Boycott Firefox! says both sides of the Marriage Equality debate, and to hell with free speech

brendan-eich-robert-george

Well, certain members of both sides, at least.

OKCupid is taking a surprisingly strong stance against Mozilla. Right now, those who visit the hipster/nerdy dating site using Firefox see this message (full text here):

Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid. [...]

OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.

However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid.

The reason this comes up now is that some Mozilla employees have been objecting to Eich’s recent promotion to CEO, because Eich donated $1000 to support Prop 8. (There is no sign that Eich has changed his views since then.) (Eich, incidentally, is credited with inventing Javascript.)

I think it’s fair for Mozilla employees to object to Eich’s promotion – it’s their company, they’re directly impacted by who runs it, and they have a stake in the company’s internal culture.

But OKCupid is in the wrong. Note that they are not asking that Mozilla change any specific corporate policies; rather, they are saying that no one who disagrees with them in private life about SSM should be CEO. This isn’t working to create real, positive change; it’s an attempt to economically punish Eich for disagreeing with them. “We wish them nothing but failure” is not a generous sentiment.

Now here’s where it gets funnier. Robert George, co-founder of NOM and the leading intellectual of the anti-marriage equality movement, read this article, in which Eich non-apologized “I express my sorrow at having caused pain.” Eich continued:

I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.

Apparently even that weak corporate boilerplate statement1 is more equality than Robert George can stomach. George, in a public post on his Facebook, called for boycotting Firefox:

I have just deleted Mozilla Firefox from my computer. If I’m not morally fit to be their employee, I’m not morally fit to use their products. If you are a faithful Catholic, Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox Christian, Mormon, Orthodox Jew, Muslim, or member of any other tradition that believes that marriage is fundamentally the institution that unites a man and woman as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children born of their union, providing those children with the inestimable blessing of being brought up in the committed bond of the man and woman whose union brought them into being, or even if you believe in marriage thus understood quite apart from membership in any community of faith, I would ask you to do the same. Why contribute to the prosperity of those who would exclude you? Cancel Firefox or any other Mozilla product. Sure, its competitors are probably “just as bad,” but we have an opportunity here to send a message to all of them.

Problems with both their approaches:

1) It goes against what I think of as a “free speech culture” to encourage an companies to fire employees (even CEOs) based not on how well the employees can do the job, but on their stands on current political controversies. Although there’s no government censorship going on here, that’s not enough. Truly open and free speech – substantive free speech – won’t exist if people are afraid of being fired for taking a side on a controversial issue.

2) It doesn’t actually advance anyone’s cause in any meaningful way. (Admittedly a plus as far as Mr. George’s bigoted cause is concerned).

3) It encourages people to think of politics as a matter of maintaining personal purity through choosing the correct products, rather than making meaningful change.

This sort of approach makes both sides look like bumblers and busybodies, searching around for a high horse to nit-pick from, and makes both sides look as though they aren’t committed to a civil debate or the ideal of substantively free speech. I don’t know if Robert George’s side can do better, but I’m certain the pro-SSM side can.

  1. You can read Eich’s full statement here. []
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44 Responses to Boycott Firefox! says both sides of the Marriage Equality debate, and to hell with free speech

  1. 1
    Duncan says:

    Good post; I agree with you. And reading it reminded me that I’d come to similar conclusions on my own blog right after the victory of Prop 8 in 2008.

  2. 2
    brian says:

    Also, it’s a cheap, effortless way for people to protest and pretend it means something. There’s no real sacrifice involved, just a lot of self congratulating chest beating about how “I really stuck it to them! I deleted a free piece of software and used a DIFFERENT free piece of software!”

    It sort of reminds me of the vegans who were so loudly announcing they were going to boycott Chik-fil-a a while back. You know, if they ever added vegan food to the menu.

  3. 3
    Phil says:

    I see what you’re saying, and I think it’s a very…nuanced view. You’re not making a legal argument so much as an argument about how we should personally choose to conduct ourselves in a free society.

    Here’s another reason that I think our default response to an individual’s bigotry should not be to advocate for that person to be fired: it raises the stakes of criticism, and thus will have a chilling effect on the very criticisms we’re trying to levy. I consider sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia, etc. to be different forms of bigotry. The reality is, we are all capable of expressing attitudes that are bigoted. If we grew up in a culture that is sexist, homophobic, racist, transphobic, etc., then it is inevitable.

    As such, I think the correct response, when someone suggests that something you said was bigoted, is to ask, “Why do you say that?” As it stands, the default response in our culture is: “No it wasn’t!” Right now, it is very difficult to have meaningful discussions about individual expressions of bigotry because people get very, very defensive. And it’s easy to see why–if every time I say, “Hey, Quentin, you said/did something homophobic,” what you hear is “Hey, Quentin, you said/did something homophobic and therefore you deserve to get fired and become an unemployable pariah,” then we’re not going to have a meaningful discussion about the first part of that phrase, because the second part is implicitly hanging over your head.

    With high profile people like Paula Deen, Willie Robertson, and now Brendan Eich, too much of the cultural discussion is devoted to debating whether we think they did something bigoted, with most people taking sides based on their existing views. We would be better-served as a culture if we devoted more of the discussion to why we think they did something bigoted, because that discussion is more likely to convince people to examine their own views.

