The rise and fall of the nerd Eich

Perhaps you’ve used the Firefox web browser. If you’re an old nerd like me, you might remember the Netscape web browser, whose source code formed the basis of the Mozilla code that lies behind Firefox. If you’re really hard-core, you might know the name of the man who wrote the original JavaScript language, without which things like ad revenues and blog networks like FtB might not exist.

Brendan Eich was that man, and for a very brief number of days he was the CEO of Mozilla—until word leaked out about his tangible support for Proposition 8 and for discrimination against gays. The uproar was immediate and impossible to ignore. Other board members resigned rather than work with/for him. OkCupid put up a notice, visible specifically to FireFox users, naming and shaming Eich for his anti-gay efforts and urging users to switch to a different browser. Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere erupted with calls for his resignation and for boycotts. Eich resigned after only 10 days in office.

The aftermath has even some liberals frowning. True, it’s a sign of the times that bigots can no longer act with impunity when trying to promote discrimination against gays. That’s a positive step and a sign of the long overdue decline in society’s willingness to condone bullying and harassment. But has the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction? Have gay rights activists stepped over a line, and become guilty of “witch hunts” themselves? Is it anyone else’s business what Eich’s personal beliefs are and how they relate to his job, if he himself is careful to maintain a professional separation between the two?

There are those who say that profession and politics should not mix. Diversity is a source of strength and of benefit to all who participate, even when some of those participants may hold personal views that are backwards, bigoted, and unwise. Eich’s personal stand on gay marriage (they argue) should not be a factor in considering his qualifications and suitability for a leading role at a major open source company. And I agree, up to a point. There is a fine line between politics and profession, and those of use who care about diversity should respect that line.

In this case, however, I think there is a very sharp and clear line, and it was Brendan Eich, and not his detractors, who crossed it. Diversity and tolerance are about respecting the equality, dignity, and value of people. People are more important than ideas, even when those ideas are wrong and offensive (for some values of “wrong” and “offensive”). Thus, to be properly tolerant, we should overlook the ideas in order to be fair in our treatment of the people.

Where Eich crossed the line was in going beyond merely holding bigoted ideas, to the point of actively participating in a coordinated effort to humiliate and oppress innocent people. Proposition 8 had one purpose, and one purpose only: to isolate those who fall in love differently than heterosexuals do, and deny them the fundamental human rights the rest of us take for granted. At the point where you actively attempt to bring tangible harm to others, you’ve crossed the line from being a bigot the rest of us should tolerate, to being an enemy of open and enlightened society. Stupid opinions are bad enough, but stupid actions, deliberately undertaken for the purpose of harming others, deserve the consequences they receive.

Imagine someone who wanted to be CEO of Mozilla, but was on record as believing that whites should own non-whites as slaves. Could such a candidacy survive public scrutiny in our modern culture? Would it be a “witch hunt” if it did not? But that’s not a parallel case, because Eich didn’t just believe in denying gays the right to get married, he actively participated in a partially successful attempt to actually deny them that right. The parallel case would be a racist participating in a successful attempt to re-legalize slavery, and then taking over as the head of Mozilla.

Or suppose it was someone who was not only anti-Semitic, but had volunteered his time and financial support to ensuring the passage of laws requiring Jews to wear bright yellow star-of-David badges on their clothes, so that no one would accidentally mistake them for Gentiles when doing business with them. If he were the CEO of Mozilla, and people were demanding his resignation, would it be fair to refer to his detractors as Nazi’s?

Or suppose a sexist believed that women should not be allowed to vote (because ovaries or something). How well would that go over? Maybe a lot better in today’s Tea Party conservative world, but again, suppose he not only held this kind of anti-female bias, but was an active supporter and funder of a successful attempt to pass laws banning women from the voting booth? Would it be a witch hunt if there was widespread outcry against him?

We should be tolerant of words and ideas, and should respect the dignity and worth of all individuals, even when their ideas are unsavory and unhealthy. Actions, however, are more than just words, and actions can and should have consequences in proportion to the harm that they cause to others. If Eich were a bigot who kept his views to himself and who acted in ways that respected the equality and dignity of others—including gays—then yes, I’d be fine with keeping him on as CEO, and I’d agree that the backlash against him was excessive. But that’s not the case. The backlash stems from his actions in overtly and deliberately attempting to deny to others the same dignity and liberty he expects for himself. He reaped what he sowed, and he deserves what he got.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    While I agree in principle with Mozilla giving Eich the bum’s rush, this situation does raise some questions.

