Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich is the latest culture war casualty, pushed out of the Firefox company over his donation several years ago to California’s Proposition 8. “We have employees with a wide diversity of views,” Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said in a statement. “Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public.” Thankfully, they dealt with this problem as quickly as possible.
Except… Eich wasn’t even sharing his beliefs or opinions in public. He was rather quiet about it all, certainly not compared to others spouting bigotry on the largest stages in 2008. He could’ve been even quieter, as Jonathan Last notes:
Now that we’re in the realm of thought-crime where Eich loses his job not because of how he behaved, but because he gave money to a cause which is deemed untouchable, let me ask you this: What if Eich hadn’t given $1,000 to support Proposition 8. What if, instead, the tech community simply found out he had voted for it?
By any reasonable chain of logic, voting for Prop. 8 is at least as bad–probably even worse–than merely giving money to support it. A vote for Prop. 8 is an affirmative action taken to directly advance the cause, rather than the indirect advancement of financial support. If Eich was a known Prop. 8 voter, would there have been a similar campaign against him? I can’t think of a reason why not. And once you get to the point where merely voting for candidate x or issue y makes you unemployable, Katie bar the door.
It’s a rare moment that makes Last, Will Saletan, and Andrew Sullivan sound the same note in recognizing the hypocrisy here. But I don’t expect any real alteration in this trajectory. The lack of an ability of any corporate entity to withstand this type of culture war assault in the longterm ensures that mobs will repeatedly get what they want.
The more notable aspect here is how little Eich had done other than donate to a cause now deemed culturally impermissible. Saletan provides a handy list of the multitude of other tech and media company employees who donated to Proposition 8 (which, of course, passed) to be added to the purge list. He seems to think this type of meta critique will make Eich’s attackers reconsider the error of their ways. I expect it will have the opposite effect. The culture wars aren’t over – they’ve only just begun.
But of course, we should not confuse the rejection of Eich’s viewpoint (as a position so extreme it renders an individual unacceptable for prominent employment) as an act of intolerance. As Mozilla tweeted:
On Twitter, no one can see your tongue in your cheek.