The whole Brendan Eich affair is not very interesting to me. As you probably know, he recently became CEO of Mozilla Corporation. And almost right away, he resigned over his support of the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California in 2008. But after I saw that racist war mongering idiot Andrew Sullivan on The Colbert Report, I figured I should write something about it. So let me look at the two sides.
On the anti-Eich side, there were people who never wanted him to be CEO. His contribution to Prop 8 was known back 2012. So they wanted to get rid of him, and I understand that. I don’t especially agree. Being a bigot should not stop a person from having gainful employment. But these people are absolutely justified in acting as they did, because clearly they think more strongly about this issue than I do.
Regardless, it is wrong to say that these people forced Eich to resign. They simply applied political pressure on the company. And let’s not forget that a large part of Mozilla’s brand is that they aren’t Microsoft and they aren’t Google. They are the Good Guys. And having an anti-gay CEO harms that brand. I’m not completely clear, but I haven’t seen any comments from Eich to the effect of, “I was wrong and I no longer hold those beliefs.” I suspect that would have gone a long way.
On the pro-Eich side, it’s mostly just nonsense. Conservatives everywhere are claiming that Eich’s free speech rights have been violated. Most of the liberal bloggers I personally know write anonymously because they are afraid that their employers will find out. I am basically unemployable because of books I’ve written. This is not a free speech issue. We are all free to say pretty much whatever we want. And other people are free to not like it. Sadly, in America, you do not have a right to a job.
On Colbert, Sullivan gave his usual song-and-dance about how this was intolerance. He is under the mistaken impression that he is currently married to another man just because they have had the better of the argument and not because of any hardball political tactics. Given his business, he has no excuse for being so very ignorant of the centuries old gay rights struggle.
Conservatives like Sullivan want to make this out to be all about tolerance. But it isn’t. Tolerance of intolerance is just chaos. In Across the Pond, Terry Eagleton provides a proper definition of tolerance:
Tolerance does not mean respecting viewpoints simply because they are viewpoints. It means accepting that ideas which make you feel sick in your stomach should be granted as much of a hearing as those that send an erotic tingle down your spine, provided such views do not put others at risk, and provided you have done your damnedest to argue their advocates out of their fatuous or obnoxious opinions. Otherwise you are simply buying your tolerance on the cheap.
What I especially hate about this is that conservatives understand this in all cases where the boycott is conservative on liberal. In fact, conservatives are the true experts when it comes to boycotting. And when Christians boycott whatever it is they are boycotting this week, Fox News is there to say (properly) that they are just expressing their views in the market. But when companies boycott advertising on Rush Limbaugh or people boycott Firefox, well, then Limbaugh’s and Eich’s free speech is being deprived. It’s all so silly and transparent.
Update (11 April 2014 1:13 pm)
While I was writing this, Martin Longman wrote, The Principles Behind the Mozilla Controversy. He seems to agree with me completely. That’s especially true in his conclusion:
The main principles here aren’t with people’s right to disagree without being defined as a bigot or losing their job. The principles are the right of people to not do business with people they don’t like, and the right of two people in love to get married regardless of their genders. If you can figure out how to respect the first two of those principles without injuring the the second two, let me know.