    For instance – how long should Eich’s shunning last for having written that check? What, if anything, could he do to regain status as a member of the mainstream community?

    • Deacon Duncan says

      He could do two things: repent and repay. Learning how to embrace diversity and not penalize people for being different would be a good start. Actively working to restore equal dignity and freedom to gays would be even better.

      • oldoligarch says

        Should we embrace other sexual orientations? Necrophilia,pedophilia,zoophilia?
        Aren’t homosexuals asking for special treatment in demanding that their particular abnormality be treated as if it were normal.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        None of your examples involve harmless relationships between consenting adults. And by the way, everyone is different in one way or another. To use the term “abnormal” as a pejorative substitute for “different” is mere bigotry. There are more right-handed people than left-handed, but that doesn’t mean that left-handed people are getting “special treatment” when they expect their particular “abnormality” to be treated as if it were normal. Same for Protestants, and Catholics. It’s not “special treatment” to treat people the same regardless of their differences, “as though that were normal.” Being different is one thing we all have in common.

        Unfortunately, gays are currently receiving special treatment—all negative—just because they happen to fall in love differently than heterosexuals do. Ending that special, oppressive, cruel treatment is something we should all endorse. All it takes is to refrain from making an active effort to go out of your way to make someone else suffer. That kind of restraint is permitted by any religion.

      • oldoligarch says

        Left handers are abnormal in a statistical sense as are homosexuals.but homosexuals are abnormal in the sense that their behavior is indicative of a mental disease,like necrophilia,zoophilia and other paraphilias.They all have in common sexual attraction to biologically inappropriate objects.Unlike left-handedness which is a normal variation in handedness and has no discernible impact on the proper functioning of an organism,paraphilias are abnormal because they do have such an impact they are maladaptations.
        We as a society should not socially normalize biologically abnormal behavior.
        What you call ‘hate’ and ‘bigotry’ I call tough love.What you consider compassionate acceptance I consider enabling a delusion.These people need help they’ll never get it if people like you have their way.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        It is no more appropriate to label homosexuality a “mental disease” than it is to apply the same label to faith. It is not something that anyone suffers from, apart from the abuse showered on them by homophobes, and even that is an indicator that homophobia is a mental disease, not that homosexuality is. Homosexuality is a love relationship, just like heterosexuality is a love relationship. It’s wonderful that you have such a firm and unshakable opinion regarding who you consider “biologically appropriate,” but that has nothing to do with objective reality, and your personal opinions do not give you the right to brand other people as “diseased” just because they’re different. Picking pejorative labels and applying them to people just for being different in harmless ways, is irrational and bigoted. Love, tough or otherwise, has nothing to do with it. It’s all about forcing people to fit into an unnatural (for them) mold. It’s usurping clinical terminology as a means of demanding not only outward conformity but inner conviction. And it’s grossly unfair to those who actually do suffer from genuine mental illness. Real diseases are painful and/or debilitating. Homosexuality is neither. It’s not a disease, and attempts to “treat” it never succeed and do more harm than good. Which is unsurprising, since there is no genuine good to be done. The only good thing is to accept people as equals, and be tolerant and accepting of their differences.

      • oldoligarch says

        Paraphilias are mental illnesses or disorders because they impair normal functioning.The normal functioning of the reproductive system is to reproduce.In any sexually reproducing animal certain species-specific stimuli be it visual,auditory or scent based should trigger a sexual response in a member of the opposite sex.
        Homosexuals and other paraphiles have a disorder in that a sexual arousal response is triggered by biologically inappropriate stimuli.It is nature not society that determines what is biologically appropriate.
        You keep saying that homosexuality is a love relationship.This is a euphemism.Homosexuals are sexually attracted to members of the same sex.That is biologically abnormal period.
        Homosexuals are not just different like left-handers.There is a range of normal variation in almost any given trait but normal variation is A) adaptive in at least some of the natural enviroments of a species and B) can under the right circumstances become the only existing expression of a trait.Hence the variations in human pigmentation that characterizes the human races are all normal variation.
        Homosexuality and other paraphilias are neither A or B. Hence they are abnormal.
        The problem with modern psychology is that it divorces psychology from biology, Psychological health and physiological health are the two components of bioligical health Both ensure the normal functioning of the organism and the survival of the species.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        You are mixing biology with your own personal prejudices regarding what “normal” functions are and/or should be. It has long been known that sexual behaviors have functions that transcend mere reproduction, and not just for the human species. “Inappropriate” is simply your way of expressing your personal prejudice against it, in a way that sounds superficially objective. Biology doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether your choice of partners is “appropriate” or not. That particular value judgment is coming entirely from you and your own cultural biases.

