WorldVision, Mozilla and the Death of Tolerance

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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211 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Sadly you are correct on this. Too many of the loudest people today don’t know when to just say ” I disagree” and and leave it at that. Beating back evil is fine, the problem is more that people to easily see others as evil instead of just another person. If there is a silver lining i think most of this kind of stuff is driven by only a few, a loud obnoxious few, but most people aren’t that bad. At least i hope so.Report

  2. Michael Drew says:

    As I’ve made clear, I’m still not really clear how Tod’s “The Right Path” thesis about the left works exactly. (Largely because I’m not really clear how the account of the right’s path works.) So I’m not sure exactly how this stuff works into that thesis. But, from his perspective if no one else’s (and if I understood the thesis better, I certainly would expect mine as well), it seems almost a given that this is the kind of thing would go to support it. So I hope he chimes in to give the specifics about how this works within his conception of the path the left may be on that the right has already taken (completed?).Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Yeah. Tod’s pretty much done with that.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Like, done done? We’re not going to see the rest of the project? Or just done explaining?Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’m still going to do my piece on adults with DDs, but I won’t be doing it in conjunction with the right path posts. I’m pretty much sticking a fork in those at this point.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’m sorry to hear that, but I do understand. I regret if I played a part in causing that to happen; it was never my intent. You seemed very assured of your plans, so I didn’t think input would derail the project, even if at times I knew I might be providing more of it than you preferred to receive.Report

      • North in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’m sorry to hear it my Tod. Is that because you feel the pushback/commentary has been excessively toxic or that you feel like the basic premise has revealed some cracks?Report

      • Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Hm. Hmm. Now, I’m tempted to write a post on it.

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Likewise. Given the prevailing winds, I probably focused too much on the parts where I disagreed and didn’t lend enough support on the parts where I did.Report

      • zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Hmm. This is sad news.

        I know I pushed back a bit, but only because I thought I might agree with where you were going, and it’s, in some sense, pushing back on my own thoughts. It’s a complex and difficult topic because there’s a fine line between individual free speech and social norms that promote some free speech while limiting other free speech; and I hoped you were going to that line, and perhaps, how to recognize it.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’ll probably do an OTC explaining, so people don’t wonder where the other posts are.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        …I’ll say this: regardless of how convincing you were or would have been, you did cause me to become more alert to evidence that might confirm what you were trying to say. Because, even though I was skeptical that you were going to end up with an argument that made a strong case for a clear claim on the topic (because I think it’s too diffuse to really arrive at that without a sh!t-ton of prett tedious analysis – though despite that, all of my criticism was aimed at guiding the argument in a direction that would be most convincing to me of claim that had useful meaning for me), ultimately your concern about the trend was enough to make me at least very interested in going along with you in an attempt to get at area l assessment of how concerned I should be about it as a member of the broad “left” you were concerning yourself with. I was genuinely interested for my own sake and the country’s in doing the assessment, even if I was skeptical that where things stood were as precarious as you were suggesting, as well as not as convinced as you (as I’ve said multiple times) that the place the right finds itself in is quite as terrible as you think it is.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’ll second Michael Drew’s comment that Tod’s series absolutely made me more vigilant about the policing of outsider opinion on the left, especially instances which were justified because Republicans did the same thing last week. So weather or not I thought Tod’s thesis was fully QED’ed, it certainly struck a nerve in a productive way.Report

  3. Nob Akimoto says:

    Today’ action concerning Eich is also troubling. People were quick to judge the man on something he did six years ago; equating his actions with joining racist groups like the League of the South. The fact of the matter is that until very recently, people thought marriage was between a man and a woman. Even with all of the progress, there are still a sizable group of Americans that disagree with this view. There are probably a good number of folks who treat their gay neighbors with love, but disagree on this one area. Are we basically saying that if you don’t have the right views you can kiss your job goodbye? Is that really where we want to end up?

    Eich brought a lot of the issues on himself, particularly when you consider his rather pointed non-apology he made on his own blog.

    CEOs are, rightly or wrongly, brand ambassadors in addition to everything else they do. For someone in Eich’s position to have made the choices he did and turn around and simply obfuscate in a way to claim he was simply expressing his personal opinion is probably unpalatable, especially for the people who work with and for Mozilla.

    I really don’t think this is the same situation as the one you posted regarding WorldVision.Report

    • dhex in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      it seems analogous enough to me – a reflection of the core reputation/brand was reacted to in a negative manner by vocal/sizeable/influential parts of their constituency, and each org then acted accordingly to adjust.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      his rather pointed non-apology

      How dare he not apologize when we disagree with him.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Mozilla’s situation is clearly not the same as WorldVision’s, but it’s a symptom of the same sort of problem.

      I think the non-apology you linked to was pretty much right on. Particularly its conclusion:

      There’s a larger point here, the one Mitchell made: people in any group or project of significant size and diversity will not agree on many crucial issues unrelated to the group or project. (…) Not only is insisting on ideological uniformity impractical, it is counter-productive. So I do not insist that anyone agree with me on a great many things, including political issues, and I refrain from putting my personal beliefs in others’ way in all matters Mozilla, JS, and Web.

      If he had in some way brought Mozilla into the picture – used his position at the foundation as a lever in lobbying, pushed for discriminatory policies in the foundation itself, treated gay members of the foundation poorly – that would be a different matter. Particularly when you consider that Prop 8 passed, which means we’re talking about Eich being fired for supporting a position presumably held by most Californians in 2008.Report

  4. Mike Schilling says:

    Of course the Eich are evil.Report

  5. Jesse Ewiak says:

    If there was somebody who employed a lot of African-American’s in the early to mid 70’s and it came out that he gave money to Strom Thurmond or Bull Connor and didn’t publicly say he was wrong, I doubt that would’ve gone well for him as well.

    Yeah, society has changed quickly. Just like it did in the mid to late 60’s when it came to race relations. I have no problems saying, employees have freedom to state unequivocally they don’t want their boss to be a bigot. Or at the very least, be smart enough to pretend he isn’t a bigot anymore. In the old days, they might’ve had a union. Now, they have the Internet. Which isn’t as good, but it does allow a mass build up to happen quicker.Report

    • My views on this kind of action tend toward those of Andrew Sullivan’s (and not because he’s Andrew Sullivan: most or much of what he says turns me off profoundly these days).

      But Sam Wilkinson made the point on Twitter roughly that Jesse does here, and it’s in my view a very good point (I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him): “I think the issue is that his views aren’t unacceptable enough. We wouldn’t talk about this if he’d donated to the Klan.”

      So for those saying that a person’s political views shouldn’t cause him to be hounded out of his job (on principle, not just as long as the views don’t violate some boundary of tolerance): are willing to bite the KKK bullet?

      Because if not, then you’re really dealing with an issue of setting the boundaries for when this kind of action is appropriate, not expressing a principle that it never is. I think Sam is on very strong ground in making that point.

      My sense is that we’re in a moment when a lot of people will be caught in a wrinkle where their views have rapidly gone from being seen as not perfectly au courant to being seen as hopelessly retrograde (at the very best). Practically speaking, I think we at least need to give people some time to catch up, where time to catch up isn’t consistent with demanding immediate reversals and recantations on pain of dismissal.

      But I actually do concede that there is a reasonable case that opposition to SSM has always been deeply prejudiced and oppressive, and that the fact that views have changed rapidly just reflects the wrongness of the delay in the change (compared to views on women’s equality and racial equality), and that, as a result, demanding reversals and recantations in order to retain leadership positions at organizations that aspire to present a progressive face actually does constitute a reasonable “chance to catch up.”

      I just don’t see a convincing case that it’s wise to pursue such courses.Report

      • Murali in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I’m willing to bite the bullet with the KKK member so long as he can be trusted to conduct business in a fair way. There is a sense in which it is unseemly and illiberal to require the allegiance of other people’s souls as well as their actions.Report

      • Fair enough.

        Though in both cases – KKK membership (though really all Sam posited was donating money to them; not sure if that makes someone a member) and the Mr. Eich case – there is an action, not just a belief. Namely, donating money to a cause (and other activity in furtherance of it). So, I guess the question for you is: is it not actually action simpliciter (as contra “soul”) that becomes legitimately subject to actionable audit by others, but actually only action in the sphere of activity in which the person’s relationship with those others primarily exists?

        I.e., say a Mozilla employee belonged to a voluntary political association of some kind that Eich happened to also be the leader of. Would it then become potentially legitimate for the same person to try to oust him for his political activity contrary to the values of the employee and co-member of the political organization because of the greater relevance of political activity in that context, while it remains not legitimate for the same person with the same beliefs to try to oust him from leadership of Mozilla, in his view for the same reasons (though we might say that the reason is not the same in the different context)? (Sorry if the example is poorly worded.)Report

      • Murali in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It is only action in “the sphere of activity in which the person’s relationship with those others primarily exists” that becomes legitimately subject to actionable audit by others. This seems like punching up, so lots of people are willing to give it a pass, but what if it was a supervisor firing an employee because the employee smoked or gambled or visited prostitutes in his off hours? We would rightfully object that what an employee does in his off hours is his own business. The CEO in this case is just an employee of the board. What he does in his own time is fine so long as his bad habits don’t spread into the workplace.Report

      • It’s a fair and powerful point, though I think one could certainly counter that the rules for right action guiding how those with the formal unilateral power to dismiss use it won’t necessarily be the same as those guiding how those with only the power to appeal as a group (or individually) and without any final authority for a leader’s dismissal use that. They’re different powers; they’ll have different rules. But that doesn’t mean that this particular rule shouldn’t apply to both, by any means. I’d be curious to see how Sam or other defenders might respond to your example of the inversion of this action. It’s well-put, in any case.

        Mainly though, my purpose was to make the distinction between the standard you enunciated (simply “action” versus “soul”) versus the one i described it seemed you were actually trying to operate by. It’s a pretty major delimitation on the larger category of “action.” Very major, I’d argue.Report

      • …Indeed, that phrase isn’t even limiting enough, if I have your meaning right. It’s not just that action in the sphere of primary relationship legitimizes actionable audit in general; it’s that only action in any given sphere legitimizes responsive action in the same sphere – and only there. I.e. the Mozilla employee who’s also a member of the CEO’s voluntary political group is not authorized to act in response to the political activities of the CEO in the Mozilla sphere of relationship, even though he is authorized to respond since the CEO has acted in a sphere in which his political action is auditable (the sphere of a shared voluntary political group.) He’s only authorized to respond in the voluntary political group sphere, or some other sphere where the political activity is auditable (i.e. he could respond outside of the specific political *group*, just as another agent in the general political world).

        Only actions “in the Mozilla sphere” as it were authorize responsive action in that sphere. That’s actually not implied by, “only action in the sphere of activity in which the person’s relationship with those others primarily exists […] becomes legitimately subject to actionable audit by others,” I don’t think. I think that statement would open, or at least doesn’t foreclose, the possibility that the responsive action could come in a different sphere, so long as the incident action came in the sphere of primary relationship. (The question would be how we arrive at the conclusion that Mr. Eich’s actions – or any other actions by someone in a comparable position – in fact are not relevant to/part of the Mozilla sphere.)Report

      • Murali in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I get your point. The reason I made the point about action vs soul is that I have an intuition that his political donations are merely evidence for the state of his soul and it is the latter which is really being punished.

