Culture

Should the Mozilla CEO's Resignation Be Considered a Liberal Victory?

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Credit: Darcy Padilla/wikimedia

Over at The Atlantic Conor Friedersdorf wrote about his concerns relating to the recent news that Brendan Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla in the wake of news that he donated $1,000 in support of California's Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 has since been overturned.

Friedersdorf rightly writes that it is concerning that Mozilla ousted Eich despite the fact that there was no evidence he planned to treat gay employees at Mozilla badly:

…no one had any reason to worry that Eich, a longtime executive at the company, would do anything that would negatively affect gay Mozilla employees. In fact, Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, his longtime business partner who now defends the need for his resignation, said this about discovering that he gave money to the Proposition 8 campaign: "That was shocking to me, because I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla's values of inclusiveness." It's almost as if that donation illuminated exactly nothing about how he'd perform his professional duties.

But no matter.

Calls for his ouster were premised on the notion that all support for Proposition 8 was hateful, and that a CEO should be judged not just by his or her conduct in the professional realm, but also by political causes he or she supports as a private citizen.

If that attitude spreads, it will damage our society.

Friedersdorf goes on to say that Mozilla's decision violates the principles that they claim to uphold:

"Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech," the company wrote. "Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard."

This is a mess.

Proposition 8 was overturned. Gay marriage is legal in California. Having a CEO who opposed gay marriage now would in no way diminish equal marriage rights for gays.

And equality is not "necessary for meaningful speech," unless you think the speech of Martin Luther King Jr., to take one example, was not in fact meaningful. The sloppy logic here is indicative of a company doing damage control, one trying to placate its critics but implicitly disrespecting them by doing so with nonsense.

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. 

Writing at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan described Eich's firing as "McCarthyism applied by civil actors":

As I said last night, of course Mozilla has the right to purge a CEO because of his incorrect political views. Of course Eich was not stripped of his First Amendment rights. I'd fight till my last breath for Mozilla to retain that right. What I'm concerned with is the substantive reason for purging him. When people's lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance. If a socially conservative private entity fired someone because they discovered he had donated against Prop 8, how would you feel? It's staggering to me that a minority long persecuted for holding unpopular views can now turn around and persecute others for the exact same reason.

All of the fuss over Eich's beliefs could have been avoided if political donations were anonymous. Eich's beliefs about gay marriage weren't the only positions on display. It has also been revealed that he donated money to the campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul.

The Washington Post's Radley Balko tweeted the following earlier today, highlighting the fact that none of us know which of our current beliefs could one day get us fired from our jobs:

Twitter

Read more from Reason on Mozilla here.