  4. 4
    Jake Squid says:

    If I were to hear, for example, that Coca-Cola donates money to anti-abortion groups I would certainly cease buying Coke products. It’s an attempt to avoid giving money to anti-abortion groups. If Coke changes where they put their charitable donations, that’s an extra added bonus. Boycotts of corporations for their (distasteful) charitable contributions makes a lot of moral sense to me.

    It becomes much more of a grey area to me when you boycott a corporation for the position of their CEO (or whatever position). In that case, depending on the real power structure of that company, you may be boycotting to get the person fired or you may be boycotting to get the company to change their policies. One of those is the thing that the OP is against, the other is not.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    If Mozilla can legally fire people because they hold views such as Brendan Eich’s, they can legally fire people because they hold views opposite to those such as Brendan Eich’s. Is that the kind of company the Mozilla people (or anyone else calling for his ouster) want? Is that the kind of work environment in general that people want – that employees can be fired because of their political or social viewpoints?

  6. 6
    Ruchama says:

    It also depends on what the CEOs job entails. For most CEOs, I’d say that their views shouldn’t matter. But some (Steve Jobs at Apple, Michael Eisner at Disney, etc.) were, to a large extent, the public face of the company, and in those cases, it might matter more. (I’m not totally set on that opinion — still thinking it through.)

  7. 7
    Phil says:

    Truly open and free speech – substantive free speech – won’t exist if people are afraid of being fired for taking a side on a controversial issue.

    I do think it’s worth pointing out that you’re equating money with speech in this OP. Although the Supreme Court seems to have taken that viewpoint, I do not agree that it is true. Further, if we think it a fair assumption that a person who spent $1000 on a campaign probably voted on that issue (or even if not, may have influenced at least one vote), I think it is important to point out that voting to impose a legal restriction on other citizens is an action, it is not just speech.

    I have problems with the referendum system, and one of those problems is: I think that people who actively change the laws of the state should be answerable to the rest of the people in that state. I think that is even true when the people acting to change laws are the citizens of the state. Voting for a person should be anonymous. I don’t actually believe that voting for a law should be anonymous; it should be as transparent as possible. If someone disagrees because they think an issue is too controversial, there’s an easy solution: let the legislature enact laws on that issue.

    Edited to add: Even though I think it’s important to point out that what Eich did constitutes actions, and not just speech, I still think you make a good point.

  8. 8
    Lori Heine says:

    Also, consider the meme the social Right is now laboring so mightily to sell: that Christians are being driven back into the catacombs. All Christians being assumed to be anti-gay, and all gays assumed to be not only anti-Christian, but bent on the destruction of the faithful.

    Of course there will be hardliner nitwits who go ape-doody over even the weakest non-apology for homophobia, but many social conservatives will be jazzed by the perceived persecution of anyone who supports their pet causes. This feeds the complex, and helps (they think) to build their meme.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    I do think it’s worth pointing out that you’re equating money with speech in this OP. Although the Supreme Court seems to have taken that viewpoint, I do not agree that it is true.

    And you are free to do so – but I’m talking about the legal status and impact of this kind of policy, so I think it’s legitimate to look at it this way.

    Further, if we think it a fair assumption that a person who spent $1000 on a campaign probably voted on that issue (or even if not, may have influenced at least one vote), I think it is important to point out that voting to impose a legal restriction on other citizens is an action, it is not just speech.

    I don’t think it’s legitimate to remove someone from their job based on an unproved assumption as to what action they may or may not have taken, especially if that action is legal. Again, consider what that can lead to.

    I have problems with the referendum system, and one of those problems is: I think that people who actively change the laws of the state should be answerable to the rest of the people in that state. I think that is even true when the people acting to change laws are the citizens of the state. Voting for a person should be anonymous. I don’t actually believe that voting for a law should be anonymous; it should be as transparent as possible.

    Answerable in what way? Legislators’ votes have to be public because they are accountable to the people who elected them and they can lose (or gain) electoral support in both $ and votes. But how should people who vote in a referendum be answerable? Public condemnation? Economic boycott? Refusal of employment or housing? Lawsuit? Picketing outside my house or my employer? If I vote for a referendum that would make public unions illegal, do I have to worry about the cops and fire department being slower to respond to a 911 call? Or for the building inspector to show up and start inventing citations? Or for the teachers to start excessive discipline proceeding against my kid? If votes for referenda were public it would be easy for activists to target people in all manner of ways, including some that are highly illegal and even threatening! I think that someone who only represents themselves – e.g., someone voting in a referendum instead of in the legislature – is only answerable to themselves and God. I think it is antithetical to democracy if people could use social or economic pressure on other people based on their vote as an individual on any issue. Consider the “card check” system that some labor organizers wish to be able to use to replace elections by secret ballot. It would be very easy for a small group of activists or advocates to put highly negative pressure on people who oppose them. It’s anti-democratic.

    If someone disagrees because they think an issue is too controversial, there’s an easy solution: let the legislature enact laws on that issue.

    The problem with this is that it’s a lot easier to use money or threats to influence a small number of legislators than it is the populace as a whole. Another problem with this is that it may very well be the legislature that the proposed law seeks to constrain, or that the legislature. The latter is why the Constitution provides two methods of proposing Constitutional amendments. The use of State conventions bypasses Congress so that Congress can’t stop itself from being the subject of an amendment.

    If someone disagrees because they think an issue is too controversial, there’s an easy solution: let the legislature enact laws on that issue.

