For which political views should a CEO have to resign?

by on April 4, 2014 at 7:17 am in Current Affairs, Law, Web/Tech | Permalink

Andrew Sullivan argues Eich should not have been forced to resign from Mozilla for his anti-gay marriage donations, combined with his unwillingness to recant his position.  As a supporter of gay marriage (as of course Sullivan is too), I very much agree.  Like Sullivan, I see such such ideological witch hunts as unjust, counterproductive, and stifling of free discourse.

I see some further economic angles to this dispute.

First, it implies the market share of browsers is fairly arbitrary, and highly subject to potential consumer rebellion.  I can think of other businessmen who have alienated parts of the American public through their political stances, but still their products are bought and there is little talk of deposing them from their leadership roles.  Free products seem especially vulnerable to fluctuations in corporate image, in part because no product has a durable edge on price.  Since more of our economy seems headed in the direction of “free to consumers for direct use,” we might want to start thinking about this tendency a little more carefully and cautiously.  Charging people a positive price liberates you to be less conformist, at least provided you fare well in market competition.

Second, ambitious young people just got more boring.  It wasn’t long ago that opposition to gay marriage was the mainstream position in American society and of course in many places it still is.

Third, let’s say that “recantation” is becoming more important and more potent as a defense mechanism against charges (I’m not sure this is generally true, but it does seem to be true in the Eich case).  That will make people more likely to express their eccentricities in youthful bursts, rather than as a consistent pattern of donations or support over many years.  Consistent support over time is harder to recant, but a single act is easier to write off as a youthful indiscretion.

Rob April 4, 2014 at 7:27 am

A large part of this is the tight tech labour market. Mozilla, as a non-profit that promotes the open web, has come to be seen as a “nice” employer that one might expect to provide an especially friendly environment for gay people. This is actually not what Mozilla was originally about – the “openness” has much more to do with, say, the Open Society in a Popperian sense, and Mozilla’s mission has always relied on being able to make the best (or at least good enough) technology. Eich, as a technologist with a longer track record in web browsers than almost anyone, was well-suited to that.

But the fact is that Mozilla’s employee base has expectations about the kind of company that Mozilla is. These expectations are actually weirdly at odds with the expectations of the founders and leadership – Mitchell Baker was defending Eich until recently on precisely the grounds that technological “openness” is, if not a bigger issue than gay marriage, at least an orthogonal concern which, given Mozilla’s stated aims, has to take precedence. The fact is, however, that the company would struggle to replace employees who chose to leave, and there are plenty of other places for them to go. In the end, an employee revolt was probably much scarier to them than a consumer revolt.

Adrian Ratnapala April 4, 2014 at 7:37 am

Yep. I also think developers are more of an issue than users. I also wonder, what percentage of Firefox work is done by people who are not paid by Mozilla. It’s pretty easy to stop working for someone who doesn’t pay out.

Andrew April 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

This makes a lot of sense, and I’d revise my earlier comment to say this is more about Mozilla retaining developers than retaining users.

Dan Lavatan April 4, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Yes, but being anti-free speech will cost them more. I am an engineering lead for a major company and will have to deprioritize Mozilla support in retaliation even though I favor equal rights for gays. I also initiated a lifetime boycott of OkCupid.

Steve Sailer April 4, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Comrades, World War G must be waged on all fronts, domestic and foreign. Besides executing rearguard mop-up operations against stragglers like this at home, the forces of tolerance must take the fight abroad. NATO must invade Russia by not later than June 22 to bring those homophobes democracy, good and hard. Until Putin is dead and the 182nd Airborne installs Masha Gessen in his place in the Kremlin, there can be no rest in the war on hate.

Age Of Doubt April 4, 2014 at 8:11 am

He invented JavaScript. Have you seen what a crappy language that is? That alone should be enough to scare away investors.

Adrian Ratnapala April 4, 2014 at 9:23 am

Javascript’s main source of “crapiness” is its lack of features. It’s main strength is its extreme embrace of the advanced features it does have. Both of those things were are good choice for the problem JavaScript was meant to solve.

brad April 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm

No the main source of crapiness is insane decisions seemingly made for the lulz like: optional semicolons, unintuitive type coercion — especially the numerous falsey values, lack of block scope, and last but not least the strange number implementation.

