Tuesday, January 04, 2011

More questions than answers

I've been following the news coverage of those Navy videos over the last few days and I still don't really understand what's going on. It leaves me wishing for context we don't have.

In case you don't know, the commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise (not the NCC-1701) is in trouble for offensive remarks he made on videos broadcast to the crew. Apparently the outcry caused by these videos is so strong the commander may lose his job.

I've watched the video, and there's no doubt that it's offensive. The video, or at least the excerpt available on line, is full of offensive comments, especially anti-gay slurs. Beyond that, what is striking is that the overall tone and content is juvenile in the extreme. Watching the video leaves you shaking your head, asking yourself, "These are the guys running our nuclear navy? Really"

But it's the questions about context that keep coming back to me, and I'd like to see answered. First, is there something in Navy culture where this kind of shipboard video is common, and is done in most ships as an unofficial form of morale-building entertainment? You almost get the idea that there is, but it's not in any of the coverage I've seen.

Second, after the anti-gay slurs, the most common comments on the videos are statements by the commander that in the case of any legal or court proceedings it is important to point out that neither the admiral nor the captain knows anything about the content of these videos. That makes me suspect that even before the current controversy there were complaints, and possibly even legal challenges, brought to these videos. It also suggests that in light of these prior challenges, if the admiral and captain didn't know what was going on they should have.

True, these videos were made during the time of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. During this time official military policy was not that homosexuality was incompatible with military service, but that it would be accepted as long as the ridiculous strictures of DADT were adhered to. The commander's hostile, anti-gay comments were an extreme example of bigotry that would, one hopes, not be accepted if they had been directed at racial minorities.

I hope the guy does lose his job, but more than that, I hope we get more information than we now have.

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