    And yet time and again we see that legislatures refuse to act on a law due to it’s controversial nature. When you have an issue that there are large groups that feel strongly on both sides (e.g., changes to immigration laws, or public pension funding in Illinois), legislators see that they’re going to inspire strong opposition towards their re-election no matter which way they vote, so they simply refuse to take up the matter. No one’s ever been defeated for re-election for their vote on a bill that never made it to the legislature’s floor. President Obama has often cited Congressional inaction as the basis for Executive Orders that he has issued.

  10. 10
    DrPinWV says:

    One may ask the boycotters, “Why stop at the CEO?” Why not calculate the cumulative political contributions of all the company’s employees and make buying decisions based on the net result? The answer, of course, is that basing our decisions on such a criterion would bring commerce to a standstill. Almost every day, each of us buys a product that contributes in some way to the wealth of people whose opinions (and monetary contributions) conflict with our own. Let’s worry about the policies of the corporations themselves and leave the employees alone.

  11. 11
    Abbe Faria says:

    It doesn’t actually advance anyone’s cause in any meaningful way. (Admittedly a plus as far as Mr. George’s bigoted cause is concerned.

    It does help the cause! If people know they’ll be blacklisted for opposing same sex marriage, they’ll think twice about making donations or public opposition. Anyone who wants a high profile corporate job is going to be much more cautious now Eich has been made an example of. They’re not going to want to appear on lists like this:

    http://projects.latimes.com/prop8/results/?name=&employer=&amount_min=&amount_max=&city=&state=CA&zip=&position=Support&search=Search

  12. 12
    Phil says:

    I don’t think it’s legitimate to remove someone from their job based on an unproved assumption as to what action they may or may not have taken, especially if that action is legal.

    I certainly never contended that a vote on a referendum was illegal. My point was that a vote is an action, and it sounds like you agree. An action can be legal, but that doesn’t make it speech.

    If votes for referenda were public it would be easy for activists to target people in all manner of ways, including some that are highly illegal and even threatening!

    That is a valid point. If only there were a way to pass laws that was transparent and yet didn’t involve secret-voting in referenda.

    The problem with this is that it’s a lot easier to use money or threats to influence a small number of legislators than it is the populace as a whole.

    I feel like you’re contradicting the point you just made about how easy it would be to target the populace who votes in referendums.

    legislators see that they’re going to inspire strong opposition towards their re-election no matter which way they vote, so they simply refuse to take up the matter.

    So you think the best solution is to pass laws in secret, so that no citizen can know who actually took action to change the law? I disagree with you.

    Citizen referendums work well to take action to punish or limit our elected officials. They are, generally, a poor system for enacting legislation.

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    If people know they’ll be blacklisted for opposing same sex marriage, they’ll think twice about making donations or public opposition.

    Are you familiar with the term “McCarthyism”? The House Un-American Activities Committee? How blacklists were used to destroy the lives of numerous people for years because they held unpopular opinions? Do you really want to bring those days back?

    Is this the way to achieve political or social aims? Not through the value of your ideas, but through coercion and degradation? I guess when your ideas have no value, you have to use force.

  14. 14
    Jake Squid says:

    I guess when your ideas have no value, you have to use force.

    Nice.

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    So you think the best solution is to pass laws in secret, so that no citizen can know who actually took action to change the law?

    Referenda are not secret. They are extremely public. Everyone gets to read them and read about them and debate them thoroughly before the vote is held. That’s the opposite of many votes that are taken in the legislature these days. The ACA is one example, when even the then-Speaker of the House said that Congress would have to vote for it to find out what’s in it, and (local to me) the Chicago City Council rushed through a vote to privatize the parking meters in Chicago in a couple of days without letting people have the time to read the lease deal – only to find out later that parking rates quadrupled and that the income from a 70 year lease was mostly spent in 2 years.

    Yes, each individual’s vote is secret – but that is as it should be. Without individuals having a secret ballot, we cannot have democracy because people are not fully free to express their ideas if other people know how they vote – whether they are voting for people or for laws. My right to do so, under the law as well as under principle, supersedes any right you may think you have to know whose vote affected you in what way (a right I find nowhere in the law).

    I feel like you’re contradicting the point you just made about how easy it would be to target the populace who votes in referendums.

    No, the first point about targeting individuals refers to the fact that people can be influenced to stay home and not vote the way they feel at all because they worry that they would be under individual threat by activist individuals or small groups – who may well act in secret and you don’t know until the bullet comes through your car window (as happened to me when I once expressed an opinion about relationships among the races that proved to be unpopular). The second point is that representatives know up front before they take the job that their votes will be public, but the relatively small number of them means that they can be bribed (either legally through campaign contributions or illegally under the table) or threatened with being campaigned against either in the primary or general election.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    I can’t believe what I”m seeing here. People openly advocating that a private citizen’s vote on a matter should be a matter of public knowledge so that opponents of their vote can take direct action against them. Who else here agrees with this?

  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    To avoid derailment, I decided to make this comment a post of its own.

  18. 19
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Well, not sure if it was the boycott threats or something else, but Mozilla has just announced that Eich is stepping down as CEO.

    For what it’s worth, I am in agreement with Amp’s original post about it being a mistake to boycott a company because of a political donation that its CEO made before he joined the company. That said, I also think that there is a difference between high-level executives and general employees in the appropriateness of making employment decisions based on their personal opinions. The whole point of a CEO – and the reason often given to why CEOs are paid so much more than their employees – is that the job of a CEO is all about the individual personality and opinions. Their political views are definitely part of that if they make them known (and making a non-anonymous donation to a political cause counts as making them known).

