The news is aflutter with the story of Navy Capt. Owen Honors, until today the commander of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, and the revelations that he produced and shared an offensive attempt at humor with the sailors and marines aboard the navy vessel in 2007. The videos included foul language, homophobic content, and sexual gestures, and Capt. Honors has lost his command of the Enterprise because of it.
At the risk of infuriating feminists, gay activists, and others who are appalled at this behavior unbecoming a senior officer, I’d like to suggest that we may be overreacting slightly.
The captain was removed from command today due to the 2007 videos. Yes, some of the scenes were arguably in poor taste under the circumstances, but is this really the best response? (Click here to view his final video segment.)
I agree that the Executive Officer of the ship shouldn’t be creating and broadcasting scenes focused around masturbation and staged “shower scene” encounters to the 6,000 sailors and marines on the ship. Yes, the “f-bomb” sequence in which we see Capt. Honors and others saying “fuck” over and over again is ridiculous and juvenile.
And yes, I think it’s terrible that he used the OTHER “f-word” (for those not following, I mean “fag”) in the scene as well. Surely he never would’ve though it was appropriate to use the “n-word” in a similar fashion, but the “f-word” is okay to use?
Clearly, the XO even knew this would be controversial. He starts off the final segment with this:
“Over the years I’ve gotten several complaints about inappropriate material during these videos. Never to me personally, but gutlessly through other channels. This evening, all of you bleeding hearts, and you, fag SWO boy, why don’t you just go ahead and hug yourselves for the next 20 minutes or so? Because there’s a very good chance that you’re going to be offended.”
For the record, “SWO” is an acronym for “surface warfare officer” in the Navy. And yes, he’s saying this particular bit of dialogue in the “character” of an aviator, a bit of machismo straight out of Top Gun, and is presumably being over-the-top in keeping with the character.
A few minutes later, the XO-as-aviator refers to “the gay kid over there” when introducing the “Chicks in the Shower” segment, acknowledging that it’s the segment that has landed the XO the most complaints.
And yet… He continues to show all of this, knowing it’s going to offend people, knowing there are (and will be) complaints, and repeatedly stressing that the Captain and the Admiral aren’t in any way responsible for the video.
All of this occurred in the “XO Movie Night” series of videos, in which the Executive Officer (XO, or second-in-command of the ship) tries to boost moral and give the sailors a little levity while at sea. (Maintaining moral is traditionally one of the key areas of responsibility, outside of day-to-day management of the ship, that the XO is responsible for.) One female sailor from the ship compared the videos to what you’d see on Saturday Night Live or Family Guy.
Clearly, I’m not condoning the XO’s behavior in the videos. I think he showed poor judgment, acted in a manner that was unbecoming of a senior officer, and should be reprimanded. It’s definitely more “Captain Kirk” than “Captain Picard”, using the obvious Enterprise comparisons to Star Trek. But does this really mean Capt. Honors is not capable of ably commanding the ship?
I’m in the odd position of defending someone for actions that I consider reprehensible. But to be honest, I think the best option here is for Capt. Honors to put his experience, his position, his rank, and his service record to good use. Rather than yanking him out of command, this would be a great opportunity for the captain to be the poster child for the evolving U.S. Navy.
Given the stage to publicly apologize, accept a reprimand, and work to set a better example for senior officers going forward, the captain’s “politically incorrect” judgment from a few years ago could potentially be put to good use. Instead, people who were already pissed off will feel vindicated by his punishment, but many more people will miss out on the opportunity to be educated. The lesson they’re learning isn’t, “This isn’t how a Navy officer should act” but rather, “Don’t get caught, or the liberals will get you.”
We missed a chance to correct poor behavior and help thousands of sailors grow from the experience.