Mozilla: Champion of Equality…Some Restrictions Apply

Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich–the guy who created JavaScript–resigned yesterday as CEO from the Mozilla Corporation and from the board of the nonprofit foundation that wholly owns the company.

Here are some of the reasons he did not resign:

Incidentally, the various company founders and/or CEOs who did the things described above retained their positions.

Here is the reason Eich did resign: In 2008, he gave $1,000 to a non-profit group.  Yep, that’s it.  Of course, here’s the kicker–the group is ProtectMarriage.com, and they were behind the Prop 8 campaign in California.

Quick background: Prop 8 (a constitutional amendment) defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  This amendment to the California Constitution passed in 2008 when more than 7 million California residents voted for it.  Incidentally, this took place just eight years after 61% of California voters passed Prop 22 (a state law), which basically said the same thing.  Prop 22 was struck down by the California Supreme Court in 2008, by a narrow 4-3 decision, which led to Prop 8.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Eich’s position, you should be–at a minimum–extremely concerned by the internal and external pressure that forced him to resign.  Not because it violated the First Amendment, because it didn’t: the First Amendment constrains government action, not the decisions of a private company.  You should be concerned because it is a glaring example of society’s increasing willingness to embrace a nebulous concept of “tolerance” over established and foundational values like freedom of expression, [true] diversity, and equality.  And, more to the point of this post, because it is a shocking example of hypocrisy.

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Below are portions of the statement from Mozilla on Eich’s resignation, accompanied by my commentary.
(Disclaimer:  The statements and views expressed in this posting are my own and do not reflect those of my employer, are intended for general informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. Read my full disclaimer here.)

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech.

While–as mentioned above–Mozilla is not bound by the First Amendment, they affirmatively endorse it here.  With that in mind, perhaps they should have focused on the fact that the protections of the First Amendment exist not to protect popular speech (the kind that Mozilla approves of), but to protect unpopular speech.  Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that “[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989) (emphasis added).

Equality is necessary for meaningful speech.

I wish they defined what they meant by equality because, as best I can tell, the only “equality” necessary for free speech is the equal opportunity for people with diverging viewpoints to express those viewpoints.

And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Perhaps the reason it is hard is because Mozilla appears to be limiting the purpose of free speech to the fight for its murky definition of equality, rather than the freedom to express ideas, even if those ideas are unpopular.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. 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.

Unless of course, your “contribution” is made to a non-profit defending a tradition of marriage that, as recently as 2008 (when Eich made his donation), was supported by the likes of President Obama, Senator Clinton…oh, and about 7 million California residents (all of whom are probably now ineligible for Mozilla’s top post).  If you fall into that category, even if your beliefs were motivated by your culture, geographical location, or religious views, your contributions are unwelcome.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views.

Ha! Not anymore.

If this post encouraged you, please share it to Facebook or Twitter
If this post encouraged you, please share it to Facebook and Twitter.

 

Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public.

I have to assume that staff are now going to think twice about what beliefs and opinions they share in public.

While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better.

Again, it seems that “engag[ing] freely” in “tough conversations” is only advisable if one is going to share thoughts and beliefs that are pre-approved by this so-called tolerant company.  The irony here is that Eich wasn’t running around proclaiming his support for Prop 8.  He was outed.

Thank you for sticking with us.

Sorry Mozilla, but after your shameful actions, that’s the last thing I’m going to do.

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59 thoughts on “Mozilla: Champion of Equality…Some Restrictions Apply”

  1. I’m always excited to see discussions about suppression of thoughts and speech, as it is very concerning to see. However, in terms of this specific topic, it’s important to keep in mind that gay marriage supporters don’t just view anti-gay marriage perspectives as a “different” perspective. They believe that they “seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration”. Being anti-gay marriage is now seen by many to be absolutely no different than being anti-interracial marriage. You can, of course, disagree with that, but you must keep that in mind when having discussions around this issue.

    This CEO didn’t just have an unpopular opinion on say, children’s vaccines. He had an opinion – and put his $ where his opinions lay – that is totally contrary to one of the core beliefs of the company. Perhaps not a great analogy, but one could make the argument that he as CEO would be like having a pro-life woman as the Director of the National Organization for Women. Sometimes personal opinions just don’t make someone a good fit for a particular organization, when the opinion is too contrary to the mission of the company. Especially when the person is in a leadership role.

    Again, I am always very excited to see a robust discussion about suppression of thoughts and speech, but I don’t think this is the best example.

