Thursday, January 6, 2011



The concept of Whistle-Blowing and Back-Stabbing, all rolled into one.

I have been watching with some disgust, the case of Owen Honors, the Captain of the U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier “Enterprise”. Not disgust at what he did, but the unmentioned back story of how this whole episode transpired.

For historical reference, for those that may not know what happened. Captain Honors was relieved of command of the Enterprise due to his participation in some morale videos that were created and distributed to the Enterprise Crew back in 2005. At the time, Honors was the second in command of the aircraft carrier. The videos, meant for crew viewing only, were laced with profanity and references to homosexuality and were meant to be entertaining and humorous and not to be taken seriously.

Everyone on board the ship knew about these videos, including the captain of the Enterprise. Honors was promoted to captain of the Enterprise almost two years ago and was generally well liked by his crew. He has a long and distinguished military career as a high ranking naval officer and a navy pilot.

Was what he did proper? Probably not. Did what he do merit his termination and the end of his military career? Probably not. But the military was embarrassed and needed a scapegoat,..... five years later.

So much for the back-story.

This whole episode makes me pretty upset, because I have been in the same situation, but for totally different reasons.

No one is asking the question, why this came to light five years later? The answer is, because someone was pissed off with Captain Honors and went to a newspaper with the videos. And they did so anonymously. They did not confront Executive Officer Owens at the time of the videos were made nor follow the military chain of command on-board ship with a complaint, or even notify the Captain about their concerns as far as we know. They waited for five year and then stabbed him in the back and ended his military career.

The reason they are ‘allowed’ to do this is a mantra in our newer, politically correct government, that states “something that is ‘offensive' to one worker, is offensive to ALL workers” and won’t be tolerated. This supposedly makes for a more safe and secure work environment, but when abused, it has the opposite effect. It creates team-splitting as opposed to team building.

Let me share my personal experience with this concept.

Back in the 1990s, I was employed in a state office. For reasons that are still a mystery to me, one of the supervisors that I worked under decided that they did not like me and wanted me fired. I assume she determined that I wasn’t a ‘team’ player, which meant that I didn’t back her up in certain office situations. So much so, that the other supervisors in the office counseled me to ‘stay away’ from her, because she ‘had it in for me.’

One day, I was called into my directors office and told that a complaint had been filed. That a ‘fellow employee’ (anonymous) had found something in my office offensive and it had to be removed. What was the offensive object? A small painting by the artist Maxfield Parish that was hanging on my wall. The painting showed a person (androgynous, you couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman) sitting by a campfire with a naked back. I agreed to remove the picture.

Now mind you, both the director and I knew what was going on, and we both knew who had filed the complaint, even though no name was mentioned. Since he was advised that someone was offended, he was obligated to take action.

Never-The-Less, for the following year, there were copies of Cosmopolitan and Vogue magazines laying on our office break room table that displayed naked models hocking Channel #5 and stating 10 ways to have better sex with your lover that were never removed. The hypocrisy was evident.

Was hanging the picture in my office not really, and if someone found it offensive and told me, I would have taken it down in consideration. Was Captain Honor’s foolish in what he did, yes, but life on board a Navy ship is different than life on main-street. The culture is different and the stress and chain of command are different.

In both instances, anonymous individuals sought to tear down people that had done nothing wrong in most of their co-workers eyes and were allowed to get away with it. The only thing they accomplished was to cause descent among the ranks.

I keep a watchful eye on my co-workers now, because anyone of them can 'claim' I told an off color joke in the men's room and make an issue of it with management in order to have me reprimanded. They won’t come to me to discuss the matter directly in order to resolve it.

The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is more wary now as well, knowing that as soon as someone's tour of duty is up, they can spill the beans (anonymously) and ruin someone else’s career.

Whistling blowing is one thing, if it involves criminal intent or defrauding someone. Whistle blowing just to get revenge is back stabbing. The Navy and the Government need to know the differencee.

….and that supervisor that had it in for me many years ago? She walked away from the job under a cloud of suspicion about a year later and no one knows what ever happened to her.


  1. So what do you think would have happened if the person who was offended by the videos had confronted XO Honors at the time? Or had formally lodged a complaint? What would the outcome have been? A formal apology and retraction by the Captain and his staff? C'mon...

    Would that have made that person's remaining time in the Navy better or worse? I'm betting on the latter. Maybe they waited five years out of consideration of their own careers. Sure, the "brave" thing would have been to follow the chain-of-command and lodge a complaint. But in the recent era of the military, that might have made this person's life a living hell. And it probably wasn't just one person who was offended. On a ship that large there were probably dozens who were offended. Some closeted gays...some women. Who knows?

    I hate to see a guy lose his gig over something this stupid, but he and the rest of the higher ups should have known better. It was all done in light-hearted fun, but sometimes light-hearted fun can be mean and offensive. Just because the Navy he grew up in was a hetero boy's club, doesn't give him the right to poke fun at those who are different.

  2. Earl, I am not going to defend Captain Honors. What he did was pretty bone-headed. Punishment is most likely warranted. But justice delayed is justice denied. This was for all intents and purposes public knowledge in the navy and has been ongoing on most navy ships for years. I would look to keel haul the highest ranking navy officer that knew of the videos at the time of their release, not the star of the videos five years later. This is higher ups covering their asses to save their careers at Honors expense.

    If you are on board a ship during war time and you find some of the 'blowing off steam' antics of your shipmates a little offense, you suck it up for the overall benefit of the 'team'. If you find it very offense to the point where it affects your performance you complain up the chain of command. Life isn't full of 'easy' choices, it is full of hard ones.

    ...and I love the fact that these videos were essentially 'training' videos for the crew highlighting ship-board operations and procedures interspersed with humor to make them interesting. You don't see any of the 'this how to keep the nuclear reactor from going critical' in any of the video bites being shown on television. Only the shower scenes and rude comments.

  3. Yes, BUT...if the person or persons who were unable or unwilling to make a stink over these videos at the time of their service because of how it might affect their career (or lives), isn't it also a "hard" choice to do so afterward knowing that they might spare future service men and women from this behavior? Even it it comes at the expense of one of the men foolish enough to encourage that behavior?

    I just wouldn't jump to the conclusion that the person (or persons) who waited to lodge the complaint took the easy way out. It may have been just as difficult a choice for that person as it would have been for another to say something right away.

  4. im pretty much with earl on this one.

    Some co-workers and i were just talking about this case last week.

    I think if the person HAD come forward at the time, it would have effectively ended THEIR military career, instead.

    either ending is just as stupid, if you ask me.

  5. Bonjour Lotus,

    That is terrible what you tell here. If it happened as you explain you are living in a kind of liberal Soviet Union.

    Here in France, if somebody gets fired or mobbed at the work place there is always the possibility to file a complaint at "Prud'homme" (a extra-judicial court composed of trade union members and bosses). In case you win (one mostly does, but not always) the employer has to reengage you or pay a heavy fine. Just for information.

    That was very interesting and worthwhile to read.