Where the facts really stand »« The rise and fall of the nerd Eich

Subverting the democratic process

Via Ed Brayton, we get this argument from Jim Burroway at the Box Turtle Bulletin.

[A]t 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 whether 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.

Ed thinks it’s a very persuasive argument, so let me make the counter-argument and see if I can be equally persuasive.

You’ve probably heard the quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, to the effect that “democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.” It’s true. Democracy is the best we’ve been able to come up with so far, but it’s flawed. In particular, it’s subject to demagoguery and to injustices perpetrated against minorities by the majority, for whatever reason.

I’m going to take a stand on principle, and say that our goal, as a society, should be to oppose that sort of abuse of the democratic process, even when it is technically legal. It is never a legitimate use of “free and fair election” to subvert the process in order to demean minorities and deprive them of their fundamental human rights.

ENDA is a legitimate use of the democratic process, because it goes the other direction: it seeks to restore and/or protect minorities against discrimination and second-class status. Proposition 8 was the exact opposite. It didn’t even have any significant benefit to the majority. It was purely a spiteful and bigoted attempt to make gay people suffer for being gay. It is never legitimate to use the democratic process in this way.

I agree with Jim: we should indeed think long and hard before we demand that someone be removed from their job for exercising their constitutional rights. But having thought long and hard, we should recognize three things.

  • Nobody has a constitutional right to demean and discriminate against anyone else, including gays.
  • Nobody has a constitutional right to subvert constitutional processes in order to institutionalize unconstitutional discrimination.
  • You reap what you sow.

Anybody can make a mistake. That’s ok, as long as you admit your error and try to correct it. Eich, to my knowledge, does not agree that he has made any mistakes. He still supports discrimination and injustice towards gays, and he’s not sorry he tried to make them suffer. He’s sorry he’s had to endure the consequences of his bigotry, but he’s not ashamed at having tried to exercise it in a way that would do lasting harm to others.

It’s not that we’re on any kind of witch hunt against homophobes. But putting people in leadership positions—especially highly influential and visible positions—means giving them a platform they can use to promote their values and agendas. When those values and agendas are hateful, harmful, and active, it’s entirely reasonable to think long and hard and come to the conclusion that the person is a poor fit for the position.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Relevant. Eich doesn’t seem especially concerned about other people’s Constitutional rights.

    Too many liberals are willing to concede the very basis of the disagreement and buy into the bigots’ false equivalencies. Contributing to a statewide hate campaign doesn’t become acceptable just because it’s legal.

    • says

      Also relevant. And can’t be repeated enough. Eich chugged along as Mozilla’s CTO for two years with full public knowledge of his Prop 8 donation. The recent blow-up isn’t part of an orchestrated effort to deny the man employment for his vote, much less his personal opinions. It was a reaction to the Mozilla Foundation as a whole knowingly choosing a public and obviously unrepentant bigot as their head and symbolic face.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Only people who disagree due to an irrational insistence on discriminating against people just for being different in harmless ways.

      • oldoligarch says

        Who determines what is an irrational insistence?Some self appointed censors?you people are like the Inquisotors of early modern europe,you demand not only outward conformity but inner conviction.Hence these public confessions and shaming and acts of penance you demand of ‘transgressors’ before they can be restored to full participation in social life.Mob ‘democracy’ in an age of almost instant communication is the greatest threat to our freedoms.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        There are a variety of ways we can recognize when it is irrational to insist on discriminating against people who are doing no harm to anyone. One way is simply by recognizing complete absence of any rational reason for discriminating against them. Being different is not a crime. We’re all different, and being tolerant towards one another’s differences is what builds strength into a society.

        Another test for whether such discrimination is irrational would be to mentally substitute different groups as the targets of the discrimination. Would it be irrational to inflict the same types of discrimination on left-handed people, or red-haired people, or people of different faiths or different educational backgrounds or different cultures?

        Another test would be to check for irrational sources. Is the discrimination rooted in superstition and/or dogma? Then it is not based on reason and rational thought.

        Another test would be to check for extremism. If you tell someone that they should not be going out of their way to inflict suffering on those who have done no harm, do they immediately compare you to the Inquisition and accuse you of being a great threat to freedom? Absurdly disproportionate responses are indicative of attitudes and behaviors that are not driven by reason and rational thinking.