        I’m generally leery of such moves which apply asymmetric standards. About the only sort of exceptions I think are justified is when it comes to the state. And the sort of features that justify it in the case of the state don’t justify it in the case of corporations. The state does not and should not stand in relation to us as civic equals. Asymmetry of standards is justified there. My CEO is still my civic equal. We stand with respect to each other as equal citizens difference of bargaining power notwithstanding both employer and employee symmetrically have the ability to unilaterally terminate the contract that exists between them. That the consequences of doing so are different for each party is irrelevant in this case.Report

      • I have respect for that view, though I tend toward the view that with different powers come different rules, even of social behavior.

        My impression about some of the argumentation coming from defenders of this yesterday is that it was essentially a standard that some people thought should apply only to the person at absolute apex of an organization: the “face” of the organization, as it were (surely not everyone limited their defense that way, though). I’d be curious to know whether defenders who issued a defense with that thought in mind would say that they would reject an action like this if directed at top leadership figures, but ones not quite in that very top slot. Or if not, at what point down the ladder in an organization they would say a person should be allowed to have political activity outside the scope of the organization’s purpose (again, that a position on SSM like this is fully outside of Mozilla’s stated purposes will be subject to challenge, but putting that aside – say it was a company with no stated aims to present a progressive face, be inclusive, etc.) be unactionable or even unauditable by fellow employees.Report

      • Btw @Murali, I keep a pretty weird schedule sometimes which has few upsides but one of them is that we occasionally get the chance to chat like this and chew on an issue just the two of us the way we just have here, which I really enjoy. So thanks.Report

      • Barry in reply to Michael Drew says:

        “My sense is that we’re in a moment when a lot of people will be caught in a wrinkle where their views have rapidly gone from being seen as not perfectly au courant to being seen as hopelessly retrograde (at the very best). Practically speaking, I think we at least need to give people some time to catch up, where time to catch up isn’t consistent with demanding immediate reversals and recantations on pain of dismissal.”

        Note that his ‘views’ consisted of actively working against marriage equality a few years ago.Report

      • Yes, that’s true, Barry.Report

      • Zane in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I think that Michelangelo Signorile has a pretty good response to Andrew Sullivan’s stance here:

        To summarize, Signorile points out that Sullivan relentlessly went after Alec Baldwin following his use of gay slurs despite the fact that Baldwin supported gay rights verbally and financially. But Sullivan defends Eich who worked to keep gay people as second class citizens. Signorile asks if “bad words” are worse than “bad deeds” in Sullivan’s eyes. (My terms, not his.)Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        If a CEO were involved in a public scandal involving, say, serious drug abuse or prostitution, he very likely would be fired, because as the public face of the company his private activities have consequences that a low-level employees’ would not. That’s really what happened with Eich, who had been CTO for some time without causing any controversy.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Mike – Would you be okay with it if the same thing happened with a CEO who was forced out of his position for being a member of, say, PETA?Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Peta? No, they’re mostly harmless (well,except if you’re a comedian.)
        Now Greenpeace? Maaaybe…

      • @mike-schilling

        That’s right, but the difference would be that, as of yet, having the wrong position on a topic of open public debate, on which there was a majority in Mr. Eich’s state that agreed with him as recently as six years ago, doesn’t constitute a scandalous breach of behavior on the order of the transgressions you mention. Some day it might (like open racism would today), but, the argument would go, it doesn’t yet. I’m not saying that’s the case or not, but I do think it’s fundamentally a matter of perspective, which makes it hard for me to agree with any absolute claim about it.

        But I do think that’s a fair way to make the CEOs-are-often-treated-differently point. OTOH, there are a lot of non-C-suite jobs you can get fired from for committing crimes (I think).Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Chuck Philips wasn’t quite a CEO, but he was let go because of a very public scandal concerning his former mistress, which wasn’t a criminal matter.

        Perhaps if he were the CEO of a furrier.Report

      • @mike-schilling

        As I say, I’m not committed to a position on this. But I’ll say that it won’t do anything argumentatively for you to establish that, once, somewhere, some other CEO got fired on arguably questionable but also arguably reasonable grounds, too!Report

  6. DRS says:

    Social issues in America are winner-take-all. Dragons are slain and knights get to take never-ending victory laps around them.

    A few months ago there was a post about a church group that did a mighty big climbdown on gay issues and Russell’s take was that they still had to atone for their previous stands since people had been hurt and just saying “we were wrong” wasn’t good enough. I thought that was over harsh but I’m not gay so I kept quiet. But really, was it any different at heart, even if not in extent?Report

    • Russell Saunders in reply to DRS says:

      I think there is an appreciable difference between saying that instantaneous reconciliation will happen the minute a church says it’s sorry for the people wronged (and, for the record, it wasn’t merely a church I wrote about, it was the biggest “ex-gay” organization in existence, the work of which was to say that being gay is a reversible choice and which did massive harm to innumerable people… “I’m sorry” was merely a start), and saying “You can no longer keep your job because your views on this social issue offend right-thinking people.”Report

      • But no one’s saying “You can no longer keep your job because your views on this social issue offend right-thinking people”,….the reaction was mostly “We think the fact that he’s pushed for codifying discrimination in the law and is unrepentant about it makes him a bad candidate for being promoted to CEO. ” It’s not like people wanted him fired from being CTO.Report

      • That is a fair point, which has moderated my initial intensely negative reaction to this whole brouhaha somewhat.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        There’s some analogy here to the Ender’s Game brouhaha, which said “We’re not trying to get OSC fired from his job as an English professor, but you really don’t need to go see his movie.”Report

  7. Damon says:

    Totally agree Dennis.

    I view it as nothing less than a sign our society is moving towards less tolerance than more. People don’t talk to each other they talk at them, and woe to those who are not in line with the ever shifting “acceptable views”.

    I think this example provides a perfect metaphor for the larger society: I have a particular friend, who describes herself as “very liberal”. I’ve learned that our conversations have to be limited to certain topics less she go “bat shit crazy” on me. We once were talking about the recent gov’t shutdown and she called Congress “criminal”. When I pointed out to here that 1) by definition Congress, acting in it’s official policy, cannot commit crimes as they are immune, and 2) “democracy”, her response was to shout over me, and say “we are not having this conversation!”

    The interweb has only served to reinforce that polarization. Now everyone can inhabit their own little echo chamber world. Throw into that mix the attitude that “those who disagree should be jailed”, and we’ve got ourselves a fine trajectory on our civilization.

    How will it all end? To quote a favorite TV show, “In fire”.Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      They’ll shut down the internet before the lazybones online get around to throwing each other in jail.
      And spend a bit of time on the more free-speechy parts of the internet (4chan) before you conclude that everyone’s just learning to watch their p’s and q’s, lest they get thrown in jail.

      By the way? Getting thrown in jail is NOT just a hypothetical, in certain first world countries.Report

    • Barry in reply to Damon says:

      “I view it as nothing less than a sign our society is moving towards less tolerance than more. People don’t talk to each other they talk at them, and woe to those who are not in line with the ever shifting “acceptable views”. ”

      I disagree. Note that the right-wingers very, very, *very* rarely have a problem with somebody being fired for liberalism. If you recall, there were many gleeful stories/urban legends being passed around about bosses firing people with Obama stickers on their cards and suchlike. And that the right works hard for fewer and fewer protections, so that almost anything is a ‘for cause’ firing.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    World Vision made a mistake here, I think.

    I think that had it held its ground, it could have weathered this particular storm and found a new donor base.

    That said, we get to get into issues of whether it’s better that it’s doing what it’s doing despite its policies or whether it would be better to change its policies and have to stop doing X% of what it’s doing. (And what X would be in an ideal enough situation.) Personally, I think that they would have had a bumpy year and then found their feet with a new (much more sustainable) donor base. But I would.Report

  9. North says:

    It certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Sully makes a very concrete point that this is at least a modest first step in gay rights groups and gay rights supporters transforming into the same opressive trolls that social conservatives are.
    That said it bears emphasizing that this was all privately organized boycots and private companies, employees and customers applying pressure. There wasn’t any government involvement here so I think Sullivan might be a bit over the top here.

    Then again the prop 8 fight was an especially galling one for SSM supporters because of how their opponents throw everything but the kitchen sink at them. The huge influx of Mormon dough, the absolutely risable accusations of gays trying to convert the children. It’s a sensitive subject.

    Then again, again, there’s no doubt that this makes SSM supporters look bad to anyone not already in their camp. So it’s probably a bad idea. The SSM world is not some centralized monolithic movement so we can’t draft a policy against it from Lavender HQ.Report

  10. Barry says:

    Dennis: “Evangelicals and liberal Christians were somehow able to worship together”

    Um, where did you learn about Christianity? Although I will admit it is a tad bit better than the usual ‘Christians and liberals were able to…..’.Report

    • Chris in reply to Barry says:

      What in the contrasting of evangelicals and liberal Christians do you find problematic?Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        The fact that folks like Rev. Wright exist?
        There are (apparently) a good deal of liberal evangelicals in church.

        Of course, I’m aware (as perhaps Barry is not) that Dennis is a pastor, and so probably knows this far better than I do.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Kim, did you see my comment suggesting a 5-minute rule, yesterday? It would have helped you here.Report

      • Barry in reply to Chris says:

        That people can be liberal and evangelical? That many are? That white right-winger are always trying to steal ‘evangelical’ and ‘Christian’ to mean them only?Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Barry, maybe ya could have said it that way in the first place?

        Though I think he has a particular distinction in mind, and it’s one that pretty much all of us will get with his choice of labels, particularly in the Baptist context.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        psst! Barry,
        Dennis is black. I believe he chose the names here because it is how the people themselves would self-describe. Not to say there can’t be overlap (of course there is!), but when you’re looking at two groups, they will assign names to themselves to increase group loyalty (and provide descriptive power).Report

    • Dennis Sanders in reply to Barry says:


      When I talked about evangelicals and liberal Christians, I wasn’t saying that there aren’t liberal evangelicals. I was talking about evangelicals as a group not as a stand-in for conservatives.Report

      • Barry in reply to Dennis Sanders says:

        “psst! Barry,
        Dennis is black. I believe he chose the names here because it is how the people themselves would self-describe.”

        I know that. It was burned into my brain a while back, because there are very, very few black people who can write about a pro-slavery preacher without mentioning that perhaps, just perhaps, the guy is morally, theologically and factually wrong.

        “When I talked about evangelicals and liberal Christians, I wasn’t saying that there aren’t liberal evangelicals. I was talking about evangelicals as a group not as a stand-in for conservatives.”

        This is an appropriation, or better yet an outright theft and fraud, perpetrated by right-wingers. It’s analogous to using ‘Christian’ to describe only white, right-wing christians (or ‘people of faith’).Report

  11. Kim says:

    1) I think that CEOs ought to be judged by what they do during worktime, or as emissaries for their corporation.
    2) If someone at Mozilla was saying “I feel like I can’t work here anymore, because he’s in charge” — that would be enough.