        If you want to talk about mental illness, let’s talk about homophobia. I’m not sure if that’s an actual mental illness or not, but it seems a much better fit. It causes distress to those afflicted with it, it impairs their ability to get along with others, it seems to promote delusions and paranoia, and of course it manifests as outright hostility and violence against innocent people in extreme cases. Obviously, I would not suggest that we respond by passing constitutional amendments making it illegal for homophobes to get married, since that’s an absurd approach to treating mental illness. But it does seem like homophobia is a serious affliction that we ought to have some kind of therapy for. A good cure would benefit everyone, gay or straight.

      • Mark Weber says

        You keep talking about homosexuality as being an offence against nature, yet it has been obseeved in about 1500 species of mammal. Seems like it is a very natural trait to me. So is fear of things different from one. I wonder which is more harmful: to individuals; to society; to humanity; even to the one expressing the trait. Actually, I don’t wonder that much. One leads to war, slavery, and systemic injustice. The other leads to sweatiness and grunting and moaning. Pretty simple choice, really.

      • oldoligarch says

        Is the normal temperature of a human being a matter of opinion are biological fact?How about the functioning of the circulatory system,nervous system and other physiological systems and organs?Certainly there is individual variation but only within limits and the limits are determined by how the organisms capacity to survive and reproduce are affected.Optimum darwinian fitness=optimum biological health both physiological and psychological.
        I realize sexual behavior has other functions,not least of which is pure recreational pleasure.But these are proximate ends and not ultimate ends of sex.Sexual desire in a healthy,normal human is stimulated as a response to the secondary sexual characteristics of the opposite sex.

        Mr.Weber I have not said homosexuality is an offence against nature.I have said it is abnormal and maladaptive.Indeed it is abnormal because it is maladaptive Maladaptive behavior cannot become the norm of a species.The fact that it has been observed in other species is irrelavant Nothing would indicate that other animals can’t act abnormally.In fact Darwinism would predict it.To say something is natural,occurs in nature,is to say nothing about it’s normalcy.Physiological diseases and other types of paraphilia are found in nature, and therefore natural but usually considered abnormal.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        But again, you are still conflating your own personal values onto your biological observations. There is nothing in biology that requires us to classify every behavior as “normal” or “abnormal” strictly on the basis of whether or not it contributes directly to the individual’s successful reproduction. It is merely your own personal prejudice arbitrarily applying “reproductive fitness” as though it were some kind of universal standard of “biological appropriateness.” And you only pretend to hold this standard when defending discrimination against gays—you do not apply the same standard to childless marriages or other circumstances.

        There is no universal mandate, in biology or anywhere else, that requires each and every individual member of a species to personally contribute, reproductively, to the survival of the species. Most behaviors are non-reproductive behaviors. Most behaviors in a marriage are non-reproductive behaviors. To insist that someone’s every behavior must be measured against a standard of “optimum Darwinian fitness”—and to do so only when it serves to justify discrimination against gays—is a transparent sham, a pretext clearly concocted as an excuse for oppressing innocent men and women.

        Speaking in strictly biological terms, homosexual behavior, like other non-reproductive behaviors, would have to be classified as falling within the limits of natural variation, because that is what we observe, just like we observe variations in other behaviors and characteristics. You are not drawing your evidence from biology, you are merely attempting to impose your prejudices on biology. And it’s not working. The more you thunder and denounce and preach obvious opinions as though they were scientific fact, the more everyone can see that it’s not the homosexuals who have the problem.

      • Mark Weber says

        Mr.Weber I have not said homosexuality is an offence against nature.I have said it is abnormal and maladaptive.