    1. Beth – thanks for your comment. I think, however, that you have missed the point entirely (which is the main reason this pressured resignation fiasco is so concerning).

      Fundamental to the idea of different perspectives is the understanding that individuals with opposing viewpoints will frame the issue differently. The interpretation of Eich’s views by those who hold a contrary view should have no bearing on whether the should be allowed to hold those views. And again, whether a view is popular or not should not be the basis for whether or not a view is protected. On the contrary, and this should go without saying, but we don’t need protections in place for the expression of views with which everyone already agrees.

      Also, I’m puzzled that you would compare the views of a tech company’s CEO on a marriage issue with the hypothetical pro-life stance of an abortion promoter’s director. In the latter, the views are directly contrary to the specific work of the company. In the former, there is no such connection. Moreover, to the extent you are referring to Mozilla’s stated goals of diversity, openness, and tolerance, the suppression of Eich’s views is directly contrary, not supportive.

      1. OK…as my 8 month old is happily preoccupied at the moment I will try to clarify what I meant…

        In short, I think BOTH sides of this issue suffer from severe misunderstandings of the other side that prevent much movement forward on this issue, and contributes to much unfortunate animosity on both sides. My main point was to try to bring light to an area of misunderstanding.

        “Fundamental to the idea of different perspectives is the understanding that individuals with opposing viewpoints will frame the issue differently. The interpretation of Eich’s views by those who hold a contrary view should have no bearing on whether the should be allowed to hold those views. And again, whether a view is popular or not should not be the basis for whether or not a view is protected. On the contrary, and this should go without saying, but we don’t need protections in place for the expression of views with which everyone already agrees.” Yes, yes! I totally agree. I’m not saying that he should or should not be allowed to hold any view. ALL I was saying is that in terms of even starting the discussion, anti-gay marriage folks need to understand the other side’s view of them – that they are no different than anti-interracial marriage folks. That’s all I said. That there needs to be better understanding of the other side’s view of things. (I’m not even commenting on what I think the pro-gay marriage side needs to understand about the other side! That’s another discussion.)

        I understand you being puzzled by my analogy; that’s why I prefaced it with “perhaps not a great analogy”. Maybe being in Silicon Valley, the analogy makes more sense to me. And I totally agree that there is much irony in a company that supports diversity and openness NOT supporting Eich (that’s why discussions like this are so important!), but again, it makes more sense if you understand pro-gay marriage folks better. To them, it is no different than having an anti-interracial marriage guy as CEO. It’s not just a CEO with a “different” or “very unpopular” opinion – it’s a CEO with an opinion that is absolutely revolting and disgusting and horrific to most people in the community here.

        Have you read Jonathan Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought? I think you would love it!
        Here’s a video of him http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFVRRP-J9mI

      2. I appreciate the clarification and additional thoughts on the subject! I was particularly impacted by this astute observation:

        I think BOTH sides of this issue suffer from severe misunderstandings of the other side that prevent much movement forward on this issue, and contributes to much unfortunate animosity on both sides.

        That’s a great point. In my view, what is particularly unfortunate about events like Eich’s resignation is that these events seem to stifle rather than encourage healthy dialogue (that could lead to the much-needed understanding you reference) because they communicate the unmistakable message that expressing a disfavored opinion can lead to serious consequences.

        Thanks again for engaging on this issue!

  2. Bailed on Mozilla a long time ago, but not because of this issue. You have pointed out some great thoughts about the protection of free speech and where we put our support. Free speech doesn’t need to be protected when it goes along with the crowd, but more so when it doesn’t. That is precisely why the Founding Fathers made it part of the FIRST Amendment.

    1. We are always drifting away from freedom. It takes great effort to hew to a path of freedom, to seek truth however difficult or unpalatable, and to defend it against every challenge.
      But fear not! You leave that hydra of agendas to me. That’s why my blog is subtitled “mutterings of a benevolent despot in waiting”. I’m here to save you from that struggle. Just as soon as I find my vorpal blade… I had it here somewhere….

  3. I am not american.
    In my country (Italy) “same-sex-marriage” doesn’t exist yet and you cannot either hire a surrogate mother (if you are male gay) or get fecundated with sperm from a donor (if you are female gay). That is way relatively rich gays travel abroad, they cannot marry because the marriage is not valid here but they can have a baby made in some “doctor Mengele” laboratory/agency, come back and register the baby as their own (of one of the two). Much like Michael Jackson. That is what they mean with “we have got children”.
    I am writing this to give a different perspective about the “scandal” that is very deeply ingrained with american culture.