Rob April 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

So crappy it’s perhaps the closest thing to a universal programming language that we’ve had since C, perhaps ever. The sheer number of devices running JavaScript suggests that he can’t have got everything wrong, and at the very least he understood the need for JavaScript even if the implementation leaves something to be desired.

Opinion on the qualities of JS basically splits into the camp that thinks it should be a much better language, and the camp that’s glad that it isn’t much worse (I’m in the latter camp, my gratitude for first-class functions outweighing my disappointment at the occasionally bizarre data type coercion). It’s not a great language, but it’s a good enough language for most people; it saved us from the likely alternatives of Perl-in-the-browser or VBScript, and in any case most of the problems with “JavaScript” are really just problems with the DOM. The language is at least well-specified enough that it can serve as a compile target for better languages, although only ClojureScript really adds anything of value in my opinion.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 11:03 am

‘it’s perhaps the closest thing to a universal programming language that we’ve had since C’

Actually, all the companies using Java beg to differ – but then, Java is likely to be this generation’s COBOL, in contrast to BASIC.

A Berman April 4, 2014 at 11:07 am

Rob is correct. How many webpages don’t have “onClick()”? Many people use Javascript without even knowing it.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 11:26 am

‘How many webpages don’t have “onClick()”?’

Interesting example – care to guess how many business transactions are handled on the back end by Java? There is a distinction between client and server, after all.

Or do you believe any major business is using Javascript to run its database(s)?

Whether SQL is a programming language is a discussion for another time – but if you honestly think that the database is handling those onClick() events with Javascript, it is probably because you don’t actually work for an ERP software company.

Rob April 4, 2014 at 12:21 pm

My main criterion – and I admit that it’s mine and not necessarily everyone’s – is the ubiquity of JavaScript. You can write server-side applications, command-line applications, native applications and browser-based applications using it. It runs on every single one of the millions of smartphones purchased in the last few years. There are very few people capable of programming who are not, with a moment’s perusal of the documentation, capable of doing something in JavaScript.

The same is not quite (though by a narrow margin) true of Java. I’m not totally fixated on the fact that Java code runs on Android but not on iPhones, but I do think that’s a good example of what I mean – JavaScript does run on both.

Java certainly makes the world run, and if Mozilla reanimated the corpse of Adolf Hitler and strongarmed the TC39 committee to put him in charge of JavaScript, causing us all to boycott the language, I suspect that the damage would be much less than if we had to boycott Java instead. But for sheer ubiquity, I think JavaScript is the most ‘universal’ programming language around. I don’t think this is an argument that can be ‘won’ though, so perhaps we should just agree that both Java and JavaScript are pretty widely used and are much more widely used than any of their direct competitors.

JKB April 4, 2014 at 11:15 am

You mean the language that OkCupid, the place for the intolerant and haters of freedom of thought and speech to meet, requires all their intolerant users to have running to make the website work.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 11:31 am

I’ll admit that I’ve always turned Javascript off in Seamonkey (including here – it saves a 1/2 meg download, not to mention the irritating addendum to copied text). But in my experience, not many sites actually require Javascript to function – AJAX excepted, of course. (And yes, AJAX as a term is probably outdated by this point – but JSON tends to be eminently disposable – my interest in Facebook, Twitter, et al on a web site is nil.)

Rich Berger April 4, 2014 at 7:27 am

You see this too narrowly. This is just another example of the thuggery that is the stock in trade of the left. See also the vilification of the Koch brothers and Mitt Romney.

Dave North April 4, 2014 at 7:36 am

The man attacked the gay community by giving money to deny them rights.

Sometimes those communities defend themselves, and in this instance they did.

Stop claiming that the bully is the victim.

Tarrou April 4, 2014 at 7:56 am

I’ll wait while you and the rest of the self-righteous fanatics go hound the rest of the people who supported prop 8 out of a job. Remember this is a huge majority of black Californians. Back yet? How was Oakland? Racist.