        Fair enough. Nonetheless, your overall thesis is that homosexuality is morally wrong for biological reasons. if that’s the case, then there are 1500 species of mammal which all express the same immoral trait and they’re all doing okay. I would argue that jingoism and chauvinism are far more harmful to carrying on the species than any trait expressed in 5% or less of the population which only affects those with the trait, no matter how maladaptive for the individual. War, slavery, genocide, and religious oppression of the sciences have done far more to restrict the human population than homosexuality.

        Physiological diseases and other types of paraphilia are found in nature, and therefore natural but usually considered abnormal.

        I’m not sure how you make the jump from abnormal to morally wrong. Especially if you want to bring the animal kingdom into it. Your argument would seem to make all organisms moral actors Are you sure you want to make morality about biology? Besides, for many animals, the tendency to penetrate any hole is adaptive because it increases the odds that genetic material will go to females capable of reproducing. By your logic, bisexuality should thus be considered adaptive and thus moral.

      • oldoligarch says

        Infertility, in childless heterosexual marriages, is a sexual disorder or abnormality,but a different type than paraphilias.My focus on homosexuals is solely because they (and their supporters) alone or insisting their abnormality be considered normal.Infertile people realize they have a disorder and are not pretending otherwise.

        There is a distinction between natural variation and normal variation.Diseases,disorders and syndromes are part of the variety we would find in any population in nature,.a part of the natural variation.But these aren’t considered normal variation.I have already given the requirements any normal variation would have to meet. Paraphilias don’t meet them.
        I have no desire to oppress anybody and don’t believe I or Eich are.But the mental gymnastics, falsehoods and redefining of terms we have to go through to seperate homosexuality from other paraphilias in a gigantic act of collective denial is in my opinion morally wrong because it deliberately misrepresents the facts.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        You are free to classify “abnormalities” however you like, but you cannot do so consistently. If you’re going to call it “biologically inappropriate” to be sexually attracted to someone who cannot reproduce with you, then you’re going to have to ascribe mental illness to everyone who does so, whether it’s due to infertility or menopause or homosexuality. But you don’t. You put them in different categories so that you can be morally outraged at homosexuals without consistently applying the same standards to everyone who meets the definitions you apply to gay relationships. That’s what gives people like you the reputation of being bigots and hypocrites.

        You can’t even adopt a consistent standard for determining what parts of nature are descriptive and what parts are prescriptive. [Hint: none of it is prescriptive.] You claim that homosexuality is a paraphilia because we do not see homosexual intercourse resulting in reproduction in nature, and therefore nature is supposedly telling us that such relations are wrong and “biologically inappropriate” (as though reproduction were the only function that qualifies as biological). But when you see homosexual behavior occurring plentifully in nature, you decide that suddenly nature and biology are no longer a guide to what’s normal and what’s abnormal. Nature and biology are in fact irrelevant to your conclusions. Your conclusions are predetermined by your prejudices, and all you’re doing is grasping at biased and tendentious interpretations of the evidence in order to claim a pretext for your bigotry.

        If you do not believe that gays are being subjected to oppressive behavior, I suggest you pass a constitutional amendment to apply the same restrictions to some group that would include you. Let’s pass laws making it illegal for believers to marry other believers, say (assuming you are a believer). Pass laws protecting business owners and landlords and employers so that they can freely deny you services, housing, and jobs, without penalty. Fill the radio waves and cable channels with preachers telling everyone how disgusting and evil you are just for being part of that group. Let’s see how “non-oppressive” you find that treatment when you’re on the receiving end of it.

        You speak of other people engaging in “mental gymnastics, falsehoods and redefining of terms,” but I think you’re holding the wrong end of that particular stick. You say you and Eich are not mistreating gays, but what you really mean is that you most definitely are, but you think they deserve to receive that kind of treatment. You tried once to justify it as “tough love,” remember? “Tough” because it’s harsh, as you know good and well. Love? Not so much. It’s not love when you refuse to even consider the possibility that you might be working from biased, pejorative, and inaccurate definitions in order to marginalize and demonize a minority whose differences are perfectly natural and harmless and not a source of any distress or debilitation. The distress and impediments gays suffer all come from external sources—from people like you, who call it love when they abuse people, and then accuse others deliberately misrepresenting the facts. There’s no justification for it, and that’s why society is finally turning against it. Every argument you make in its favor only exposes the prejudice and intolerance and cruelty behind it.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        By the way, let’s summarize the relevant facts here.