    Six Years Old Donations are not something to criticize, though the presence of them might lead people to find things that should be criticized (no problem with that! you gonna be open, we gonna look harder. I’d apply the same thing to a CEO who had made dismissive or antagonistic remarks about evangelicals)Report

  12. Creon Critic says:

    Are we basically saying that if you don’t have the right views you can kiss your job goodbye?

    Here’s why the surrounding circumstances make the answer yes in this Mozilla instance.

    He was the CEO. Nob Akimoto put it concisely, he’s the brand ambassador. I’ll just elaborate on that and say that he needed votes of confidence from several constituencies: the public who consumes his products (and who serve as donors to the foundation), the employees of Mozilla who develop the products, and the external developers who make products for Mozilla platforms like Firefox Marketplace, Firefox OS, etc. (The board of Mozilla made a spectacular misjudgement when they appointed Eich; you cannot have a CEO last two weeks and not look at the board askance. Really, what were they doing in that year-long search for a CEO?)

    Several of these constituencies expressed the view that donating money to support Proposition 8 is a serious mark against Eich’s character (as well as the more recent non-apology). It stands as a totem for being anti-equality, anti-civil rights, and for causing real hardship to fellow citizens (among them, employees of Mozilla and outside developers). These groups voiced their disagreement with the appointment, boycotted, froze development of, or withdrew products.*

    I’m fine with tolerance not tolerating intolerance on the order of Proposition 8. And I’m with the CEO of Rarebit who wrote,

    It’s not his belief that hurts us. It’s that he actively donated to a cause that directly negatively affected us, personally. It’s not abstract. It’s not a witch hunt. He’s certainly allowed to have his opinion, of course, but I’m allowed to judge his actions of supporting the cause financially.

    Actions have consequences.

    * Rarebit,

    • Dennis Sanders in reply to Creon Critic says:

      I’m curious: what if he wasn’t the CEO, but some mid-level manager. Would he still lose his job for his views?Report

      • Well he was the CTO at Mozilla and he had his job – I’d have to look up where he was in Mozilla 6 years ago.

        I think it makes sense to say leading the organization is qualitatively different than being mid-level management.Report

      • He had been CTO at Mozilla for years prior to this. So no, it wasn’t until he became CEO where that thing became a problem.Report

      • And it wasn’t so much his “views” as the fact that he’d taken concrete political action (through donations and funding both Prop 8 and pro prop 8 politicians) PLUS the fact that he basically told people to go fuck themselves when they asked him about it that led to people being upset with him being appointed as CEO.

        Again, he was CTO for several years prior to this, and there weren’t calls for his removal even when the facts became evident and he gave his non-apology in 2012. It was only when the Board decided to endorse him as the new public face of the organization as CEO that it became an issue.

        Also, for whatever it’s worth, Eich’s always been known as being a bit of an asshole who had burned some bridges before hand. So the fact that the tech community turned on him when given an excuse wasn’t THAT surprising.Report

    • j r in reply to Creon Critic says:

      As I stated below, the “he is the CEO” argument is compelling at first, but do you really think that this sort of thing won’t come to affect lower level employees? Can you really imagine a world in which the workers lower on the totem pole get more consideration and leniency than C-level executives.

      If you’re down with this sort of thing, that’s fine. Just prepare yourself for a future where it is widely accepted that your employer or potential employer can dig into your past and try to find something that might be deemed intolerant and use that against you. Some might say that future is inevitable or that it is already here, but it doesn’t have to be. This is how social and professional norms get created. And we have a chance to weigh in and say whether or not this sort of thing is acceptable or not.

      One of the things that I do at my job is screen and interview intern candidates. I make it a point not to Google them. I read their resumes, their writing samples and I talk to their references, but I don’t go looking for Facebook profiles or any other social media accounts. A lot of people that I talk about this with seem to think it odd, so I guess I’m just on the wrong side of history here.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        you seem to assume this hasn’t already happened.
        10+ years ago, I knew people who were denied jobs
        because they had posted a picture of themselves
        crossdressing at a college party (on something like facebook).

        Applying the same standards to CEOs that we do to
        rank freshmen seems like a good idea, no?

        [Personally, I’m on your side. Job’s job, what I do outside of
        job is mostly irrelevant]Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        No. What seems like a good idea is resisting the spread of the norm that your job owns you inside and outside of work.and doing what we can to roll back the progress that it has already made.

        I tend to resist what’s sauce for the goose impulses, because they invariably just end up spreading exactly the behavior that we want to avoid in the name of a sort of hollow equality.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to j r says:

        Well I see a marked distinction between hiring an intern and hiring a CEO. The Mozilla board reportedly took a year to find the right CEO. Don’t boards, or consultants, hiring at that level routinely make discreet inquiries around the industry, how do you cope with a challenge, do you present well, can you work well with others? Given the events of the past two weeks, to me, they clearly chose poorly.

        Also, if a CEO’s going to do interviews and constantly be asked, “what about that alleged homophobia?” instead of about the latest products from Mozilla, at some point it becomes a distraction that makes him unable to do the job well.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        You didn’t answer the question. Do you really believe that the norms enforced for other workers are actually going to be more lenient and more permissive of ideological differences than the norms enforced on the top executives?

        Once you set the precedent that political behavior and activity deemed intolerant is cause for termination (and I mean more best practice than legal precedent as most people are employed at-will), it’s only a matter of time before this sort of thing gets used opportunistically. And the general tendency of the workplace and of the world is that sh*t rolls downhill.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to j r says:

        Well the fact is, in Eich’s case the various constituencies involved were more lenient when Eich was the CTO; that is they didn’t force Eich out of his position as CTO. For them, CEO was a bridge too far. Your slippery slope argument doesn’t convince me in the fact of this fact.

        It doesn’t strike me as problematic to say to CEO prospects, look, you’ll be held to a high standard so conduct yourself accordingly.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to j r says:

        in the fact of this fact. = in the face of this fact.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to j r says:

        Well, I say this, bigotry is not a minor character flaw, and I certainly do not want to work with known bigots. This is not a “matter of opinion.” This is not a debate about “policy,” such as a small change in tax rates or the zoning rules to park my car. No, this is about my fundamental dignity as a human being.

        And it is possible that people like me and people like them are in such a stark conflict that their can be no peace, that one of our ideologies must die out.

        Maybe. Perhaps. If that is so, then that is so.

        But there is a real difference between our two sides, a real truth in the world. I am fighting for dignity, the capacity to flourish — for me and mine, there are millions of us.

        They are fighting on the side of hate.

        Don’t be afraid to pick a fucking side!

        I’m glad this Eich fucker lost his job. No pity here.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to j r says:

        I do think that in general, this type of thing will be limited to top level public-facing executives for a pretty straightforward reason: the companies themselves aren’t policing morality. They’re responding to activity from customers. A critical mass of angry customers just isn’t going to rise up against a company because they heard on the Internet that Joe on the loading dock is a white supremacist or that Carol in accounting supports Obamacare. This sort of thing seems to be pretty well limited to times when a company promotes somebody to be their public face and the public doesn’t like the face.

        The problem here is that either extreme position has a reductio argument against it that’s pretty compelling. On the one hand, we can’t have worker bees getting canned because they’re not in political lockstep with the board of directors. On the other hand, you simply can’t have a CEO who shows up in the news for going to Klan rallies in the evening, represents your brand on the morning news, and embodies corporate policy for a diverse group of employees. So there’s a line to be drawn somewhere.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to j r says:

        @troublesome-frog — There is indeed a line to draw. The thing is, we queer activists are trying to shape that line. In other words, this is a location of social struggle, one that makes a difference in our lives.

        In the past there was no cost to being a bigot, but there was an enormous cost to us. That is changing. Too slowly, but it is changing. Now being horrible to us, hurting us, destroying our ability to thrive, has become, for many, a no-win move.

        At least in some places, and soon more. My hope is that in the near future being shitty to trans folks will rise to this level as well.

        We can dream.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to j r says:


        bigotry is not a minor character flaw, and I certainly do not want to work with known bigots.

        And yet, I think the case can be made we’re all guilty of it.Report

      • zic in reply to j r says:


        Some of us are at least nominally aware that our bigotry is rude, and at least manage to act polite.

        I think @veronica-dire is talking a different breed; based on a lot of direct flagrant rudeness she’s experienced. And rudeness is a very mild tip-of-the-iceberg form of the bigotry true bigots display toward their chosen prey.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to j r says:

        Okay, so let us talk about the actual issue here. The CEO of my company is kinda-sorta known to have libertarian leanings. And I disagree with that point of view. But so what? We can disagree on tax policy or zoning restrictions or whatnot, but still know that we recognize one another’s fundamental humanity and dignity.

        And that’s the rub. Were I to discover that the CEO of my company was a known queer-phobe, that would change everything. It would make me suspect that our “diversity” policies and guaranteed recognition of gender identity were fucking lip service and nothing real. (Plus perhaps the pro-forma acknowledgment of MA laws on employee protection.) Indeed, under such a regime I would always be “that fucking queer” in his eyes, even if he knew not to say it out loud.

        Where is the glass ceiling for me?

        I need to trust that to the very top of my organization, I am respected as a genuine woman, who is married to a woman, and that these things are not going to stand in my way.

        If you scroll down you’ll see that I actually looked up the Prop-8 donors and discovered that some dude in my company gave money to “pro.” But so what? He is just some douchecanoe in some department far from me. He is not above me in the org chart. (I outrank him anyhow.) Let him hate in isolation.

        Should this limit his advancement? I dunno. I wouldn’t want to work under him. If I were placed under him, or any other bigot, I would have to make a change. (And I’m actually kind of a good software engineer.)

        A smart tech company will understand these things. It will weigh the contributions of bigots versus the contributions of queers (and solid queer allies).

        There was a time when we would lose in that calculus. That time is gone. We’re allowed to be very happy about this.

        The bigots? Fuck ’em!Report

      • veronica dire in reply to j r says:

        Let me add, usually in these conversations someone will say something like the following: “But Veronica, what about when those other people are in charge? It is fine to be happy when you are winning, but what happens when bigots outnumber you?”

        They say this as if it were a deep insight, as if I have no experience in that world.

        I know exactly when happens when the bigots win. I grew up in the fucking South.

        This is a conflict. There are sides.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to j r says:

        @veronica-dire @zic

        Good points. I think I need to chill out for a while.Report

    • Damon in reply to Creon Critic says:

      There’s no difference between supporting/contributing and voting for it.
      Shall we make public all voting records so we can assure everyone that anyone in a position of any importance voted the “correct” way?

      How far back shall we go?Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to Damon says:

        anyone in a position of any importance

        Part of my argument is that CEO is a particularly important job, being the public face of the institution. How you conducted yourself, especially publicly, in the past seems pretty relevant to that hiring decision.

