Tolerance is not the enemy of progress; it’s the tool.


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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116 Responses

  1. Avatar Ferny says:

    My goal isn’t a world where gay has no meaning; it’s where gay doesn’t mean weak and where gay means having power to determine our own way of living, regardless if it’s mainstream or not.

    I take my pound of flesh from the Eich’s of the world not because they didn’t support us in the past, but because they still don’t.

    I’m doing this for power, not for justice or my own sense of moral worth.

    The other side used the machinations of power to harm us, ostracize us and kill hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters. The only weapon that those that still dislike teh gays understand is power and I plan on using it.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire says:


      I think in many ways someone like Tod does not understand our actual struggle. People such as him see a few legislative victories, some nice things in the courts, and they say, “Look!, the queers are winning. So ain’t it time for them to just be happy?”

      Ain’t like that.

      Likewise, I think his assertion that we (the queers) need to be tolerant of bigots, since then they’ll see how nice we are and everyone will go full Kum-Ba-Yah, is hopelessly pollyannaish.

      I mean, it is not in all ways totally wrong. Some amount of communication is good, certain amounts of tolerance will help. But there are boundaries.

      Which reminds me of a conservative commentator I once heard, who said something I found totally correct. The discussion was about a certain long standing regional conflict, one of those things with a deep and painful history of violence and tons of blame for every side. (I won’t say which conflict, because it doesn’t matter for my purposes.) Anyway, what the conservative commentator said was this: “Liberals keep thinking ‘talk’ is going to help here, as if these people just need to communicate, that they need to understand each other. But that’s the problem. These two sides understand each other perfectly.”

      Sadly I had to agree with him. And so it goes.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        People such as [Tod] see a few legislative victories, some nice things in the courts, and they say, “Look!, the queers are winning. So ain’t it time for them to just be happy

        I think you missed the part where Tod said that opponents will try to “find new and more perniciously subtle ways to ensure GLBTs remain second-class citizens.”Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @jm3z-aitch — Fair enough. But I don’t buy that being nice enough will limit that at all. Too much experience with raw, unbridled hate. Too many people have spit on me to think it will matter.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        Being opposed to SSM does not make one a bigot per se.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I actually disagree with @scarletnumbers . I think unless you’re anti-SSM because you’re anti-all marriages, it’s absolutely a bigoted position — by definition.

        But I disagree with @veronica-dire that all bigotry = hate. Indeed, I think bigotry has been allowed to fester longer and deeper precisely because people assume since they don’t hate someone, they aren’t bigots and therefore no self-examination (or changing of policy) is necessary. I actually think it highly unlikely that Eich would have been promoted to any executive position if he was the type of guy that spit on gays or transponders in the street. In fact, I bet you a million dollars if you could get him to take a lie detector Eich would tell you that he doesn’t hate gay people at all and he’d pass. Doesn’t mean that his vets about them aren’t bigoted.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “People such as [Tod] see a few legislative victories, some nice things in the courts, and they say, “Look!, the queers are winning. So ain’t it time for them to just be happy

        I think you missed the part where Tod

        said that opponents will try to “find new and more perniciously subtle ways to ensure GLBTs remain second-class citizens.””

        I learned long ago to let go of the notion that people on the internet might read me before telling me what I thought.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:


        I mean, I do have excellent transdar, so perhaps I have some hidden transponder installed.


        Next time I see my doctor I’m gonna ask to have my transponder checked. Then, when he asks, give him a blank look and say, “You know, my transponder.”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @veronica-dire Fishing spellcheck and fishing terrible typing skills.

        I can’t decide whether I want to laugh out or crawl under my desk in embarrassment.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @tod-kelly — Well, I don’t want to psychoanalyze people’s hatred of me. But I’ll say this: it might not feel like hate to them, since few people actually want to be that horrible, but I think hate it is, down deep inside. There is something in there, some idea of me, some deep loathing.

        It’s funny, do you know the most common response I see in cishet guys when they recognize I’m trans? I mean, I can’t read minds. But I’m pretty sure I see this clearly. Can you guess?

        It’s really easy: fear. There is a moment of fear that precedes the disgust. I see the tension, the eyes go wide. It lasts a brief moment, and then the hatred comes.

        I quite like the dudes who notice me and register not much at all, who then just go back to whatever they were doing. Those dudes rules.

        Thank you dudes who don’t care that I’m trans.

        But anyway, yeah, I name these things hate. And I do understand the benefit of interacting with such people, to try to show them that, no, I am not the devil’s own child. I’m just a woman with a particular history, and who is happily bisexual.

        And, you know, being trans is actually kinda awesome, whenever the time comes that I can step away from the hate.

        But, yeah, communication, understanding — I get it. But from my boss? from those in power? Nope.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        You are not the first to do the “transponder” thing. It’s actually kind of an inside joke among my friends. Anyway, I knew right away what happened.Report

      • @tod-kelly

        I pretty much agree with you that bigotry does not necessarily = hate, or at least not hate in an obvious, unproblematic kind of way.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        @tod-kelly Actually a bigoted person would think that a gay person shouldn’t be able to get married at all. Someone who is anti-SSM just believes that a marriage should be between two people of the opposite gender.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @scarletnumbers I still don’t agree.

        After all, we agree that someone who thinks that people shouldn’t be legally allowed to marry outside their race is a bigot, yes? And they can still get married.

        I don’t think it’s the married part that makes opposition to SSM bigoted.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        It’s really easy: fear.

        But anyway, yeah, I name these things hate.

        Beware tightly coupled emotions.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Wait! Wait! Is someone here peddling the “Gays can get straight-married so be happy” thing?


        I mean, that’s preposterous. The first I heard it, I thought it was a Poe’s Law thing.

        Really? Truly? OMG!

        (Question for the audience, could even Colbert pull off that line? And do I get to mock him if he tries?)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        50% of marriages end in divorce, often with the former spouses totally hating each other. So, if you’re a gay woman, wouldn’t you be happier in the long run hating a man?Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @mike-schilling — Well, good point. I’ll seldom pass up a good reason to hate a man. Speaking of which, if I make one more MRA cry I get my misandry badge.Report

      • Avatar Dennis Sanders says:

        Since I’m also gay I will say that yes, we DO need to show tolerance to those we disagree with. And I agree with the the connection Tod made to mercy; giving people who they don’t deserve. I don’t think our cause will go far if we exact our pound of flesh on every person that doesn’t see things eye. Tod is simply sharing his opinion, he shouldn’t be slammed because you think he doesn’t really understand. No, he hasn’t walked in our shoes, but he is an ally and we need to listen to that viewpoint.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      You’ve laid out your position quite nicely. Take your pound of flesh. Later, when the tide has turned and the one who’s flesh you’ve cut out comes back to take YOURS, don’t come crying about injustice. You’ve made you bed, you can lie it. I’ll have no sympathy.Report

      • Avatar EB says:

        I think the discussion has moved on, but this is a great encapsulation of a viewpoint that I just can’t get behind. There seems to be a widespread view (Saletan at Slate is a particular fan) that LGBTQ and allies are somehow unaware of the possibility that legal and cultural power can be used against them, and that if “we” just inform “them” about the existence of power imbalances in society, the scales will fall from their eyes.