        1. It is normal and natural for sexual behaviors to have functions unrelated to reproduction, in a number of species.
        2. Many biological behaviors are non-reproductive in nature, including sexual behaviors, and therefore it is incorrect and prejudicial to label any sexual behavior as “biologically abnormal” solely on the basis of reproduction.
        3. Many biological behaviors are neither optimally adaptive nor maladaptive, but merely neutral. It is therefore a false dichotomy to declare that every behavior is maladaptive unless it is optimally adaptive.
        4. Homosexuality occurs naturally, in humans as well as a number of other species.
        5. Homosexuality causes neither distress nor debilitation to homosexuals (see next point), and thus there is no objective basis for categorizing it as a disease or mental illness of any kind.
        6. Homosexuals are sexually attracted to people with whom they cannot reproduce, however this is not a disability or abnormality because it is normal and natural for sexual behaviors to have functions unrelated to reproduction.
        7. It is prejudicial, harmful, and oppressive to brand people as “mentally ill” for having sexual behaviors unrelated to reproduction, especially when you do so to only some of the people whose sexual behavior has no reproductive potential.
        8. Accusing someone of mental illness is no justification for mistreating them.
        9. No third party suffers any harm when two homosexuals fall in love with each other, any more than any third party suffers harm when two heterosexuals fall in love.
        10. The anti-homosexual movement has a long history of mistreating gays, up to and including imprisonment, torture, and death.
        11. Anti-homosexual rhetoric and policies, when unopposed, consistently lead to extreme abuse of gays and gay sympathizers and family, as is currently being demonstrated in Russia and Uganda. This is not in any way motivated by science, “tough love,” or objectivity.
        12. Anti-homosexual rhetoric consistently offers slanders, misrepresentations, distortions, and even delusions, as though they were factual arguments against homosexuality. Examples include the absurdly-contrived Regnerus study, dire threats that “marriage, America, and civilization will be destroyed unless we do more to persecute gays,” “prophetic” declarations that God is angry with us for not doing more to snuff out homosexuality, psychologically devastating de-programming techniques designed to brainwash gays into denying their sexuality, and of course attempts to canonize heterosexual behavior as the only “normal” and “natural” form of sexual behavior, for reasons that are based on the assumption that only heterosexual behavior can be normal and natural.
        13. The most powerful weapon against homophobia is the discovery that homosexuals are real, ordinary, nice people rather than the crude demonic monsters homophobes make them out to be. That, all by itself, should be enough to tell us where the facts really stand here.
      • oldoligarch says

        I have not said homosexuality is immoral,Moral culpability presupposes freewill.I don’t believe people choose who or what they’re sexually attracted to, but that is true for all paraphiles as well as those in incestous relations.But we have no problem considering other types of paraphilia and incest as abnormal and even evidence of psychosexual disorder.Why do we treat homosexuality differently?Remember not talking ethically but ethologically.I understand there is an ethical difference between two consenting adults involved in a homosexual relationship and what a pedophile does.

        What I believe is immoral is knowingly pretending that any paraphilia is equivalent in any way to heterosexuality.Which is the argument proponents of same-sex marriage are making.What two or more consenting adults do in private as long as there not conspiring to harm others is none of my business.But when you bring it into the public square demanding that we not only recognize your right to engage in it privately but sanction it then it becomes everybodiys business.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        You have indeed not said that homosexuality is immoral, nor have you said that discrimination against homosexuals is immoral. Nor have you acknowledged that it is immoral to slander homosexuals by accusing them of mental illnesses they do not have. There is much that could be said about morality that you have not said.

        To answer your question, the reason we treat homosexuality different from mental illness is because it is not mental illness. Your armchair diagnosis of “paraphilia” rests entirely on the spurious and prejudiced assumption that it is not “biologically appropriate” to be attracted to someone of the same sex, which in turn rests on the spurious and prejudiced assumption that behaviors must be “optimally adaptive” for individual reproduction in order to be “biologically appropriate.” There is no actual, scientifice, medical fact supporting your malicious categorization. All you are really doing is expressing your own personal prejudice against non-heterosexual sex. You are phrasing your prejudice in medical-sounding terms in order to try and rally support for discrimination against gays, but there is no substance or validity to your diagnosis.

