Brendan Eich And Hillary Clinton

Some of the very same people who have jumped up and down with delight as Brandon Eich lost his job will doubtless be backing Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 if she runs. The “Ready for Hillary” ranks are crowded with gay men – and good for them. But it’s worth US President Bill Clinton (l) in picture taken 16considering some consistency here. If it is unconscionable to support a company whose CEO once donated to the cause against marriage equality, why is it not unconscionable to support a candidate who opposed marriage equality as recently as 2008, and who was an integral part of an administration that embraced the Defense Of Marriage Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton? How do you weigh the relative impact of a president strongly backing DOMA – even running ads touting his support for it in the South – and an executive who spent $1000 for an anti-marriage equality Proposition?

Hillary Clinton only declared her support for marriage equality in 2013. Before that, she opposed it. In 2000, she said that marriage “has a historic, religious and moral context that goes back to the beginning of time. And I think a marriage has always been between a man and a woman.” Was she then a bigot? On what conceivable grounds can the Democratic party support a candidate who until only a year ago was, according to the latest orthodoxy, the equivalent of a segregationist, and whose administration enacted more anti-gay laws and measures than any in American history?

There is a difference, of course, between Brendan Eich and Hillary Clinton. Eich has truly spoken of the pain he once caused and owned up to it:

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.”

Has either Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton ever expressed sorrow that they hurt so many lives, gave cover to some of the vilest homophobes, and credentialized themselves with some on the right by rank homophobia in the 1996 campaign? Not to my knowledge. They have regretted what they did but never taken full moral responsibility for the hurt and pain they caused.

My view is that the Clintons are not and never have been bigots.

They’re human beings in changing times who had good intentions and sometimes failed to live up to them. The same with Brandon Eich, a man with infinitely less power than the Clintons but who nonetheless did the wrong thing. The same with vast numbers of Americans who haven’t yet been persuaded by the winning arguments of those of us who have campaigned for marriage equality for decades.

Human beings are complicated and flawed – gays as well as straights; and a liberal civil society does not attempt to impose on all of them a single moral code, or consign large numbers of them to the “bigot” category because they may be laggards in a civil rights cause. That way lies madness. And the end of a liberal and tolerant society. If you can forgive the Clintons, you should be able to forgive Eich. And have a little magnanimity and restraint before you snatch moral defeat from the jaws of political victory.

(Photo: US President Bill Clinton in picture taken 16 October 1996 in San Diego gets a hug from his wife Hillary after the presidential debate with Republican candidate Bob Dole Shiley Theater. By Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images.)

Quote For The Day II

“At a time when we are demanding passage of the Employment Non-Discrmination Act so that companies can’t just up and fire LGBT employees because they don’t agree with them — as they can now in about two-thirds of our states — we need to think very long and hard about we should demand someone be removed from his job for exercising his constitutional rights as part of the cornerstone of our democracy: a free and fair election.

We say that LGBT people shouldn’t be fired for something that has nothing to do with their job performance. I think that principle is good enough to apply to everyone, including Eich. And there is no evidence that I can find that his donation affected his ability to do the job he was hired to do. Eich made his donation out of his own pocket. He didn’t do it on behalf of Mozilla, he didn’t do it with Mozilla funds or through a foundation sponsored by Mozilla. And he certainly didn’t own Mozilla, which is a non-profit organization. It was his own dime on his own time,” – Jim Burroway.

I’d say the gay rights movement just all but provided an amicus brief for Hobby Lobby, wouldn’t you?

Dissents Of The Day


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 actualdirect 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.


Update: More unfiltered feedback at our Facebook page.

Yglesias Award Nominee

“[A]s a queer employee of the Mozilla Foundation, this stuff isn’t even an abstraction to me. Perhaps most of all because of my acute awareness that my mother’s marriage to my beloved stepfather would have been illegal under anti-miscegenation laws not repealed in their home state until they were overturned in 1967 by Loving v. Virginia. It is because I have a real stake in the issue, and because my own views on the matter are so clear, that my own ambivalence this week has been strange to me. …

Several of my colleagues have called for Brendan’s resignation. I have not done so, despite my strong feelings on the issue, in large part because of my conviction that the open internet is not and cannot be a progressive movement or a liberal movement or even a libertarian movement. In the climate-change fiasco here in the US, we’ve seen what happens with a globally important issue becomes identified with a single political point of view. We can’t let that happen here: the open internet is not more important than gay rights or any number of other progressive causes, but it should and must be a broader movement. The moment we let “open internet” become synonymous with progressive causes—inside or outside Mozilla—its many conservative supporters will be forced into an impossible position. … I don’t see there’s much to gain by asking Brendan to resign,” – Erin Kissane, prior to the forced resignation yesterday.