        Um, as @veronica-dire will apparently have to keep saying until the end of time, this isn’t a secret. Eich’s opponents know, way better than Eich, about the power of social oppobrium. It’s a weird mix of oblivious and insulting to imply that the anti-Eich people must be ignorant in a domain where they are clearly, clearly better informed than the pro-Eich people.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        I don’t see this as a LGBTQ issue at all. I see it as a greater issue. I’m not disputing that power differences exist, I’m equating Ferny’s comments as equivilent to a “blood feud”. When both sides think it’s necessary to retailiate for real or perceived slights, it will never end. Both sides will harden their positions and we’ll end up never being able to reach a negotiated settlement. hat strikes me as not where we want our society to go. But I have every expectation that we will end up there. Those with power invariably over reach at some point and the scale tips back.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        welcome to the real world. your enemies only die, they will not be converted.
        [Look at the psychoanalytics versus CBT debate. Just to pick something apolitical.]Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @kim If that were the case the vast majority of the country would oppose SSM and sodomy would still be illegal.

        Of course you can convert your enemy.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        No, they don’t “die”. You kill them. But if you don’t kill them all, they’ll come back. There are only three choices: Drive them away permantly, conquer and assimilate them, or genocide.Report

  2. Avatar veronica dire says:

    One thing this post is missing, Eich had ample opportunity to speak to his prior misdeed, but chose not to. The reason for this, I suspect, is that his beliefs have not changed, for if they had changed, he could have said so.

    We all hope that people will grow out of their bigotry, whether that bigotry was genuine at the time, such as I suspect Eich’s was, or whether it was empty lip service paid for political expediency, as Hillary’s likely was. Either way, what are they saying now?

    Eich is almost certainly still a bigot. And yes, laws and standards will govern his treatment of gays, and those laws are good and necessary, but they are not the whole story. The CEO is too high an office, Mozilla is too high profile a company, and LGBT rights are too central to allow such a man to hold its chief office. His assertion that he treats LGBT people well flies in the face of our lived experience, of the subtle bigotry we constantly encounter.

    LGBT people should not have to work for a man like him, and yes, they can leave. But the Mozilla board has to weigh that carefully. They must ask, which is worth more, LGBT employees, and LGBT goodwill, or the leadership of Eich?

    I know how I would decide.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “‘Either way, what are they saying now?”

      Eich, I believe, is saying nothing, seems to have given up the battle, and has withdrawn completely. Clinton, I believe, is saying exactly what she said in 2008: Whatever she thinks might get people to giver her more power, regardless of its moral standing. If the winds change in the next 12 months, no doubt her “beliefs” about your rights will as well.

      We probably disagree about which of those is more problematic the the GLBT community long-term.

      “Eich is almost certainly still a bigot.”

      No doubt. And the other approx. 50% of the country where were bigoted enough to vote to make you second class citizen just an election ago probably haven’t all been sprinkled with magic rainbow dust either.

      So the question remains, what do we do with all of them, and what will those actions mean to progress for the LGBT community? Will declarations of war, public hangings, and a new kind of two-teired citizenry in this 11th hour away from victory smooth the road to the future you and I both wish, or will it push it further away?

      Again, we probably disagree.

      “The CEO is too high an office, Mozilla is too high profile a company”

      Probably. But I suspect it will be hard to find an agreeable line of how lowly a position or a company has to be in order for people we disagree with to remain gainfully employed.Report

      • Avatar Ferny says:

        “Eich, I believe, is saying nothing, seems to have given up the battle, and has withdrawn completely. Clinton, I believe, is saying exactly what she said in 2008: Whatever she thinks might get people to giver her more power, regardless of its moral standing. If the winds change in the next 12 months, no doubt her “beliefs” about your rights will as well.”

        To me, this is actually a somewhat fantastic thing. That means gay people have actual power and influence. Sure, would I like a world where my opponents convert to my cause because of true introspection about the morality of the gay cause? Sure.

        But to juncture your politics on that kind of idea seems silly. Politics are about gaining actual things for actual people, and that comes in all sorts of form.

        I wouldn’t advocate for governmental power being used to enforce a certain speech code (because that gets really scary, really quickly), but if I am able to, by using my speech and organization, to get people to change the real effects of their positions because they respect my power?

        That’s called winning.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        Will declarations of war, public hangings, and a new kind of two-teired citizenry in this 11th hour away from victory smooth the road to the future you and I both wish, or will it push it further away?

        Really? Someone was promoted to CEO. There was an outcry and some activism. That CEO has since resigned/been fired. “Declaration of war”, “public hanging”… when you use such strong language for this, one wonders what language you have for things like Massive Resistance or, you know, actual violence. I’d also say, considering how much actual, real life, non-metaphorical violence has been directed at the LGBT community, a CEO having to step down doesn’t deserve these terms.

        And two-tiered citizenry? That’s rich given the target of Eich’s $1,000 donation. Eich is no less a citizen now than he was as CEO of Firefox. No one, to my knowledge, has called for violence against him, or for him to be jailed, or for his citizenship to be impaired in some way (I’ll just say now, that would be wrong).Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @tod-kelly — Hidden in your argument is the premise: unless you can state exactly where to draw a line you must draw no line at all. I disagree with that premise.

        The line will emerge as part of the struggle. For example, if I discovered someone above me in the org chart was bigoted against me, I would have to make a decision. Depending on the circumstances, countless things, that decision might be to transfer to a different team with a different boss. Or else that decision might be to leave the company. These are rational decisions.

        So if you insist on being analytical about this, the question becomes “how high in the company to affect what number of LGBT employees?”

        Well, how high?

        My current employer has about 3,000 employees. My direct manger has a team of six. Were it to turn out he was a bigot, probably not that big a deal. I would request transfer. There are plenty of other cool teams doing cool work.

        On the other hand, I am the senior most engineer on the project with deep knowledge. Senior management might decide to move him.

        I doubt they would outright fire him.