        Nobody is “pretending that any paraphilia is equivalent in any way to heterosexuality.” What we are doing is acknowledging and addressing the immorality and injustice of trying to use medicine as a weapon with which to inflict harm on those who are doing no harm. We are recognizing that different people fall in love in different ways, and that there is nothing wrong with being different. We are all different, and the fabric of our whole society depends on our ability to get along with one another and not use our differences as an excuse to bite and devour one another, or demonize one another and “diagnose” them as “inappropriate” just because they are different in harmless ways.

        Your right to have other people “sanction” your heterosexual marriage is only as strong as your obligation to give equal respect to the marriages of others, no matter how they fall in love. That is the social contract you implicitly sign by agreeing to participate in society and enjoy its benefits. You do not get to invent your own private brand of psychology so that you can define other people’s marriages as a form of mental illness and then interfere in their private lives and make them suffer because you personally don’t approve of how they have sex. As you correctly observe, that’s none of your business, and you have no business trying to punish people for their harmless behaviors. Believe whatever bigoted and biased things you like in your own mind, if that is your preference, but you don’t get to impose your prejudices on other people.

        And by the way, marriage reduces one’s opportunities for reproduction, by limiting two people to only one sexual partner each. If we were going to adopt your pseudo-scientific definition in which behaviors must be “optimally adaptive for reproduction” in order to be “biologically appropriate,” we would have to label all such limitations as biologically inappropriate sexual behaviors. We would need to forbid all marriages, all celibacy, and all abstinence-based sex education, on grounds of mental illness. We would have to consider promiscuity and even rape as the only “healthy” options, since they are optimally adaptive for maximum reproduction. The reason we do not do so, and emphatically should not do so, is because you are so very wrong (morally and scientifically) when you try to reduce “biologically appropriate” sexual behavior to only that which maximizes individual reproduction.

        There are many behaviors, in humans as in other species, that benefit the species as a whole without involving direct reproduction on the part of the individual exhibiting the behaviors. Homosexual marriage is a biologically appropriate behavior that is adaptive and beneficial at both the individual level and at the species level because (a) there is no biological requirement that all sexual behaviors result in pregnancy, and (b) it gives two people the support, encouragement and protection you get from having a loving, committed, and exclusive relationship with someone, which in turn equips both participants to be better able to function as productive members of society. The same benefits, in other words, as apply to heterosexual couples (whether they have children or not).

        There is nothing whatsoever that is immoral or dishonest or unscientific about society failing to discriminate against gays on the basis of your fraudulent and malicious quack psychology. It is immoral and dishonest and unscientific to use such quackery as a pretext for refusing to give other people’s marriages the same sanction and respect you demand for your own. You know that there’s no biological requirement for all sexual behaviors to be reproductive, and that means that your objection about sexual relationships being “biologically inappropriate” is a sham. It is bigoted and hateful for you to pretend otherwise.

  2. says

    Thanks for this. I’ve gotten so tired of “he’s being persecuted for his beliefs” comments, as though he didn’t make a substantive contribution to a successful campaign to force others to comply with those beliefs.

    for a very brief number of days he was the CEO of Mozilla—until word leaked out about his tangible support for Proposition 8

    I can find articles going back to April 2012 talking about Eich’s support for Proposition 8, back when he was CTO. It was only when Mozilla made him their CEO that the issue exploded. This really did impair his ability to do his new job, and it actively hurt Mozilla. Arguing that it didn’t is silly; he’s not an anonymous accountant or even the guy in charge of technical decisions anymore, he’s now the company’s public face. Mozilla effectively said “this is who we are” by making him their CEO.

    (I won’t even get into how ludicrous and offensive it is to use the term “witch hunt” when referring to the public objecting to the rich and powerful actively oppressing others.)

  3. Al Dente says

    When Eich signed the check he was literally putting his money where his mouth is. He was publicly saying: “I am actively supporting denying rights to a group of people because I’m a bigot.”

    When he became CEO of Mozilla other people said: “We will not support a company which has a bigot as maximum leader.” After a while, Mozilla and/or Eich realized that having a bigot as CEO was not in the best interests of the company. So he resigned (or was forced to resign, the story is not clear on that).

  4. says

    It’s also worth considering the impact of a CEO. I’ve seen some people saying “Guess we can’t use JavaScript anymore” to mock the anger over Eich and his promotion to CEO.