Or let me guess, it’s only ok to attack people for their religious convictions and political speech if they are wealthy white men? Come on, show a spine, let’s see you lynch a poor day laborer, or a struggling single mother from South Central. Ideological consistency!

Michael Foody April 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm

It’s only worth it if they are wealthy.

Z April 4, 2014 at 8:36 am

Scratch the paint of guys like Dave North and you always find a swastika underneath. The fascinating thing is how they have turned projection into a religious ritual. All of the things they despise about themselves get cast onto the undifferentiated other.

Steve Sailer April 4, 2014 at 9:34 pm

The gaystapo

Stephen Zailer April 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Haterosexual.

Dan Weber April 4, 2014 at 8:37 am

Any community can self-depict as “defending themselves,” including communities you and I seriously dislike.

Maybe my boss finds out I voted against my state’s same-sex marriage ban and fires me. It doesn’t take much escalation for things to turn ugly here.

Do you really want the side with more money to be able to decide who wins cultural and political discourse?

(I personally think that the polite limit on boycotts should be at one link in the chain. If you don’t like a person or a company feel free to not hire him or work for him or purchase his products, but when you start putting pressure on other people to do the same, it’s a very short walk to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_blacklist ).

Z April 4, 2014 at 8:48 am

Dan Weber: Do you really want the side with more money to be able to decide who wins cultural and political discourse?

That’s the way to bet, isn’t it? Since the 19th century the rich fanatics have been trampling through the cultural institutions of America. They can because they can afford to.

Anonymous April 4, 2014 at 11:37 am

You only have to look at the comments here to see that anybody who doesn’t agree with the rich and powerful on this issue is going to be crucified regardless of the merits of their argument. I would be terrified of the consequences if my employer found out that I thought subsidizing gay marriage doesn’t make much sense. Though Greg Clark can joke about locking Anglo-Saxons out of the political process and that’s just fine with everybody.

Whether or not you think gay marriage is a right, an evil, or just a big check subsidizing behaviors that aren’t really helpful, doesn’t it strike you as a little odd that you aren’t even allowed to talk about unless you agree with the people in power? Do we all have to love Big Brother?

GC April 4, 2014 at 9:12 am

7,001,084 californians, the MAJORITY, voted in favor of proposition 8. All bullies?

Herb April 4, 2014 at 10:43 am

No, just jerks.

GC April 4, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Now that’s indeed an insightful analysis…

Herb April 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Stupid question = stupid answer.

Eric with a c April 4, 2014 at 1:22 pm

And at the time that was Obama’s position, before he “evolved”. Should he be hounded from his job?

The Anti-Gnostic April 4, 2014 at 9:55 am

There’s no right to be married, just like you have no right to marry your sister or first cousin. That’s why you have to go to the state to get a license for it.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm

The state decides who can be married and has established certain legal rights and establishments that coincide with that. As such, the equal access and equal protection arguments have merit.

greg April 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I would say marriage has certain legal benefits, but also lots of costs. Getting married doesn’t necessarily offer any net benefit at all and I think for gays the benefits are being exagerrated for dramatic effect (in other words, I don’t see why legal marriage for gays would be sooooo much better than cohabitation and in fact I would think cohabitation would be preferred for the flexibility). Rather, it seems clear that what is at stake here is simply a theoretical equality, having the option of getting married just to have it, even if there is little appeal to actually do so aside from the novelty of exercising new “freedoms.”

Brandon April 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm

It’s not up to you to decide whether a gay couple would be better off with cohabitation or being married.

And the idea that they want it “just to have it” and that they exercise that option as a novelty is pretty dumb and insulting.

Brian G. April 5, 2014 at 7:05 am

There are a lot of legal benefits gained from a legal marriage that is not offered to non-married couples without extra legal paperwork (and in some cases not at all).

greg April 6, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Brian, like what? The right to get screwed in a divorce? My point was that the direct benefits of legal marriage to gays seem fairly modest. Less paperwork? Is that really what people are worked up about? Or is it a mostly symbolic battle?

greg April 6, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Brandon, people fight for things just to have it all the time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Did gays want the “right” to serve in the military because they were just dying to serve in the military? Maybe some, but I think it was mostly a matter of principle.

