Skepticism

AI: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

There’s a lot of whispering going on about what is and is not appropriate in the military. The reasoning behind that is the recent Navy scandal involving Capt. Owen Honors (an ironic name for the situation) and a video containing gay slurs.

With the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which prohibited gays from serving openly in the military, commanding officers need to lead by example in an accepting manner. What used to be a boys’ club is now an equal opportunity community.

On my way up to my mom’s today, I was listening to a show on NPR which was covering this story. What I found interesting was the differing views ex-Navy callers had. The one that stood out to me the most was the man who had served on the USS Enterprise (does that name make anyone else giggle in nerdy glee?) under Capt. Honors. Mostly he talked about how some of the videos went over the top and that this was the worst of all of them. But then he went on to say how they had all appreciated the videos, “well, 98% of us anyway.”

Why should that make it ok? Considering you can’t please all the people all the time, in a situation such as this, isn’t it better to not say anything than to please the 98%? Are you surprised by the swift action the Navy is taking by removing Capt. Honors from his ship? What’s your problem, Kazanski?

Chelsea

Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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37 Comments

  1. Hi there!

    I just heard about this story, and as much as it shames me to say it … I’d … have to see the videos.

    I’m constantly torn by my hatred of homophobia/sexism/racism, and my hatred of hyper-sensitive political correctness. I think back to the over-the-top offensively racist/sexist/homophobic films of my childhood, and they were hilarious. Movies like Cannonball Run, Porky’s, even Blazing Saddles would NEVER be able to be made today, and now they’ve come out with Huck Finn without the words “Nigger” and ‘Injun”. (Not that Twain was writing a comedy. I get that, I’m still stuck on PC-ness here)

    I just feel like there should be some kind of middle ground between hateful, offensive, antagonistic speech, and something that’s just funny -despite- being racist/sexist/homophobic. I feel like there’s a difference between persecuting someone and joking about them.

    But of course, I really shouldn’t weigh in on this, because I’m a (mostly) White (mostly) Heterosexual Male. I’m allowed to be made fun of because I can “take it”. I come from a racial/sexual background that hasn’t been persecuted or oppressed for several centuries at least. So mocking my ethnic/sexual background falls a little flat. What are ya gonna do? Make fun of me for being Irish? Mock my heterosexuality? But I just worry that we’re all getting very sensitive about these things.

    Again, I haven’t seen the video. It’s possible that it’s the kind of offensive, homophobic thing that would make Howard Stern blush uncomfortably. It’s entirely possible that in 2 days someone will leak this video and I will look like some kind of raging homophobe for even daring to suggest that this guy might not actually be the most intolerant jackass to crawl out of the Holes of Montezuma. But I worry that this isn’t just a decent guy who’s getting raked across the coals to be made an example of. [shrugs]

  2. @Draconius:

    I don’t know if a vote of support from another (mostly) White (at least slightly) Heterosexual Male is worth much, but you’ve got mine.

    On the subject of Captain Honors possibly being a decent guy who’s being made an example of, I’ll add that I find this line in the article very telling:

    “It was unclear why the videos are just now surfacing.”

    This says to me that this whole thing is motivated not by a sincere desire to avoid offending people, but by some kind of political agenda. Either someone is trying to get rid of Honors for some other reason and was just digging up dirt on him, or the Navy is looking to make itself look good by showing how serious it’s taking the DADT repeal. Or both.

  3. Okay, I’m coming at this from a point of view that doesn’t look at the gay slurs. As someone who was in the Navy reserve and was deployed to Kuwait I am upset at his lack of profesionalism. He was the executive officer of the Enterprise when he made these videos. His behavior brought discredit to the command. He behaved in a way that was unbecoming of an officer. In the clip I heard on the radio he freely admits that complaints had been lodged against him becuase of the videos he was showing. He understood what he was doing was offensive to the sailors and the officers on ship. He wasn’t a junior officer. This wasn’t a one time lapse of judgement. When you are senior, when you are in command you have a huge responsibility. Junior officerslook to your example as to how to behave. Sailors look to you and to the chiefs to see what is acceptable. He failed. He isn’t fit to command.

  4. I hate to fall into the trap I’m about to.

    I understand why the guy said those things. He’s been living his life in an environment that is testosterone-laden warrior mindset. For the duration of his career he has been taught and has taught others that homosexuality is a weakness and a threat. When DADT came in, it is guys like this who had to bite back their anger, but who would no doubt have made life miserable for one who asked and told. He is very much a product of the environment.

