Every now and then I stick my foot in my mouth.
You’re shocked, I know.
I came across this open letter to Brad Torgersen on Myke Cole’s blog via Larry Correia‘s Facebook feed. It got me fired up, and I decided to comment on it. Given I was irked and pressed for time because I had to leave to pick up the kids from school, I was less than eloquent in getting my point across with my comment. Reading back, I’m munching on a shoe or two over there. Now, I doubt any of Myke or Brad’s readers will ever see this post, but since I’ve gone and spewed on the Internet, and that can’t be undone, I figure I might as well take the time to really say what I meant to say in that comment. For peace of mind, if for nothing else.
First, full disclosure.
I don’t know Myke Cole. Never interacted with him at all. Never read his stuff. That said, I’ve heard him speak on several podcast panels and interviews. He seems like a decent guy. The only complaint I had about him was the hands-on-hips, face-pointed-into-the-wind-so-it-can-dramatically-fling-his-hair manner in which he always worked “I’m in the military” into the discussions. Yeah…whatever dude, join the club. That said, I’ll grant it’s a strong selling point for him, because how many writers know the grip of a rifle from the muzzle? All power to him if using his military experience helps his career; I shall cast no stones here for that. (All the same, as a Navy guy I have to ask if anyone knows the reason the Coast Guard has a 5 foot minimum height requirement? … So if their boats sink, they can walk to shore. :P )
I do know Brad. We’re not intimate by any means, but I’ve interacted with him online for some time and we hung out at last year’s Writers of the Future awards. Again, not exactly tight as thieves but I’d like to think I’m not out of line to consider him a friendly acquaintance.
I’m not familiar with the statement Brad made which set Myke off here. I just got back from deployment and I’ve had better things to do than scour the interwebs for the latest kerfuffle – I only came across this screed because I happened to see it linked to Larry on Facebook during a quick scan. Maybe Myke’s objecting to something Brad said further back. Dunno. Don’t care.
Look, I’ve had to set fellow officers straight before because they were messing up. Mostly those junior to me, occasionally a peer, and once or twice more senior officers, up to and including my CO. It’s part of the job, and expected: forceful backup is a primary tenet of submarine operations. So I have no issue with one officer correcting another.
That said, there is a way to do that sort of correction, and I do take issue with the nature, style, and content of Myke’s open letter.
The entire letter is condescending, and lacking in professional courtesy or respect. Does he honestly think that Brad doesn’t know that, as an officer, he has a duty to all of his men, regardless of their personal situation? Or does he just think Brad knows but doesn’t care? Brad’s been doing this for a long time now. I think he gets it. And who the hell is Myke to lecture anyway? He doesn’t work with Brad, doesn’t serve with him. They’re not in the same chain of command, and neither has authority over the other. Has he ever observed Brad’s professional behavior? If not, he’s just speculating not even based on hearsay, and has no standing to judge or cast dispersions.
It’s not just condescending to Brad, but to the soldiers Brad serve with. Does he really presume that they are so thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive that they’ll go all wobbly at the knees because an officer in their unit might have said something, somewhere, about someone, that could be construed as offensive?
I mean, I know Myke’s been there and done that, but did he actually pay attention to military people when he was serving with them? The teasing that goes on between military personnel can be brutal. It’s part of how people relieve stress, and not meant to be hurtful, but it can be intense and covers most any topic. Soldiers are pretty thick-skinned. They’re also tough enough to let someone know when they’ve gone too far. And most of the time once that happens, people take note and that particular line doesn’t get crossed again.
That would be how adults deal with situations.
There’s an old saying that also addresses how adults (and professionals) deal with situations: praise in public, rebuke in private. If Myke really had a problem with Brad, he should have addressed it to him. In private. Not to his blog audience. Doing it the way Myke did publicly denigrates a fellow officer to no good effect.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that Myke’s thesis is correct, and Brad will discriminate against his homosexual soldiers, if any. Well, there’s a way to handle that, too. If a soldier has a problem, he addresses it to his Sergeant, who then brings it up the chain to Brad’s attention. Or he goes to Brad directly. This sort of complaint happens on occasion, and most of the time it gets resolved there because neither party had malicious intentions. But let’s say Brad didn’t fix himself. The soldier could then make a formal complaint that bypasses Brad completely, going to the Command Sergeant Major and CO directly. They would then investigate and take action as needed.
You know what wouldn’t help, or really do a damn thing about the situation? A blog post from a Coast Guard Reserve officer who no one has ever heard of outside of the books he’s written. I’m quite certain Myke knows this.
The entire piece reads as self-aggrandizing, moralistic preening. The sort of thing that drove me away from John Scalzi‘s blog, that says “look at what a great person I am and how horrible people are who differ from me.” It stretches plausibility to think that Myke really intended this to help Brad improve himself, or that he wrote it out of genuine concern for Brad’s soldiers.
It is an act of public shaming, nothing more, done for Myke’s own benefit, to put himself on a moral high horse and show how cool he is to his readers and writing peers. It certainly can’t benefit Brad, or the Army.
Myke should be ashamed of himself. And frankly, if dueling were still allowed under the UCMJ, Brad would be completely within his rights to demand satisfaction.