A leading anti-gay marriage organization is calling for a boycott of the web browser Firefox after its maker, Mozilla, forced out its CEO over his opposition to same-sex marriage.
The National Organization for Marriage said in a statement that the exit of CEO Brendan Eich on Thursday — Eich resigned amidst pressure over his contributions to the 2008 ballot measure outlawing gay marriage in California — resulted from a “McCarthy-esque witch hunt.”
“When Brendon Eich made his modest contribution to support Proposition 8, Barack Obama was on the ballot as a candidate who said he believed marriage was the union of one man and one woman,” NOM president Brian Brown said. “Now Eich has been the target of a vicious character attack by gay activists who have forced him out of the company he has helped lead for years.”
I normally loathe the “boycott this because of that” but the precedent Mozilla set by caving to such capricious demands has made me consider whether I want to use their services in the future. I feel trapped into this awful paradigm where something as insignificant as what browser I use must reinforce my core beliefs.
My most mundane choices in commodities and services are now how I define myself instead of my own words and thoughts. I cannot say I comprehend the expectation that businesses must have complete ideological alignment with my beliefs. I’m a person that believes in simplicity. If they make something I like that’s better than anyone else, I’m generally inclined to buy it or use it. I don’t spend my time confirming ideological alignment with their core management staff before I purchase or use an item.
As I said last night, of course Mozilla has the right to purge a CEO because of his incorrect political views. Of course Eich was not stripped of his First Amendment rights. I’d fight till my last breath for Mozilla to retain that right. What I’m concerned with is the substantive reason for purging him. When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance. If a socially conservative private entity fired someone because they discovered he had donated against Prop 8, how would you feel? It’s staggering to me that a minority long persecuted for holding unpopular views can now turn around and persecute others for the exact same reason. If we cannot live and work alongside people with whom we deeply disagree, we are finished as a liberal society…
Here’s what Eich said last month: “I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to ‘show, not tell’; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.” There is not a scintilla of evidence that he has ever discriminated against a single gay person at Mozilla; he was dedicated to continuing Mozilla’s inclusive policies; he was prepared to prove that the accusations against him were unfair, and that his political views would not affect his performance as CEO. But this was not enough. He had to be publicly punished for supporting a Proposition that is no longer in effect. This is absolutely McCarthyism from an increasingly McCarthyite left.
If they can knock off a guy like Eich, one of the co-founders of the company and one of the most important figures in the tech industry, because of his belief in traditional marriage, who is safe? I’ve not read anything about Eich’s religious beliefs, but he does have five children, and graduated from Santa Clara University, which is Catholic. Whatever his faith, if he has faith, this is a clear shot that no orthodox Catholic, Evangelical, or Orthodox Christian, or Orthodox Jew, or faithful Muslim, is welcome at Mozilla — nor, it is safe to assume, in Silicon Valley at all. This, even though one’s view on marriage has nothing to do with the success or failure of the work of Silicon Valley. They would rather throw one of the founding fathers of the Internet down a well than tolerate him, because of his expressed belief on traditional marriage.
Think about that.
If this was the Democratic Party, or a gay-rights religious group, an AIDS charity, or an organization like that, you could certainly see why this would, or could, matter to the mission. But a tech firm, especially given that as CEO, he had pledged to abide by and to continue the firm’s gay-friendly policies?…
The Law Of Merited Impossibility — “It’s not going to happen, and when it does, you people will deserve it” — is manifest in the Brendan Eich case to an extent we’ve not yet seen. As far as I can tell, the only real hope orthodox Christians and other opponents of SSM have lies in the willingness of prominent liberal (in the philosophical sense) gays like Andrew Sullivan to stand up for the principle of free speech and tolerance against the McCarthyites.
[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…
I have known gay people and loved gay people and buried gay people and fed gay people and edited gay people and argued on their behalf, even when it has at times meant facing opposition from my co-religionists. It seems to me some “official gay folk” need to step up, and speak up for the basic human right of free speech and free thought for all people — without fear of poverty and social stigma.
