Navy Captain Owen Honors was relieved of his command of The USS Enterprise. This is the guy behind the viral videos that made the news this week.

I want to blog about the news coverage of the firing. For example, this Yahoo! News article has the headline “Navy Firing Over Videos Raises Questions Of Timing.”  Here is the opening paragraph:

The Navy brusquely fired the captain of the USSEnterprise on Tuesday, more than three years after he made lewd videos to boost morale for his crew, timing that put the military under pressure to explain why it acted only after the videos became public.

Two observations:

  1. Sadly, it does make perfect sense to respond to his firing now by complaining that he wasn’t fired earlier.  (And to complain less if he wasn’t fired at all.) The firing now reveals that his behavior crosses some line that the Navy has private information about.  Now that we know he crossed that line we have good reason to ask why he wasn’t punished earlier.
  2. Obviously that fact implies that it is especially difficult for the Navy to fire him now, even if they think he deserves to be fired.

The more general lesson is that there is tragically too little reward for changing your mind due to social forces that are perfectly rational and robust.  The argument that a mind-changer is someone who recognizes his own mistakes and is mature enough to reverse course cannot win over the label that he is a “waffler” or other pejorative.  And the force is especially strong when it comes to picking a leader.

 

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