Disrupting America — Navy Line Up

Marines United, a failure of leadership

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“I don’t have a Facebook page; I don’t do social media. I’m generationally challenged here, all right.” Marine Commandant General Robert B. Neller said this during a Pentagon press conference Friday, March 10.

He followed this with his annoyance that this matter distracted from his plans to talk to Marines training in Norway, and implied that this may not be a thing that’s actually even happening:  “If you’d ask[ed] me a week, two or three weeks ago what’s my number one concern, it wouldn’t be looking for website where Marines are allegedly posting pictures of other Marines and making degrading, misogynistic, objectifying comments.”


Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., brought this exact issue up four years ago after receiving a tipoff pointing her to Marines’ extremely public bad behavior.

“We share in your indignation.” General James F. Amos, then-Commandant, said this in response to Speier’s address in 2013.

“I wouldn’t call it a trend yet,” Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Raines, the outgoing Marine Corps Equal Opportunity Advisor, said to the Marine Corps Times in 2013.

In 2014, Task & Purpose released a story lambasting the Corps’ total inaction and non-response to the issue of Marines using social media to sexually harass each other. The Corps diligently continued its limp stance. “There is no tolerance for discriminatory comments. It goes against good order and discipline,” said Captain Eric Flanagan, then-Marine Corps spokesman. He went on to waffle about how the DoD was “unable to take action against derogatory comments.”

Unable to take action against derogatory comments.

I guess they don’t share in that much indignation.

This is a stance that has been reinforced in response to this latest onslaught over the exact same issue: USMC leadership has pushed a “White Letter” – official guidance to leaders – detailing changes to the existing social media policy were in the works to address this particular issue.

The thing about that, though, is the social media policy released in 2010 already thoroughly addresses this issue, as do the laws set out by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These laws specifically address the production, viewing, and dissemination of lewd imagery, as well as conduct that negatively impacts unit cohesion and “good order and discipline.”

The only reason you would need new laws and standards are if you are among the fewer, prouder, who don’t believe that behavior displayed online “counts” in real life.

Like Neller, apparently.

For an organization that prides itself in leadership – not just in our own ranks, but leading the American people by setting the standards for desegregation, ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” – and innovation with little to no resources, all Marines should be raising an eyebrow to Neller’s dead fish “I don’t know, I don’t ‘social media’” response.

Imagine if Marine leaders took that response in other scenarios. “Well, gents, we need to launch a counterattack in order to defend the Camp Bastion flight line, but I’m not really a ‘ground combat’ guy, so we’re just going to sit here and pretend nothing’s happening outside. Don’t worry about those exploding Harriers, we’re occupational field-challenged.”

“Idk, it’s not my thing,” is just not traditionally an acceptable answer when Marines are faced with a challenge. Unless you’re the most senior Marine in the Marine Corps, I guess.

The problem with this answer is that not only does the attitude fly in the face of the values and traditions of the Corps, but it is flatly contradicted by the simple fact that Marines using social media to sexually harass, libel, and stalk their (mainly female) cohorts has been a public issue addressed by Congress since 2013.

“I don’t do the FaceSpace *lol* *shrug*” doesn’t cut it. It’s his job to know. If he truly cannot grasp it, it is his job to surround himself with experts who can.

What is more likely is that Neller shares in the attitudes of the Marines brazenly harassing each other in a public forum with their photos and full names – sometimes even duty stations and commands – printed right next to their promises to hunt down and rape fellow Marines, encouraging naysaying Marines to kill themselves, calls for “fire for effect” to mobilize their cadre to release private contact information for the naysayers in question: bad behavior doesn’t count if it’s online.

If a Marine ran up to a woman in the base exchange, flipped up her skirt, took a picture, then started screaming her full name and phone number as loud as he could, he’d be arrested. The victim would not (should not) then be publicly shamed and asked what she expected to happen for having the audacity to leave her home with her naked female body still existing under her clothing. If she didn’t want to be assaulted, she shouldn’t have consented to enter a public space, right? For some reason, taking private photos shared without consent, and blasting them to tens of thousands of peers with all of the subject’s personal information is Okie Dokie.

An oft-forgotten fact about service in the military is that military members are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which severely limits their right to free speech. The same military justice system that allegedly has no recourse for Marines hurling racial and sexual slurs at each other had no problem giving the boot to Sergeant Gary Stein in 2012 after he made a Facebook page critical of the President.

This system is allegedly so inept they cannot hold Marines accountable for openly, in print with published proof of their comments next to their own names and photos, threatening to rape a fellow Marine, had no problem coming down on a Marine for using the exact same forum and methods to criticize his leadership.

The only difference seems to be that in one case the victim is the chain of command, and in the countless other cases, the victims are by a vast majority female Marines.

At least the military justice system works when they want it to. It would seem that the only real difference is whether or not they actually want to use the tools they’ve had their disposal this whole time, or if they want to keep shifting blame. In 2014, Flanagan blamed Facebook for protecting its user’s personally identifiable information.

What’s the excuse going to be this time?

We want to thank Lisa Tourtelot for stepping forward to convey a passionate and important message on a controversial topic. 

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