    Yeah, that’s a trap I hate. The “he didn’t know any better” trap. Because it’s also a total cop out.

    As Gabrielbrawley very wisely puts it, Cap’n Honor messed up as a leader of men. I can see why he would have his opinions, but broadcasting them, particularly when he had received complaint about them in the past, shows a lack of good leadership and judgement.

    Should he be punished? Yup. Not because he’s got to be made an example of, but because he was in the wrong and acted like a dink. The navy expects better from their leaders, and he didn’t live up to those expectations.

    So what I’m saying is it’s no surprise that he felt that way, but he screwed up by glorying in it. We all have our ignorances, but we’re generally expected to rise above them.

  5. He was in a position of responsibility. He was responsible for those “2%” that “couldn’t take it”.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that unless you’ve been sidelined because of your gender, or sexuality, or race, you will never know how belittling it is to be the focus of this type of “comedy”. It’s one thing going to see a movie of your own accord, it is another thing altogether having your commanding officer belittle something about you on closed circuit tv, and THEN, when people complained about it through the appropriate channels, made fun of them for not being able to take it.

    He was supposed to be looking after them.

  6. @Draconius:

    I think you make some very good points, and speaking as someone who has been slammed, ad hommed, and banned from a few blogs specifically for criticising knee-jerk political correctness, I support your position — provisionally, of course. :)

    they’ve come out with Huck Finn without the words “Nigger” and ‘Injun”.

    This really bothers me. It is such an offensive and deeply ridiculous form of political correctness that attempts, through utterly useless and meaningless historical revisionism to change the past to “protect” the present. Profoundly idiotic.

    @BeardofPants:

    He was supposed to be looking after them.

    They are not children.

    I’m sorry, but I do not get it. Here we have a group of human beings, trained and charged with the task of going out to maim, harm, and kill other, often quite innocent, human beings more often than not for the express purpose of the protection of the wealth-generating property of the miniscule percentage of the wealthiest people on the planet, and folks are getting deeply upset because of of some bad comedy by a potentially homophobic alpha male potentially dumping on a marginal percentage of some members of this group of trained killers?

    Yes, I know that paragraph is probably going to make a lot of Americans really angry, but come on, this is the military we’re talking about, modern day Roman soldiers, not a bunch of kindergarten street-crossing monitors.

  7. @John Greg:

    olks are getting deeply upset because of of some bad comedy by a potentially homophobic alpha male potentially dumping on a marginal percentage of some members of this group of trained killers?

    Yeah! Fuck the marginal! Who cares if a couple trained killers are upset! Who cares if a handful of people risking their lives for (more or less) the greater good are not treated with basic human respect by their leadership and colleagues!

  8. @jtradke:

    [email protected]broodyhumanist:

    Hey, way-to-go at misunderstanding.

    No, I am not “okay with homphobia”, and in no way posted any such thing saying that I was.

    I am, as I clearly stated, somewhat mystified at the degree of high dudgeon over this incident specifically in light of the environment and specific sub-culture wherein it happened.

    If you want or need to read into my comments something I did not say, I cannot stop you, but I can try to clarify my statements — if you have the patience to actually read what I said.

  9. @Gabrielbrawley: He was the executive officer of the Enterprise when he made these videos.

    I agree with this (and others who have made a similar point.) If a movie makes an off-color joke that I don’t like I can leave, avoid that director/writer, or write a letter of protest. My options are much more limited when my executive officer makes a similar joke. Especially if I am one of those who are not asking and not telling homphobic jokes are abusive.

  10. @John Greg: Were you in the military? I get the impression that you weren’t from reading your posts. Most of the sailors and officers onboard the enterprise would be little more than children. A lot of them would only be 18 and away from home for the first time. A lot of the Ensigns would only be 22 and just out of college. Almost everyone aboard would not be trained killers. Most would be technicians. A few marines, a few sailors and the piolts would be war fighters. I worked on computers. Some of the store keepers would spend 12 hour shifts doing nothing but vending machines. If you were afraid of heights you could spend your entire cruise and never see the outside world. So yes, he is supposed to look after them. He failed his crew.

    I want to know what the Captain of the ship did. Was the Captain aware of the videos or the complaints? This is important as the Captain is responsible for everything that happens on his ship.

  11. He should not be “punished”. What he did is (arguably) not illegal, it is stupid, shows poor judgment, shows a lack of leadership, shows he is not fit to command a row boat, let alone something bigger. He should be relieve of command and never be put in a leadership position.