Tarrou April 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

Hilarious bit being that the Koch brothers have supported gay marriage for decades. Those evil bastards!

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 8:35 am

Any cite for the ‘decades’ part? Everything google delivers is from 2012 or so – when it was obvious that gay marriage could no longer be used to help elect Republicans to office. Which isn’t to say that either brother wasn’t a supporter – but a link or two would be appreciated.

TMC April 4, 2014 at 9:02 am

That would be the default position for a libertarian. I suppose you have cites that the Kochs opposed gay marriage.

Z April 4, 2014 at 9:43 am

In the Cult, the Koch brothers are depicted as a beast with two heads, one chewing the remains of a homosexual, the other the remains of a modern young female. That way, every member of the Cult can fantasize about being the Beowulf who slays the evil Koch Brother.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 9:47 am

Gay marriage wasn’t even on the radar back in 1994 for almost any American figure – Andrew Sullivan’s ‘Virtually Normal’ was published in 1995, after all, and that is generally considered the point where the topic first entered public discussion (admittedly, Sullivan is a shameless self-promoter, but he does seem to have documentary evidence to support this particular assertion).

I have absolutely no idea whether either Koch was a supporter of gay marriage in 2004, for example, and nothing easily checked by google presents any information one way or the other.

Someone simply asserted that the Koch brothers have been supporters of gay marriage for decades. Any cite (even one from 2003) would be more than acceptable. I have no opinion either way – facts are much more convincing than assertions.

And why would anyone assume that until someone posted a comment here which seemed pretty hard to imagine (especially after a quick google search) that I had any interest in what the Koch brothers think about marriage?

Herb April 4, 2014 at 10:49 am

You can’t give millions of dollars to the GOP and then say you “support gay marriage.”

No, actually you support the guys who are against it.

Jay April 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I would argue the default libertarian position is to not have the state involved at all and keep marriage between the couple and their church without skewed incentives being offered by the state.

Dan Lavatan April 4, 2014 at 5:49 pm

David Koch was the LP nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1980. It would be logical to assume he supported their platform. Section 3 of the 1980 libertarian platform states:

3. Victimless Crimes
Because only action which infringe the rights of others can properly be termed crimes, we favor the repeal of all federal, state, and local laws creating “crimes” without victims. In particular, we advocate:

b. The repeal of all laws regarding consensual sexual relations, including prostitution and solicitation, and the cessation of state oppression and harassment of homosexual men and women, that they, at least, be accorded their full rights as individuals;

Steve Sailer April 4, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Most of the people I know at the Cato Institute are gay

Age Of Doubt April 4, 2014 at 8:16 am

A leader who no one respects is a liability for any company. If Jack Welch came out as a transvestite, the board would have shuffled him out the door in a heartbeat.

Z April 4, 2014 at 8:37 am

If a CEO comes out as a tranny today, he will be treated as a hero.

Mo April 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

How is this different than the “thuggery*” engaged by conservatives against WorldVision?

* Your term, not mine

Jay April 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Their donors (i.e. source of funding) disagreed with their decision and they reversed it. No one lost their livelihood and it wasn’t being pushed by someone disconnected from the company. That isn’t thuggery in my opinion.

Adrian Ratnapala April 4, 2014 at 7:29 am

Third, let’s say that “recantation” is becoming more important and more potent as a defense mechanism against charges …

Then our society becomes even more pious and hypocritical, more like the bulk of societies in history.

Rahul April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I think Tyler is particularly clueless about the “free” ecosystem. e.g.

Free products seem especially vulnerable to fluctuations in corporate image, in part because no product has a durable edge on price.

Yes they don’t compete on price. But they compete on *quality*. Take something like Git or CentOS or the Linux Kernel, or the GNU compilers. If Tyler thinks people choose or abandon these on a whim, he’s so darn wrong. A “free” product does not exclude that a very serious selection process & a very thoughtful choice that went into choosing it.