    Some tech guy being bigoted isn’t great, but for the most part he’s just following orders, and any orders he issues on his own authority are subject to review, revision, and outright cancellation from people higher up the chain. The damage he could do to the company and its customers is limited.

    The CEO, though, sets the tone for the whole company. He’s got some bigoted ideas that might influence how he does his job? The board can fire him, yes, but short of that there really isn’t much to keep him in line. The problems a bigot as CEO can cause are much worse than a bigoted tech, even if said tech is the CTO or other high executive.

    • Mark Weber says

      CEOs also have substantial access to the company purse strings and thus can engage in political activities on behalf of the company. (Thanks, Citizens United!) As a result, there are things which can be considered relevant to a CEOs job that are irrelevant in other employees.

  5. says

    I don’t particularly care one way or the other about Eich and think that it was Mozilla’s prerogative to fire him. However, I’m surprised to find people on FTB vigorously defending his termination. It’s pretty easy to read the comments above as endorsing the belief that it’s ok to fire people for political activities conducted outside of work hours (or, indeed, before they were even hired). Being charitable, a (slightly) more restrictive reading is that it’s ok to fire people for political activities if those activities sufficiently damage the employer.

    I leave it as an exercise to the reader to see how that principle might play out in wide application. Double-edged swords, people.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      It’s not that it’s ok to fire people for political activities outside of work hours, it’s that it’s legit to fire people for actively seeking to do significant harm to large numbers of innocent people, as Eich did. I think that’s a pretty clear dividing line.

      • says

        That construction is even worse; “significant harm” is in the eye of the beholder. Now all some Hobby Lobby type has to do is decide that a pro-choice activist has done “significantly harm” to large number of “pre-born children” and poof, no more job.

      • Nick Gotts says

        No, significant harm is not “in the eye of the beholder”. The fact that some people see significant harm where there is none, and fail to see it where there is, does not make this a matter of personal taste any more than creationists’ failure to see the evidence for evolution means evolution is “in the eye of the beholder”.

  6. Z says

    Just a pedantic note: the name “Firefox” has been spelled with a single capital letter pretty much from the very beginning.

  7. Randomfactor says

    But has the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction?

    Have gays achieved full civil rights yet? If no, the answer is “no.” Repeat as needed.

  8. mig06 says

    Mr Eich has every right to fund anti-equality causes. The LGBT community has every right to boycott an organisation run by someone who funds causes against their rights. The board of Mozilla have every right to get rid of a CEO that has become a liability to the company. It’s called cause and effect. Mr Eich is being taught that everything has its consequences. If you’re going to be a bigot, you better take on the consequences of that.

  9. Mark Weber says

    Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences in the marketplace of ideas. Eich, Bloomberg, the Koch brothers, Buffett, Branson, Gates, Walton, and everyone else are entitled to have their opinions and express those opinions. I am also entitled to my opinion and to express that opinion. If my opinion is that a major figure at a company is an asshat whose salary I don’t want to pay, I can express that opinion by not purchasing products and services from that company and letting them know why I’m doing so. That’s how free speech works. We all get to have it, except the government. In the US, the government’s speech is limited by the Constitution and other laws of the land. The rest of us get to do anything, but cry “Fire” in a crowded theater.
    I suppose the question is whether it’s ethical to use our speech in this way. The only situations where I can see this being unethical are those where people are actually being oppressed. Losing your CEO job, presumably with a golden parachute, hardly qualifies.

  10. marcus says

    It is also true that sometimes ideas are more important than people. Eich exercised his First Amendment rights by donating to a bigoted and prejudicial campaign, thousand of people exercised theirs by decrying his action and boycotting his company. At any point he could have admitted his mistake, truly apologized and set to correcting his error as you pointed out above. I think that it would have made a differences. At any rate it was a First Amendment solution to a First Amendment error. He work actively to victimize a class of people and then became the victim of his own bigotry. You may at any time be called upon to defend, pay, or atone for a certain position, this is the way true freedom of speech works.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      I’m reluctant to call that an instance of ideas being more important than people. You’re right that ideas can unite people and cause greater effects (good or bad) than one person alone. That makes ideas more influential and powerful than people, but it doesn’t mean that people should be sacrificed for the benefit of ideas, which is the thought I had in mind when I said people are more important. The value of people is intrinsic; the value of ideas is relative to the good or harm they do to people.