  19. 20
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Too late to edit my post, but I just realized I made a mistake – Eich was a Mozilla co-founder and worked there (not as CEO) at the time he made the original donation.

  20. 21
    Phil says:

    People openly advocating that a private citizen’s vote on a matter should be a matter of public knowledge so that opponents of their vote can take direct action against them.

    By “people,” I think you mean me. And, I think you misunderstand me. If I had to choose a system, it wouldn’t be one where private citizens votes are matters of public knowledge. It would be a system of representative government, where citizens vote (privately) for individuals who represent them in some kind of governing body. When it comes to changing the laws of a state or region–not voting for people, but changing the laws–I advocate a system where there is as much transparency as possible.

    I don’t advocate “direct action.” I advocate informed debate. My honest opinion is that many, perhaps most people, really don’t understand the laws that they vote on, and I think the best solution is to either a) learn more about them so you can make an educated decision or b) step back and let people who do understand the specific legislation do the work of changing the law.

    What about a compromise? A system where, say, anonymous votes are weighted less than transparent votes, because of the civic value of transparent votes? :)

  21. 22
    RonF says:

    I don’t advocate “direct action.”

    Start publicizing how individuals voted on a referendum and you’ll see plenty of people who DO advocate direct action. Here we see people demanding that a CEO be fired for contributing to a given cause. What do you think would happen if people knew that someone in their group actually voted for a particular issue?

    I advocate informed debate.

    So do I. Before a vote is taken. But when it’s taken, no one has the right to information on how I voted.

    My honest opinion is that many, perhaps most people, really don’t understand the laws that they vote on,

    I think you’re right. I also think that there are a lot of those people who carry the title “Senator” and “Representative”. How many of them read the ACA and understood what it meant before they voted on it?

    I’m talking at all levels, not just the Federal government, though. One of the requirements for the First Class rank in the Boy Scouts is “Visit and discuss with a selected individual approved by your leader (elected official, judge, attorney, civil servant, principal, teacher) your constitutional rights and obligations as a U.S. citizen.” I had the bright idea to call up my local State Representative and have her come to a Troop meeting. I got ahold of her top staff person, made the arrangement, and faxed them the requirement. When she showed up she was very concerned, as was her staffer (who also came). She wanted me to explain the requirement to her. Then she said “I’m a State Representative. I don’t know that much about the U.S. Constitution.” And then proceeded to make a hash of talking about a citizen’s rights and privileges under the Constitution to a bunch of 12 year old kids. I was astonished. But then, in Illinois most of the members of the General Assembly vote the way they’re told by their party leadership. You can tell the ones who didn’t – they’re the incumbents that the party leadership is running a new candidate against in the primary.

    and I think the best solution is to either a) learn more about them so you can make an educated decision or b) step back and let people who do understand the specific legislation do the work of changing the law.

    And how is that to be determined? I often think I understand the likely effects of changing a given law better than the people who represent me. Then there’s the issue that I may understand it just as well, but have a different opinion as to whether the proposed change is desirable. Finally, I often think that the people who represent me know what effect the change will have, but don’t care because they’re afraid they’ll lose votes or will lose campaign contributions if they vote what is actually in the best interests of the village/county/State/country.

    I don’t think that we should have a 100% direct democracy. I think that a Federal republic is the best system of governance out there. But I also think that the people should have a way to override the legislature, as a final check against an unresponsive government. And when such a matter is put before the voters, individual voters should be accountable to no one for their vote so that they are free to vote in accordance with their conscience.

  22. 23
    Phil says:

    I often think I understand the likely effects of changing a given law better than the people who represent me. Then there’s the issue that I may understand it just as well, but have a different opinion as to whether the proposed change is desirable.

    I don’t think we should expect people to know the unknowable, and I did’t say that. When I say people don’t understand a law, I mean they don’t know the text of the law or they don’t know the meaning of the words in it. I’m not referring to people who have a different prediction about it or who have a different opinion about it than I do.

    I agree with you that many elected representatives do not understand the laws that they vote on. That is a problem.

    So do I. Before a vote is taken.

    Great. So, how can we best give you a chance to talk to everyone who opposes or supports an issue before the debate? The citizens of your state could vote to have people like you castrated under the law, and not a single one of them has a legal obligation to let you know that’s what they plan to do.

    Look, I’m not advocating an immediate change to the legislative system. There are dozens of changes that would be useful, but some of them would require big cultural shifts as well. (Some of those shifts include: we ought to reduce our inclination to attack people physically. We ought to recognize financial conflicts of interest and voluntarily discard the statements of people who have them. We ought to make a single human being legally and financially responsible for every statement of fact made in every campaign ad, everywhere. Etc.)

    I don’t think a system where we eliminate all controversial ballot referenda is achievable or practical. But I think, in general, a system where more laws are enacted by accountable representatives is preferable. In general, a system where those representatives understand the laws that they’re voting on is preferable. California, my state, has a system that ought to be tweaked. Right now, the entire state’s constitution can be changed completely in secret. We could eliminate the entire constitution without a single human being voting on the record. I don’t think that’s the best of all possible systems. Do you?