    That said, I agree with the whole post above.
    Mozilla is a perfect example of hypocrisy.
    The root of this hypocrisy is the fact that Mozilla doesn’t have a mission about making software, the leaders want to have a political agenda. So it is obvious everybody involved with Mozilla must agree with this political agenda, especially at top levels of management. When you don’t agree with the agenda, you are “the enemy” and not only you cannot lead Mozilla, you are also the target of an hate campaign, with the usual definition of “fascist” and alike,

    According Mozilla principles my whole nation is “the enemy” and should be targeted with a boycott and hate campaign. Or Russia or somewhere else. But it is much easier to pick a single person.
    🙂

  4. Mozilla could have taken a very strong, ethical, stance. One that states that while, as an organization, they strongly believe in equality they also believe in free speech as an element of that very tennant. While Mozilla does not agree with the view of this CEO whole respect his right to that view and his right to contribute his personal finance towards that view. As an example of Mozillas commitment to equality we are contributing a matching $1000 towards the oposing viewpoint as an organization. Fair, and done.

  5. I agree with this post, and I hate the fear that comes with my agreement; I worry that I’m going to be attacked.

    I’m Canadian. We’ve had gay marriage for at least ten years, I think. It just bothers me that, as you point out, more people voted for prop 8 then didn’t. Democracy! But then this democracy was struck down. Now, maybe people shouldn’t be voting on something like that to begin with, but if it is voted on, I don’t think a judge (who I’ve heard was clearly biased) has the right to overturn it.

    1. The right for equality does not mean not to admonish my brethren when are wrong, that is called permissiveness. I love my fellow citizen and I want him/her in heaven doing the Will of God not of the government nor of this new confusing culture.
      I stay praying for you.

    1. Aaron. Yes, that is probably why I said:

      the First Amendment constrains government action, not the decisions of a private company.

      and

      While–as mentioned above–Mozilla is not bound by the First Amendment, they affirmatively endorse it here. With that in mind, perhaps they should have focused on the fact that the protections of the First Amendment exist not to protect popular speech (the kind that Mozilla approves of), but to protect unpopular speech. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that “[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989) (emphasis added).

      Thanks.

      1. Then you shouldn’t cite a Supreme Court case as if it binds Mozilla in some manner.

        As to another point, I will repeat my Twitter posts:

        Voicing an opinion privately within and being the voice of a corporation are very different. But you’re right: A CEO, as an individual, has less freedom of speech, as he should; being leader is a privilege.

      2. Aaron, I didn’t cite it as if it binds Mozilla. This is not a legal issue. I referenced it in support of the conceptual idea that the extent to which we as a society value freedom of speech is shown by the protection we afford to UNPOPULAR speech. The SCOTUS opinion I cited makes that point eloquently, which is why I quoted it. Again, that’s where reading the full post in its context is helpful.

        As to your Twitter posts. First, a global comment: Just because Twitter allows you to express things quickly, doesn’t mean you should.

        As to the ‘substance’ of your tweets:
        1. Recognize it isn’t like Eich was giving speeches or writing op-eds about same-sex marriage, he made a private donation in 2008 in support of traditional marriage, at a time when President Obama and Senator Clinton expressed the same support for traditional marriage.
        2. You seem to conclude that the more influence a person has, the quieter he should be. I assume based on your comment that you would oppose any private donations by a leader of an organization in favor of same-sex marriage? If the answer is “yes”, then you have a principled ideology, and we’ll leave it at that. If not…
        3. You have exposed the true point of your comments – as far as you are concerned, this has nothing to do with a CEO generally having an opinion on an issue. It has to do with him having a particular viewpoint in regards to that issue. It is abundantly clear that if he had made a donation to groups opposing Prop 8 back in 2008, we would not be having this conversation.

  6. I don’t agree with Brendan Eich’s point of view, But I disagree more with the reasons he felt forced to resign. Still, though, the organization to which he gave does support discrimination. Would it be any more or less heinous if the group were biased against a certain race, nationality, or religion? Still, one should not be hounded out of their job because they have an unpopular opinion. No matter how one feels about any given issue, somebody out there will always take offense.

    So should we, therefore, have no opinions on anything? Or perhaps we should wait around and allow either authority or the mad mob to tell us what to believe?

