As just about everyone in my social network probably knows, Brendan Eich “voluntarily” resigned as CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, because of the controversy from a donation in favor of California’s Prop 8 back in 2008. I’ve been thinking it over a lot, because part of me feels a little hypocritical. I also see a lot of inconsistency within my social network and various blogs I follow. I’m not sure even by the end of of this post that I will find myself being very consistent.
Should Eich have remained CEO? Well, in the aftermath of the controversy and Eich’s seeming aloofness, the community he would have been a major figure in obviously turned against him. In that respect, Eich may have been unable to do his job. It’s, strangely, the same kind of reason Adria Richards was fired: her company determined that she was unable to be a developer liaison with all the controversy surrounding her at the time. But what about Eich’s ability otherwise before everything exploded?
The CEO job is different from the CTO job Eich previously had, but it’s not so radically different. An executive level position requires management skills and interaction with people. We have no reason or evidence that Eich was ever accused of discriminating against any GLBTQ employees or members of the Mozilla community. We have even less reason to think he would have discriminated against anyone as CEO, especially after pledging to uphold Mozilla’s values of openness and respect for everyone. From a purely execution point of view, Eich was qualified and able to the CEO.
Now here is where it gets dicey. Eich was pushed out for a six year old contribution against gay marriage. Was that offense great enough to deserve a protest and/or boycott of Mozilla products? And what would I have done if I was a user of Firefox products? Honestly, if I was still a Firefox user, I might have been tempted to switch to a new browser, quietly, and without a public spectacle. I support gay marriage (technically I support no marriage for anyone, but that’s not realistic) and have never voted for anyone who is against it. I don’t support companies that make a point of being against gay marriage (like Chick-fil-A if I wasn’t a vegan already). How could I support Mozilla if Eich remained CEO?
Well, the biggest difference between a Chick-fil-A and Mozilla is that Mozilla has stated values that are inclusive and supportive of equal rights for GLBTQ members. Chick-fil-A as a company has stated the exact opposite values and has donated millions of dollars against gay marriage. Eich would not be a dictator at Mozilla either. He has people to answer to, and I find it highly unlikely that he could have instituted any anti-gay policies with the support of the Mozilla board. CEO’s have bosses and can be fired. The threat of Eich was nil.
This leads me to the idea of corporations having values. I’ve seen people come down firmly on either the side of corporations having values (like openness with Mozilla) or the side of corporations are unable to have values. Of course, corporations have values. We tend to only notice, apparently, when corporations have values we don’t like. Does Planned Parenthood have values? Does the JREF? Don’t we want corporations to have values so that they support equal pay because they want to not because they’re forced to? Valuesaren’t only for companies who have the same values we do. Take Hobby Lobby.
They have from day one decided to run a Christian value based company. I have seen a lot of scorn from liberals about this. Well, atheist liberals I should say. Because they don’t accept Christian values, they don’t think corporations can have values. Because they like Mozilla’s openness and non-discrimination values, they think corporations can have values. See the inconsistency?
If Mozilla can have values, so can Hobby Lobby. End of story.
So happens to people like Eich? Are they now blacklisted despite a blemish-free career? How do we reconcile the quick pace of change on gay marriage acceptance? In 2008, candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama were both against gay marriage. The Democratic party only put gay marriage in the platform in 2012. Obama only came out for supporting gay marriage after letting Biden put out a trial balloon to gauge public acceptance. Even now, Obama says leave it up to the states, a position that would be untenable for abortion supporters about abortion. Interracial marriage? Can you imagine a Democratic candidate that would leave interracial marriage bans up to the states?
So here we are in 2014, in the middle of a rapid cultural shift. Gay marriage is winning, and I guess that means there are some losers. Should we kick the losers while they’re down? Should we start looking at every donor to Proposition 8 and ensure that no one with any power still has a job? Only thirty five thousand people to look at.
For me, I will continue to support pro-gay candidates, pro-gay companies when I can. For those people around me who don’t support gay rights, well, I probably can’t change their mind with a kick to the stomach. I do know I have changed people’s minds about what atheist and vegans are by not being judgemental, and simply explaining how I got to where I am. That’s about all I think I can do.
Thoughts? Am I a hypocrite or am I just struggling like so many others trying to figure this out?