Let me be clear: I hold out absolutely no hope that this chill wind will be checked or reversed — too many people with money and influence and no individual courage at all find totalitarianism an alluring idea.
Calls for his ouster were premised on the notion that all support for Proposition 8 was hateful, and that a CEO should be judged not just by his or her conduct in the professional realm, but also by political causes he or she supports as a private citizen.
Its implications are particularly worrisome because whatever you think of gay marriage, the general practice of punishing people in business for bygone political donations is most likely to entrench powerful interests and weaken the ability of the powerless to challenge the status quo. There is very likely hypocrisy at work too. Does anyone doubt that had a business fired a CEO six years ago for making a political donation against Prop 8, liberals silent during this controversy (or supportive of the resignation) would’ve argued that contributions have nothing to do with a CEO’s ability to do his job? They’d have called that firing an illiberal outrage, but today they’re averse to vocally disagreeing with allies.
How quickly has liberty been transmuted into orthodoxy. For the entirety of human history, gay marriage was a veritable non-issue — a thought that had occurred seriously to nobody and for which there was neither a meaningful constituency nor measurable pressure. In the space of a decade it has moved from a fringe and novel proposition to a moral imperative — and, now, to fodder for the new inquisitors. That the issue has now achieved the approval of a narrow majority is to my mind no bad thing. That the movement’s more vocal champions have started bludgeoning their enemies one and a half minutes into their still-fragile victory speaks tremendously ill of them, and does not portend well for the republic…
Notably missing from the hysteria was any explanation of precisely what Eich’s critics expected to happen were he left in charge. Instead, Mozilla’s press office merely asserted that the company was such a diverse, tolerant, and live-and-let-live sort of place that it was all but obliged to hound a man out of office because he possessed slightly different political views from the majority of its staff. Nowhere was it suggested that Eich would damage the company. Nowhere was it argued that he was personally hostile or unpleasant toward its employees. Nowhere was it implied that he would seek to discriminate against those about whom he might have personal qualms. Instead, we were left with the uncomfortable impression that the assembled denizens of the open-source browser industry are so pathetic and so delicate in their sensibilities that they cannot work alongside anybody who displays the temerity to disagree with them. Is that who we want to be?
As conservatives we understand the importance of the free market. So for us it’s not surprising that a company’s figurehead, under heightened scrutiny, might spark a free market response when making an unpopular personal belief public. In this case, it seems Mozilla management is protecting the interest of their investors (which is their primary job) by having Brendan Eich step down.
That being said, it is important to recognize another side of this debate. As members of a community whose opinions were once (and often times still are) in the minority, we should always remember that it was our right to express our opinions that has helped us win over public sentiment and brought us closer to equality. As gay people and as conservatives, we need to continue to respect the opposition’s right to a dissenting opinion. It’s called free speech. Our job, as influencers and activists, is to change hearts and minds, not attack people’s livelihood. This is a campaign for freedom, not a which hunt.
Now that the law, belatedly and slowly, is beginning to treat gay people as equal citizens, the only recourse opponents have is that they—the real bullies—are themselves being bullied. Of course, “bullying” is an over-used word, an overplayed accusation, and it is most galling when used by those who know historically how to wear their knuckledusters with pride. Most recently, Michele Bachmann claimed gays had “bullied” the American people and politicians…
A quite natural, absolutely correct anger—think of Reagan’s shameful AIDS ignorance—underpins gay activism. Equality is now so long overdue, yet still elusive, that anger inevitably flares when an example like Eich and Mozilla presents itself. Eich’s lack of personal response to the controversy exacerbated the anger.
Eich is not a brave “heretic.” His prejudiced views are simply not those a company like Mozilla wants to be associated with. Eich wasn’t badgered or bullied from his job. He was shamed out of it. And the shame wasn’t his, it seems because he’s had very little to say about the matter—but rather his employer’s. All of this is ugly, for sure. But a belief in, and practice of, equality is not. If we aspire to that personally and legislate for it publicly, the ugliness will dissipate.