        Another indicator is relentless slandering and demonization of the targets of discrimination. When all people are doing is falling in love differently, it’s absurd and irrational to accuse them of all kinds of horrible and corrupt things just because they are different. Likewise, it’s irrational to predict dire disasters like God’s wrath falling on us, or marriage being destroyed, or birth rates plummeting, if we don’t jump right up and start harassing and abusing gays like we used to.

        Another sign is when people claim that hatred for same-sex unions is a divine commandment from a God who happens to be, Himself, a same-sex union. That’s utterly absurd: a God who is, by nature, a union of three male persons, is not going to create a material world in which physical manifestations of His own nature are evil, immoral and disgusting. Well, not if He’s supposed to be a good God, at any rate. Believers kind of painted themselves into a corner on that one. Too sexist to allow any hint of femininity in the Godhead, and too obsessed with their own penises not to make their God a male (or three males).

        There are all kinds of indicators that betray the irrational nature of homophobic discrimination against gays, and they’re pretty easily documented for anyone who is sincerely interested in finding out the facts.

      • says

        No. Go to any non-spoof dictionary you like and look up “bigot”, and you’ll see a meaning there. Then go read what Eich did. He is — drum roll — bigoted.

        This question is hard enough to talk about without people deliberately trying to derail it by taking offense at ordinary meanings of words.

  2. says

    Churchill’s commentary, coming from a hereditary plutocrat, is mind-bending in its wrongness and cynicism, but what else would one expect from a man who allowed the slaughter at Gallipoli to continue rather than hurt his political fortunes by admitting an error?

    That remark is often used to justify the plutocracy’s disinterest in continuing study of politics – do you really think humans are so stupid that we can’t come up with better forms of democracy? Or entirely new systems of self-government? By all means let’s accept convenient mediocrity because Winston Churchill says so!

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Well, to be fair, the Churchill quote does not say that we couldn’t come up with a better system, only that we haven’t. Bear in mind that democracy doesn’t have to be capitalistic. You can have democratic socialism or even communism and (theoretically) still be a democracy.

      That said, democracy has its flaws, and I personally would love to see someone come up with a better system.

      • says

        Me too. And it really saddens me that we haven’t. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve got the chops to do it – John Rawls probably did. Immanuel Kant might have. Plato should have gotten off his ass and offered positive ideas instead of just demolishing everyone else’s.

        What might it look like to produce a system of government based on Rawlsian principles? I’d imagine it would have to be a sort of a reverse oligarchy – one in which the less fortunate made the crucial decisions but there were controls to prevent a tyranny of the masses. It couldn’t be considered “democratic” since pieces of the population (small in number, disproportionate in power) would be disenfranchised. And, of course, how to do it without resorting to force…

      • says

        (I am premising that we can’t call something a “democracy” if a piece of the population has been disenfranchised. So, right there, we need a new word for it – some kind of reverse oligarchy)

      • says

        Plato should have gotten off his ass and offered positive ideas instead of just demolishing everyone else’s.

        *snort* Seriously? You’re expecting better things of Plato? The man was an ass, a mediocre thinker whose works have been embraced by the Catholics precisely because they were so terrible. (And, furthermore, he was an aristocrat, himself — an upper-class rich twit related to the upper-class thug the Spartans installed as tyrant of Athens — so if he actually tried to come up with an original work on government, the result would undoubtedly have been a compendium of reasons why an aristocracy is The Best Form Of Government Possible, particularly if supported by slaves and providing free livelihoods to upper-class men who wanted to discuss philosophy, and the rest of us should just shut up and toil for the prosperity of our betters because we are inherently inferior by nature.)

  3. jenny6833a says

    Dear Deacon Duncan: Interesting post, especially the conclusion: “But putting people in leadership positions—especially highly influential and visible positions—means giving them a platform they can use to promote their values and agendas. When those values and agendas are hateful, harmful, and active, it’s entirely reasonable to think long and hard and come to the conclusion that the person is a poor fit for the position.”

    Who decides what’s ‘hateful, harmful, and active’? Would you support firing a nudist? What about a nudist in a ‘highly influential and visible position’? For that matter, what about an avowed socialist? Or an avowed practitioner of anything else that’s currently unpopular?

    Where does it end?

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Hi jenny6833a, welcome to the blog. I confess I’m a bit mystified by your implication that nudism is in some way hateful, harmful, and active. Who, exactly, would be the victims that were being actively hated and harmed by the nudist? It seems to me that you have confused behavior that is unpopular with behavior that goes out of its way to impose needless burdens and suffering on those who have done nothing wrong.