  23. 24
    Ampersand says:

    Here we see people demanding that a CEO be fired for contributing to a given cause. What do you think would happen if people knew that someone in their group actually voted for a particular issue?

    Realistically, no one actually treats “donated a thousand dollars for Prop 8″ and “voted for prop 8″ as separate, distinct categories. Everyone in the world – except you, perhaps – believes these two things, among registered California voters at the time, overlap with near-100% reliability. (ETA: Or, rather, that the much larger “voted for prop 8″ circle near-entirely contains the smaller “donated to support prop 8″ circle.)

    And so what did happen, when all the donors to prop 8 became publicly known? Well, this incredibly wealthy dude had to give up his CEO position at Mozilla, largely because the existing culture and rep of the company is too pro-gay for an anti-gay CEO to fit in. The artistic director of the California Musical Theater had to resign, after his donation to prop 8 strongly alienated several major Broadway composers and performers. Richard Raddon, Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, resigned after the LA Film Festival publicly distanced itself from Raddon’s views. And there were protests at El Coyote restaurant, and which led to some degree of talking and limited reconciliation, after manager Marjorie Christoffersen’s donation came out; years later, El Coyote is still open and Christoffersen is still the manager. Two other boycotts, at a hotel whose owner donated and at the Utah film festival, petered out without having any effect.

    It’s not a record I like, but it’s also a bare handful of incidents in an passionate and emotionally fraught election in a state with a huge population, and I don’t think typifying the entire marriage equality movement based on this handful of incidents is fair. A statement like this:

    I guess when your ideas have no value, you have to use force.

    Seems particularly unfair, especially since the anti-marriage-equality side of the debate mainly lost, not because of “gay bullying,” but because they were and are genuinely unable to provide a persuasive case to anyone who didn’t agree with them. Time and time again, they’ve been asked to explain how gay marriage harms anyone, and time and time again they have not come up with a persuasive answer.

    I mean, even the anti-SSM side claims that Robert George’s book is the best argument against SSM, and that book’s arguments, far from being persuasive, are too obtuse to comprehend without either a philosophy degree or many hours of study – and full of holes once you do understand them.

    * * *

    Finally, in a case like Eckhern, what do you think should have been done, Ron? If a crucial part of your job as the leader of your firm is getting along with other industry leaders, then publicly opposing legal equality for many other leaders in your industry is obviously going to undermine your effectiveness at your job.

    Eckhern had a legal right to donate to support prop 8. But the composers of shows like “Hairspray” and “Avenue Q” likewise have a legal right to choose not to enter into collaborations with Eckhern. This case seems to bring up the problem of the first speaker I quoted in a footnote in my post – it doesn’t protect free speech rights if we denigrate peoples’ right to respond.

  24. 25
    Abbe Faria says:

    RonF. There’s an huge difference between McCarthyism, which was persecuting people for very inoccuous activity based on very thin evidence, and this, legitimately santioning people for genuinely harmful activity based on very strong evidence.

    And so what did happen, when all the donors to prop 8 became publicly known?… a bare handful of incidents … I don’t think typifying the entire marriage equality movement based on this handful of incidents is fair.

    …the anti-marriage-equality side of the debate mainly lost, not because of “gay bullying,” but because they were and are genuinely unable to provide a persuasive case to anyone who didn’t agree with them.

    I completely agree that support of Prop 8 is evil and proponents should be held accountable for their actions, but I don’t recognise this version of history.

    Prop 8 supporters persuaded most people, they got a majority of the vote and won the ballot. Prop 8 didn’t stay on the books because Perry vs Schwarzenegger rightfully decided people shouldn’t be able to vote for laws like that.

    It’s also not realistic to treat the outing of donors as just something that happened, with possibly unfortunate consequences. There were lawsuits over the question in which the pro equality state and SSM groups bravely sought this information, and they should be commended.

  25. 26
    Ampersand says:

    When I said “the anti-marriage-equality side of the debate… lost,” I was trying to refer to the overall SSM debate in the US (at this point we’re just playing out the clock – I can’t imagine any plausible way the debate plays out that will not lead to legally recognized SSM in all fifty states), not just to the prop 8 battle.

    IOW, they did win that battle, but I’m confident our side has effectively won the war.

  26. 27
    mythago says:

    Are you familiar with the term “McCarthyism”? The House Un-American Activities Committee? How blacklists were used to destroy the lives of numerous people for years because they held unpopular opinions? Do you really want to bring those days back?

    Right, because private individuals exercising their right to free speech and economic activity is exactly the same as the government exercising coercive power to enforce a particular point of view and terrorize everyone into compliance. Clearly, if I go out for lunch and choose to buy a hamburger from Five Guys instead of a chicken sandwich from the Chick-Fil-A next door, it is because I hate freedom. Although I guess perhaps that would be acceptable if I did so in shame and silence.

    Eich was chosen as the CEO by the board of an organization (Mozilla) that professes to be welcoming and inclusive and all that. Other people who did not approve of this choice said so, and in some cases, also chose to direct their economic or other activity away from Mozilla. This is because Eich not only had views that people found repugnant, but because he had given a significant sum of money to a cause that was actively working to strip people of their civil rights, and showed no signs of having changed his views on the matter. The board’s appointment of Eich as the leader of the organization therefore said quite a bit about the board’s supposed values, and the likely direction of the organization.