    1. I do not believe the organization to which he contributed supports discrimination. It promotes the idea that the origin and fundamental concept of marriage has to do with formalizing the relationship that is the basis of human procreation. That this relationship is unique, and other partnerships or domestic arrangements are not included in its definition. This is not a judgement of other relationships, it is simply insistence that the term Marriage has a profound and limited meaning.

      Now, that’s all I’m gonna say here. I don’t wanna give away the whole deal on someone else’s blog (no offense) before I even get it down on… pixels.

  7. You know, some centuries ago we had a guy here named Galileo who was accused by an official “commission” of blasphemy because he wrote some book where he tried to demonstrate that earth was circling around the sun. The said “commission” was much more “liberal” than modern ones since Galileo was sentenced to live in the villa of one of his noble friends and to stay under the radar with publishing books, in an age when people got head chopped off for much less than going against the Church.

    This to say that fanatics of “human rights” are transforming our world in a kind of dark age when you must worry of what you say, who, when and where, otherwise you are prosecuted. Dissidents are suppressed and must hide. It should be ironic but the fanatics are incapable of catch it.

    1. With all due respect, you have NOT read History, not the Catechism of your Church. We are in the XXI century and you, stuck in the dark ages.
      Who’s the fanatical here?

  8. Agreed. And, for the moment, this is the beauty of the American system. The fact that people in this country today use these sorts of tactics today is a classic example of how (and I’ll take off the prefix because it’s more universal than just one subject) anti-speech fascists are trying to silence all opposition and use Hitler-esque tactics (BDS) to destroy the economy and way of life of any person or group that stands in their way. The true tragedy is that some people choose to bury their head in the sand and deny these things are taking place.

    1. Bringing up Hitler is pretty desperate here. From Wiki:

      ” Beginning in 1933, gay organizations were banned, scholarly books about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, were burned, and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered. The Gestapo compiled lists of homosexuals, who were compelled to sexually conform to the “German norm.”

      Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, of whom some 50,000 were officially sentenced. Most of these men served time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of those sentenced were incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.”

      Hitler would have been on Eich’s side, and on the side of the good right wing “Christians” of America. The supporters of gay marriage used their right to free speech to win this battle. He still had his right. He lost because he had the worse idea. Simple as that.

      1. Right. The homofascist agenda just took Hitler’s tactics and turned them on the Church in America. Different players, same game. Your comment, however, is the most colorful denial of what even the secular press has conceded as a trend I have seen yet, and very subtly worded is your position on the matter. The supporters of gay marriage have merely won the first salvo, nothing more.

      2. The analogy doesn’t even remotely hold. The Nazis had absolute power in a government, a massive majority of public support, and they were persecuting a minority using violence. They were torturing murdering and killing people to make them behave how they wanted. The LGBT community is using the tools of capitalism to put pressure on people it disagrees with. You see the difference, right? The anti-gay marriage groups have a right to do just the same and see how far they get. So, l’ll tell you what let’s both drop the fascist analogies and get real. May the best idea win here. And it already has really because gay marriage being a threat to nothing but irrational dogma and emotional prejudice is unstoppable. People become more educated generation by generation, IQs go up, blind belief in tradition is fades away. That’s borne out by the continuing victories of supporters of gay marraiage. If the situation suddenly reverses let me know, I’ll happily eat my words. But I think we both know that’s not going to happen.

      3. We see how well that’s worked in other places throughout history and even modern day. Not very well. Yes, they use the capitalist system, but there’s more to that and yes, violence has been perpetrated on both sides, but so-called law enforcement has only worked one way. Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it. BDS in Nazi Germany did not start with absolute Nazi power, that was the result. BDS started with the way it’s perpetrated against pro-family and pro-life advocates today. In the classrooms, in the marketplace, and in the entertainment sector. With a blind eye being turned to the will of the people by fascist federal courts in places like Utah, Texas, S. Carolina, and Ohio. you’re making SSM out to be some “enlightened” new concept that gives rise to great societies, when the exact opposite is true. Study your history.

      4. We obviously disagree in our interpretation of history and its implications not to mention our interpretation of the phrase “the will of the people”. I think you take that to mean the will of people like you. The reality is your country is divided. There is no one “will of the people”. And there is no great oppressor on either side. There is simply a battle of ideas that your side is losing. It’s not impossible that that will change but I see no indication of that happening. Tradition and conservatism is being cast aside in favour of modernity and openness not just in the USA but all over the world. You can decry that and you may have genuine reasons to decry it but you can’t reverse it. Or at least if you want to have any chance of impacting on the process, you’ll have to come up with a set of more coherent and convincing arguments then you have so far. Playing to the choir isn’t going to get you anywhere.

