by Travis Weber
April 4, 2014
You’d think there was rumor of treason and conspiracy when it was recently “uncovered” that Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich had donated some money to the 2008 Prop 8 campaign run in California in support of natural marriage. You’d think Mr. Eich had just been convicted of a felony when he was then subjected to protests on Twitter as employees demanded he step down for committing this crime … the “crime” of thinking differently. Three Mozilla board members quit in protest. Even dating site OKCupid was so put off by this offense against democracy that it could not resist interjecting itself from outside the situation and spending its corporate capital discouraging users attempting to access its site through Firefox, claiming: “Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.” Aside from the malice of such a response, it embodies Soviet-era government monitoring more than an America founded with civil liberties at its core. Ultimately, Mr. Eich “chose” to resign. All these parties should be ashamed of their role in a democracy valuing civil liberties such as free speech and freedom of expression. Educating Americans on the importance of free speech should not be necessary in 2014, yet it somehow seems to be.
Thankfully, there are still those, who, regardless of political views, recognize the value of free speech, free thought, and free debate in a free society. Thankfully, even folks who disagree with Mr. Eich’s position on this issue recognize the importance of protecting freedom of speech and expression for all, regardless of viewpoint. Andrew Sullivan, a gay writer and same-sex marriage supporter, writes: “The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society.” Business Insider’s Jim Edward says: “At the heart of the move is a fundamental contradiction: Eich’s foes disapproved of Eich’s intolerance for LGBT people. But in the end they could not tolerate Eich’s opinions, which for years he kept private and, by all accounts, did not bring into the workplace. The “tolerant” were not tolerant enough of a man they considered intolerant, even though he had tolerated them for about 15 years, in other words.”
Mozilla seems downright confused about these concepts of free speech rights and equality: in an online posting, the company writes: “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech.” Except when that speech takes a certain view. “Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality.” But you can’t have free speech when you censor certain views. “Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness.” Except, it would seem, when employees hold a certain view. “We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.” Actually, it would appear Mozilla does not. “We have employees with a wide diversity of views.” Yet soon, if its practices of firing those who disagree continue, Mozilla will not. “[O]our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that’s what it means to protect the open Web.” And so, by its own words and actions, Mozilla supports an open web but not an open workplace.
It is sad that employees of such an innovative company, who are doubtless intelligent, are so incapable of grasping such basis concepts of civil liberties and free speech. Ironically, despite the finger pointing at “anti-gay moralizers,” supporters of hounding those of opposing views out of their positions are making a statement about their “moral superiority” in doing so. It’s one thing to critique the merits of someone’s view. It’s another to critique the fact that they have that view, and punish them for having it. The former is American. The latter is Orwellian.