        Is a board justified in looking to, say, previous speeches of a potential CEO candidate?Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Damon says:

        Oh look! A straw man!Report

      • Damon in reply to Damon says:

        @Creon Critic
        I’m not aware of any public speaking this guy has done against SSM. Please correct me if it is true. I’m all for people being challenged on what they say publicly. Donating a grand to a political cause doesn’t strike me as the same.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to Damon says:

        “Is a board justified in looking to, say, previous speeches of a potential CEO candidate?” was a hypothetical. I didn’t mean to imply that Eich had done speaking the board could look to. Just, in general, should/could a board look to speeches when considering who to hire?

        Campaign contributions are a public record. And though a contribution is not the same as a speech, campaign contributions do say something.Report

      • Damon in reply to Damon says:

        @Creon Critic
        I think a BOD can pretty much do anyting they want, as long as it’s legal, in the process of filling a vacancy. That doesn’t appear to be applicable to this case as he was already hired.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Damon says:

        “Shall we make public all voting records so we can assure everyone that anyone in a position of any importance voted the “correct” way?”

        This *is* an interesting counter to some people’s suggestions that all political contributions should be anonymous to protect people who contribute to causes which are progressive but badly thought of.Report

      • zic in reply to Damon says:

        Actually, voting records are public, sort of.

        Your party enrollment is public record.

        That you voted in any specific election is public record.

        How you are statistically likely to have voted can be easily discerned from other public information about you, including campaign contributions, address, and a billion other points of data out there waiting to be mined.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Damon says:

        A search of my name on such records would indicate that I am likely against marriage equality.Report

      • zic in reply to Damon says:

        @will-truman they don’t know what an outlier you are.

        But I appreciate it. Living out on the legs of the curve, that’s some wild territory, no?Report

  13. Shazbot3 says:

    The idea that the world (or the U.S.) is more ideologically polarized now is not confirmable by anecdotes.

    There is anecdata that it used to be more ideologically polarized in the past. So what?

    Also, some ideological polarization -for lack of a better word- is good and some is bad, It is good that we are less culturally tolerant -not in the legal sense of outlawing- of racism and homophobia now. It is better to be intolerant of certain kinds of conspiracy thinking.

    Not all ideological polarization is equal. Context matters.Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      Political polarization isn’t exactly confirmable by the scientific method. That being said, I’ve seen charts and data that suggest the U.S. is more polarized plus anecdotal evidence.Report

  14. j r says:

    A couple of thoughts about this:

    1. Lots of people won’t care that much about a potential injustice done to Eich, because he was a white, male CEO, ostensibly a member of the privileged crowd. Common sense should dictate, however, that the set of norm enforced on the CEO are not likely to be less charitable then the set of norms enforced on other employees. Therefore, this sort of thing reinforces the norm that your employer pretty much owns and can police your thoughts, opinions and behavior inside and outside of work. I do not view this as a positive development.

    2. The most interesting thing about this, to me, is that Eich was one of the original developers of JavaScript and was brought down for a political opinion that was fairly mainstream at the time. Even Obama was on the record as being opposed to same sex marriage at the time of Proposition 8. Putting aside the ethical dimensions of this issue for a moment, this sort of thing seems very likely to put pressure on people to avoid any potentially controversial opinions or activities for fear that someone might try to use it against them later. Those pressures exist now, but it seems that the breadth of acceptable behavior may begin to narrow, which could lead to a corporate and social elite that is even more milquetoast and unimaginative that it already is. What does that mean for technological and economic dynamism going forward?Report

    • Kim in reply to j r says:

      Not much. CEOs aren’t terribly useful nor productive (they spend most of their time schmoozing with other CEOs, which, while important, is not something that needs dynamism).Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to j r says:

      For someone who has made comments that they think the Republican Party scares away a lot of people for being too extreme; you make a lot of the comments that cause Democratic and other types to role their eyes.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to j r says:


      I don’t roll my eyes at j-r’s point about this reinforcing the norm, and that the norm is likely to be more harmful to lower-level employees than it ever will to most CEOs. It’s very prudent point imo. I guess I’m just fatalistic on the question of how much this will be done by employers to employees, is all: exactly as much as makes them the most money. I don’t think this kind of rare action will have really any effect on it. So I come out pretty much unaffected in my consideration of the merits by that argument. If anything I wonder whether doing it to a CEO here and there may make them reconsider how much they want it done downward in their companies. But the downward reinforcement effect might also be the direction it moves in on net for all I know. Or, just no effect. I’m not really sure which way it cuts.

      Which, as I say, leaves me with the merits, where I’m instinctually against this for the reason you give in your number 3, Saul. As I say in my original comment, I see the argument for doing it, certainly at least under extreme circumstances (KKK; neo-Nazism, etc.); I’m just temperamentally not warm to it.

      But I don’t see any reason to roll eyes at that point of j-r’s. (Maybe that’s not the one you roll your eyes at.)Report

      • …Number 3 in Saul’s main original comment in the comment section, that is.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:


        While I agree with @saul-degraw’s #3, too, there’s an inverse here: the CEO (and upper level management) set the tone for employees, everything from work environment to benefits. So the question is how their private thoughts and free speech in turn impact workers. Perhaps they can keep a distance; believe, for instance, that marriage is between a man and a woman, while pursuing equal benefits for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Perhaps they can’t, however; and if they can’t, what?

        Isn’t this something of what we’re seeing in the contraception mandate discussion? Where personal views and beliefs flow into the business model? And if it is, is that a problem.

        As a woman, and having seen the hiring biases against women in some fields, management, and pay, I’d say yes; but I’m open to arguments that those personal beliefs can somehow be separated or that the separation doesn’t matter.Report

      • j r in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I guess I’m just fatalistic on the question of how much this will be done by employers to employees, is all: exactly as much as makes them the most money.

        Is that true, though? There are lots of things that employers could do to employers to squeeze more money out of them in the short run that they do not do precisely because there are norms against it. In fact, lots of employers go out of their way to sell themselves as great places to work, because attracting and retaining good employees is how you make money in the long run.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Yeah. I’m told the numbers of slaves shot in America has been on the downswing lately. So, forgive me if I simply say, “Yes, some places are nice to their employees.” Because there’s always another business model.Report

      • @j-r

        I think you answered your own question to a large extent. However, I’m happy to admit: no I’m not completely sure at all. In fact, I’d agree that norms restrain employers in various ways. On this particular one, though, I just don’t see this kind of thing moving the dial on what employers are going to do in these matters much. Ultimately, it doesn’t translate into a defense of this kind of thing for me anyway: I’m not a fan. That’s just my estimation of the effects.

        Put it this way. To someone else for whom mounting a campaign like this was very important, I don’t feel I’d be telling the truth if I told them that, given that aim (again, I might argue against it on its terms, but given it), I would counsel against doing so merely because I thought it would have a considerable effect on the ways employers did the same things to them. I don’t think vague norms of the kind that would be affected by campaigns like this restrain employers all that much in this particular area (a little, but not that much), and I also don’t think that these campaign would ever affect the norms that much anyway. So it’s a small effect on a weak norm. How much employers do this to employers going forward is I think largely baked in. That doesn’t mean I think it’s fantastic for them to mount such campaigns on a goose-gander principle. But I just couldn’t tell anyone I thin that the future of employer-employee relations on this particular point hangs on their not mounting them in any significant way. Employers are going to do this to employees to the extent it suits them, and campaigns like this won’t affect how much that is one way or the other much at all. That’s my assessment.Report

      • @zic

        Actually, I completely forgot to add in an important proviso that I had fully intended to include: I’m temperamentally against it so long as it’s fully clear that he scrupulously kept every trace of this activity out of the workplace. If there’s the slightest shred of evidence he brought these activities into the workplace, I think he becomes fully and rightly subject to whatever reaction his workplace might have in store for him (within legal and humane limits).

        Even more generally, the culture and mission of the organization (company/workplace/employer) does have some bearing on whether his outside activity can truly be kept completely separate. I saw your argument about Mozilla’s particular values and culture, and they’re relevant. I’m just not convinced that they render the situation different enough from a typical company producing widgets that I don’t view Mr. Eich’s prerogatives/responsibilities pretty much as i would those of the CEO of Acme Widgets, Inc.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:


        I saw your argument about Mozilla’s particular values and culture, and they’re relevant. I’m just not convinced that they render the situation different enough from a typical company producing widgets that I don’t view Mr. Eich’s prerogatives/responsibilities pretty much as i would those of the CEO of Acme Widgets, Inc.

        Given the millions of hours of free labor behind Mozilla, I think it’s a particularly atypical situation; had the company had to pay the code monkey’s who built firefox, it would not exist.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Michael, I can understand aversion to Saul’s #3 post. Its really probably not that bad to fire somebody from belonging to a hate group even if it doesn’t seem to effect their work. Companies have images to maintain. At the same time, whats the limit? Who gets to define whats extreme? Should a company be allowed to fire a woman who likes doing burlesque dancing on her owntime if it has a family friendly image like Disney or Hallmark?Report

      • @zic

        I understand that, but what does that really mean? They can’t kowtow to them all. Some of them might have donated to the Prop 8 campaign for all we know!Report

      • @leeesq

        Slightly confused. I’m not averse to Saul’s #3. It’s roughly how I come at it. I think there are some cases where it will be hard for a company to support a person in a position of leadership with extreme views even if they are nominally separate from the work, so I’m not an absolutist about it. But I’m not a fan of this impulse. I can’t really draw more specific lines than that. I wonder if your comment was actually directed at @zic’ comment where she addresses me in the first line?Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew I’ve been on some of the mozilla development mailing lists for more then a decade; primarily because I was interested in how they’re developing enterprise software. I don’t contribute, I just read the discussions.

        So I think I can confidently say that the folks who actually are doing the bulk of the work are not employees; and it’s a market built on credibility and accomplishment, not on being an employer. It’s how you get to be an employee in an open source company like Mozilla, Canonical (Ubuntu) or RedHat.

        Simply due to that, the social values of the open-source development community ought probably take an oversized role in selecting top management; it should reflect that to some great degree. We wouldn’t object to this when it comes to think tanks, which are publicly funded. Open source software is publicly funded, also; but more in terms of labor then cash contribution.

        So while I agree with you for like 99.99% of businesses; Mozilla seems like it should be one of the rare exceptions.Report

      • @leeesq

        …Or you were just saying you can understand aversion to it, even though it’s my (and our?) way of looking at it. Depending on the context, I can too, though, as @north says, I think it would always give me a bad taste to see it done.Report

      • @zic , thanks. The nature of the distinctness you are talking about is coming into greater focus. As @will-truman says below, it’s a real consideration, and also fully outside my expertise or familiarity. So I’ll just step back from it for now.Report

      • Cathy in reply to Michael Drew says:


        Actually, I completely forgot to add in an important proviso that I had fully intended to include: I’m temperamentally against it so long as it’s fully clear that he scrupulously kept every trace of this activity out of the workplace. If there’s the slightest shred of evidence he brought these activities into the workplace, I think he becomes fully and rightly subject to whatever reaction his workplace might have in store for him (within legal and humane limits).