    That is not “punishment”, that is reserving leadership positions for, you know, actual leaders. He has shown that he is not a leader, he shouldn’t be in a position where he is called on to lead anything.

    They should do the same thing to any other officer who shows they are incapable of leading by exhibiting homophobia or other forms of bigotry. Relieve them of command. Not as punishment, but because they can’t do their job.

    To fight and win wars, you need to understand the enemy and also understand your fellow soldiers. That is one of the primary lessons in The Art of War. If you can’t do that, then you are not fit to command.

  12. Quibble: ” What used to be a boys’ club is now an equal opportunity community.” This is not true even in theory. Women are still barred from combat roles by the Army and Marines (thus barring them from roughly 40% of positions in these forces), and in fact all ground combat roles in all US Armed Forces, and women are also not only not required to register with the Selective Service, but in fact not allowed to do so. However you spin it and whatever you think of it, that’s not equal opportunity.

  13. @Gabrielbrawley:

    Were you in the military?

    No. Were you? If so, then, at least to some degree, I’ll take your word for it — though I must admit your description sounds just a bit too innocent, so to speak, to completely convince me.

  14. @John Greg:
    I understood what you meant and i don’t you were being homophobic; I do think you were wrong though and for a reason you may not have considered. The actions of this one officer gave tacit consent to the 98% (I’m using their numbers) that the 2% is not worthy of respect and therefore not worthy of trust. Furthermore the 2% is given the message loud and clear that they have nowhere to turn for redress.

    Your statement wasn’t homophobic; but it was shortsighted especially in an environment with no chance of leave and no outside contact for long periods of time.

  15. @John Greg:

    For the record I don’t think you’re homophobic or OK with homophobia.

    But I sure as hell didn’t miss your point. You are confused why people are upset. I was trying to illustrate, as sarcastically as possible, precisely what is so offensive about Mr. Honors’ behavior.

    For a more erudite version of what I was getting at, cf. @mrmisconception.

  16. I thought the army was afraid that men would get involved with other men or that women would do that with men so that’s why they wouldn’t let gays or women in the military, because the military is supposed to be a monolithic block… right?

  17. First, my cred: Retired naval aviator as an O-4. Been there, done that, got the sand in the boots.

    I saw the video posted on the Navy Times website, and two thoughts hit me in fast succession: 1. Looks like a guy just trying to have a good time, and 2. Wait a minute, that’s someone with command authority acting like a frat boy!

    I’ve had skippers who were like CAPT Honors, and frankly I didn’t have much respect for them. Maybe he did it to boost morale, but making himself as a TV host does not a leader make. My issue isn’t the homophobia, or sexism. Instead, it’s the lack of professionalism and leadership that he showed. A leader should be, “be like me.” As said earlier, there are many impressional young people on a carrier, for some their first exposure to the military and the Navy on deployment.

    Frankly, I think the Big “E” is better off without him.

  18. One of the things this whole mess suggests to me is whether CAPT Honors has the judgment to be in command of a major combatant ship.

    Who in his/her right mind these days would even make something like those videos and publicise them by showing them to the entire ship? Didn’t he give one second’s thought to what it might do to his career if they got out? You’d think that after the Tailhook scandal, these guys would get a clue…

    Guess not.

  19. First, let me say, I’ve not seen the video, or snippets. I’m at work, and I have a feeling its NSFW.

    Now, if it is as offensive as everyone seems to imply, I would probably let slide a lot more if this were some recent recruit, on a personal video, that got leaked, then if it were displayed int he manner it has been. First, if someone shares an opinion, completely divorced from facts, on a personal site, then I’m not willing to hold them accountable for their words. To me, this is like going over to someone’s house, and overhearing them say something offensive.

    Then, there’s the fact that this person was military. I’ll let slide more from a military person than civilians because they see and do stuff I could not handle. This applies to only the lowest levels of ranks. As you gain ranks, I expect you to be able to handle more and more. Once you attan the rank of this guy, I expect you to understand how to interact with others. You’ve graduated from the kiddie table to the adult table, and should act accordingly. if you chose to broadcast your views, and people disagree with them, then I see no reason why you can’t be held accountable for the statements you have made.

    Now, I’d like to end with I’m probably being too generous with my benefit of the doubt, but I find it hard to criticise someone for holding an opinion contrary to mine.

  20. @Gabrielbrawley: Yep, I am a civilian in the information sector. Like you, I support the warfighters. Thank you for making my points for me. Yes, he was absolutely supposed to be looking after them. Unless you are military, or have worked for the military, I guess you will probably never quite understand the level that this guy fucked up.

