Dissents Of The Day

Apr 4 2014 @ 12:05pm

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Among the scores of upset readers rattling the in-tray:

I’m going to disagree with you, quite strongly, about the resignation of Brendan Eich. While I agree that he is certainly entitled to his point of view, and to take actions in support of that point of view, he is not entitled to face no consequences from those actions. That’s all this is: consequences. If he truly has the strength of his convictions, he will consider this a necessary sacrifice. Were I to loudly proclaim a belief in the inherent inferiority of other ethnicities than my own, and take actions to enshrine that belief into law, would I not reasonably expect to face consequences?

He’s not going to prison; he just has to find a new job. For someone with his abilities, that should not be difficult. I just imagine it will be done more quietly this time.

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.

Another reader:

Eich certainly has his right to free speech. Where the line should be drawn (Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding) is when somebody’s speech becomes action – in this case, donating to Prop 8. Monetary support to reduce fellow citizens to second-class status should not be enshrined as “protected speech.” He can say what he wants, of course, but we can also say, publicly, that we don’t want to directly fund that sort of politics (since our money given to the company goes to the CEO’s salary).

What if an employee went to a demonstration that his company found objectionable? Would that be a reason to fire him? What we have here is a social pressure to keep your beliefs deeply private for fear of retribution. We are enforcing another sort of closet on others. I can barely believe the fanaticism. Another reader:

There is not a single mainstream company in the world today that would endure a CEO who donated to a neo-Nazi organization, or the KKK, or for a referendum to make interracial marriage illegal. If he were to apologize later, or say it was a mistake, then he might survive. But to be defiant in his support for blatantly anti-Semitic or anti-black causes? No one would survive this. In making our case for marriage equality, we have set the right to marry for homosexuals on the same level as the right to marry inter-racially. This means that the public will respond to those who oppose it just as they would to those who fought to prevent my parents from marrying. And rightly so.

A little history lesson. Not so long ago, many in the gay community itself – including large swathes of its left-liberal wing – opposed marriage equality. I know, because I was targeted by them as a neofascist/heterosexist/patriarchal “anti-Christ”. Yes, I was called precisely that in print for being a conservative supporter of marriage equality and for ending the ban on openly gay people in the military. And I’m talking only a couple of decades ago. And now, opposing marriage equality is regarded as equivalent to the KKK? And neo-Nazis? Another reader tries to catch me in a double standard:

So let me get this straight: It’s perfectly ok to spend money supporting legislation that causes actual, direct harm to gay people, but when Alec Baldwin calls someone names, he should be fired?

I never called for Baldwin to be fired – just that his rank use of homophobia while threatening violence made his claim to be a liberal preposterous. I was calling out hypocrisy. I never campaigned for Baldwin to be punished for this – just that liberals stop defending him as a campaigner for civil rights. The next reader probably has the strongest dissent of them all:

You wrote, “Eich did not understand that in order to be a CEO of a company, you have to renounce your heresy!” Andrew, you are seriously misreading this. Mozilla is not just any company; it’s the subsidiary of a non-profit, the manager of an open-source project, part collective and part community, and only thrives because the community cooperates, delivering applications, helping out by contributing code, and donating money. A key qualification for a CEO of such a company is that he or she not alienate the community, and Eich simply did not meet that qualification (the board screwed up in hiring him, clearly). I hardly think you’d see the same kind of fireworks if, say, he had been appointed CEO of Oracle.

This is more akin to an opponent of gay marriage being appointed CEO of a company that depends on gay or gay-friendly customers or stakeholders. A public radio station in a gay-friendly metro is a good example. So it’s more like, “in order to be a CEO of an organization dependent on certain stakeholders, you must not offend them.” Seriously, this is news?

And CEO is not just any job; Eich was CTO of Mozilla for many years with nary a peep. But a CEO personifies the company, and the standards are different. Eich then compounded the mistake by eliding the discussion every time he was asked about it. He could have stood by his personal beliefs but drawn a distinction between those and how he intends to isolate them from his ability to lead Mozilla. He could have shown a bit of empathy towards the people victimized by Proposition 8 (many of whom are his customers, employees and partners) without recanting his personal belief (Rarebit, one of Mozilla’s partners that pulled out of the store, has a good take on this here).

He could have done many things, but he was too proud to give people even a fig leaf of an acknowledgment. Instead, he stonewalled, and more insultingly, he wrapped himself in the mantle of tolerance (the whole stuff about Mozilla’s “culture of inclusiveness”), essentially saying, “If you’re really tolerant, you must tolerate my intolerant views and continue to interact with the organization I lead just as before.” Please. He’s entitled to his views, but he’s not entitled to people’s cooperation.

In order to be a CEO of a company, you must be able to lead it. Clearly he couldn’t, because too many people, both employees and external stakeholders, simply would not follow him. He was pushed out because he could not do the job he was hired to do.

Really? 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. Another reader makes a distinction:

Gay activists didn’t run him out. I really think you are wrong on that. Sure, some of the usual suspects piped up. But that wasn’t what did it as far as Mozilla goes. It was young and down-for-the-cause straight people. There’s been a very radical, very recent shift in critical mass and majority opinion (especially among tech people, young people) that opposing gay marriage is immoral. This supportive/progressive/tolerant/well-intentioned straight majority does not hesitate (although it should) to equate gay rights issues with race based civil rights issues. The gay marriage issue has tapped into a moral consciousness.

After all these years of ducking whenever someone starts talking about morals, the gays are now on the winning side of that conversation. And I think this moral shift is so new that we don’t see it yet. And so I don’t share your disgust that Eich quit. He lost the respect of the co-workers and colleagues he was supposed to lead due to something than runs deeper than a mere political point of view. This was a moral position. And a growing number of reasonable average people just can’t abide homophobia anymore. It wasn’t an angry rump of gay activists that did him in.

Yes, it was broader than that. It was a coalition of those, gay and straight, who do not believe that people with different views than theirs’ should be tolerated in a leadership position. It’s a reminder of just how closed-minded and vicious so much of the identity-politics left can be. One more reader:

Morality has always been about keeping society on the same page. If you violate the the norms, then you are shamed and ridiculed. The ultimate “victory” of the gay rights movement will be that those discriminating against homosexuals will be ridiculed and isolated as bigots. Ultimately we can only hope that the best values win out, and that we will always find outcasts in society that share our values, should our values violate the norm.

There you have the illiberal mindset. Morality trumps freedom. Our opponents must be humiliated, ridiculed and “isolated as perverts”. I mean “bigots”, excuse me.

Orwell wept.

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