        Well, maybe. Let us just say it would be a consideration, added to other many other considerations.

        But what about a senior director, who manages hundreds? Becomes tricky, yes? If I am under that person, if my progress in the company depends on the tone they set, what do I do? I am high enough in the company that the opinion of senior management matters a lot.

        What if it is the CEO?

        Tod, put bluntly, it is not your place to tell LGBT people how to feel about this, how to act, what actions to take. You have no skin in the game. If my CEO proved to be a bigot, I would make my objections clear. And I would seriously consider seeking another job. I am not alone. And the board would make a decision.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “Hidden in your argument is the premise: unless you can state exactly where to draw a line you must draw no line at all. I disagree with that premise.”

        I can see where you’d get that’s what I meant, but that’s not.

        What I was saying is that I don’t believe people when they say “Oh, it’s just a CEO thing. We’re okay with everyone else.”Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @tod-kelly — Fair enough. And I agree; it is not just a CEO thing, but neither is it a “that one guy in the server room” thing.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @veronica-dire Yeah, that’s true as well. Good point.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        I would say that when it comes to activism from outside the company, it’s likely pretty much just a CEO thing. The CEO is the public face of the company, and the decision to change that public face involves a lot of variables. When you pick a CEO, in many ways you’re saying, “This person can embody what this company is all about, so much so that we choose him to lead us and to represent us.” In any case, it clearly wasn’t also a CTO thing, so the line exists somewhere.

        That being said, if the agitation comes from within the company, I think it’s reasonable for it not to be just a CEO thing. As @veronica-dire points out, if you’re in a position of authority, people under you have a legitimate gripe, even if you’re far enough down that you only have a few people under you. Those people deserve a certain amount of respect and security, and it’s in the company’s best interest to provide it.Report

      • @troublesome-frog

        That’s pretty much why, in my comments to Nob’s thread, I also believe that CEO’s are a special case.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        I recall one case in the past year where a senior executive (for some tech website) was let go for a series of egregious misogynistic tweets. So “outside agitation” is not limited to the CEO. On the other hand, the tweets were pretty out there. (Can’t find a link now, but they were extreme.)Report

      • Avatar Michael M. says:

        @tod-kelly “Probably. But I suspect it will be hard to find an agreeable line of how lowly a position or a company has to be in order for people we disagree with to remain gainfully employed.”

        Eich was Chief Technology Officer for Mozilla and there were no calls for boycotts that I’m aware of. That’s not exactly a lowly position.Report

  3. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    Those who argue that the Brendan Eichs of the world be punished for having acted on mainstream thoughts surely must believe that history’s arc inherently bends toward justice.

    If I declined to use Firefox while Eich was CEO, am I punishing Eich? If I criticize Eich’s position, is that punishment? If I say, Eich will likely be a poor ambassador for Mozilla given his position, is that punishing him?

    Eich was never entitled to my downloading or using Firefox. Eich was not entitled to developers volunteering their time to help refine Mozilla products. And Eich was never entitled to my praise. Eich made a $1,000 political donation, and now he has to put on his big boy pants and deal with the consequences.

    To some people, that donation represented some pretty ugly stuff about the well being of fellow citizens, among them Mozilla employees, Firefox consumers, and Mozilla supporters. He needed to make a convincing case to them about the meaning of his $1,000 and he failed to do so.

    To me, a call for a boycott is extremely difficult to separate from the substance of the issues being discussed – it is like direct action, civil disobedience, or conscientious objection that way. Each person gets to decide for themself, as you have, whether or not the calls are legitimate, proportionate, and reasonable. And acting together, sometimes campaigners or the general public will make the wrong choice. That’s part of civil society, that’s party of community, that’s part of democracy.

    Because there have been boycotts I disagree with doesn’t invalidate their use as a tactic. As a campaigner I certainly would not give up that tool for pointing out bigotry and shaming institutions, and their prospective leaders, into behaving better. Others will do the same for their respective campaigns be they pro-life, pro-choice, anti-Muslim, etc. No one said the good guys always win. As citizens we fight it out amongst one another. Again, that’s part of civil society, that’s party of community, that’s part of democracy.Report

  4. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    This post reminds me of what I’ve learned about forgiveness. It’s true value is not what it does for the person forgiven (indeed it can easily seem condescending), but what it does for the forgiver.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire says:

      @jm3z-aitch — I’m not super interested in philosophical musings about forgiveness, as such things become pretentious fast. That said, I will eagerly forgive a bigot who admits their flaws, their shortsightedness, and then seeks forgiveness.

      But what does this have to do with Eich?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I’m not talking about philosophical musings. I’m talking about how real forgiveness affects the forgiver psychologically and emotionally. As long as we hold onto resentment–no matter how justified it is (and often it is)–it’s something that makes us unhappy. Forgiveness is not telling someone you forgive them, and its not giving someone a second chance. It’s letting go of the resentment completely, so it has no hold over your life anymore.

        This isn’t new agey self-help psychobabble, but my lived experience.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Ah. Got it.

        I see no connection between this and the topic, but there is another post up exploring that part of the issue.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        It wasn’t a direct connection. Sorry if that was unclear. I saw Tod as saying tolerance isn’t just about being nice, but was also in our own interests, which is how I think about forgiveness, although the mechanisms are different.

        To be clear, I don’t think tolerance excludes sharp criticism.Report

    • @jm3z-aitch

      I think you’re right that the “true value” of forgiveness is indeed how it helps the forgiver. But the forgiven also gets something out of it. Even if forgiveness is a gift to oneself, it’s also a gift to the transgressor, in my view. As one blogger who I used to read put it, it’s like being the plaintiff in a civil suit and then dropping the suit.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      While I agree in general, the notion of ‘true forgiveness’ leaves me adrift in a current of confusion.

      It starts with how we train our children to say, “I’m sorry,” when they’ve done something wrong; as if it’s an admission of guilt. (My proof of this is how many people react to expressions of sorrow with, “You didn’t do anything. . .”

      And the confusion proceeds with the agency of the person being forgiven; in particular, their agency to continue the offending behavior. And when it comes to LGBT rights, this is problematic. Forgiving people who seek to actively harm you, either physically or emotionally or by denying you the right to publicly engage in family or full economic participation for your family seems might be good for the forgiver, but it would be better for the forgiver if the forgiven ceased harm. There’s a cart/horse relationship that bears on forgiveness.

