It’s good to be a bigot but it’s bad for Mozilla

The developer of JavaScript and Firefox, Brendan Eich, becomes CEO of Mozilla for a couple weeks but then he’s ousted.

Brendan Eich, the well-known techie who has gotten swept up in a controversy about his support of California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8, is resigning as CEO of for-profit Mozilla Corporation and also from the board of the nonprofit foundation which wholly owns it.

Eich donated $1,000 to California’s gay marriage ban back in 2008, a fact that became the source of controversy in 2012. The question for today: Is it fair to fire him? Seeing as how the matter gets back to free speech, it’s a good question.

I think about about the issue this way. Let’s invent a second version of the KKK, one that does not extend its activism to violence. Let’s say they aren’t interested in blowing up churches. We’ll call them the White Citizens’ Council. Let’s assume they are dedicated all the same to preserving a society where blacks are not equal to whites. Would it be okay for Brendan Eich to support their activities?

In addition let’s say Mozilla and the tech community know that Brendan supported the group previously, back when he was Chief Technology Officer. Should the company be careful about choosing this guy for its CEO?

I don’t see much difference between the bigotry of the White Citizens’ Council and the National Organization for Marriage, whose Prop 8 was thrown out by the courts. Both groups work hard to appear civilized while pursuing a politics hell-bent on preserving inequality. I see nothing benign or mundane in their all-out efforts to maintain a second-class citizenry.

I think Eich is welcome to embrace those abhorrent views, but not without criticism. He’s been allowed to fund the activist bigotry of the National Organization for Marriage without being asked to resign, which is okay by me. But when your personal beliefs run hard up against a company’s practices, you’ve got no business running the place.

Any gay employee of Mozilla would be troubled if not horrified to have Eich making decisions that affect their lives. It’s not unreasonable for these people to think about resigning. And why wouldn’t the typical American wonder what the hell is going on at Mozilla? How many of their senior executives think like him? Why don’t they care about what millions of their users think?

There’s a great deal of cluelessness on display here, not the least of which is Brendan’s:

Ignoring the abusive comments, I’m left with charges that I hate and I’m a bigot, based solely on the donation. Now “hate” and “bigot” are well-defined words. I say these charges are false and unjust.

To prove his innocence he provides hotlinks back to the Merriam-Webster entries for “hate” and “bigot.” And when you click over, sure enough, you can’t find “Apartheid” listed below either word. There’s no mention of politics in either definition, so score one for him…

First, I have been online for almost 30 years. I’ve led an open source project for 14 years. I speak regularly at conferences around the world, and socialize with members of the Mozilla, JavaScript, and other web developer communities. I challenge anyone to cite an incident where I displayed hatred, or ever treated someone less than respectfully because of group affinity or individual identity.

You supported Proposition 8, the effort to deny gay people their equal status. You still haven’t denounced it, right?

Share