Slate pro-tip on executive management: Only bad CEOs oppose same-sex marriage
posted at 12:01 pm on April 4, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Actually, Slate has two pieces up today on the Mozilla/Firefox nuttiness that cost Brendan Eich his job as CEO of the company, for a private political donation six years ago for a referendum that passed in California by a significant majority. Let’s see if you can guess which one is the satire. First up is Slate’s senior technology writer Will Oremus:
There was a time when supporting gay marriage made you a radical. Then there was a time when it made you a progressive. Now we’ve reached a point where not supporting gay marriage makes you unfit to lead a major Silicon Valley organization.
Some will say we’ve come too far, too fast—that it’s unfair to pillory someone for a political view that was held by the majority of Californians just six years ago. They’re wrong. …
The notion that your political views shouldn’t affect your employment is a persuasive one. Where would we be as a democracy if Republicans were barred from jobs at Democrat-led companies, or vice versa?
But this is different. Opposing gay marriage in America today is not akin to opposing tax hikes or even the war in Afghanistan. It’s more akin to opposing interracial marriage: It bespeaks a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others. An organization like Mozilla might tolerate that in an underling, and it might even tolerate it in a CTO. But in a CEO—the ultimate decision-maker and public face of an organization—it sends an awful message. That’s doubly so for an organization devoted to openness and freedom on the Web—not to mention one with numerous gay employees.
Next, Will Saletan offers advice that the effort shouldn’t stop with Eich, but that the angry mobs should force companies to purge all the bigots:
Some of my colleagues are celebrating. They call Eich a bigot who got what he deserved. I agree. But let’s not stop here. If we’re serious about enforcing the new standard, thousands of other employees who donated to the same anti-gay ballot measure must be punished.
More than 35,000 people gave money to the campaign for Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that declared, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” You can download the entire list, via the Los Angeles Times, as a compressed spreadsheet. (Click the link that says, “Download CSV.”) Each row lists the donor’s employer. If you organize the data by company, you can add up the total number of donors and dollars that came from people associated with that company.
The first thing you’ll notice, if you search for Eich, is that he’s the only Mozilla employee who gave to the campaign for Prop 8. His $1,000 was more than canceled out by three Mozilla employees who donated to the other side.
The next thing you’ll notice is that other companies, including other tech firms, substantially outscored Mozilla in pro-Prop 8 contributions attributed to their employees. That includes Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo, as well as Disney, DreamWorks, Gap, and Warner Bros.
Thirty-seven companies in the database are linked to more than 1,300 employees who gave nearly $1 million in combined contributions to the campaign for Prop 8. Twenty-five tech companies are linked to 435 employees who gave more than $300,000. Many of these employees gave $1,000 apiece, if not more. Some, like Eich, are probably senior executives.Why do these bigots still have jobs? Let’s go get them.
As readers have no doubt surmised, Saletan’s is the satire, while Oremus’ should be. What makes a bad CEO can and has filled books, but his private political donations fall very far down any list — except for the so-called “tolerance” and “no-H8” squads that demand total subjugation to their agenda as the price to pay for public engagement on any level. Oremus noted that no one seemed to have a big problem with Eich’s presence as chief technology officer after the donation was made public, even though that too was an executive-management position with great control over the direction of the company. And despite all of the pitchfork brigade’s fulminating for his removal, no one has offered a single point of fact that indicates that Eich treated LGBTQ employees any differently than others while serving as CTO.
As Saletan points out by looking at the data, the notion that opposition to SSM serves as a definition of fringe thought and bigotry is risible when seeing just how widespread that position is, even in the entertainment industry. Support for the traditional model of marriage goes way beyond the CEO level, obviously. Should companies where that support far outstrips that for SSM demand the resignation of CEOs who support SSM? Stamping out political heterodoxy at the executive level seems to be Oremus’ point, to the extent he has one at all.
Had Eich been chosen as managing editor of The Advocate and this donation came to light, his termination would make a lot more sense. His politics would have been opposite of one of the explicit efforts by that publication. Similarly, since people have used this as a hypothetical, parochial school teachers who refuse to adopt the doctrines of the faith for which the school is designed to educate should know that they will have to find other work (which is why the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the ministerial exception to employment law in those cases). Those are cases where the mission of the organization would be damaged directly by personal political action in opposition to it. In this case, though, there is no such connection between private political action and the operation of the company or service in its mission — as Eich’s long tenure as CTO demonstrated enough for him to get the top job. Mozilla exists to create web technology, not to serve a political or faith mission.
Of course Mozilla’s board can choose to hire and fire as it sees fit, but this shows that demands for “tolerance” and “noH8” are unidirectional only. The rest of us can choose whether or not to use Mozilla’s products as a result of their intolerance for diversity of political thought. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the intolerance of the tolerance brigades, and its conclusion seems even more apropos now:
Tolerance does not mean acceptance or participation. It means allowing people to make their own choices about what they choose to do, and to respect the ability of their fellow citizens to do the same as long as it does no injury to them. What this contretemps shows is that America is getting a lot more intolerant the more “tolerant” we become.
Elizabeth Scalia has a suggestion to put an end to this “illiberal new power”:
If the headline strikes some as offensive, it will nevertheless remain, because that’s the case I’m making, and I’m sticking with it: a gay CEO with a pair of brass ones needs to step up and speak truth to a growing, and most illiberal new power. He or she needs to hire Brendan Eich in some sort of corporate leadership capacity for the sake of the most fundamental of freedoms — the freedom to think what you want to think, even if your thinking is unpopular or deemed “mistaken” — and in so doing boldly declare that our society has no truck with inquisitions. …
The very same people who have declared, “I yam what I yam”, and “we’re here, we’re queer; get used to it,” and who fought against discrimination on the basis of physical or emotional natures are proving themselves empty of magnanimity in victory. They are now saying “don’t be who you are,” and “you’re wrong, you’re gone; get used to it.” They’re applauding employment discrimination on the basis of an intellectual or spiritual philosophy.
What are they, anyway, philosophobes? Are they so terrified of any outlook which does not conform to theirs? I always thought a well-founded argument could withstand a little principled opposition. Apparently not.
Eich’s treatment is a symptom of weakness, not strength. Let’s hope it costs Mozilla, and teaches a lesson for all of the other companies that consider surrender to the “tolerance” squads.
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