      If we enlarge our view, there’s the arc of change from wrong to something better, and that bears some serious consideration through the lens of history. After the civil war, there seemed to be a great deal of national forgiveness for the Confederacy that let many of the social injustices get white washed; I lack of accountability that leads to a whole lot of the state’s rights nonsense we hear today. I see similar problems in the aftermath of the Bush/Cheney years and our aggressions in Iraq.

      Perhaps this is simply me, I realize my internal measure of these types of things is atypical; but forgiveness, when it involves direct harm, sets on a spectrum of things to consider that include ending the harm, atonement, and often, some societal that makes the harm less likely to happen, and ongoing recognition that the harm was done, so I worry about pulling forgive out of that spectrum as a value more worthwhile then the others.

      All that said, I do believe in the value of forgiveness; I’ve worked very hard to forgive my pedophile. But that forgiving sits with a responsibility to diminish his type of crime in this world.Report

      • @zic

        I sure wish I still had the link to the blogpost I mention above. The actual blog is here: but I can’t find the actual post that talks about “forgiveness.”

        That author made an analogy to civil and criminal cases. For her, forgiveness is like dropping one’s civil suit but having nothing to say about the criminal case. In other words, if a crime is committed, forgiveness is like dropping one’s own personal claim against the defendant, but the defendant still has to answer to the state for the crime. So, if someone attacks me and injures me, I can “forgive” the injury to my person and not sue for emotional/physical damages. But the state can still prosecute because the crime has been committed and society has been harmed.

        I hope I’m representing that person’s argument accurately. If so, I think it goes a little ways to answering the well-thought-out objections in your comment. One can forgive the injury done to oneself and that means one forgoes a claim upon the transgressor. But the transgressor will still have answer for what he/she has done.

        I said “goes a little ways” because I’m not entirely sure how to answer your examples, other than to say “forgiveness” is something one does regarding harms to oneself. When it comes, for example, to “the North” forgiving “the South,” forgiveness is a political or legalistic thing, either good or bad (probably mostly bad) and not what I or James are talking about.

        You might recall Mr. Mcleod’s recent post on forgiving Fred Phelps. Some people there pointed out how ridiculous it would be to forgive someone for the harm he has done others. I agreed.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “But that forgiving sits with a responsibility to diminish his type of crime in this world.”

        I think this is what’s so hard to wrap my head around. And I’m putting this comment/question out there as a sincere hope for understanding, from @zic or anyone else, because I’m having major disconnect:

        SSM might be the single most discussed topic on this site over the past two years, and I believe I am the sole contributor — and maybe the sole member of the community that comments? — that believes the act of opposing SSM is inherently and by definition bigoted. I don’t believe there’s anyone here that hasn’t tried to convince me otherwise at one point or another over the past two years, that hasn’t tried to tell me that of course you can oppose SSM for non-bigoted reasons.

        So why is it that when it comes to Eich words like “crime” are thrown around, and assumptions that he can’t possibly run a major corporation in a non-bigoted way? At this point, unless I’ve missed something, the only thing we know about Eich on this matter is that he gave a small donation to a Traditional Marriage Only initiative, and that he seems (by his silence) to still believe this.

        Again, I’m not raising this a debating-points “j’accuse” moment, I really don’ understand. Help, anyone?Report

      • @tod-kelly

        Well first off, do you know what Emile Zola called his swimming pool?
        Now to give your answer to my question. I do agree that opposition to ssm is inherently bigoted, although I probably didn’t always agree. But I think that bigotry, as you’ve argued elsewhere, is not necessarily the same thing as hatred. Or in my preferred way of looking at it, it might be “hatred,” but it’s not hatred in an obvious way. It’s a hatred that is original to us and our view that our tribe, so to speak, is better than others.

        Bigotry, I think, is wrong because it implies that we assume superiority without a good basis, or along arbitrary and morally irrelevant standards. The color of a person’s skin, their sexual preference, etc., are morally irrelevant and in broad brushstrokes, I think everyone here agrees. (We might introduce ideas like systemic racism so that some types of bigotry are at least more understandable and defensible as responses to predominant cultural/societal currents…but I think we need to be careful even there and even as we balance our dislike of bigotry with the need to forgo summary judgment without knowing all the facts).

        I’m probably confusing things more than answering. But that’s me thinking out loud.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @pierre-corneille Thanks for the thinking out loud. And the jacuzzi joke.Report

      • Avatar DRS says:

        Well, if it helps in any way, I agree with you, Tod. But I suspect it’s the word “bigot” that people get caught up on. The conversation swerves quickly into the worst case scenario and the belief that if you’re not actively calling for gays to be killed then it can’t possibly be bigotry. Because, hey, the KKK and all that. I don’t know that there’s a solution to this because substituting another word would still be seen as pejorative if not quite as hostile. When people talk past each other it really doesn’t matter which term gets used, does it?Report

      • @tod-kelly

        To answer your question about Eich specifically, perhaps Zic’s description of the situation at Mozilla goes a little way toward distinguishing the issue. I’m not sure I agree with her there, but it’s something to ponder.

        I have stated on these recent threads that I think CEO’s are a special case. I actually believe that his donation, by itself, does not mean he cannot run an organization in a non-bigoted way. I’m more confident than Nob is that people can code-switch, and even if they can’t, a donation by itself does not imply a code that needs switching when it comes to business management.

        But I do think a CEO, qua CEO, is in some ways the public face of a company in the way that lower employees are not. That’s pretty much where I draw the line on when it’s right to take a person’s political decisions into consideration. How to enforce that line is another issue.

        Now, while I think the standard should be different for CEO’s, I’m still uncomfortable with the litmus-test quality of all this. (However and again, Zic’s comment on Nob’s post should be referred to. By her account, Eich’s resignation had more to do with his competence than his political views.) But even though I’m uncomfortable and think such litmus tests should be avoided in most cases, I think it’s within the pale. At least for CEO’s.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I believe I am the sole contributor — and maybe the sole member of the community that comments? — that believes the act of opposing SSM is inherently and by definition bigoted.

        Well, I also believe it’s inherently bigoted. I believe there’s a lot that we accept as ‘normal’ that’s inherently bigoted, for instance the notion that women’s health and health care doesn’t involve contraception (which presumes ‘bigot’ embraces sexism).

        I certainly didn’t mean to conflate Eich’s bigotry with criminality; some bigoted actions are criminal, some are not.

        I don’t have much problem with consistently condemning bigoted actions, either; but that’s also balanced with recognition that any person is complex, and can do amazingly wonderful and tolerant things on the one hand and still commit bigoted acts on the other. Clinton’s signing DOMA and DADT might be a good examples when it comes to LGBT rights. Both good and bad embraced in single actions. I think part of the problem here is that we too easily assign ‘bigot’ to people — it’s what they are, and not to actions — what they do.