  21. As an addendum, even if you do believe that the military are all soulless killers, they’re still entitled as WORKERS to a safe work environment free from harassment & bullying. As innocuous as this video is, it is still a form of harassment.

  22. Retired Navy commander Zoe Dunning has a thoughtful comment on this issue, over at Americablog.

    What makes this news is that the producer, writer, director and main star of these videos is the ship’s Executive Officer (XO for short) and broadcast across the ship’s internal television network to the entire crew. For those who have not served in the Navy, the Executive Officer’s primary responsibility is the ship’s good order and discipline. When someone gets in trouble or violates a regulation, they take the sailor to the XO for punishment. He or she is the Sheriff in town, and the Commanding Officer the Judge. So when the ship’s Sheriff is knowingly producing (on the ship’s equipment) videos that mock and denigrate women, gays and lesbians (and even Surface Warfare Officers), it sends a strong signal to the entire crew as to what is acceptable behavior.

    Read the entire piece, its worth it.

    -S

  23. As a veteran of the armed forces I have a bit of a different take on this. Contrary to how everyone seems to interpret these videos, using homophobic terminology does not mean one is themselves homophobic. Many men, particularly in friendships with other men call each other ‘names’, usually offensive names, as part of their general friendship. This is common in frat houses or any other closely knit group of especially men. After a month of so of bonding when I went to basic training, when everyone turned effectively into very close friends willing to risk lives for each other(the entire point of the training), the immature name calling common to close friends, brothers, etc began in which all manner of ‘insults’ were tossed about. However bad taste it is, that included terms deemed homophobic. I’m inclined to believe that most of the ‘homophobia’ in this video is this flavor of peer name calling, as evident in the video by the Captain calling one of his peers that are also featured in the video sitting next to him gay several times, and one of the videos showing a mock simulation of 2 men showering. I wouldn’t imagine a true homophobe would mock up 2 men showering in a comedic context such as this. Obviously this isn’t very appropriate behavior, especially for such a leadership position, but I have worked with senior leadership within the military that skirted lines some would consider inappropriate in order to have a stronger peer connection with their subordinate soldiers, if that makes sense. Never did I, or to my knowledge my peers take any of the childish banter that is thrown around the barracks as license to go beat up homosexuals. Of course, that doesn’t make it right, or a good decision on their part.

    When your job description is the maiming or killing of other human beings, and you live your life among a group of peers who effectively become like brothers to you, I think it’s pretty naive to think that ‘professionalism’ is even remotely achievable, or even desirable by the majority of the personnel in these situations. That’s not to say he should be given a pass. Some sort of punishment is certainly in order, though frankly I think ‘relieving him of his position’ is a little knee jerk as a first ‘official’ response to the situation. If the PC police enforced these sort of standards on us as soldiers we probably would have shot ourselves.

    Louis C.K. has a funny bit about the term ‘faggot’ that illustrates some of my point that terms that don’t necessarily to mean what you think they generally mean http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IFloXOuLgA

  24. I’m with @PhysicsGuru & @Gabrirelbrawley. Sounds like CPT Honors would be a funny buddy if he was an enlisted schlep. He isn’t. He’s an officer and expected to set an example of professionalism that other sailors should emulate. We hold officers to a higher standard than regular guys the because they represent the ethos of the Navy and the United States as a whole.

  25. He did some stupid things three years ago and the issue was dealt with at the time. It seems inappropriate, to me, to punish him again.

    Note: Listen closely to the start of the video. His two companions (one of whom is GAY) are *INTENDED* to be his alter egos — IE: representations of him.

    I’m inclined to cut him a little slack. I don’t like the “double jeopardy” feel of the the thing. (IE: being tried for the same crime twice)

  26. I will credit the XO with taking full personal responsibility for his own actions.

    I watched the full 12 minutes — “the worst of it,” and miscellaneous clips. OK, it’s stupid and immature at times.

    I’m still left with the impression that making a big deal of it three years later is a bit excessive.

  27. “What used to be a boys’ club is now an equal opportunity community.”

    Must haz fast attack skipper who’s a woman before declaring this. It will happen, and we should wait for this before declaring victory.

    re: Honors. We have this habit of demanding perfection of our service people, and crucifying them if they don’t deliver. Meh.

    I served under two different XOs (and one CO) that I personnally considered a waste of protein…but they got the job done, more or less.

  28. “I come from a racial/sexual background that hasn’t been persecuted or oppressed for several centuries at least. ”

    Bloody paddy, tryin’ t’dig up a murphy middle o’ town square.

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