      When someone advocates creating a second class of citizens who, despite having done no harm to anyone, are to be denied access to the most basic of human rights and who are furthermore to be despised and vilified at every opportunity, that’s behavior that is categorically different than merely removing one’s clothes. And when someone not only advocates this kind of discrimination and oppression, but tries to incorporate it into the legal fabric of society in a way that does no good for anyone, and only produces enduring suffering and injustice, that’s well beyond any grey zone or fuzzy boundary regarding what is or is not hateful and harmful.

      Do you not agree?

  4. jenny6833a says

    @ #3.1, Deacon Duncan:

    You support firing a CEO of a tech firm for his anti-gay opinions, even when his opinions have not and are unlikely to influence decisions he makes while on the job.

    Yet I doubt you’d want to fire the superintendent of a school district for anti-nudist opinions which _do_ affect decisions he makes while on the job. (You know, I hope, that anti-nudist superintendents do rather frequently terminate or recommend terminating teachers when it’s discovered that they spend off duty time unclothed.)

    I think a person’s opinions or legal actions, those unrelated to job performance, should not result in any adverse action. I think such opinions/actions aren’t anyone else’s damn business. I think the CEO in question was unjustly fired.

    I support firing school superintendents of the type I’ve described.

    • says

      ?????

      First, I’d say you are assuming more about Deacon Duncan than you have reason to.

      Second, I find it even more bizarre that you’d suggest that a CEO with anti-gay opinions likely would not influence decisions but an anti-nudist superintendent would. You don’t think an anti-gay CEO would possibly have gay employees fired???

      Or, to bring the discussion to a more closely related area, I have seen stories of people being fired from private Catholic schools for being gay. I can’t say I’ve necessarily seen any such stories out of public schools whereas I do recall a teacher being fired from a public school recently for posing in Maxim (or something). Still, you seem to be making assumptions about anti-gay leadership for which there is actually contradictory evidence for.

      • Beth says

        I haven’t heard of any recent public school firings of employees for being gay. I gather it happened on a pretty regular basis a few decades ago. I have heard of single female teachers being fired for being openly sexually active even relatively recently. It’s social progress but like voting rights, in acceptance of sexual freedom, women have lagged behind the men.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      You are mistaken: I have not supported anyone firing anyone, since Eich was not fired. What I have supported is people’s right to object to his overtly anti-social, anti-human-rights behavior. I also support Eich’s right to choose to resign rather than face the backlash against his behavior. I even support his right to remain unrepentant and uncompromisingly bigoted against gays. That doesn’t mean I feel he deserves to be placed in a prominent position of leadership, where his presence alone would convey a message that discrimination and oppression against minorities is no impediment to privilege.

      I have no idea where you got the impression that I would support a school superintendent who abused his position to indulge in a personal vendetta against nudists. That, however is not a good parallel; to match Eich, your hypothetical superintendent would also need to promote legislation demanding that nudists all be registered as sex offenders and denied one or more of their fundamental rights, on the same level as the right to marry. Denying them the right to vote might come close, I guess, but it wouldn’t have the same day-to-day personal impact. Maybe if he wanted to legalize owning them as slaves or something.

      Do you really think a person’s opinions or legal actions should have no adverse responses if they’re unrelated to job performance? Would you want to silence those who would object to a superintendent who had, for example, legally handed Jews over to the Nazis during WWII? Or to go back a bit farther, someone who was not only a white supremacist, but who participated in “legal” maneuverings designed to prevent blacks from voting, getting jobs, or owning property? Would you feel differently about Eich if you found out he also gave the same amount of money to, say, Al Qaeda? Would it be wrong to object to someone who openly supports terrorism, on the grounds that he’s unlikely to blow anyone up on the job? And if you say no, he should not be able to support terrorism with impugnity, where do you draw the line between actions that harm people one way and actions that harm people another?

      I’m willing to make reasonable accommodations in the name of respecting people’s right to hold bigoted and hateful opinions. Acting on those opinions to bring substantial harm to others, however, deserves criticism and opposition, and the perpetrator has no right to try and hide behind some privileged position of immunity, especially not in the name of liberality and conscience. Those who go out of their way to cause harm to others should have a certain expectation of negative repercussions in their own personal and professional lives.

      • jenny6833a says

        Duncan Deacon says,

        ” … where do you draw the line between actions that harm people one way and actions that harm people another?”