        As to why Eich can’t run a technology company, I’m going back to my oft-posted response: he can’t run this technology company. There are plenty of others he could probably run without any problem. The issue here is that this company is greatly dependent on the goodwill of non-employees, on volunteer labor, and that community is younger, and on the cutting edge of equal LGBT rights; in many ways, they’re the spearhead of the movement, having provided the technology that’s made the rapid pace of progress possible. I don’t think it’s any accident that virtually ever transgendered person I know who’s come out and lives relatively happily works in technology; the transgendered people I know who’ve gone through transition and work in other industries have a much more difficult time; but I realize this is anecdotal and from a very small sampling. So there’s something particularly unique about this company that might not be as critical for another where the products are developed in-house and not open source.

        I’m a pretty frequent critic of the Catholic Church here; so much good done, and so much harm; particularly to women in developing nations. Borrowing form an evangelical cliche, love the sinner, hate the sin.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @pierre-corneille I get that — and agree — but it doesn’t quite address my feeling of disconnect.

        That’s a perfectly good reason to let Eich go (a decision I would have made as well had it been up to me, fwiw), but it only explains the reason for why the business decision was made. It doesn’t explain the hostility that necessitated the business decision, and it doesn’t address the continued hostility toward Eich here on this site, after he’s left the building.Report

      • I’m probably the one who’s guilty here of conflating bigotry with criminality in my analogy of forgiveness to civil and criminal cases. To be clear, I think bigoted actions are analogous to “crime” only in that they have operate generally in addition to specially. A bigoted action might directly affect only one person. But even if only that one person is affected directly, all are affected indirectly because the bigoted action contributes to the general sum of bigotry around us and makes us all (but some more than others0 less secure from bigotry.

        Also, I agree with Zic that people are complicated and we should usually focus on actions.Report

      • I don’t personally have hostility to Eich (although you were talking about the blog in general, not me in particular). I do understand he used to author a blog and perhaps there he said some things for which forgiveness ought to be demanded or which might arouse hostility.

        I have not read that blog or seen any incriminating quotations, however, so that’s just a guess on my part.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        with how we train our children to say, “I’m sorry,” when they’ve done something wrong; as if it’s an admission of guilt. (My proof of this is how many people react to expressions of sorrow with, “You didn’t do anything. . .”

        I think we have multiple uses for “I’m sorry” that are substantively different. Years ago I had a friend who grew in up Papua New Guinea, who thought “I’m sorry” was a bizarre way to express sympathy preceisely because the speaker had done no wrong. In PNG they would say “my throat weeps for you.” That might not be the phrase we’d want to adopt, but I think there’d be more clarity if our culture had more distinct and separate terms for aplogizing and for commisserating.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        There is quite possibly another thing going on here, (and I make no moral judgements one way or the other, just pointing it out):

        There is a shift in our perception of rights going on — and this shift always produces discomfort. When I was a child, it was common for me to hear that there were things I could not/should not do because I was a girl. I remember clearly a friend of my mom’s asking what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said a doctor. He told me that girls didn’t become doctors because they weren’t smart enough.* Today, saying this to a little girl who said she wanted to be a doctor would clearly be a bigoted response.

        I think a lot of the whole ‘intolerance’ arguments we’re hearing are rooted here. A few years ago, it was credible to contribute to something like Prop 8 without stigma. Now, it is no, it’s recognized as an indicator of bigotry.

        This afflicts the people embracing the old norm; suddenly, they’re the ones doing something wrong, they’re the ones being othered.

        I suspect it’s impossible to make progress in civil rights without this happening, either.

        *To my mother’s credit, she told him that I was smart enough, which carried some weight (with me, anyway) because she was a histologist, and well known by doctors throughout the state for the high quality of her work, which other hospitals/doctors sought out when tissue sample diagnosis were unclear.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @jm3z-aitch words so often confuse because they have different meanings, sometimes, precise meaning would be better.

        Sorry contains:

        Compassion (Sorry your dog got hit by a car)
        Penitence (Sorry I hit a dog with my car)
        Apology (Sorry I hit your dog with my car)
        Mishearing (I’m sorry, did you say zic hit your dog with her car?)
        Condition (That dog’s in a sorry state after zic hit it with her car.)Report

      • @zic

        I’m sorry to hear that.Report

      • Avatar zic says:



        I tried to write it using Eich, but I couldn’t figure out how to translate a potential cascade of misinformation into, “Sorry, didn’t hear that, could you repeat it so that I hear it correctly?”Report

      • @zic

        I don’t know if you’re a fan of the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but there’s a scene where one of the employees (it’s a real estate firm) complains about his job, and Kevin Spacey, in the most insincere way possible, says, “I’m sorry you are unhappy here.”Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        So there’s also the threat, “Nice job you’ve got here, I’d be sorry to see you lose it.”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @zic Is that the message you took away from Eich’s statement?Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        You’ll have to be more precise, I’m not sure which of my comments you’re referring to not which of Eich’s statements you’re referring to.

        But he did write this:

        My talk was really more about the “network problem” than the “protocol problem”. Networks breed first- and second-mover winners and others path-dependent powers, until the next disruption. Users or rather their data get captured.

        Which strikes me as enlightening of not only the network/protocol problem, but of the difference between tolerance of rights (networks) and tolerance of bigotry (protocols).

        Source is where he also blogged about leaving Mozilla:

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @zic Oh, sorry. I meant: “So there’s also the threat, “Nice job you’ve got here, I’d be sorry to see you lose it.””Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        It’s certainly the message some people meant, and some people took away.

        I maintain that we don’t have a full set of information; that the apparent cause (Prop 8 support) was the tip of an iceberg that had javascript underneath.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I’m not sure I understand. Who meant it?Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Good grief. That blog post is, well, uh — the mind, she boggles.

        I’d’ve fired him for being a terrible writer.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @tod-kelly let’s try this another way:

        Mozilla community (a vast collective, with only a few people actually on payroll) has concerns about new CEO, including:

        1) guy invented javascript, reflects poorly on his understanding of Mozilla’s manifesto;
        2) guy is a homophobe;
        3) guy can’t write (thanks, @veronica-dire)
        4) guy’s tech skills are ancient and outdated (like older then 2 years!)

        many other potential things.

        so here’s this list of potential discomforting a group that has literally volunteered millions of hours of labor (and that labor is really, really expensive labor) to develop a host of products; there are literally hundreds of projects going on, and they’re discomforted with him.