      5. Paul – just to confirm, your idea of “modernity and openness” is that people with unpopular ideas should be cast out from the business world if they dare to express those opinions, even if that “expression” is in the form of a private donation? How tolerant of you.

      6. No, that’s what’s known as a strawman. It’s not that they should or shouldn’t be cast out, it’s that people should have a right to protest and boycott on either side, and may the winner take the spoils. That’s freedom of speech, democracy and capitalism in action. So, explain how I’m the intolerant one here? a) I wasn’t involved in the boycott and b) I’m not intolerant of those who were. Intolerance can get very meta, can’t it? Anyway, I understand why some people are mad about this. But they may get a chance to do the same to someone on the opposing side. If they succeed, I won’t whine about it.

      7. Paul – you might want to revisit your confused understanding of a straw man argument.

        Here are some of your arguments so far:

        “The supporters of gay marriage used their right to free speech to win this battle. He still had his right. He lost because he had the worse idea.”

        – Lost what? His job, or his right to free speech? I assume based on the entire sentence in context, you are referring to his job, which you seem to view as an acceptable outcome. If I’m incorrect on that, please let me know. But if that is your position, then my restatement of it was not a strawman, it was an accurate representation of your position.

        “Eich was undone by a simple combination of democracy, free speech, and business savvy. No point crying about it. Gay marriage and gay rights supporters won. He lost.”

        – Again, it sounds like you agree with the ultimate result, yes? So how did I misstate your argument (a necessary component of making a strawman argument) by saying you belief people with unpopular ideas should be cast out?

        “The LGBT community is using the tools of capitalism to put pressure on people it disagrees with.”

        – Again, this seems to be saying that you are in favor of, or at least do not oppose, the idea that people like Eich can be pressured to keep silent if his views are not popular.

        In your most recent comment, you said “may the winner take the spoils.” And here, the “spoils” manifested in Eich’s resignation, correct? Since you reference the result with your approval, my analyis of your position appears to be accurate.

  9. “You should be concerned because it is a glaring example of society’s increasing willingness to embrace a nebulous concept of “tolerance” over established and foundational values like freedom of expression, [true] diversity, and equality. And, more to the point of this post, because it is a shocking example of hypocrisy”

    Very well said. Just because he has a bigger voice doesn’t mean his voice needs to be lowered. True equality lies in these differences.

    1. Thank you!
      Confusion, is the name of the game.
      Certain individuals have not had the opportunity to sit down on a chair in school and learn to reason and this is the worse cancer the world faces today -IGNORANCE!

  10. Wow! It’s not often that you see something on Freshly Pressed that isn’t affirming left-wing ideology. One reason I don’t hang out on that page much. Glad I did today. You totally, and rightfully, exposed the hypocrisy of the “tolerance” brigade. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed as well.

  11. I completely agree with you, regardless of the belief, as a member of the military I give my life to defend your right to have it. That being said, Mozilla did a disservice to freedom.

  12. Reblogged this on Six words will do; more available. and commented:
    It’s tipped me. I’ve been on the verge of giving up my holdout status, but I can’t quite resolve my objections… and I don’t ever like to settle for less than what I believe to be true and good. So, folks, read this today. Within the week, I’ll be weighing in on what most of my family, friends and acquaintances will likely say is the wrong side of the debate.
    Don’t touch that dial!

  13. The whole situation doesn’t have logic. The Universal Principle of has been denied to some and granted to others; how does it work?
    I do not see EQUALITY anywhere, nor the right for human beings -to be treated with dignity. By this time, we all should know that Freedom is not so free; society must act within certain limits, for we all are equal in dignity, but are not the same. This does not need any type of degree or position, it is written in our hearts. Will anyone call me intolerant for expressing my reasoning?

  14. I think Beth needs to relook at the comparison of anti-gay marriage and anti-interracial marriage, they are not the same. Interracial marriage is based upon race and gay marriage based upon sexual preference.
    No one can choose their race, they are born with it. You can however choose your preference, male or female.
    Marriage between people of the same sex is wrong.
    Simply put…

    1. You can’t choose your sexual preference. Who would choose to be gay and be discriminated against? I mean, do you think you could wake up in the morning and decide to enjoy sex with someone who was the same sex as you? I mean come one, this whole choice thing is silly. And by the way if you do think it’s wrong you should give a reason. Why is it wrong? Because your holy book says so? Or is it just because you don’t like it? Honestly, I’d like to know.

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