I used to administer an HPC compute cluster for a while & almost all our software was “free”; but if it ever failed there was hell to pay. There’s often a significant economic penalty when a software component fails; and that’s irrespective of whether the component was free or not.

Andrew April 4, 2014 at 7:36 am

The thing about holding others accountable through free discourse is that it is never a one-way street. Those who disapprove of Mozilla’s decision to fire Eich are as free to boycott their products now for that reason, as those who disapproved of the decision to hire him were free to boycott Mozilla products for that hiring. You saw a similar situation with Chick-Fil-A where the movement against the company drew a backlash that drove enough business to cancel out the lost business (though obviously the customer base of Mozilla is quite different). And everyone is free to criticize the people who publicly called for Eich’s ouster as witch-hunters, tar-and-featherers, or whatever, and then others can push back on those flinging accusations of witch-hunting, and so on ad infinitum. Personally I don’t see how a company can manage its brand effectively when a huge chunk of its user base doesn’t have any respect for its corporate leadership and that seems like enough reason to dismiss those leaders regardless of why they are hurting the brand.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 8:12 am

‘Those who disapprove of Mozilla’s decision to fire Eich are as free to boycott their products now for that reason, as those who disapproved of the decision to hire him were free to boycott Mozilla products for that hiring.’

No, no, no – in Prof. Cowen’s world, a CEO is not someone to boycott. They are superstars, people with rare sklills and abilities that place them far beyond the reach of mortal consideration.

That’s mainly because most people want to enjoy the benefits of free speech, without ever having to experience the disadvantage of being so clearly in the minority. Such as being made to publicly face the reality that no one cares in what such CEOs think, as their own thoughts are revealed to be that of someone other people don’t want to have anything to do with.

The funny thing is, when it isn’t a CEO involved, this tends to be called playing the victim card, and is scorned by those made of sterner stuff when it comes to the free for all that is real public debate among free members of a community.

That people have to take responsibility for their actions always seems so surprising to those who never expect to have to take responsibility for their own actions.

And the most amusing thing about this debate? Mozlla’s code is free software – to see how that works in the real world, watch how the x.org Foundation pretty much wiped out the XFree86 project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XFree86 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X.Org_Foundation). There are worse things that can happen to a project like Mozilla than simply replacing its CEO – if enough people are fed up, Mozilla’s entire suite can be replaced in its entirety.

As Oracle discovered, when LibreOffice replace OpenOffice pretty much everywhere in 2010 – in part, because updating is so painless in the free software world.

Not that I expect this web site to ever go into detail about how free software works, or why it is such a viable form of software development. Such as exploring how a software package backed by a corporate entity was replaced promptly when a community of people decided to not put up with corporate policy. To this amusingly ironic extent – ‘Most Linux distributions[47][48][49][50] promptly replaced OpenOffice.org with LibreOffice; Oracle Linux 6 also features LibreOffice rather than OpenOffice.org or Apache OpenOffice’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenOffice.org#Forks_and_derivative_software

But sympathy for CEOs? This web site is in complete alignment with that perspective.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 10:47 am

Such as being made to publicly face the reality that no one cares in what such CEOs think, as their own thoughts are revealed to be that of someone other people don’t want to have anything to do with.

Um, you are responding to a post prompted by the news that the CEO of Mich was forced to resign for his views. It is rather evident that some people do indeed care what such CEOs think.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

Maybe that sentence wasn’t clear enough?

In this case, the opinion of the CEO are being scorned, and not revered, as is generally the case considered normal at this web site.