        I think the thing that had public resonance, that he heard was #2; in part because it’s socially not cool in this crowd. But saying this is rather like Will’s post on trust in government, too; there’s a lot of other stuff going on, and it doesn’t get into the public memes the way #2 does.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Forgiveness is way less fun than crossing someone off your grudge list.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        It depends on what you do with your free time.

        If you are able to put the proverbial woman down on the other side of the river, you’re better off having done so… provided you are capable of enjoying quiet meditation, daydreaming, etc.Report

  5. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


    Have you been following the debate between Coates and Chait? What do you make of it?

    The history of Jewish and African-American relationships is long and fraught. Some of the earliest backers financial and moral of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement were Jewish. Jewish youths were heavy participants in Freedom summer and two lost their lives in one of the most notorious incidents of violence. Yet by the late 1960s, you had incidents like this which led to more and more animosity and complicated relationships between Jews and African-Americans:

    I think Coates is largely right in his analysis. In many ways, Jews were second class citizens through most of European history. Anti-Semitism originated as a term in the 19th century specifically to prove that Jews were another race and could never fully assimilate into European civic society. The conclusion of this view point was of course the Holocaust. Yet many Jews were able to emigrate from Europe and eventually find liberty and economic opportunity in the United States that was denied to them in Europe. My grandparents grew up poor, my parents were boomers, and I grew up comfortably upper-middle class and in many ways effectively white. African-Americans might have been in the U.S. for much longer than my family but are still much worse off in terms of socio-economics because of racism.

    I think the paradox between the African-American and Jewish-American experiences is what creates tensions between the two groups. You have a persecuted group that came to American seeking liberty and opportunity and largely received it and you have a group that was brought over to be slaves without liberty and is still sadly suffering for it in many ways.

    People are angry. We live in angry times. There is research that shows economically troubling and uncertain times tends to increase strains in relationships among various groups because everyone feels less secure. Perhaps the civil rights movement happened when it did because economic security was at an all time high level. I think a lot of people remember the wounds of being treated horribly and want justice. Eich shows that actions have consequences.

    Now there are plenty of people who are liberals and members of minorities that believe Eich should not have resigned for his views like Jamelle Bouie:

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      I have been following, with great interest. And I agree with Coates’s analysis as well.

      In a way, some of his latest post (or maybe his next to last one) reminded me of what I was trying to get at with my own posts about Amy Chua and how I think we’re largely talking about race when we talk about culture in our society. The bit about how we call black single moms a black cultural problem despite larger cultural trends throughout society was spot on, I thought.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

        In the end there is still the socialist creed, to change the person you need to change the environment.

        If you want to defeat crime, you have to defeat the causes of crime. The causes of crime are a lack of hope, poor housing, poor opportunity, being subjected to harsher punishments from day one, insecurity about the next paycheck, a lack of rest and recreation, want, etc.Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    I think where Eich’s viewpoint was recently mainstream is actually irrelevant and a distraction. If he can hold unpopular views while being CEO then it shouldn’t matter if that view was ever mainstream. The issue is whether his support of an unpopular view warrants a push to put him out a CEO level job. I realize people are making the point that just a few years ago this issue would have never come up at all which is valid as far as it goes. But unpopular views seem like the issue.Report

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    If social pressure, and we live in a system in which economic pressure is generally the most effective social pressure, is how we deal with social attitudes we find unacceptable, particularly the most recalcitrant, how do we determine whether our methods of applying pressure are acceptable? That they could be used against us in cases where our own ideas and behaviors are deemed unacceptable, seems like a worthless criterion, since it will supply to any method of applying social pressure. So what other criteria might we use?Report

  8. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    One additional concern I have is that it’s not good for the economy to have people choosing which products they use on the basis of dubiously relevant factors like the CEO’s personal political beliefs. If people let factors like that override concerns like product quality, then we get worse products.

    In (heavily qualified) defense of the All-American Muslim thing, if Muslims actually were evil, then trying to convince people to accept them would have negative externalities, and thus be a reasonable basis for a boycott. Which is to say, both boycotts were ill-considered, but the TLC one was a logical reaction to an invalid premise, while the Mozilla one was an illogical reaction to a valid premise.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      We need to pass a law that makes people evaluate products using the right criteria. For instance, it would be illegal to choose a beer based on the idea that it increases your chance of hooking up with hot babes. Or a car because it increases your chance of hooking up with hot babes. Or an aftershave because … (OK, you probably see where this is going.)Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        If you don’t think the right car helps you hook up with hot babes, you need to swap in your Prius for a Viper.

        Mind you, I’m not sure that kind of hot babe is worth hooking up with.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        A propos of nothing, a Viper is EXACTLY the sort of car most likely to turn my headReport

    • Avatar Chris says:

      In one way or another, this is the way humans have always behaved. If markets are supposed to be the best fit for human nature, they have to work with actual human nature.

      What’s more, because we’ve placed markets at the center of our social system, they’ve become the most direct way for affecting social change. I would have thought the people who want the markets at the center (as opposed to the state or the tribe, say) would see this as a feature rather than a bug, even if it can have some negative short term economic consequences.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        +1. It seems to me that a conception of free markets which precludes people from using market forces to achieve social goals is incoherent. But the view is expressed often enough it normally passes without mention.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        If not incoherent, it is at least self-defeating.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        It seems to me it is if “free market” is defined exclusively in terms of gummint intervention, and not if it means something more (like, eg., absence of using market forces to achieve social goals). But it highlights, if nothing else, how that term can cover a whole lot of normative ground for justifying certain types of beliefs.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Are these folks arguing that boycotts are inappropriate in free markets, or are they arguing that they don’t think this particular instance justifies a boycott (i.e., are they trying to persuade people toward a particular normative/market valuation of the incident)?

        I haven’t read them, so obviously I don’t know just what they’re saying, but there’s an important difference there.

        My general impression of pro-free market folks is that they think any individual is justified in not purchasing from someone/firm for whatever reason determines their subjective utility. And it’s a free-market activity to encourage others to share our values, so there’s nothing wrong with boycotts in general (so long as they’re voluntary, and dissenters aren’t forced to participate).

        Some might, however, as a consequence of their own values, slip and try to treat a particular issues as objectively inappropriate for boycotts. They shouldn’t, but being all to human they might (and perhaps these guys you’re referencing did). But that position can’t be justified by the logic of free markets, so it’d be better to talk about their (possible) incoherence, rather than the incoherence of the logic of free markets and social change.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I’ll throw this down here, where there’s more room.