The Hounding Of A Heretic, Ctd

It turns out that Eich might have saved his job had he recanted, like all heretics must. But given the choice of recanting, he failed. Hence the lighting of the fires:

Throughout the interviews, it was not hard to get the sense that Eich really wanted to stick strongly by his views about gay marriage, which run counter to much of the tech industry and, increasingly, the general population in the U.S. For example, he repeatedly declined to answer when asked if he would donate to a similar initiative today.

Instead, he tried to unsuccessfully hedge those sentiments and, perhaps more importantly, did not seem to understand that he might have to pay the inevitable price for having them. Thus, something had to give — and it did.

He did not understand that in order to be a CEO of a company, you have to renounce your heresy! There is only one permissible opinion at Mozilla, and all dissidents must be purged! Yep, that’s left-liberal tolerance in a nut-shell. No, he wasn’t a victim of government censorship or intimidation. He was a victim of the free market in which people can choose to express their opinions by boycotts, free speech and the like. He still has his full First Amendment rights. But what we’re talking about is the obvious and ugly intolerance of parts of the gay movement, who have reacted to years of being subjected to social obloquy by returning the favor. Reihan notes the use of the word “integrity” about Mozilla:

Let me restate Swisher’s observation: had Brendan Eich decided to apologize — had he decided to say that he had come around on the issue, and had he added that his donation to the Proposition 8 campaign was a profound mistake that he would regret for the rest of his life, and which he will atone for by making a large donation to one of the organizations pressing the case for same-sex civil marriage — he could have spared himself all of this trouble. So while Mitchell Baker talks about protecting the integrity of Mozilla, she might spare a word or two for the integrity of Brendan Eich, or rather she and her colleagues might reflect on it.

This is a repugnantly illiberal sentiment. It is also unbelievably stupid for the gay rights movement. You want to squander the real gains we have made by argument and engagement by becoming just as intolerant of others’ views as the Christianists? You’ve just found a great way to do this. It’s a bad, self-inflicted blow. And all of us will come to regret it.

The in-tray is inundated with your dissents, which we will air in full tomorrow, since it will some time to find the strongest counterpoints. Only a small percentage of emailers are as disgusted as I am:

This really frightens me. Eich may well be wrong – very wrong, in fact – but he has a right to his opinion, and the fact that the Internet threw a hissy fit certainly doesn’t justify firing him. There’s no freedom of speech if you can’t be employed while holding your opinion. And he even made it clear that he wasn’t going to change any of Mozilla’s benefit policies or the like! This wasn’t going to affect anybody in any way. This is entirely about his right to hold his opinion.

This is particularly depressing to me because the tech industry has generally been fairly open-minded. I wouldn’t have expected this from them.

Another reader:

Thanks much for posting that. It makes me glad I popped 50 bucks for the subscription. For a brief time there, I thought I was the only one arguing the case against intimidation tactics. I was actually called a “Quisling” by one self-righteous ninny in another blog’s comments section for saying that the use of intimidation is a bad strategy in pursuing SSM and gay rights.

I’m sure you’ve been called much worse, as have I, but that really got to me. I’ve been fighting for SSM almost as long as you have. And now that we’ve got it, and I’m married, I find it deeply disturbing to see this sort of nonsense spewing out of the left. I used to think epistemic closure was mostly a problem for the right. I’m coming to know how deeply wrong I was.

One more:

I don’t spend my money at Chik-fil-A because I don’t like the idea of it being funneled into an anti-equality organizations. I don’t buy Barilla because their CEO explained that they don’t make their products for me, which I assume means they don’t need my money. I don’t watch Duck Dynasty because – well, I never did. But this is a horse of different color. I don’t want to be party to purges and I sure as hell don’t want to give the likes Sarah Palin the satisfaction of an “I told you so” moment. Snap out of it people! We’re winning! We don’t need to do this!

The Hounding Of A Heretic

The guy who had the gall to express his First Amendment rights and favor Prop 8 in California by donating $1,000 has just been scalped by some gay activists. After an OKCupid decision to boycott Mozilla, the recently appointed Brendan Eich just resigned under pressure:

In a post at Mozilla’s official blog, executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker confirmed the news with an unequivocal apology on the company’s behalf. “Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it,” Baker wrote. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

The action comes days after dating site OKCupid became the most vocal opponent of Eich’s hiring. Mozilla offered repeated statements about LGBT inclusivity within the company over the past two weeks, but those never came with a specific response from Eich about his thousands of dollars of donations in support of Proposition 8, a California ballot measure that sought to ban gay marriage in the state.

Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

Update: A continuation of my stance here and my response to dissenting readers here.