        Yes, but this is exactly the problem. Much of the discrimination currently at work in society is not the result of conscious animus and overt action, but of subtle prejudice and unconscious bias. I don’t care whether Eich SAYS he’ll keep his opinions about gay otherness out of the workplace, because there’s a significant chance he won’t be able to do that. Especially since he thinks there’s nothing about his association with Prop 8 that makes him homophobic. Someone who hasn’t examined their beliefs in that way, who just reflexively says “I’m a good guy and therefore not a bigot,” is not someone in a position to challenge and counteract their unconscious biases.

        To put it another way, if a company were about to hire Todd Akin as CEO, I wouldn’t care one bit if he promised not to bring his beliefs about women and sex and rape into the workplace; I would still be vehemently against his appointment to that position, and extremely upset with the company in question. It’s not necessarily that I wouldn’t believe his sincerity in that statement (though, with him specifically, I probably wouldn’t), it’s just that I don’t think that’s something he can promise. If his statement was “I don’t hate women, and I vow to keep my beliefs out of the office,” to me that would show that he in fact is not capable of keeping his beliefs out of the office, because he doesn’t understand what sexism is, and the myriad ways in which it works to the detriment of women.

        Eich feels the same to me. It’s one thing to punish people for political opinions they held or supported years ago; if the only thing going on here were his donation, I might be inclined to join the “do we really want this examination happening” crowd. But it’s not. His “apology” shows he doesn’t see what’s wrong, or anti-gay, about his support of Prop 8, which shows that he still has issues there. I don’t know that I personally would have taken boycott-level action against Mozilla were I a dev or otherwise in a position to do so, but it would definitely have made me unhappy.Report

      • @cathy

        I understand where you’re coming from. But notice that I didn’t propose simply listening to a promise. I propose a thorough accounting of any evidence that he was unable to keep these activities out of the workplace. And as to how it affects issues like equality and inclusiveness in the workplace, those are completely performance-relevant parts of any executive’s concrete record. They can be examined on those terms.

        I think close scrutiny should be given to anyone’s record on those issues who is being considered for a position who has made statements or taken actions outside of the work context that calls into question whether the mindset is right. And in certain cases I can even see public statements like Akin’s as being disqualifying for hiring. (In general, the bar for disqualification for hiring is in any case lower than the bar for grounds for dismissal.) But that bleeds pretty easily into just having a political test for hiring.

        And it’s okay if that’s essentially what you’re endorsing. It just doesn’t work as a generalizable prescription for how to deal with these kinds of questions. todd Akin will probably get hired for a top position somewhere after he leaves Congress. So if we’re just operating on a political preference basis, all we can say is that he will have passed someone else’s political test while he would have failed ours. If we want to make a more universal account of how to approach these issues, then we have look at where the separation between private views and public or business administration is possible, and where it isn’t in a systematic way. If we just shoot from the hip, we’re really not doing anything but applying whatever political test happens to suit out viewpoint the best.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Michael Drew says:


        I understand where you’re coming from. But notice that I didn’t propose simply listening to a promise. I propose a thorough accounting of any evidence that he was unable to keep these activities out of the workplace.

        There are a lot of people to satisfy with this, though. It’s easy for a statement like that to satisfy an outside observer or even a customer who is concerned about business practices, but how well does it satisfy employees who ultimately report to that CEO? To take the Todd Aikin example, how much of an assurance of oversight would female employees need to be comfortable with his appointment, and how satisfied would they be with those assurances given that they come from a board that just hired Todd Aikin to manage them?

        I’m not sure that Todd Aikin’s credibility problem can be solved by being vouched for by who clearly think that his credibility problem is no big deal.Report

      • @troublesome-frog

        Ultimately I wouldn’t say it’s at all illegitimate for a company to elect not to hire someone it believes would have a serious credibility problem with a large number of existing employees. As I’ve said, the bar for a reason not to hire is significantly lower than the bar for a reason to remove – with promotion to top leadership being somewhere in between.

        So basically I’m not sure we have the issue honed down finely enough.Report

  15. zic says:

    I’m rather meh about this whole thing.

    First off, I do believe tolerance is important; and some of my best friends hold views very far apart from my own; and I get exasperated with echo chambers really quickly.

    But I also think we live in a world where powerful and wealthy people have a lot of say in things that seems to far outweigh their ‘one vote.’ We live in a world that, we’re told, is market driven; and being successful in the markets empowers that voice way beyond ‘one vote.’ So the folks who are given power in companies are, often, given a lot more power than just their job.

    So actions like this strike me as people using their market force to have some say in what they view as acceptable social norms for people in power. If you’re going to get up on the big stage, you’re going to have critics.

    Putting it a different way, I’d say that politicians typically get vetted, seeking out the skeletons in the closet. Probably more social vetting of CEO’s might be worthwhile, too; making sure their personal values are aligned with corporate values, because that CEO’s values will imprint on the corporation.

    Now I wholeheartedly agree that it’s not a pretty thing; and when it runs amok, push back is okay, too. But a lot of pushback is concern trolling, too. The folks actually organizing boycotts often pick poor targets for making their social points, and the best defense is a good trolling.

    But really, I’ve got no problem with deciding to make a stink about an executive of a major company, and Mozilla, one of the jewels in the open-source movement crown, is a major company based on a different model of social rights to begin with; so I’m not even sure Eich’s an inappropriate target here, given that a huge number of the people who gave (and give) their time and labor to make Firefox either support gay rights or are gay. Respect for the values of the people doing your crowdsourcing matters for this particular company.

    People get shrill sometimes. It’s actually a useful thing, it helps us understand what shrill is.Report

  16. Saul DeGraw says:

    I’m of two minds of this for a variety of reasons.

    1. Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism or freedom from consequence. This was an entirely private action done by private individuals who were using their speech and boycott rights including OKCupid’s note. This seems to be the constant circular debate in the U.S. among the right and the left and it is rather vexing. I don’t know how to end in. A similar version is the butt hurt billionaire like Charles Koch who frequently takes to the press when criticized by people using their own free speech rights.

    2. The brand ambassador argument is plausible to me. He is the public face of a company that works in an industry and area that is very socially liberal or wishes to appear socially liberal.

    3. That being said, I generally dislike when people are fired for lawful off-work activity and would be enraged if someone was fired for left-leaning speech or activity.Report

  17. Sam says:

    The outright absurdity of comparing one private organization’s decision with hundreds of years of institutionalized homophobia in this country is ludicrous, and everybody making it – and I’m including somebody like Andrew Sullivan in this – should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. In a nation where it is still legal to fire somebody for being gay and in which adopting that protection meets heavy opposition, I’m meant to cry tears for because one (rich) bigot discovered that his bigotry was no longer going to be entirely ignored? Please.

    Eich could have simply opposed gay marriage privately, but instead, he leant material support to a cause whose sole goal was the oppression and exclusion of a minority from the institution of marriage. He made that decision. Nobody forced him to. Now he’s discovered that there actions have consequences, and that such a cause and effect is not only for other people, but also people like him.

    Wouldn’t it save social conservatives significant time and energy to just say, “We fully expect not to be treated in any way that even remotely resembles how we’ve treated people for hundreds of years, because it would be hugely unfair if that happens in a way that wasn’t unfair when we were the ones doing it.”

    Also, Dennis, I’m mad at you for getting a post up before I could get one up. You’ve beat me in getting it up. No, wait a minute. That came out terribly wrong. No wait. Oh god.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Sam says:


    • Chris in reply to Sam says:

      I think I’ve said ’round these parts before that I look forward to the day when homophobia or homobigotry becomes as socially unacceptable as overt racism. At this point, even though racism is still rampant, anyone who’s not extremely confident that his or her audience shares her prejudices is highly unlikely to go about airing his or her blatantly racist views. Homophobic attitudes, however, are still perfectly acceptable in pretty much any company, as long as they can be worked into the not-so-narrow window of “religious beliefs.” Someday, someday in the next decade or two I suspect, that will no longer be the case.

      It’d be nice if we could get that point with sexism, too.Report

    • j r in reply to Sam says:

      As a general rule of the internet, whenever someone mentions shame in the first sentence of a post or comment, what follows tends not to be particularly well-argued.

      This isn’t about feeling bad for Eich, which I don’t. He probably won’t have all that much trouble finding a job. However, sooner or later (and it always happens) someone who isn’t a CEO, who isn’t socially or professionally connected, who cannot easily find another job is going to be fired for similar reasons, because he gave money to the wrong cause or put something on Twitter that somebody else didn’t like.

      The argument for tolerance is not an argument in favor of what is being tolerated. This cannot be said enough times. If you want to argue in favor of intolerance on the grounds that certain points of view ought not be tolerated, then fine; go for it. But stop pretending that people who feel differently are somehow ethically inferior or ought to be ashamed.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to j r says:

        However, sooner or later (and it always happens) someone who isn’t a CEO, who isn’t socially or professionally connected, who cannot easily find another job is going to be fired for similar reasons, because he gave money to the wrong cause or put something on Twitter that somebody else didn’t like.

        As you note above, the US legal environment is already pretty deferential to employers firing employees given at-will employment. Do you support changing the law towards a more just-cause oriented standard? Employment tribunals assessing, and punishing, unfair dismissals like the UK for instance?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to j r says:

        Tolerance precisely is arguing that people should be ashamed of the wrong things that they think, as long as they continue to think them. It’s just also (and is primarily) proposing to do nothing about the fact that they hold wrongful views – but instead to tolerate that they do.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Michelle Goldberg has a good piece on this in the Nation today. People arguing for the suppression of speech or ideas deemed hateful through formal and informal methods are both supremely confident that the “correct opinions” can always be easily identified and that they will never end on the receiving edge of the censor’s cutting knife.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to j r says:

        …though I will say, @j-r , that i’m more partial to this way that you frame the tolerance argument than the prudential way you do above. I’m more persuaded by, “If you’re for tolerance, then be for tolerance” than I am by “If you don’t oppose his ouster for his views you’ll decrease opposition to your own ouster for your views when the time comes.” In this context, I just don’t think that’s going to be a significant effect.

        OTOH, if people claim to be for tolerance, then people should be for tolerance. I can get behind that.

        OTOOH, not everyone claims to be for tolerance.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:


        No. I’m not talking about legal standards. Mozilla was in its rights to fire Eich. I’m talking about social and professional norms.


        I was writing this when I saw your second message:

        That is the exact opposite of tolerance. If Bob went around saying to gay people, “you have every right to do what you’re doing, but you should be ashamed of yourself for having romantic relationships,” we would call him Bob the Bigot, not Bob the Tolerant. If you want to argue for limited tolerance, fine, but don’t try to change to objective meaning of the word.

        Your second message seems to grok what I’m getting at.



      • Creon Critic in reply to j r says:

        Ok, just norms.

        Were we discussing broader US employment law, a circumstance where everyone, including Eich, had guaranteed recourse to the law, and a public complaint/dispute mechanism whereby a former employee could dispute the circumstances of their termination (on more broad terms than is currently the case in the US), then I’d be behind that suggestion.