    One of the criticisms of Eich was that he’s never sufficiently come out and stated where stands today on the whole GLBT issue. Or, to be more precise, that his comments that he has made have been insufficient, or — I think this is what sic is saying but I might well be wrong? — that his statement was heard by many as a threat to those that disagreed with his POV.

    Again, I’m just not getting it. And so rather than go back an forth about some amorphous “what he said,” I’m going to republish it here. As above, this is not a “j’accuse” debating thing, I’m really not getting it. If this were another blog’s comment section I’d be rolling my eyes and moving on, but I know you guys better than that — you’re smart and you often see things well before I do.

    So I ask the hive mind to help me see what I’m not seeing right now. What is so terrible about it? Where do you see the inherent threat? And what makes Clinton’s take back — where I believe, she didn’t ever offer an apology at all — so much better than Eich’s?

    Help me see.

    Here is the statement, which was published as a blog post on March 26:

    I am deeply honored and humbled by the CEO role. I’m also grateful for the messages of support. At the same time, I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results.

    A number of Mozillians, including LGBT individuals and allies, have stepped forward to offer guidance and assistance in this. I cannot thank you enough, and I ask for your ongoing help to make Mozilla a place of equality and welcome for all. Here are my commitments, and here’s what you can expect:

    * Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building.

    * Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn’t make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.

    * My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.

    * My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. More on this last item below.

    I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to “show, not tell”; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.

    Mozilla is a movement composed of different people around the world, working productively together on a common mission. This is important to our ability to work and grow around the world.

    Many Mozillians and others know me as a colleague or a friend. They know that I take people as they come and work with anyone willing to contribute. At the same time, I don’t ask for trust free of context, or without a solid structure to support accountability. No leader or person who has a privileged position should. I want to be held accountable for what I do as CEO. I fully expect you all to do so.

    I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.

    You will see exemplary behavior from me toward everyone in our community, no matter who they are; and the same toward all those whom we hope will join, and for those who use our products. Mozilla’s inclusive health benefits policies will not regress in any way. And I will not tolerate behavior among community members that violates our Community Participation Guidelines or (for employees) our inclusive and non-discriminatory employment policies.

    You’ll also see more from Mozilla under my leadership in the way of efforts to include potential contributors, especially those who lack privilege. This entails several projects, starting with Project Ascend, which is being developed by Lukas Blakk. I intend to demonstrate with meaningful action my commitment to a Mozilla that lives up to its ideals, including that of being an open and inclusive community.



    • Avatar zic says:

      Again, I think this goes to my point that the discomfort wasn’t just the Prop 8 donation. That was the issue that Eich heard first; and the one he responded to, which probably made the other problems spin further out of control.

      I mean come on, the dude wrote javascript. That’s like what enabled Microsoft’s vulnerabilities, and it cost people billions of dollars, and it’s still hard to break away from it.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        OK, I’m finally seeing that.

        So you think it might be a case that the decision to promote him caused huge concern due to A, B, C, D and E, but because the internet and the 24-hour news cycle is what it is, everyone got hung up on C because it was the easiest for everyone on both sides to get outraged in different ways by? Do I have that right?

        Because if I do, I have to say that feels right in a way this whole thing hasn’t thus far.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Veronica and I were being silly about JavaScript. It’s crap, but it’s still incredibly popular.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m pretty sure that’s what happened, Tod. The board members who resigned did so because a desktop browser guy was taking over a company that needs to focus on mobile environments to survive. That, however, would never get beyond business news channels. Upset among LBGT groups? That’s regular news cycle material.

        That said, I still see nothing wrong with LGBT groups and their supporters voicing their concerns, or with a company acting on those concerns should they feel it’s the best thing for their company and its image to do so. Seems to me like that’s how things are supposed to work. Triggers may sometimes be pulled too quickly or with too little impetus, but if that’s the case, it sounds like a case of a poorly run company, not overzealous activists.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        There’s a book that has a long-form interviews with different programmers in it. The one with Eich includes talking about JavaScript, which is interesting, especially as it’s directly juxtaposed with Crockford talking about JavaScript.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        I think understanding this takes some deeper knowledge of this particular community, but it stands in opposition to much of what Javascript represents.

        Had Eich also addressed these things — how his experience and what he learned there (and learned through mistake would have been essential) combined with what he said on civil rights, he’d probably be CEO today.

        Instead, SSM rights became short hand for a whole lot of other perceived ills, and he only heard the social issue as it’s portrayed in the MSM. But the concerns at the foundation of Mozilla are based on proprietary software as the root of many, many other social ills. The vision is definitely one of creating more economic equality through the open-source movement.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Not to kick this Eich while he’s down or anything, I found this:,%20brendan&state=CA&zip=&employ=&cand=

        It seems he is more than a casual bigot. He supports some heavy hitters of hate.

        Anyway, blah, blah, blah.


        (The author of that blog post is a queer man and former Mozilla employee. He has a few posts on the topic.)Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        (Stuck in moderation, by the way.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        $1000 to Pat Buchanan in 1991 and 1992

        I’ll let that speak for itself.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic says:

      And what makes Clinton’s take back — where I believe, she didn’t ever offer an apology at all — so much better than Eich’s?

      I’d encourage a reading of Clinton’s 2011 “gay rights are human rights” speech, purposefully echoing her 1995 Beijing “women’s right are human rights” speech. During her tenure the US joined the LGBT Core Group at the UN, pressed for (and sometimes obtained) Human Rights Council resolutions on human/LGBT rights, and in general helped pushed the issue up the agenda in various forums.

      As far as I understand, in the interviews Eich gave earlier this week, he could not offer satisfactory reassurance to Mozilla’s various constituencies. If to you his blog post was satisfactory and comparable to Clinton’s work, that’s an assessment you’re free to make. To the crucial groups that Eich needed to convince, his remarks were unsatisfactory, unconvincing, and/or insufficient.

      Here is Rarebit CEO,

      I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems.

      It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.


      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        See, *that* I can accept. If he says “yeah I did it, it was dumb, I’ve moved on” then that’s one thing. If you say “dude you donated to Prop 8, what’s up with that” and he just stands there staring at you, then that’s something different. Silence can be speech.Report

  10. Avatar Patrick says:

    I believe I am the sole contributor — and maybe the sole member of the community that comments? — that believes the act of opposing SSM is inherently and by definition bigoted.

    Struck by this, and I felt compelled to push back a tad.

    Bigotry can be a root principle and it can be a byproduct of other things. That’s what makes it so hard to combat.

    If you think of the act of opposing SSM as inherently bigoted, I think you might get into a place where you’re looking at people who are bigoted on principle and bigoted by consequence as the same set of folks, which makes it hard to combat their bigotry… because the venues of attack against those sorts of bigotry are different.