        One relies on the law, and the law should not be retroactive.

        “I’m willing to make reasonable accommodations in the name of respecting people’s right to hold bigoted and hateful opinions.”

        It seems that YOU have decided that YOU are the one to decide what’s bigoted and/or hateful. In what way, then, are you different from them?

        “Acting on those opinions to bring substantial harm to others, however, deserves criticism and opposition, and the perpetrator has no right to try and hide behind some privileged position of immunity, especially not in the name of liberality and conscience.”

        It seems that YOU have decided that YOU are the one to decide what constitutes substantial harm. In what way, then, are you different from them?

        “Those who go out of their way to cause harm to others should have a certain expectation of negative repercussions in their own personal and professional lives.”

        Aren’t YOU setting out to harm those that YOU (in your perfect wisdom) have decided are guilty of harming others? In what way, then, are you different from them?

        Have you really shed your fundamentalist past?

      • Deacon Duncan says

        One relies on the law, and the law should not be retroactive.

        I’m not sure you’ve considered all the implications of what you’re saying. Concentration camps were legal, under German law. That doesn’t mean that the Holocaust was ok and that it was wrong to hold the Nurenburg trials.

        It seems that YOU have decided that YOU are the one to decide what’s bigoted and/or hateful. In what way, then, are you different from them?

        I’m not sure I follow you here. I’m measuring bigotry and hatred by a fairly objective standard. Being prejudiced against someone just because of what they are, is bigotry. Unreasoning hatred of people just because they are different, is bigotry. Opposing people and passing laws against them and declaring them to be inferior and morally repugnant and evil, when they have done nothing to harm anyone, is hatred. I don’t know how else to define bigotry and hatred, or at least not without adopting the self-serving definition of “it’s only bigotry when someone else does it.”

        I do not oppose people for what they are, but I do think that they are accountable for their actions and especially for the harm that they do to others who have done no harm to them.

        It seems that YOU have decided that YOU are the one to decide what constitutes substantial harm. In what way, then, are you different from them?

        Again, I’m not quite following you here. The fact that I’m able to point out objective, verifiable instances of harmful conduct does not by any means suggest that I am somehow inventing or imagining the harm. Demonizing people, interfering in their personal lives and relationships, singling them out for persecution and hatred just for being different—that’s all harmful. In fact, are not you yourself objecting to the idea that we might be treating homophobes the same way homophobes treat gays? Why are you objecting to such treatment if it is harmless and innocent?

        The difference is that my reaction is a response to the actions of homophobes who have, for no good reason, deliberately engaged in hurtful and harmful behavior against gays who have done no harm to anyone. Justice punishes people for doing the wrong thing; injustice punishes people for being the wrong thing. I am not opposing people for being what they are, I am opposing harmful behaviors, and declaring that people should be held accountable for the unprovoked harm they have done or tried to do to others. Especially when they are unrepentant, and see nothing wrong with continuing their oppression and cruelty towards the innocent.

        You seem to believe it is right and proper for you to judge me and criticize me, based on the similarities you see between my conduct and Eich’s (despite the differences). I’m not sure how you can justify that in your own mind, though, since I am doing no more than what you are doing to me. If that sort of behavior deserves condemnation, you should be condemning yourself.

        Aren’t YOU setting out to harm those that YOU (in your perfect wisdom) have decided are guilty of harming others? In what way, then, are you different from them?

        Have you really shed your fundamentalist past?

        Perhaps I was not clear. We should oppose those who do harm to the innocent—to those who have done no harm to anyone. When people go out of their way to harm others who have done no harm, there is no moral failure on our part when we react against their behavior and hold them to account for the harm they’ve done or tried to do. People are free to be hateful and bigoted, but there is nothing unjust or immoral in taking intentionally harmful behavior into account when considering whether or not to promote someone to a position of power and influence. Would you be denouncing me in such righteous indignation if it were Ted Bundy instead of Brendan Eich?

        Again, your behavior towards me is exactly what you accuse me of doing with respect to Eich. Have “YOU (in your perfect wisdom) have decided [I am] guilty of harming others”? How can you do such a thing if you honestly believe it to be wrong? You are welcome to do so as far as I’m concerned, but it does seem a bit inconsistent on your part.

        Also, I can’t really believe that you honestly think people should never take action against those who do harm to others, since it’s hard to see how we could have any laws at all in that case. It would certainly empty out the prisons, since we couldn’t put anyone there without “setting out to harm those WE (in our perfect wisdom) have decided are guilty of harming others.”