        I don’t think I located the right Goldberg piece, could you provide a link? I’d just emphasize, not that you were saying this, that campaigners weren’t arguing to informally suppress Eich’s speech. As far as I saw, they were saying, we have the right to criticize and boycott on the basis of Eich’s prior actions. I didn’t see calls for Eich to be imprisoned, or for any sort of state action to be taken against him.Report

      • ThatPirateGuy in reply to j r says:

        That ship sailed a long time ago.

        The only thing new in this story is that this time the bigoted position got gored.

        In my state employers can already fire people for being gay or supporting the wrong politician.

        I repeat we workers have been living in your nightmare world out entire working lives.

        If you want to stop it fine by me. I would prefer if we didn’t pretend like this is a new dangerous trend instigated by the left though.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to j r says:


        Bigotry isn’t inconsistent with tolerance. It takes tolerance for bigots to tolerate what they’re bigoted against; it takes tolerance for rational people to tolerate bigots. I think you’re overcomplicating tolerance. It’s as simple as it sounds: tolerating what you don’t like or even hate.

        Tolerance is one way you begin to deal with the toxic consequences of thought diseases like racism. First you ask for tolerance of whom they hate. That leads to growth and insight about the humanity of the other. That leads to healing of broken thought patterns and acceptance of fellow humans. But the tolerance comes in when you’re still convinced that you righteously hate the other.

        I’m making tolerance sound sometimes ugly – because it is often ugly. It’s accepting the hated, including the legitimately hated (like bigots). That’s why not everyone digs tolerance. If you’re surprised that not everyone digs tolerance, or at how few seem to, not having understood what I’m saying about tolerance here could be the reason for that.Report

    • Zane in reply to Sam says:

      Contrary to @j-r ‘s statement that “…whenever someone mentions shame in the first sentence of a post or comment, what follows tends not to be particularly well-argued.”, I find Sam’s statement pretty powerful.

      I’ve been really ambivalent about this whole Mozilla thing. I, too, have friends and relatives who hold views quite divergent from my own. My life would be far less rich and interesting if I didn’t. We somehow get along. I don’t like the idea of people being fired for their political views. The whole “goose and gander” thing can always come and bite you.

      But Sam points out “In a nation where it is still legal to fire somebody for being gay and in which adopting that protection meets heavy opposition, I’m meant to cry tears for because one (rich) bigot discovered that his bigotry was no longer going to be entirely ignored?” In most places in the US today you can still be fired for who you are (if you’re gay or trans, for example), much less what you say. In organizations like Catholic schools you can be fired for advocacy of artificial insemination or living without someone outside of marriage (check out the Cincinnati Archdiocese’s new rules). When we look at those organizations, we shrug our shoulders and say, “well, religion”. Those employees have far fewer resources and options to draw upon than does Mr. Eich and there are far more of them. Yet who gets all the attention? The wealthy, white, cis-male, heterosexual CEO.

      I do believe that it’s perfectly reasonable to hold that Eich’s firing was unfortunate but of less importance (because of its rarity and lesser negative impact on the individual) than the squelching of poorer and less-advantaged individuals’ identities, behaviors, and non-work related speech.Report

  18. Will Truman says:

    My main interest here is that this sort of thing will make it harder rather than easier to continue to press forward for marriage equality. I think a lot of the strides that have been made have been so in part because of an increasingly sympathetic view of the marriage equality movement. Vindictiveness, which this will come across as to a lot of people, won’t help. It hands the other side a talking point – albeit an inaccurate one – about what we’re “really” after.

    Which matters insofar as this is very much a battle not yet won, though hopefully will not matter with the immense wind at our sails.

    On the “justice” standpoint, there are obviously no first amendment issues at stake here. I think too much is being made of the “But it’s the CEO” aspect because this sort of thing will, at least, make its way down the org chart somewhere. Eich was allowed to keep his job as CTO, but the next CTO candidate that holds the view he does may not get the job because they’ll want it to go to someone who can take the reins someday. Or otherwise won’t be considered “leadership material” even if he kept it out of the office.

    And it remains the sort of thing that, if I still had a career worth defending, would make me glad that I write under a pseudonym and otherwise limit my political participation. Taking a stand today can be a career liability tomorrow. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing – it’s not exactly a new thing right here and now – but it is a thing.Report

    • Ultimately, we do want that process to play out at some pace or other, though, right? I mean, we *don’t* want an extreme racist hired as the CTO of the company we work for, right? So I think these standards of behavior and indeed thought do need to work their way through the cultures of organizations of all kinds. (I mean, it’s not controversial to say that a person’s ability to think well is relevant to his hirableness, right? And extreme racism is a clear indication of inferior thinking to some degree, don’t we agree on that? Over time, other biases will have to follow suit…. but that doesn’t mean that a year after the liberal sitting president goes from being unable to voice support for marriage equality to being able to, we should be hounding people who opposed it out of jobs.)

      To me, it’s a matter of two things: 1) drawing the distinction between hiring standards and firing offenses, and 2) finding the right pace to expect changes in hiring standards stemming from changing social norms to work their way through organizational cultures. the first is pretty clear-cut. The second is much less so.Report

      • Sure. I think a lot of it is contextual. Whether we like it or not, marriage equality is still within the realm of conventional political debate. Ten or twenty years from now, my view of this exact sort of thing on this precise issue would be different. (Provided that we are talking about activity more recent than 2006.)

        I do think Zic makes a good point about Mozilla being a particular case. I’d have less reservation if I felt that truly was the delineating factor.Report

      • Whether we like it or not, marriage equality is still within the realm of conventional political debate. Ten or twenty years from now, my view of this exact sort of thing on this precise issue would be different.

        That’s exactly where I am on it. Like, to the letter. Right or wrong. Hence my emphasis on timing and pace. Right or wrong.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:


        If the firing was based on people deciding to not download firefox, that would be not okay?

        If it was because the developers who donate their time said they’d stop, that would be okay?

        Because that seems to be the delineation you’re making, and I’m not sure I how I feel about it. Seems to me one of the functions of a market is to hear customer response, and respond, and not downloading a free product or not using it seems like a viable way of protesting the company if you feel you need to do that. TLDR: I’m not sure I feel comfortable condemning consumers expressing an opinion through market action concerning any aspect of a business.Report

      • @zic Every particularity makes a difference. In some of the cases you mention, I’d question the person boycotting Mozilla more than Mozilla’s actions (if Mozilla had fired him, I mean). “I don’t want to download a browser if the CEO donated money to a campaign that I disagreed with” doesn’t strike me as particularly sociologically healthy. The same applies to working there. Declining to volunteer time is more understandable.

        I’m less interested in any specific incident than the relative direction. On the one side is a culture where political activity such as donations and petition-signing is penalized by anybody and everybody disagrees. On the other side we let bygones be bygones and focus more on what they are doing personally or professionally to make the world a better place even if their views or actions are absolutely abhorrent.

        I’m not a complete partisan on the latter side. I don’t want to go watch any Roman Polanski movies even if what he did doesn’t have any bearing on his work and I can think of some boycotts I would support. But I do tend to prefer to bounce around that side of the orbit than the other side. This particular firing may have been entirely justified and necessary. I don’t think that whatever ramifications it has (on the social fabric) will be generally positive. At best, it has no effect and folks can take pride in a bad, bad person being held accountable for his views.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Michael Drew says:

        ” I mean, we *don’t* want an extreme racist hired as the CTO of the company we work for, right? ”

        No more than we want a meateater hired.

        “wait, what? We don’t think it’s morally wrong to eat meat!” Really? Kind of a lot of people do. “Well, it’s not a majority opinion, and certainly nobody’s saying anyone should be fired over it!” Yeah, ten years ago it wasn’t a majority opinion that same-sex marriage was okay, and nobody was saying opposition to it should get you fired.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @will-truman , you say “Whether we like it or not, marriage equality is still within the realm of conventional political debate.”

        But that’s not actually the case for the community Eich lives and works in. There are certainly many parts of the country where the issue is still within the realm of legitimate political debate, but the San Franciso Bay area is not one of them. Eich exists in a place and in a culture where homophobia is as objectionable as racism.Report

  19. Shazbot6 says:

    What is intolerance here?

    Is it intolerant to shame those who wanted the guy fired? Are some of you being intolerant of anti-homophobic attitudes.

    Note that we are not talking legal intolerance. We are not banning homophobic or racist speech.

    We are talking about how much we should find Eich’s position shameful and disgusting and be willing to say so in public. They are shameful and disgusting. Is that intolerant? Not in the legal sense. In the sense of moral shaming, sure.

    Once we do that Mozilla has to decide whether to fire it’s public face for holding shameful views that he has refused to apologize for. Should we be intolerant of Mozilla’s decision to fire the guy?

    It would be different if his views weren’t public. It would be different if he were an employee that was not one of the faces of the company. It would be different if he were properly contrite. But that isn’t the case here.

    I suppose there is a difficult question about when to hold public figures accountable (by not voting for them by boycotting their companies, etc.) when they do shameful disgusting things that they were contrite about. And their are some questions about who counts as a public figure. (Is a bit part actor who is a KKK guy enough to boycott a movie? No. The director, producer, and financiers? Yes.)

    But those aren’t questions relevant to this case. This case is much more clear cut than that.Report

  20. Kim says:

    I think we ought to leave a good margin of room for folks to apologize (in this case, I’d expect him to say “I know my prior beliefs had actual consequences to real humans who were suffering…”. Hell, I don’t even care if all he says is “I won’t contribute again, and I’m thinking harder about the consequences of my actions from this point forward”).

    Then again, I have seen someone publically apologize on the internet for saying (10 years past) that the world gov’ts/media was run by Jews. He publically recanted what he had said, and explained why he made (what seems to a Western audience) such a stupid error. I have no reason to think he was not sincere (and that he had not already recanted, without doing so publically, as it simply hadn’t come up).Report

    • Michelle in reply to Kim says:

      Eich provided material support for a political cause that has quickly become incredibly unpopular in certain states. In 2008, his side won (and I say that as someone who supported the No on 8 side and who was appalled by some of the ads and tactics of the pro-8 people).

      Mozilla can fire the guy–that’s within their rights as an employer–but I’m not sure we want to set the precedent of calling for the head of anyone who ends up on the wrong side of a hotly contested issue. Did the guy’s political views affect how he did his job? Would anyone have been aware of his position had it not been for California law requiring disclosure of the names of anyone donating more than $100 to the campaign for or against a ballot measure?Report

      • Michelle in reply to Michelle says:

        My reply here is directed to Shazbot’s comments, not Kim’s.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Michelle says:

        I am generally in favor of campaign contribution disclosures. Something like this is the only thing that has ever given me pause. I remember a while back they were demanding a release of the names of the people who signed the petition. That starts getting problematic for me. Donating money is not signing a petition is not voting, but there are some similarities. (I still see reason for a distinction between the first one and the next two, but not between the last two.)Report

      • zic in reply to Michelle says:

        When I was actively reporting, I did not donate to campaigns (or work on them) in any way.

        Mostly because I felt I had some duty to at least appear unbiased, and I worked very hard to push against my biases.