    I’m trying to express something complicated out loud, so this might not be coming across properly.

    Basically, I agree that opposition to SSM is consequentially bigoted. If you agree that SSM must be opposed, you are engaging in a public policy agenda that is bigoted. Sure.

    But that doesn’t tell us what kind of bigot you actually are.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I remember the great “bigotry” debate of ’10 or ’11. I suspect more people here agree with Tod than he thinks. Opposing equal rights for a group is bigotry pretty much by definition. It may not require hate, but that is little consolation for those who are denied equal rights.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I think there’s some argument to be made the supporting public policies that foster bigotry — even when you personally have no motive that’s bigoted — can, in a sense be a form of bigotry.

        I have mixed feelings about this; but the war on drugs and public education are pretty compelling reasons to examine the notion carefully.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        There is, somewhere, a point at which I simply check out of the “bigotry” debate or angle thereof. Or where I say “If this makes me a bigot, then I am a bigot.”

        One example I gave a while back was on giving preferential treatment based on birth. By which I mean that I have a loyalty to/with someone in El Paso that I do not in Juarez, even though they are both fully human children of of the same God. Jonathan McLoed says that’s bigotry or something close to it. I’m not sure he’s wrong, but I’m honestly not sure if I care if he’s right.

        The same would apply to someone who thought I was a bigot due to my education preference policies, even if they allowed I was bigoted-in-effect and not bigoted-in-motivation. I’d actually disagree with the assessment, but I’d never be able to convince them of that. And I’d probably just vacate the discussion.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I have no doubt that we wander around in a sea of attitudes that people 100 years hence will boggle at and call bigoted.

      And here we are. We don’t even notice.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And vice versa, of course, unless you’re assuming unidirectional progress. So, given that in 2157, libertarianism will be considered a mental illness …Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        What are the practical implications of this? I’m pretty sure it’s a call to increased mindfulness, but I’m not sure where to start, and in my experience things that call for increased mindfulness are generally ignored anyway.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        This is the central point in the latter half of Julia Serano’s latest book. And yes, it is most probably true.

        That said, there are certain things you can do to spot certain sorts of prejudices you might have, but are not aware of. Mostly, you look for how you are marking identities, and how such people face a kind of double bind. Then you can try to map the prejudices you yourself face, the double binds you navigate, and look for structural similarities.

        (Note she is writing to a largely queer audience, and her message is tailored to us. Her thesis is there is bigotry within our communities that we should eliminate, a point of view she developed as a transsexual woman marginalized by the wider dyke community. Anyway, white-cis-straight folks will have to adjust the message as needed.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Then you can try to map the prejudices you yourself face, the double binds you navigate, and look for structural similarities.

        This is something that I have found that has helped me. It’s kind of tricky and had to explain without making it sound like I am thinking or saying that “Being a gentile in Mormonland is just like being black…” (no, it’s not, and I wouldn’t claim that it is, but I have been wary that people do sometimes hear it that way) or others of the few ways I can map it to myself.

        But in my own mind, at least, it does give me at least a little appreciation of the bind that other people with considerably more marked identities face. Even if I cannot remotely appreciate the extent.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:


        I’ve actually heard someone non-ironically say, “I can’t be prejudiced. I’m gay.” Which of course was said after doing something racist.

        Anyway, it seems rather straightforward to understand that similar is not identical, and that one can never entirely speak for another, and that insight into the lives of others only comes if you seek out their voices.

        But there are many similarities and much to share. For example, the trans movement would be nothing without the Womanists.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        What are the practical implications of this?

        Well there’s some sharpening of the self reflection that can occur. Kwame Anthony Appiah offers the prison system, inhumane meat production, mistreatment of the elderly, environmental degradation, as stuff future generations will condemn us for. Maybe more importantly, he offers some factors we can look to to help make our own assessment,

        Still, a look at the past suggests three signs that a particular practice is destined for future condemnation.

        First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice. The case against slavery didn’t emerge in a blinding moment of moral clarity, for instance; it had been around for centuries.

        Second, defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counterarguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity. (As in, “We’ve always had slaves, and how could we grow cotton without them?”)

        And third, supporters engage in what one might call strategic ignorance, avoiding truths that might force them to face the evils in which they’re complicit. Those who ate the sugar or wore the cotton that the slaves grew simply didn’t think about what made those goods possible. That’s why abolitionists sought to direct attention toward the conditions of the Middle Passage, through detailed illustrations of slave ships and horrifying stories of the suffering below decks.

        “What will future generations condemn us for?”

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        unless you’re assuming unidirectional progress

        Has there ever been a society that said that they weren’t the pinnacle of moral judgment? “Our ancestors were so much better at this than we are…” kinda stuff?

        (I occasionally hear people say that the 1950’s were so much better than the twenty-teens but they always drop the subject pretty quickly when you start asking questions like “for whom?”)

        As for what follows from the fact that we’re probably swimming in a sea of bigotry that we don’t even see, there are probably a ton of things, depending on whatever goal you’re hoping for.

        The whole thing seems to be a Rorschach test.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Well, Plato thought that his contemporary society was a rather pale reflection of the perfection of the past. In fact, I think that was a pretty common attitude pre-enlightenment.

        But that was a long time ago. These days…Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Has there ever been a society that said that they weren’t the pinnacle of moral judgment? “Our ancestors were so much better at this than we are…” kinda stuff?

        Large parts of ours, which think that we’re sinking into a pit of sexual license, crumbing of the family, and economic entitlement. Of course, the people saying this think that they themselves have great moral discernmentReport

  11. Avatar Damon says:

    I’m a passionate advocate and supporter of certain freedoms we have. In general, when I become aware of a priviate company that publicly supports a position opposite of mine, I do not buy their products, if at all possible. What an employee of that company thinks is of no concern to me, unless he is essentially the company (expection: extremely wealthly folks). Why? Because it was done as a private individual and he’s not a public figure.

    Just as an FYI. I’ve been the “discriminated employee” that was pushed out when my views conflicted with company social policy. I’ve worked with folks that said “they go along” because they were afraid if they didn’t, they’d be fired. There’s too much of this….Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It’s really easy for me to say “you shouldn’t be cheering now that it’s your turn to hold the whip”. I’ve never really tasted the lash and so when someone who has is saying “WOO HOO!” when it’s their turn, I suppose I should instead hope that those who are tasting it for the first time learn some important things about being on that end of it.

    But then I see what happens when roles are reversed and I wonder if the only lesson to be learned isn’t “don’t be the guy not holding it.”Report