On March 4th, Thomas Brennan reported on what he witnessed on Marines United, a facebook page which had been utilized to spread hundreds of nude photos of fellow female Marines. Brennan, a former Marine and Purple Heart Recipient, has received countless death threats since running the story.
“Here you go, you thirsty fucks … this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more coming.”
Within one minute, commenters began posting:
“Holy fuck, there is a god.”
The federal employee – the one who has since been fired – posted a response:
“Anyone can contribute. They just have to (private message) me for their own personal upload link.”
Originally, the page was intended to be a means for past and current Marine Corps members to link and support each other through troubles associated with PTSD. It should come as no surprise however that just as in any corner of the internet, it took one person to set off the lewd and disgusting chain of events. If the nude photos weren’t enough, viewers of the photos began quickly posting comments not only condoning rape, but outright encouraging it. Two dozen women were specifically identified by name, rank and military duty station. Wrote one user:
“take her out back and pound her out.”
Others suggested more than vaginal sex:
“And butthole. And throat. And ears. Both of them. Video it though … for science.”
To even the casual internet user, comments like this are far from shocking. Every corner of the web is covered in this type of degrading and disgraceful language. It is this exact type of behavior however which serves to normalize sexual harassment and even sexual violence. It is often argued that the anonymous nature of the internet makes it difficult to police- and this is a point that General Robert Neller raised many times today in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. When asked if he thought the page was a result of men being upset that women were allowed to join the Marines, he conceded that it was probably a factor.
It is no difficult task to discover who a commenter is through a little research. Confronting these issues on-line and in the military simply need to be made a priority- it would seem that up until this incident, sexual harassment has not been important. Online communities develop thoroughly enough to where if you ask other fellow users questions they could identify these individuals. Furthermore, it has been reported that a large number of Marines commented and participated on the page using their own names and often even volunteering which battalions they were a part of and where they were stationed.
During today’s Committee hearing, General Neller also stated numerous times he was unable to present a solution to the problem. Senator Claire McCaskill however had a suggestion: dishonorably discharge current active duty members found to be involved- that it would encourage individuals not to engage or face punishment. I personally might suggest going one step further- make their names public, force them to own their comments.
One man, a former marine, emboldened by the fact he was no longer subject to military law posted his discharge papers, and challenged NCIS to come after him. Of the 30,000 members of the Marines United page and the approximately 500 individuals which directly accessed the google drive link, not a single person reported the page- this includes the page administrators- two of which contributed to the photo comment streams.
For a branch of the military that has been aggressively pursing female recruits, the Marine Command’s inaction is certainly not helping the cause. How- when the United States Commander-in-Chief has volunteered that he has a assaulted countless women- does the military encourage women to join? Aside from the obvious moral issues at hand- it would seem to be in the military’s interest to properly handle this situation to better protect our nation.
The issues in the military are only a glimpse into the larger issue across America. It is a reflection of the overall US culture of silence. The military needs to shake-up leadership- it needs to drastically change the way they do business; it needs to protect the individuals who bring these cultural issues to the forefront. Insecure men being threatened by woman and lashing out is a tale as old as time, they are not going away. It is the duty of men to confront other men- otherwise this culture of abuse will never end.