        So with that in mind, one of the potential consequences of that we’ll see higher-level executives make their political donations through their corporations and to PAC’s where the disclosure is shrouded.Report

      • Shazbot11 in reply to Michelle says:

        Did the guy’s political views affect how he did his job?

        This would be a good defense for a non-public figure.

        Eich was going to be promoted to CEO, a very public position. Had he been a neo-Nazi that would have mattered, even if it didn’t “affect how he did his job.” Both features do effect how you represent the company, especially without contrition.

        And a neo Nazi ceo would be a bad CEO for Jewish employees just like a homophobic bigot would be a bad employee for gay people. So it does effect his job in that way, too.Report

  21. trizzlor says:

    I think it’s important to disentangle weather Eich’s firing was due to a sort of internet heckler’s veto, or if it was the outcome of a successful boycott. Personally, when I heard about the issue and read his opinions, I simply added Eich and Mozilla to my mental list titled “Products where a big chunk of profits go directly to active bigotry” (in good company with Barilla, etc.) and made little adjustments to avoid those products if possible. Were I still a developer, I would also prefer to write for Chrome rather than for Mozilla, for example. So, is it wrong to base my purchasing decisions – in some small part – on the corporate culture or financial decisions of the high-level management? I can see the concern if Eich was getting shouted down at his press conferences, interrupted in interviews, egged on his way home from work, etc. and the company decided his business acumen wasn’t worth the distractions from protesters. But what if a bunch of techies made the same mental note that I did and simply uninstalled Firefox? Where does that rank in terms of tolerance?Report

    • Michelle in reply to trizzlor says:

      I don’t see the two issues as necessarily connected. As consumers, we’re free to decide we won’t buy a company’s products because of the political affiliations of its leaders, because we hate their advertisements, or because we don’t like the color of their product packaging. I, for instance, refuse to set foot in Walmart for political reasons.

      Ditto for preferring to work one place over another. It’s your prerogative. But do we really want to start demanding people resign for wrong-think?Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Michelle says:

        @michelle But do we really want to start demanding people resign for wrong-think?

        I guess I don’t see a big difference *in practice* between advocating for a boycott because of the current CEO and advocating for the current CEO to be fired.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to trizzlor says:


      My impression was that the firing was due primarily to an internal revolt of some kind. Though, as @zic has been saying, for Mozilla internal/external is a very complicated or even not-fully-existent distinction, so…Report

  22. Mike Dwyer says:

    Coming to this late so I will just say this is another great post Dennis.Report

  23. Michelle says:

    Good post, Dennis. I too find both World Vision’s actions and those of Mozilla discomforting and related to what seems to be the current black-and-white, good-or-evil nature of current political and cultural debates.

    Mozilla’s board knew about Eich’s donation when they appointed him CEO. They should have had the courage to stand by their decision provided he acted in accordance with company policy toward Mozilla’s LBGT employees. He supported a ballot measure that won. Should everyone who did so now be subject to removal from their jobs? Tolerance runs both ways. And diversity should include diversity of opinions, even those opinions one finds distasteful. I agree with the Michelle Goldberg article, Lee Esq. cited above–those who wish to police “correct” opinion today might easily find themselves the subject of similar policing tomorrow.

    That said, I don’t think that the full-on hysteria with which Dreher has treated this incident is correct either. The list of Prop 8 donors, on both sides, has been public for years per California’s full campaign disclosure laws. There appear to be few reprisals. Mozilla likely is a special case. Three members of the board resigned shortly after Eich was appointed CEO, so his resignation may have had as much to do with political infighting as to his history of political donations.Report

    • North in reply to Michelle says:

      Yeah a major reason I’m face-palming over this is that it lends fuel to the “The anti anti-gay pogrom is coming!!1!!oneone!!” nonsense that Dreher and his ilk keep trying to peddle.Report

  24. Damon says:

    Admittedly this link is satire (I think) but does anyone really think that this is not a serious viewpoint by some in our society, and not just about SSM?

    “Brendan Eich is just the beginning. Let’s oust everyone who donated to the campaign against gay marriage.”

    • veronica dire in reply to Damon says:

      Oooooo! That article tells you how to download the list.

      So there is this one dude from my company who supported “pro”. He’s a west coast guy, so I don’t know him. Anyway, wow, a person who hates me.

      I feel so enlightened.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to veronica dire says:

        Make sure you phone him up personally and tell him how bad it makes you feel that he hates you. I’m sure that’ll get him to change his mind and turn into a good guy–although, of course, he’ll always remember that he’s actually the scum of existence, and the best he can hope for is merciful death at the hands of the Good People.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        I think I’ll just bribe my west coast peeps to put gross things in his coffee.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        (For the record, I won’t actually do that. Seriously, there is no reason for me to pay any attention to this guy at all. Fuck that trash.

        On the other hand, if he were above me in the org chart, I would have a problem with that.

        On the third hand, I’m changing jobs soon anyhow.)Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to veronica dire says:

        Yes. This. 100%.

        Eich would like to have us believe that someone can oppose same-sex marriage and still treat gay employees with fairness and dignity. But that’s not true. No matter how much anti-marriage views are dressed up as simple political or religious differences, at the core it boils down to the belief that gay people are evil or gay people are insane. Those are not beliefs where “agree to disagree” has any meaning.Report

      • Damon in reply to veronica dire says:

        @Alan Scott
        Yeah, I’m calling your comments out as BS.

        I oppose SSM for reasons I’ve mentioned before, I don’t support state restrictions on ANY form of marriage, and I seem to be able to avoid telling my gay acquantances, co-workers, and my landlords that they are pure demon spawn or crazy ass fags unworthy of any peace and happiness in this world.

        You see, regardless of what other people think, I think people should be free to belive what ever the hell they want to believe….Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to veronica dire says:

        @damon, what it comes down to is the difference between politeness and respect. I have no doubt that you’re perfectly capable of being polite to gay people. If we’re discussing issues on a blog, or hanging out at a party, or even if you’re my landlord, that politeness is probably enough.

        But if you’re my boss, I need you to respect me, or at least be capable of respecting me on the merits. And to argue against same-sex marriage is to argue that my judgment is fundamentally unsound. Than when I express my love for another man, I’m embracing sin or that I pose a danger to myself or others. My homosexuality is a core part of my being and if you cannot respect that part of me, fully and completely, then you cannot respect me. Period. And that is not an appropriate basis for an employer-employee relationship.Report

      • Damon in reply to veronica dire says:

        @Alan Scott

        Of course if I was you boss I’d respect you on your merit, if your work warranted it. As your boss, I wouldn’t care what you did outside of work, unless it intruded into the work sphere. I can respect you for the person you are and your contributions to the team, and whether or not you’re a “stand up guy”. I respect or disrespect the total person, not various subsections of someone. I don’t respect your “gayness” because I DON’T CARE if you’re gay or not.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to veronica dire says:

        @damon , If my homosexuality doesn’t affect you ability to trust me–If you don’t think it’s evil or sinful or disordered or a symptom of a diseased brain or just causes me to act in ways that are dangerous to myself or to others, then why do you oppose same-sex marriage at all?Report

      • Damon in reply to veronica dire says:

        I suggest that you actually READ my comments in this thread. I’ve already said why.Report

  25. LWA says:

    I’ll come at this from a culturally conservative position.

    We celebrate diversity and pluralism, but often forget we are really only talking about an acceptably wide range, where borders are wide enough to be inclusive of …just about…everybody.

    But some voices and ideas are unacceptable, and the borders of community standards change over time, often fast enough to cause whiplash when someone who thought they were in the safe majority suddenly finds themselves with views that are unacceptable.

    Unacceptable to whom?

    The community.

    What power does the community have to express their displeasure?

    Scold, heckle, jeer, withhold support, boycott, among others.

    Can this become a dangerous and stifling form of groupthink?
    Yep, sure can.

    Can the boundaries of community standards be eliminated altogether?

    Sure. All we need to do is re-wire the human DNA, and we’re all set.Report

  26. Burt Likko says:

    Eich was previously CTO of Mozilla Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of a nonprofit corporation, the Mozilla Foundation. So the people who control Mozilla are, ultimately, the directors and members of a nonprofit corporation. They have to make decisions about what will benefit the corporation as a whole, because they are ultimately trustees for the public interest, overseen by and accountable to the Attorney General of the state of California.

    As I read the story, when Eich was promoted to CEO at the direction of the Mozilla Foundation, the controversy was technical — the rap was that Eich is a desktops-and-broswer guy, who’s been dining out on having written the source code for Netscape for years, while Mozilla has fallen to nearly zero percent of market share in mobile devices. The political issue seemed to be something of an afterthought compared to the indication that Eich’s areas of expertise and interest are yesterday’s news.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Plus Javascript is pretty unforgivable.Report

    • Yikes. Fact-check failure on many of our parts. Well done, @burt-likko.

      Now, is that a pretext? Perhaps, but it sounds like a pretty strong one. Not that I’d know.Report

      • You know, I don’t even know if the rap against Eich is true. For all I know, he could be super gung-ho about getting Mozilla products on mobiles.

        What I’m saying is, it sure seems like back before this turned into an “oh-noes-he-hates-gay-people” witch hunt, this whole deal was inside baseball in a big way.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko says:

      All other issues aside, it sure seems to me like Mozilla could use some real fresh management. They ceased being my primary desktop browser a year ago and their Android browser has been outdone by at least five competitors (Boat Browser, Angel Browser, Maxthon, Dolphin, and Chrome that I know of. When I was migrating off of Dolphin (which is better than Firefox), it didn’t even make “finalist.”

      To be fair, Opera’s Android browser is also not very good. There may be an imaginative block for desktop browsers to transition to mobile browsing. I do use Chrome sometimes, but only because of its interoperability and not because the browser itself is particularly good. Boat, Angel, Maxthon, and Dolphin all beat Firefox, Opera, and Chrome.Report

      • And if anyone is interested in the official Trumwill Mobile Browser endorsement, it goes to Boat Browser if you’re willing to put down a few bucks (just a few) or Angel if you’re not. Honorable mention to Dolphin unless you’re like me and not diligent about closing tabs. Maxthon was awesome but for the one feature I wanted that it lacked. (I can’t remember what that feature was.) Opera and Firefox were a waste of time. Chrome is nice due to the compatibility (you can access your browser bookmarks on your phone, among other things) but does not have a good top/bottom scroll option.Report

    • Alan Scott in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Think kinda ties into something I was thinking about CEOs with retrograde views in Tech fields.

      Being anti-SSM communicates a number of things, but foremost among them is being out of touch. When someone’s moral views are stuck firmly in the 20th century, it says something about the way in which that person things that goes far beyond the moral correctness of their opinions.

      My great aunt still uses the term “mongoloidism” to refer to down’s syndrome. Technically, that’s super racist. But it’s certainly not indicative of an animus against any of the various peoples to whom the term mongoloid has been applied. She’s just using the terms she learned from her time in school and her career in the insurance industry many years ago. But she also still uses the VCR and can’t check her e-mail.

