I rarely, if never, post political rants here. I’m not sure why. People all over the Internet spew way worse things than what I’m about to say and they don’t seem to suffer for it. Besides, this has been stuck in my head the last couple of days, and I need to write it down to get it out, which is what this blog is for, supposedly.
I am getting very, very tired of people rushing to the defense of wealthy CEOs and heads of companies when they, for example, donate money to fight marriage equality or deny reproductive rights. They claim that the evil gays or feminists or whoever are intolerant — violating our sacred virtue of “tolerance” — because we dare to criticize this poor guy’s opinion.
The latest example of this is former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Just Google his name–outraged bloggers are taking up his poor pitiful case all over the Rageosphere, in all the usual places, but also some surprising ones too, such as The Atlantic and Mother Jones. He donated money to support California’s Proposition 8, which de-legalized same-sex marriage in that state for a while, and when he was made CEO, some employees expressed concern, and another company, OKCupid, encouraged its users to uninstall Firefox. Eich stepped down as CEO after just two weeks. Ok, those are the facts.
Now, I did a little research on this story and read this New York Times piece, in which Mozilla board members actually get interviewed, as well as this piece straight from Mozilla. I have to conclude based on the evidence (crazy, right?) that Eich was not “fired” or “forced out,” as the hysteria would have it. He resigned, and also didn’t want to take another position at the company when it was offered to him (so he wasn’t “deprived of his livelihood,” whatever that might mean for someone making CEO dollars). I guess he just had to get out of the kitchen, if you see what I mean.
But that is beside the point, which is that the people who criticized Eich were not showing intolerance for his opinion or infringing upon his free speech or free thought or right to be a homophobe or whatever. Here is where I explain what an opinion is.
Eich could have the opinion that he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, that it’s icky even, and he could say, “Well, I am never going to marry a man!” And everybody would say, “That’s fine, no one’s asking you to, chill.”
Or Eich could say he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, so he is never going to attend such a wedding. He may alienate some friends or estrange some family members, but that’s his choice, he’s a grown-up.
Or Eich could say he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, so he won’t watch movies or TV shows that present them in a positive light, and he may even boycott the companies that produce such entertainment. Again, sure, that’s his prerogative, he probably wouldn’t enjoy those movies anyway. Although who knows? They might be just charming.
Or Eich could say that he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, so he will spend his life trying to convince married gay couples to get divorced. All right, I doubt he’ll have a lot of success, but if that’s what he wants to do with his life, who’s going to care?
But what Eich did — not said, did — was donate money to make sure that no one in his state could marry someone of the same gender. He used his money to tell total strangers what they could and couldn’t do in their lives, even though their actions caused him absolutely no harm. He actively participated in legislating behavior he considered to be wrong, showing absolutely no tolerance for the views of others — especially those who actually wanted to get married.
This is not an opinion. This is action that is harmful to others. And that’s where tolerance ends. There is no rule anywhere that says that gay people, and their allies, have to tolerate behavior that hurts them or deprives them of their rights. That doesn’t even make sense.
The members of the Mozilla community — the employees, volunteer software developers, and customers — are perfectly justified in saying that such actions do not represent their values, that Eich was not the right person to lead their community. And apparently he agreed with them, because he resigned.
Sure, Eich has the right to his opinions about marriage equality and to even make political donations if he wants. He does not get shielded from the consequences of his actions. He does not have the right to be CEO of Mozilla. But don’t worry too much about him. I’m sure he still has plenty of money.