    By the way, comments about how Eich ‘apologized’ or made some kind of nice statement are very clueless. His prepared statement, which boiled down to “Don’t worry, we’ll follow the law” was exactly the kind of legal cover-our-asses you would expect from an organization operating in a state that offers job protection to LGBT people. The CEO not only being anti-LGBT but having materially supported efforts to nullify same-sex marriages? If I were an employment attorney representing someone who got fired from Mozilla, I would be writing mental thank-you notes.

  27. 28
    mythago says:

    Also, Amp, I don’t recall whether I’ve posted this here before, but why I strongly disagree with your hand-wringing wimpy progressive stance on boycotts. ;)

    https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/5147392-what-is-a-boycott

  28. 29
    Ampersand says:

    Mythago, I see Mamatas’ point as being largely irreverent to what I’m saying. What was at issue in the Montgomery bus boycott was a bunch of actual policies the boycotters wanted change; it wasn’t merely a case of “people who disagree with us should not have jobs.” As I’ve explicitly said (including in my post here), I think it’s fine to hold boycotts to try and force a policy change.

    These three posts do a much better job of making me doubt my position on Eich, by making the case that it’s not a problem when a CEO gets treated like this, even if I would find it a problem for an ordinary worker:

    A Few Thoughts on Brendan Eich
    The Case of Brendan Eich – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
    Further thoughts on Eich’s resignation – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

    Also, this:

    How Brendan Eich Failed as CEO in Under Two Weeks

  29. 30
    mythago says:

    Amp, the fact that you deliberately mischaracterize the protest as “people who disagree with us should not have jobs” is disappointing, particularly as you then turn around and admit the issue is not that Eich had a job, but that Eich was appointed CEO. He was CTO and a board member at Mozilla and had been for many years. The protest began because he was appointed as CEO by a board of an organization that makes a lot of noise about being progressive and inclusive. And it was not that he ‘disagreed’, but because he took concrete action to the tune of a thousand bucks to deprive people of their civil rights. After his appointment, both he and the Mozilla board reacted with corporate PR speak that did absolutely nothing to suggest that Eich expected to separate his personal beliefs from his leadership of Mozilla.

    Keep in mind, also, that this wasn’t simply Mozilla having activistfeels about LGBT rights. It is a very competitive market for tech talent here. Companies that indicate they don’t give a shit about treating their LGBT employees fairly are at a distinct disadvantage, and they’re also putting themselves in a bad place wrt California employment law.

    BTW, it’s my understanding that after the furor started, it came out that Eich has also contributed to the campaigns of Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan. If you want to square that bullshit with “will totally make sure the company is chill with people not like him”, I wish you luck.

  30. 31
    Ampersand says:

    Mythago, my original post was, I think, pretty clear that I have no beef at all with Mozilla employees trying (and succeeding) to get Eich to resign. It’s becoming clear that he wouldn’t have been able to do the job well. Plus, it’s totally fair for CEOs to be held accountable, especially by the people in the same company.

    In contrast, OKCupid made it plain that their reasoning was just that they wished Eich ill because he disagreed with them on SSM. For instance, “We wish them nothing but failure.” Note the use of “them” – OKCupid was talking about SSM opponents generally, not just Eich.

  31. 32
    mythago says:

    Yes, Amp, and you employ the same overblown misstatements there. This wasn’t simply a matter of “Eich disagrees with us.” It was “Eich has taken specific actions to harm us and people we care about, and we therefore do not want to do business with him or the company whose board thought he would be a swell leader. We will encourage others to do the same.” Free speech, one might even say.

    And I also find your distinction between this and “real, positive change” to be a distinction without a difference. I would think that forcing Mozilla to live up to its stated mission, and to consider the impact on its LGBT employees of a leader happy to treat them as second-class citizens, is real, positive change.

    Your drawing a circle of virtue around Mozilla employees is artificial and unfair to the employees. By publicly protesting Eich they put their jobs at risk. Why is it wrong for outside supporters – who do not have to weigh whether to take that risk – to engage in action that supports those employees’ goals? Do you also believe that strikes are OK but nobody should refuse to cross a picket line?

  32. 34
    closetpuritan says:

    It is perhaps even worth noting that the bus company attorney claimed that the firm itself wanted to be integrated—buses were integrated in Mobile with no issue, and the company had asked to be allowed to move to a “first come, first serve” system—but the local laws forbade it. It wasn’t even the bus company’s fault, you see! And the boycott continued.

    This seems like the opposite of the Firefox situation–in the bus boycott, the bus company was (or claimed to be) pure of heart, but their actions were bad. In the Firefox situation, the company hasn’t taken any concrete actions, but the CEO is not pure of heart.

    (Yes, hiring Eich as CEO is an action, but it only has an effect on gay employees if Eich acts on his beliefs–beyond morale, which may go back to normal if, over time, Eich demonstrates that he does not let his beliefs affect his on-the-job conduct. And if we’re counting this as a significant action, having the entire board be anti-gay but hire a CEO who has donated $1000 one time to an anti-Prop-8 campaign would mean that company is okay.)

    The whole “he didn’t just speak out, he also donated money to the campaign!” argument seems like hairsplitting at best to me. (Does donating $1000 have a bigger impact than writing a widely-read op-ed?) $1000 may be a big contribution to the average individual, but in terms of their overall budget–or Eich’s personal budget–it’s chump change. And it doesn’t seem like a very meaningful protection of the ability to disagree if you can speak out all you want, but if you give any amount of money to fundraising drive for an organization that wants to air a commercial spreading the same message, that’s shun-worthy action.

