with corporate big shots from time to time and nothing peeves me more than to hear someone supposedly intelligent and on top of his game using such gutter slang unnecessarily. It is almost as if they have such a deficient vocabulary that they don't any other words. Proper words. Those who frequently throw around the "f", the "gd" word and others as part of their normal routine are people I feel sorry for. I mourn their lack of education, vocabulary, and decorum. It's a little different in the military and I am not saying that these comments apply to General Honor any of our other military people. However, in the corporate world, and in the general public, the use of such words shows a lack of professionalism and a lack of respect for those who either choose not to, or are sufficiently educated enough not to use such language.