      Eich’s job as CEO is to be on the cutting edge of technology, and to keep Mozilla relevant in an era of constant change. What does it say about his ability to do so when his politics are a decade out of date?Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Alan Scott says:

        When someone’s moral views are stuck firmly in the 20th century

        Considering we are now in the 14th year of the 21st century, I think you are overstating this.Report

      • Barry in reply to Alan Scott says:

        “Eich’s job as CEO is to be on the cutting edge of technology, and to keep Mozilla relevant in an era of constant change. What does it say about his ability to do so when his politics are a decade out of date?”

        In addition, he’s the CEO of a non-profit, which relies on a vast amount of volunteer work to sustain itself.

        I don’t recall any right-wingers having a problem with a boycott of World Vision[1], even though that immediately hurt a large number of innocent children.

        For that matter, many of the prominent right-wing bloggers were OK with people protesting the Dixie Chicks, and Clear Channel shutting them out of their radio stations. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb, and say that every right-wing blogger who was blogging back in that time was OK that.

        There are very, very few (if any) right-wingers protesting the treatment of Eich who don’t want to keep it legal to fire gay employees (at any level) explicitly for being gay.

        [1] The US organization; the Canadian organization reminded people recently that it had already been open to gay-married employees.Report

  27. Zane says:

    Jamelle Boule has a really nice essay up at Slate about this topic. He argues that those on the right who are most outraged at Eich’s resignation from Mozilla are precisely the same people who want to enshrine the ability to discriminate against gays and lesbians into law (as just happened in Mississippi).

    In fact, one argument raised by some on the right (and a number of libertarians as well) is that public opinion and and market forces would work to prevent bad actors among business owners–no employment protections are necessary. Isn’t this what just happened?

    Boule then goes on to say:

    “In any case, there’s nothing conservatives can do about Eich’s resignation. But they can join with labor activists and others to push for greater worker protections, like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. For as much as employer flexibility is important to a dynamic economy, it’s also true that no one should fear firing for the people they love, the identity they claim, or the donations they make.”

    What do you think the odds of that happening are?

    Here’s the link to the essay:

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Zane says:

      What’s ironic about libertarians is that in all ways, the market did correct the issue. The market forced the guy to resign through public pressure and now they are crying foul. It sort of lays waste to the entire libertarian claim as to the market. The market did something they didn’t like.

      As to your question, less than zero.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        Which libertarians are being hypocritical here? Are there some who are arguing that his firing ought to have been illegal?

        There’s no hypocrisy in saying people should be legally allowed to discriminate while at the same time criticizing them for doing so.

        I’m rather dubious about the premise of your claim here.Report

      • Zane in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        To be fair, I suspect most libertarians would say Mozilla was perfectly within its rights to ask for Eich’s resignation. It’s the conservatives who are hypocritical in this instance. I just noted that some conservatives and libertarians argue that market forces will take care of bad actors. Has there been much libertarian condemnation of the Mozilla mess?Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        as far as I can tell, reason’s coverage has been mostly limited to just reporting what everyone is saying. One writer did say this

        I think Mozilla should be allowed to fire someone for their beliefs about gay marriage, but I don’t think it’s a good idea, especially when they try and portray themselves as a company that values inclusiveness.

        which kind of supports Saul’s charge, imo. Later on, there is also a side editorial comment (and a link to a tweet to reason alum Radley Balko saying the same thing) pointing out that this is the downside of campaign finance disclosure requirements.

        (if Eich unemployment has now made him lose access to birth control, we could link every single conversation currently on OT into one neat package)Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        Even more so if he’s a Pratchett fan.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

        What’s ironic about libertarians is that in all ways, the market did correct the issue.

        Saul, what libertarians have said stuff about this?

        As far as I can tell, libertarians tend to say stuff like “you should be able to fire employees for eye color. Let alone stuff like this.”

        Some of the jerkier ones have made comparisons to the Hollywood Blacklist… but, if I understand the comparison correctly, they do that because of how liberals respond when it’s their ox vs. someone else’s ox being gored. Not because libertarians oppose right-to-work laws.Report

  28. Kazzy says:

    “When I think back to those two women twenty years ago, I think the reason that they could remain friends despite their differences is because they had a friendship. That friendship caused them to see each other as a human being.”


  29. Wardsmith says:

    Uh gee, we stopped at two? When a quick perusal of just this week’s OP’s indicates that this is merely the latest salvo in the Left’s never ending quest to silence their ideological enemies by any and all means? Where should we start? More importantly where does it end?

    Shouting down or denying speakers at colleges? Arresting climate deniers? Firing executives and actors? Boycotting fast food joints and mayors denying business permits for same?

    The issue isn’t the ends but the means to those ends the Left never ceases to leap to. And don’t rebut by sayin, “well yes it’s wrong but…” Wrong is wrong for either side, but the Left is most clearly the most wrong in this. Persuasion isn’t persuasion at the point of a (metaphorical) gun. As far as technology companies are concerned I’m inclined to agree with the closing sentiment here. We don’t just make products for the “market” but for the world including making that world a better place. Is shouting down, boycotting, banning and otherwise eclipsing freedom of speech (and thought) helping us towards that goal? Sullivan was right in his critique on this.

    My brother is gay, he has contributed for decades to gay causes. Never has this had one iota of effect on his employment prospects. He and I agree that the militancy of much of the “gay movement” has hindered more than helped their cause, but he contributes nevertheless. I’d be on his side in a nanosecond if his employer ever fired him but there is no chance of that happening 1 million lawyers would rush to his defense. No lawyers will rush to Eich’s defenseReport

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Wardsmith says:

      Eich was an at-will employee fired for cause. Of course no lawyer would take a case that’s a complete loser.Report

      • Wardsmith in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Just to be clear here the “cause” was a six year old campaign contribution? And if my brother were fired for a similar “cause” donating to a militant gay group no lawyer would touch that? Selling those rose-colored glasses online there Mikey or do you just rent them out?Report

      • They had “cause” insofar as Eich’s hiring caused turbulence for performance reasons. See Burt’s comment. There may be a case for employee dissatisfaction and bad publicity, but I’m not sure (seems like shakier ground).

        More impotantly, in employment-at-will, cause isn’t required. Unless California has a speech exception.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I suspect that we will miss privacy more than we will enjoy punishing what we find without it.

        But I would.Report

      • zic in reply to Mike Schilling says:


        I’m with you there. Most crucially, people’s attitudes and opinions change over time; the lack of privacy chains them to old opinions (often without the knowledge that someone else is digging into their historic data).

        Disallowing change over time seems more likely then actually identifying hypocrites.Report

      • Zane in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        @wardsmith This is a tangent, but how is a “militant gay group” different from a non-militant one? I’m guessing donations to the first are somehow more problematic, but I’m not sure why.Report

      • Zane in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        @jaybird , I generally agree with you. I do think there are good transparency reasons to make the names of petition-signers public, though. Particularly in states where the elections process is overseen by an elected partisan official.

        I can also see the transparency value in having campaign contributions public. I’m ambivalent about these sorts of sunshine measures. I know that 20 years ago I would have had great concerns about who might see what petitions I’d sign. On the other hand, none of the petitions for propositions that I’ve signed since would have had a chance in hell in passing 20 years ago anyway.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        What state does your brother live in? In most, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for sexual preference.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “Disallowing change over time seems more likely then actually identifying hypocrites.”

        …who are you and what have you done with zic?

        No, seriously, because back up there in the earlier comments you’re all “NO COMPROMISE, NO NEGOTIATION, THEY ARE PERSONALLY CALLING OUT ME AS A PERSON, HATE THE HATERS, DESTROY THE DESTROYERS” and now here you are calling for, well, tolerance.Report

    • Zane in reply to Wardsmith says:

      Wardsmith: So we can count on your support for policies and legislation that stop employers from firing employees for their speech, political activism, sexual orientation and/or gender identity? I’m really glad to hear it.

      I note that in the only two examples we know of (your brother and the former CEO of Mozilla) that only the left engages in this sort of thing. Just in case conservatives ever obtained the corporate power or the political or religious ill-will to act in the same way (unlikely, I know), we should probably make sure these new policies and laws protect all employees, not just those targeted by one side or the other, right? Surely that is uncontroversial.

      In your ideal world, what would such policies look like?Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Wardsmith says:

      Okay, so I know this is not always the most convincing political discourse, but I have to say, watching people on the right all of a sudden deeply concerned about arbitrary firing — when I hear that, as a queer woman whose social network is filled with stories of unfair and arbitrary terminations (plus various other workplace horror stories), where such things are utterly freaking commonplace, every day another story — when some right-winger suddenly sees how awful that can be for a person —

      I mean, golly, all I can say it that’s rich.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to veronica dire says:

        Exactly. It’s much worse if they’re rich.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:


      • Jim Heffman in reply to veronica dire says:

        People on the right are all of a sudden concerned with arbitrary for political-viewpoint reasons because they see that people on the left are all of a sudden strongly in agreement with the notion of firing someone for political-viewpoint reasons.

        Whereas before, it would have been “you fired someone for being anti-Christian! That’s wrong! You fired someone for being a Democrat! That’s wrong! You fired someone for saying that 9/11 was a government conspiracy! That’s wrong!”Report

    • LWA in reply to Wardsmith says:

      “We don’t just make products for the “market” but for the world including making that world a better place. Is shouting down, boycotting, banning and otherwise eclipsing freedom of speech (and thought) helping us towards that goal? ”

      How positively communitarian of you. I felt a tingle up my leg reading this.

      All teasing aside, I was ambivalent about this particular affair and I think you – and the conservatives generally- have a point.

      Since the war over SSM is pretty much over, this did seem a bit like bayonetting the wounded. On the other hand, had the tide turned the other way, I am sure Eich would have been plenty happy to fire someone like Wardsmith’s brother.
      So I am not shedding any tears for him personally.

      But look at the sentiment behind the howls of outrage- reading it charitably, they are concerned we will become a pinched, narrow-minded society that punishes dissent* and demands conformity.

      But staking out the ground of absolute pluralism, as liberals used to argue, carries its own risks- as conservatives used to argue.

      Would anyone’s position here change if Eich was the president of NAMBLA? The American Dogfighting Association? The Neo-Nazi Nosepickers Foundation?
      Isn’t it a legitimate function of society to create and enforce a set of values that it holds sacred towards the purpose of “making the world a better place”?

      So to answer Ward’s point- “Is shouting down, boycotting, banning and otherwise eclipsing freedom of speech (and thought) helping us towards that goal?”

      Within carefully defined boundaries, I say yes.

      *Perhaps a good name for a magazine of conservative thought, no?Report

      • Zane in reply to LWA says:

        @lwa , We already were a “…a pinched, narrow-minded society that punishes dissent* and demands conformity.” And many (though not all) of those most outraged by the Mozilla events would be pretty happy to return to such a society. But one where the ideas and behaviors they favor are punished. Like it used to be.

        In fact, like it still pretty much is. Just look at @veronica-dire’s comments upthread. Or just drop “gay teacher fired” into google to see it in action.Report

  30. Barry says:

    Mike Schilling

    “What state does your brother live in? In most, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for sexual preference.”

    It also depends on what the job is. Upper level management have fewer protections (aside from contracts, and blackmail information).Report