    I wonder how my occasional donations to Planned Parenthood would be seen by right-wing people using similar logic. “She didn’t just speak out, she did material harm! And not just by denying people federal benefits, but by killing people–babies!”

  33. 35
    Jake Squid says:

    This is my favorite quote from Grace’s link:

    National Review takes its outrage even further: “The nation’s full-time gay-rights professionals simply will not rest until a homogeneous and stultifying monoculture is settled upon the land, and if that means deploying a ridiculous lynch mob to pronounce anathema upon a California technology executive for private views acted on in his private life, then so be it.”

    I notice that they don’t bemoan the stultifying monoculture in which cannibalism, slavery, auto theft, human sacrifice, and murder are anathemas. I take this to mean that they are in favor of anti-gay bigotry.

  34. 36
    Grace Annam says:

    Yes, Jake, it’s true. National Review types are all about diversity. Monocultures are too homogeneous and stultifying and lead to Lynch Mob Deployments, and you know what lynch mobs do: they fire wealthy executives!

    It’s tragic, and so terribly shortsighted. You would think that The Gays would be in favor of having all different kinds of CEOs, but no. The ones who spend money to deprive them of rights, for those they reserve this unthinking bigotry. Weird.

    Grace

    [edited to fix a typo]

  35. 37
    closetpuritan says:

    Grace, I liked that link–and I agree that we should be much more concerned about passing ENDA than about Eich’s future.

    You could say I have a love-hate relationship with William Saletan, but I think this piece gets at the more emotional part of my distaste for the reaction to Eich–it reminds me too much of the tactics of the religious right.

  36. 38
    mythago says:

    @closetpuritan, this “beliefs” and “pure of heart” and “well wait and see ” thing that baffles me. That is, we should ignore Eich’s actual behavior and hope that he doesn’t do anything like it again, now that his vantage point is “leader of a large company and foundation” instead of “dude sending in a check. It reminds me of the old domestic-violence approach from the police if you reported a threat: call us back if he actually tries to kill you.

    Both Eich and Mozilla also had the opportunity to address this controversy meaningfully. They blew that, too.

  37. 39
    Grace Annam says:

    Hypothetical scenario: Suppose it comes to light that a worker at a children’s daycare has given $1000 to a political organization which is actively compaigning to lower the age of consent to 12.

    Would it be okay to fire the worker?

    Would it be okay to encourage him to resign if a lot of parents expressed concern?

    Would it be okay to encourage him to resign if most of the parents pulled their children from the daycare?

    How about an avowed and public white supremacist? Totally okay to have her stay on teaching American history?

    How about a police officer who uses a racial epithet in a moment of anger? Okay to have him carry a badge? If so, does that incident make him more or less fit to be the department’s LGBT community liaison?

    Not all speech is speech. Some speech can get you judged criminally. Some can get you judged socially. Some can get you judged professionally. Some can get you judged economically. Some do more than one of these.

    Clearly the NATURE of the speech can be relevant, and the question becomes when and how we draw the line. THAT’S a question about which people of good conscience can differ, at least in the margins.

    It seems to me that part of the disconnect, here, is the same old disconnect we’ve been working with: pro-SSM people articulate a harm to LGB people, and document it exhaustively, while anti-SSM people articulate a harm to abstract concepts, can’t document it in any way which survives formal scrutiny, and assert that it nonetheless outweighs the documented harm to LGB people.

    A legal prohibition against SSM does harm in many unquantifiable ways — what’s the price of not being able to see your wife as she dies in the hospital? But it also does quantifiable harm: people pay more in taxes, etc. Sometimes it’s BOTH: children available for adoption who stay in foster care instead of being placed in stable and loving families suffer personal harm as a result, and also cost the state money for food and shelter.

    These harmful effects were and are felt by millions of people, the majority of whom are not wealthy, whose financial situations are to some extent precarious. On the other hand, the side opposed to SSM has been demonstrably, repeatedly, completely unable to articulate a harm to anyone, which survives actual scrutiny, even with big bucks on offer to skilled lawyers.

    The two sides are not morally neutral advocates on opposite sides of an academic debate. One side is actively seeking to harm me, and my side is actively seeking to not be harmed.

    Eich chose to speak: he donated $1000 to a political campaign which viciously mischaracterized LGBT people as essentially unfit parents, as unfit to marry, as lesser human beings. Subsequently, he was put in a position of substantial power, making substantial money, supervising some of those same LGBT people, and their friends and coworkers. And those people under him, most of whom weren’t themselves LGBT, also spoke: “You are not fit to be in that position.” And then Eich resigned.

    And the anti-SSM crowd, and some very earnest and caring progressives, are wringing their hands about it. Look! Look! THE HARM! Oh, the INJUSTICE! Eich spoke, and now he’s RESIGNED FROM HIS JOB!

    Yes. He has. And lots of other people have gotten fired, and continue to be fired in 38 states and other places, with no legal recourse, not because of something they chose to say, but because of something they ARE. And they generally don’t have options which are almost certainly available to Eich: retire, take a few years off and find a new passion, start a new company using the venture capital contributed by wealthy speculators…

    Eich spoke. A consequence of his speech was that people judged his fitness for a job. In an abstract, ideal world, maybe that would be unfair (though it doesn’t necessarily seem so, to me). But in the actual world we live in, that’s just a tiny spatter on the gander of what we pour enthusiastically over the goose, which makes it very hard to care about the travails of the poor, newly-bespattered gander.