Which is why this web site seems so disturbed that in the free software world, people are actually held accountable for their beliefs and actions. Even to the extent that the software project they represent is replaced by other software – ReiserFS being a prominent example, though both git and x.org serve as fairly good examples of how this works in practice.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:11 am

Yes, you’re starting to grasp it. It is indeed disturbing that in the free software world, people are so willing to engage in ideological witchhunts, which are “unjust, counterproductive, and stifling of free discourse. ” If, as you say, people are willing to replace the software they use, that is indeed even more worrying.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 11:43 am

‘It is indeed disturbing that in the free software world, people are so willing to engage in ideological witchhunts, which are “unjust, counterproductive, and stifling of free discourse. ”’

Nope – it is you being obtuse. If Torvalds has a problem with BitKeeper, he is free to write his own free tool. That Larry McVoy sees a decline in his business is the result of how free software works (though the lesson could also be drawn that pissing off one of the world’s preeminent programmers is a stunningly stupid business move). The same applies to Ellison and LibreOffice. The free software community is not concerned all that much with empty words – it is concerned with code.

Which is why this web site is extremely unlikely to go into detail about how free software actually works. The people involved in Mozilla are completely acquainted with such things as git, x.org and LibreOffice – cases where the code reflected the interests of the community in counteracting ‘unjust, counterproductive, and stifling of free discourse’ actions by others.

Freedom is a two way street – free software users are free to decide between such offerings as git or LibreOffice, or those offered by McVoy or Ellison. As it turns out, in these cases, the free software community puts its code where its beliefs were, and the offerings from McVoy and Ellison are pretty much footnotes at this point.

Mozilla is very aware of how this works, apparently in contrast to a typical MR commenter.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I am afraid that, yes, I am so obtuse that I don’t understand how you can say things like the “free software community is not concerned all that much with empty words” and “no one cares what CEOs think”, about a story where a CEO has been forced to resign entirely because of his words.

Just for clarity, I’m generally quite obtuse about understanding situations where someone’s statements contradict with reality. For another example, I am entirely obtuse about why a Saudi Arabian sheikh would wish to use my bank account to transfer $90 million and give me a 10% cut.

Craig April 4, 2014 at 12:10 pm

The CEO of Mozilla didn’t call an all-hand meeting and say “Let me tell you what I think of gays…” He contributed money to a lawful campaign. This country has gone off the rails. Everyone is looking for a fight. Hell I don’t even attend jury duty when I get a summons because I don’t want to be on a high-profile case and then have my name and address be made public record so the zeros and retards of the world can make my life hell.

dan1111 April 4, 2014 at 8:17 am

One can agree with all of that and still see this as a bad trend.

Why should a crowd want to punish a company for having a CEO with political views they disagree with, when the CEO’s views have nothing to do with the company’s area of business, his political activities are unrelated to company activities, and the company isn’t giving him a platform for his views in any meaningful way? Those who called for him to go are saying that this isn’t an issue on which we can disagree and have anything to do with each other; it must be total war.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 8:32 am

‘Why should a crowd want to punish a company for having a CEO with political views they disagree with, when the CEO’s views have nothing to do with the company’s area of business, his political activities are unrelated to company activities, and the company isn’t giving him a platform for his views in any meaningful way?’

Because as the above examples of software projects essentially disappearing in the free software world (both free and commercial software), there are even more effective ways to make one’s opinion felt than merely asking for a CEO to step down.

Again, not this blog is ever likely to talk about how there are even better and long lasting ways to replace what one disagrees with than writing comments on the Internet. (My LibreOffice and x.org updates were painless – and though I love Seamonkey, it isn’t as if that project wouldn’t be taken over by IBM anyways – much like it did with Apache Openoffice.)

As a final example (there are plenty more – and Mozilla developers are likely to have been involved in some of them) – anyone here ever heard of git? Or is anyone still using ReiserFS? Disagreements with licenses or morals are just a part of the free software community – no needs to accept a bad license (Torvalds replacing the proprietary BitKeeper with git – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git_(software)#History) or the work of a convicted murderer (Reiser – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Reiser)

Though I would love to read Prof. Cowen’s opinion of how shabbily the free software world treated the work of Namesys’s CEO, removing it from their distributions, even before he was convicted of doing something that had nothing to do with his company.

Claude Emer April 4, 2014 at 8:38 am

Then there are larger ethical questions. Should a CEO ever be fired for his political activities unrelated to his job? Would the same hold if the CEO were antisemite?

