Video: ABC uses Westboro Baptist protests to illustrate story about Brendan Eich

A nice catch by Newsbusters. It’s bad enough that ABC would equate all opposition to gay marriage with the “GOD HATES FAGS” strain, but distinguishing the two is especially important in reporting on the Eich saga. The reason this is controversial is because, by all accounts, the guy wasn’t abusive towards gay employees. Mozilla’s chairwoman admits that he never behaved in a way that “was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness.” The case against him remaining as CEO rests entirely on one political donation he made as a private citizen more than five years ago. If you’re illustrating that point with footage of angry Phelpsians screeching at a protest, you’re stacking the deck on viewer perceptions of Eich. ABC wouldn’t do that, would they?

Two tangential points this afternoon. One: Some conservatives on Twitter are asking Mozilla and OK Cupid (the dating site that protested Eich’s promotion by asking users to drop Firefox when accessing their site) to stop using Javascript too in the name of equality. Javascript was, after all, written by … Brendan Eich, back in the mid-90s when he worked for Netscape. Their response, I assume, will be that it benefits no one to drop Javascript now; Eich, after all, doesn’t get royalties or licensing fees from it (I think) so he’s not being enriched by their use of it. What if he was, though? Would they drop it then, or are grand gestures for equality in the offing only if they don’t interfere with business too much? The truth here, I think, is that this is more about Silicon Valley subculture than it is about going to the mat for gay rights. They’re happy to go on using Eich’s work; no doubt there are other projects at Mozilla he was spearheading that they’ll keep working on notwithstanding the taint of social conservatism. I’d even bet that Eich would still be welcome at the company, notwithstanding public knowledge about his Prop 8 donation, if he hadn’t been named CEO. Once he became the face of Mozilla, though, the board had to show the rest of the industry that they’d toe the line institutionally on progressive values. That’s the lesson from all this for social cons in tech. They’ll still hire you; just don’t expect any really big promotions.

Two: Why did Eich resign rather than force the board to oust him? I don’t understand that. I assume that, having worked so many years to make Mozilla successful, he simply couldn’t bear to let the uproar drag on and damage the company he’d built, so he quit. But by doing that rather than forcing the people around him to go on and burn him at the stake, he handed them a convenient defense to their critics:

See, Eich wasn’t pushed. He jumped. Mozilla’s all about tolerance and differing viewpoints ‘n stuff. Why, if anything, it’s Eich who caved to the mob by committing seppuku under pressure. He shouldn’t have made it this easy for them.