    Grace

    [edited to fix typos]

  38. 40
    Grace Annam says:
  39. 41
    Mandolin says:

    I’m pretty much with Grace.

  40. 42
    closetpuritan says:

    mythago: So, if I understand you correctly, your position is that there’s a bright line between speaking in support of Prop 8 and making a personal donation to a Prop 8 campaign; furthermore, you see donating to a Prop 8 campaign as more similar to discriminating against gay employees (by, say, giving the good assignments to straight employees) than to speaking in support of Prop 8–and you are baffled that anyone would see it differently. I guess I find your position equally strange, and I’m not sure how to explain mine to you.

    I believe that there’s a California law that prohibits employers from attempting to control the political activities of their employees by retaliating against them. If an employer tried to argue that it was okay to fire a particular employee because that employee “crossed the line” by making a monetary donation to a campaign*, I hope most people would find that unconvincing.

    *And you know, they are attacking us traditional marriage advocates by doing that, because soon our children will be taken from us by law and they’ll be responsible…

    Here’s why I do see this as a purity of heart thing rather than a corporate policy or job performance thing: the Prop 8 donation was not a corporate donation. It was not done as part of his job as CTO of Firefox. And it’s not completely a “wait and see” thing, as he does have an employment history with Mozilla that they could look at. From Ampersand’s last link @comment 29:

    When the donation came to light in 2012, there was an internal damage control campaign, in which Eich promised that he would continue to uphold Mozilla’s environment of inclusion. And by all reports, he kept that promise. This is why there were a number of LGBT employees who came forward in support of him; their experience with him on a personal level did not show any bias against them and Mozilla includes the uninclusive.

    It reminds me of the old domestic-violence approach from the police if you reported a threat: call us back if he actually tries to kill you.

    But he hasn’t discriminated against employees, and the campaign he donated to is not directly relevant to treatment of employees on the job (as an anti-ENDA donation would be). This is not the equivalent, in your metaphor, of the first time he hit his wife, or even of him saying he should be able to hit his wife; it’s the equivalent of him having donated $1000 to a campaign to repeal the 19th amendment.

  41. 43
    closetpuritan says:

    Grace:
    I’m not sure if you’re interested in my answers to your hypothetical scenarios, but–I would say, scrutinize their past conduct, and if they are no other complaints or signs of problems, no, don’t fire any of them. (If it was a question of whether to hire them, it would be trickier, and I guess I would come down on the side of not hiring them.) If the police officer said that on the job, he should get a note on his file and/or similar consequences short of firing. I couldn’t really blame the daycare for firing the worker if the parents started pulling their kids from daycare, but my main issue hasn’t been with Firefox’s response anyway.

    And the anti-SSM crowd, and some very earnest and caring progressives, are wringing their hands about it. Look! Look! THE HARM! Oh, the INJUSTICE! Eich spoke, and now he’s RESIGNED FROM HIS JOB!

    Yes. He has. And lots of other people have gotten fired, and continue to be fired in 38 states and other places, with no legal recourse, not because of something they chose to say, but because of something they ARE. And they generally don’t have options which are almost certainly available to Eich: retire, take a few years off and find a new passion, start a new company using the venture capital contributed by wealthy speculators…

    1. The harms in the particular case of Eich keeping his job were uncertain, too; he’d had no prior complaints and had initial support from a number of LGBT employees. Using “does this person support gay marriage?” to predict whether that person will discriminate in the workplace almost certainly would give you better-than-chance accuracy, but looking at the person’s past behavior is probably a better way to predict it.

    2. Eich is unsympathetic because he’s rich, and indeed, I’m not particularly worried about Eich personally. But good precedent can be based on unsympathetic victims, and this case demonstrates that the harms are not entirely theoretical. As does Amp’s later post about “Boycott Moreland Farmers!” and the potential boycott of a restaurant owner opposed to the boycott.

  42. 44
    mythago says:

    mythago: So, if I understand you correctly, your position is that there’s a bright line between speaking in support of Prop 8 and making a personal donation to a Prop 8 campaign;

    No. I’m saying that if we are trying to determine whether a CEO – whose job is, after all, being the leader of an organization and setting its direction and policy – is going to behave in a way that is harmful to its LGBT employees and other stakeholders, having made a large personal donation to getting a bigoted law passed is stronger evidence that merely making a statement in favor of that law.

    “Wait and see” is telling Mozilla employees, hey, it’s true that he’s taken concrete action in the past that was very harmful to you, but you shouldn’t assume that he will ever do so again even though we have put him in charge. CTO is not CEO, and I find the ‘yeah, he’s been OK since then’ a little disingenuous. It also ignores the fact that, when Eich was appointed, the statements made by Mozilla and Eich were really not very reassuring. They were PRspeak and, from the lens of a lawyer, carefully written to say ‘we won’t do anything we could get sued for’ rather than making any concrete promises.

    People keep bringing up the what-if-they-fired-an-employee specter. Eich is not a rank-and-file employee. He’s not even a rank-and-file manager. CEO is an executive position. If Mozilla fired Ekaterina the senior QA engineer because she donated to Prop 8, that would be unconscionable and likely illegal. That’s not what happened here. (Eich wasn’t even fired, for one thing.)