  11. says

    I’m more pissed that he cursed us with Javascript. His $1,000 contribution to Proposition 8 made marginal difference. That millions of people have to use Javascript — well, there’s a sin worth damning!

  12. wtfwhateverd00d says

    “Where Eich crossed the line was in going beyond merely holding bigoted ideas, to the point of actively participating in a coordinated effort to humiliate and oppress innocent people”

    You have a very perverse understanding of free speech and the democratic process when it is okay to hold a belief but not okay to effectuate speech in while participating in the electoral process.

    Are people who claim all they wanted is an apology demanding an apology for

    1) his holding those beliefs then?
    2) his legal donation and participation in the electoral process then?
    3) his unknown beliefs now?

    Is there any evidence whatsoever that in his 15 years at Mozilla a single on of his actions as tech lead or at CTO and manager has ever been discriminatory to any one or based on bigotry?

    Piss on you

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Hi, wtfwhateverd00d, welcome to the blog. I think if you go back and re-read what I wrote, you’ll find that I’m not saying “it is not ok to effectuate speech while participating in the electoral process.” I’m saying it is not ok to subvert the democratic process to turn democracy into a means of oppression. That is what Proposition 8 was designed to do. It does not protect people, it deprives them of protection. It does not fight injustice, it promotes it. It does not do good, it does harm, in the name of bigotry and intolerance.

      Remember, too, that the response to Eich’s actions was that people exercised their right to free speech. They criticized him, just as you are criticizing me. As a result of that criticism, Eich chose to resign. He had other alternatives. He could have said, “Yes, I made that donation, but since then I’ve come to realize that gays are people too, and the government has no business interfering in their private lives and denying them their equal rights.” He could have said, “That was a mistake, and I should not have done that.” He could have addressed the criticism and either mollified it or justified it. But what he chose to do was to resign. And that’s his perogative.

      I’m not sure what you think should have been done differently. Should people be denied the right to speak out in opposition to harmful policies and behavior? Should criticism be silenced in the name of political correctness? Should society reward those who promote tyranny and oppression, and raise them to ever greater positions of power and influence? What would your preferred outcome have been?

  13. B-Lar says

    Some people believe it is “integrity” to refuse to review their opinions from alternative perspectives.

    Integrity [intellectual/moral] is hard, but we should only permit those who are capable of acheiving it to be our leaders and representatives.

  14. oldoligarch says

    “True, it’s a sign of the times that bigots can no longer act with impunity when trying to promote discrimination against gays.”

    Are the laws in States that punish incestuous sex between consenting adults discriminatory?We’re not even talking marriage here.Even the Democratic Republic’s of Massachusetts and Vermont punish incest between consenting adults with long prison sentences.Talk about Gov’t. in the bedroom!

    • Deacon Duncan says

      What, incest is a sexual orientation now? I don’t think so. A heterosexual is not going to be tempted to commit incest with their same-sex relative, nor a homosexual with their opposite-sex relative. No, laws against incest are orientation-neutral, not discriminatory.

      • oldoligarch says

        Laws against incest regulate sexual behavior even between consenting adults.Laws against marriage between close relatives when both are consenting adults prevent people who are in love from marrying.It puts a stigma on a sexual desire many people consider abnormal, when they’re only different. Aren’t these the reasons you oppose laws against homosexual marriage?

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Tell me the names of the plaintiffs, and I’ll tell you what I think of their case. I’m not convinced that there is any such thing as two close relations who want to get married. If there are, they’d at least have a Biblical precedent: Abraham and Sarah, Cain and his wives, and so on. Technically, I suppose Adam and Eve are biologically identical twins, since her genetic material came from Adam’s DNA, so we might count that as a brother/sister marriage as well. “What God hath joined together” indeed!

  15. jon says

    I’m still most amazed that it’s apparently completely normal to donate money to help further a political goal. To me, that is insane: it almost ensures that the ones with the biggest wallets ‘win’, or at least have the biggest ‘warchest’.

    You’re entitled to your opinions, and of course, if you’re not shy about being a bigot, then you should not be surprised if other people aren’t shy in showing their disgust.

    So while the firing of mr Eich does not bother me at all, the ‘money = speech’ does…..

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