business news in context, analysis with attitude

On Friday, I devoted the Eye-Opener to a long think piece about the resignation of Brendan Eich from his role as Mozilla CEO, which was forced by criticisms of a $1,000 contribution that he made in 2008 to a California campaign designed to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage.

I don't want to repeat my reasoning process here…if you;re interested, click here. Suffice it to say that while I disagree with Eich's position of six years ago, I remain troubled by the fact that someone can lose their job so quickly simply for stating an opinion.

One MNB user wrote:

In this day and age of transparency, we should all be aware that expressing our opinions may irk some and raise applause from others.  I vent here on MNB, but always anonymously.  I'm certain I lost a job a few years ago when my boss discovered - actually, she insisted on knowing, and I finally responded to her persistent inquiries - who I had voted for.  It didn't happen right away, but the manner in which I was let go was always suspect and never revealed.  I believe it was related at least in part, to my political views.

So - I may state my opinions, but in social media, I'm careful. Tragic that we can't  seem to have civil discussion though, without it deteriorating into personal affront.

One of my Facebook friends manages to create lively discussions, and  civil, even when we do not agree, so I know it's possible.

From another reader:

First, I want to stress that while I am a lesbian, by no means do I speak for the entire gay community.  That said, 'an issue not related to business' did indeed derail entire careers for many in our community for decades and in some cases cost them their lives (and still does).

I would like to tell Mr. Eich that it does hurt, doesn't it, when one's lifestyle choices (to reject rights of marriage to same-sex couples in your case) keep you from being "an effective leader."  Countless people from the gay community have thus suffered for quite some time, and while you might suspect I/we'd be pleased with the outcome for you and Mozilla, I am not.  For none of us are free from inequality and judgement until we all are.

Mr. Eich, I am sorry that your personal life details have resulted in the loss of a job you may have looked forward to very much.  I hope that none of us will have to face that in the near future.  And I hope the balance of the gay community resists the urge to 'pay back' for the decades and more that we have suffered by causing good people with differing personal views from our own to suffer in the same way.

Thanks, Kevin, for bringing all this to our attention.  I appreciate your interest in bringing to the surface all the twists and turns that affect our lives--both personal and professional.

And another:

Whenever I struggle with a story like this, I replace "gay marriage" with "interracial marriage" and ask myself if my opinion would change. The anti-gay marriage arguments today sound too much like the anti-miscegenation arguments a generation ago.

And still another:

It’s a travesty that those who ask for tolerance are not able to give it in return.  Each and every person is entitled to their views and their lawful pursuit of happiness.  Eich has been treated as unfairly as have those in the gay community.   Very sad.

And then, there was this (probably inevitable) email:

You say that, not being gay, you can’t understand what the flap is all about. I guess that means you’d approve (or at least respect my opinion) if I contribute funds to Somali slavers who are, after all, just earning a living.

Not so? Maybe you should think harder about the respect owed to bigots who express the Neanderthal opinion that other people ought to be stripped of their rights and respect — and then expect their own bigotry to be respected.

If you take the view that a bigot who expresses his hate is a “victim” because he is called to account through social media, you are no better than the hater whose rights you defend.

Remember - Eich did not merely express his views — he supported a concerted, determined, religiously-based crusade to deny civil rights to an entire population of people. If he acted the same way toward blacks, or Asians, or women, or Catholics, I daresay you’d have no trouble recognizing his hateful bias. But you have been infected with the superiority virus, which causes otherwise reasonable people — who themselves enjoy all of the rights, freedoms, and respect due to white, male, middle-aged Americans — to go blind when the issue of gay rights arises.

Partly, this is due to nurture: entire generations were trained to hate and despise anybody who is different from their own crabbed view of propriety and — in many states, were encouraged to beat the tar out of anybody who expressed any contrary view. A side effect of the virus is the inability to distinguish civil rights — guaranteed under the constitution — from personal privileges, either granted by government — such as a driver’s license — or secured through a vote, such as a ballot question on whether to legalize marijuana.

Because civil rights are not subject to popular vote — if they were, slavery would still be legal in several states you could name and women would be unable to own property — bigots reject the premise that civil rights is even the issue, and contend that their victims are demanding “special privileges,” which are subject to popular vote. Secure in the knowledge that their fellow bigots will never vote to give the hated minority any rights or respect, they demand that the issue be placed on the ballot as an exercise of true democracy.

In several backward states, this has been done and, to no one’s surprise, the bigots were willing to amend their basic rule of law — their Constitutions — rather than treat others with respect or allow them to share the rights that the bigots themselves all enjoy. They will do anything in order to enforce their exclusionary denial of civil rights to a minority they deem unworthy, just as Tea Party racists would wreck the economy and default on the public debt rather than recognize a black man as President.

So, maybe it would be instructive to review your Eich comments, substituting blacks for gays as the unworthy minority … And so, the bottom line is that you would work for Hitler, although disagreeing with his view on Jews — because he was a strong leader.

I think there is one pretty good rule when it comes to civilized discourse … that when you start using Hitler and Nazis to make your point, you've pretty much crossed the line.

If you'd actually read and paid attention to what I was trying to say, you'd know that I disagree profoundly with Eich's position. And I pretty much agree with most of your comments about civil rights.

But …

Let's at least view the situation in some kind of context.

The world has come a long way since 2008, and I think it is fair to say that the culture's attitudes toward gay rights and same-sex marriage have progressed a lot farther and faster than most people would have expected. And while we know what Eich thought then, we don't actually know what he thinks now, because as I understand it, he hasn't addressed the issue except to say that he believes in equal rights and equal treatment of everyone in the workplace. (Though it would be true to say that he refused to renounce his past beliefs.)

I can disagree with him, but also sympathize that for some people, it is harder for them to wrap their minds around same-sex marriage. Often the reasons have to do with religion … which does not justify prejudice or the denial of civil rights, but at the very least I think it is important to try to understand what is going on in people's minds and hearts.

You are welcome to say that if one shows any sort of sympathy for people like Brendan Eich, one then would show sympathy for Nazis and/or Somali slavers. But I'm not sure that gets us anywhere.

I would urge you to check out the writings of Andrew Sullivan on this issue. He's gay, he's thoughtful, he's a journalist, and he writes that "if we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."

Sullivan adds:

"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. If we cannot live and work alongside people with whom we deeply disagree, we are finished as a liberal society."
KC's View: