There’s been quite a bit in the news about the company Mozilla appointing a CEO who made private donations to the anti-marriage equality campaign in California.
Mozilla produces the Firefox browser, amongst other things, and the person they appointed CEO was Brendan Eich, one of the founders of Mozilla. It turns out that in 2008 Eich made a donation to the anti-gay Proposition 8 Campaign, which sought to deny same sex couples the possibility of marrying in California. You may remember that with the course of legislation, amendments and bans, there were times in California when people were able to marry, and then had their marriages cancelled without their consent, on the basis of it being the place of a majority to legislate over the rights of a minority.
Eich’s donations, and views, were his own business, and did not affect Mozilla’s polices, but when you get to be CEO of a company, the association with a political campaign you have contributed to is likely going to be made in people’s minds, and in this case it was. A good many people didn’t like it. Furthermore, Eich wouldn’t give any assurances that he wouldn’t do similar in future, which is of course his right. It’s also the right of people to choose not to use Mozilla products, on the basis that the company is paying a hefty wage to a head honcho that had not ruled out putting his money into political campaigns designed to deny other people their rights again.
After a period of Mozilla standing behind Eich, Eich eventually chose to stand down as CEO. Various people have suggested that Eich was the victim of a hounding by a “gay mafia” or such like, and the conservative gay columnist Andrew Sullivan wrote that he had been “scalped by some gay activists” for expressing his “First Amendment rights” and favoring Prop 8 by donating $1,000.
My view was that it was between Mozilla and Brendan Eich if he was their CEO. It was up to Eich what he supports, expresses and donates to (within the limits of legality – things get chewy if you break the law). And it’s up to me if I use Mozilla products, knowing that their CEO has backed a political campaign to deny other people their rights, and doesn’t give assurances that he wouldn’t do similar in future.
Did I call for his sacking? No. Did I say it wasn’t his right to do what he did? No. Did I want to know if he’d do it again because I wanted to be able to order him not to, like he was on remote control? No. Did I like OkCupid intercepting Firefox users with their anti-Mozilla message? No, I’d rather they treated their users like adults who can make up their own minds. I just didn’t want to help anyone politically campaign against my folks’ rights again, if I had the choice.
There are times when I find activists on blogs or social media really annoying. When it gets shrill, righteous, moralizing, and has that “hectoring in the saddle” tone. It reminds me of a spoilt, entitled child, pointing fingers because daddy is on the way to kick your butt. I think it’s ridiculous when people engage in trial by social media because some celebrity made some drunk outburst and words like “cocksucker” or “faggot” came flying out. Yeah, would be nicer if it didn’t happen, but look at the whole picture; a life versus an outburst, in context. I know people have been taught that altering the language that people are coerced into feeling guilty about will change our social reality, but we know that’s actually bullshit. It’s deeper than that, so threatening people into feeling guilty doesn’t do it. Similarly, I find it a bit pathetic when people make grand demands that someone be sacked for doing what their employer already pays them to do, ie write garbage. Come on now, let’s get real here. Why would anybody listen to your whining? Since when does that spell social justice?
But helping to fund a political campaign designed to prevent a group realizing their rights? That’s not a drunken outburst. That’s not “an opinion piece” that people didn’t like.
Sure it’s their right. And it’s my right to walk away from them, and the company they head, and let my friends know why (aside from that I don’t actually use Firefox anyway). I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I don’t think the Godfather movies would really have run on The Family walking away. That isn’t quite the Mafia.
I know that people can be done damage by a cowardly, disingenuous consensus putting the chill on someone’s career for holding heretical views. I know that can happen, but I don’t think this is that scenario. I don’t wish Eich any ill. I don’t even consider it my business what his views on same sex marriage are. I do want equality for my folks though, and that does take precedence.