        What would you prefer? How should we behave towards those who go out of their way to take people who have done no harm, and treat them with contempt and repugnance, and oppress them with arbitrary restrictions, and refuse to do business with them, and deny them access to housing and jobs, and sometimes subject them to violence, imprisonment, and maybe even death? Do you deny the harm inherent in such treatment? And if not, do you have any reason to object if homophobes are given to the same treatment? Not that I’m advocating any such thing, of course, but I’m just trying to point out that we’re talking here about genuine harm. It does not become more harmful or less harmful depending on whether homophobes are the victims or the perps.

  5. oldoligarch says

    DD: Nobody has a constitutional right to demean and discriminate against anyone else, including gays.

    The U.S. constitution grants and limits powers to governments not individuals.

    DD: Nobody has a constitutional right to subvert constitutional processes in order to institutionalize unconstitutional discrimination.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Am I understanding you correctly? You don’t believe the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) protects the rights of individuals?

      Hmm, I’m reading through some of your other comments, and I’m getting a fairly strong troll vibe here. I think you belong on the moderation list, at least for the time being. This may be a hasty move on my part, and I’m willing to reconsider depending on how things go from here.

      • oldoligarch says

        The constitution protects the rights of individuals from the actions of governments namely the federal gov’t.Individuals have a right to discriminate, to associate with whom they choose.They have the right to organize,to contribute money to affect legislation that reflects their moral beliefs.
        They don’t have a right to physically harm others.
        To attempt to prevent them from organizing and participating in the political process because you don’t like their views is to violate everything the U.S. is supposed to represent and is an abrogation of the Social Compact.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Which is why I have made no attempt to prevent them from organizing and participating in the political process. All I have done is to applaud the fact that Eich reaped what he sowed. Though of course, he reaped less than he sowed, because what he sowed was an attempt to subvert the democratic process in order to deny certain individuals the right to associate with whom they choose, and all he reaped was people exercising their right to freely express their opinion of his conduct and to freely choose to do business elsewhere as long as he was at the helm. If you support an individual right to discriminate, you should be proud.

      • oldoligarch says

        You say he attempted to prevent homosexuals from associating with one another,but that is simply false.He was not advocating criminalizing homosexual behavior was he?He was not advocating police raids on homosexual bars or people’s homes to drag them off to treatment centers was he?
        To tolerate something is to put up with it to endure it even when you don’t like it.Our society is tolerant of homosexuals.
        But homosexuals want an endorsement an approval of their sexual orientation.They want it seen as a normal variation of the sex drive.This is what same-sex marriage is supossed to bring and this is what I believe Eich opossed. And rightly so.

        There is no normal variation in human sexual behavior because there is only one way humans can reproduce.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Marriage, as a relationship between two people, is a form of association. Eich was part of an organized movement that was attempting to deny gay people their constitutionally protected right to associate with one another as spouses. Whether or not he was willing to allow them other forms of association is irrelevant. It is just as great a violation of constitutional rights to forbid free association to gays as it would be to outlaw believers forming churches. Claiming that believers could gather together for Bible studies would not make it any less a violation to forbid them to form churches.

        Homosexuals want nothing more than what heterosexuals have, and they’re entitled to it. Your prejudices notwithstanding, there’s a lot more to sex than just reproduction. People marry infertile people, people marry people who don’t want kids, old people get married, as everyone knows. It’s patently obvious that homophobes are using reproduction as a pretext for persecuting and discriminating against gays, since nobody has any problem with childless marriages under any other circumstances. There’s no legitimate reason for having any problem with gay marriages either. Laws against gays are pure, spiteful, selfish meddling in other people’s business. This kind of injustice and oppression has no place in a free society.

  6. says

    There was a civics/history teacher in my high school, who had tacked up on the wall, among other things, an extremely old handwritten poster that said “Majority Rules, Minority Rights”. It’s one of those things a democracy has to take as a central pillar, along with not worshiping corporate capitalism and placing it above all else

  7. timberwoof says

    Deacon, this is the most concise and complete debunking of the “naturalistic” argument against homosexuality I’ve read in a long time. I wish I had seen it, oh, 34 years ago.

    I think that your “variety of ways we can recognize when it is irrational to insist on discriminating against people who are doing no harm to anyone” is as useful a tool as Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit. It deserves some elaboration in a post all on its own.

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