If the CEO spent his free time lobbying congress to legalize slavery or to deny voting rights to minorities he dislikes, would that be enough to call for his ouster? Is there a threshold beyond which it’s not ok for a CEO to expect to hold his job?

Is a company getting rid of such a CEO really getting punished?

Adrian Ratnapala April 4, 2014 at 9:38 am

There is room for sloppiness on this ethical issue: The US 1st Amendment (and similar principles in other countries) doesn’t apply; and I don’t think anyone is saying Eich should have the right to Mozilla for discrimination. That means that at some point, anyone can be sacked for his politics and those of us who don’t like it, cannot and should not stop it.

I would say there are a lot of quiet anti-semites in high positions in business and they get by under a social norm of “don’t ask, and don’t tell” (about unusual political views). I think that’s a pretty good norm, and I don’t see how the world would be much better if these guys were hounded from the business world.

But what scares me about this is that Eich’s views actually the stuff of a live political issue. It’s as if someone was sacked from a tech company for a failed campaign to block US aid to Israel.

Anthony April 6, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Under California law, Eich may indeed have the right to sue for discrimination under the Unruh anti-discrimination law which explicitly includes political beliefs as a protected category.

Richard Gadsden April 4, 2014 at 7:54 am

I think you’re missing that Mozilla is more in the nature of being a political movement than a business. If this was the CEO of a normal commercial company it would have been a very different story.

Rahul April 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm

A related point is that in the case of “free” products the role of the CEO, Foundations, Directors etc. is far smaller than in any commercial, paid product.

People don’t work on Firefox or Linux because some centralized, hierarchical decision making body asked them to. Unlike say the guys working on developing Windows or Intel Chips.

celestus April 4, 2014 at 8:07 am

Eh, mostly agree, but you can’t force a consumer to use Firefox I guess. My question is, why we do not see a turn and turn about. Could a bunch of conservatives demand the resignation of a CEO who supports abortion rights? Can a company refuse to hire people who donate to the Democratic Party, or gay people who choose to adopt a child for that matter? Surely what’s sauce for the goose…but I can’t think of a single case of the top of my head.

Tyler also missed another economic/political angle, which is that this sort of attitude will cause political donors to donate more money anonymously.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 8:18 am

I am quite convinced that Prof. Cowen is much more aware of how donors wish to donate more money anonymously, and how they do it, though it is a subject that will not be discussed on this web site.

MRU being an example of this brave new world, in my opinion. I would link to other places where people associated with Prof. Cowen talk about the need to remain hidden so that they can influence public policy without the unseemliness of public criticism, but those links tend to have a short shelf life. (The irony is inescapable.)

Jason W. April 4, 2014 at 11:39 am

The amount of negative energy you have contributed to this site is astounding. You post these comments, all of them pretty much the same, day after day after day. How long will this go on, honestly? For god’s sake, just write a book and be done with it.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 11:48 am

And not a single example of how free software works? Not even a single link?

Or are you one of those ‘the GPL is a cancer’ true believers?

‘How long will this go on, honestly?’

Well, I was paid by the GMU PR department for longer than I’ve been commenting here. And being Catholic, the concept of penance is something I grew up with, after all.

Hoosier April 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm

What’s your story with GMU? Come on spill the beans already, and no cryptic answers please! Would love to hear what about the inner workings of GMU makes them so particularly evil in language I can understand.

Jay April 4, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I skip over PA’s comments for that very reason, he seems to work in animosity towards Tyler and GMU into every single post and it really gets boring and unproductive to the discussion.

Claude Emer April 4, 2014 at 8:44 am

The irony with all the decisions by the Supreme Court so far removing restrictions on political donations is that they’re also affirming that such donations should be public, even as more people are finding ways and reasons to make their contributions private.

libert April 4, 2014 at 9:57 am

Here’s an example for you, celestus: the furor over Duck Dynasty, in which the threat of a conservative boycott successfully altered A&E’s employment decisions.

Recall that A&E interpreted the comments to be bad for business, so they suspended him. But the customer base responded negatively and vowed to boycott the channel. A&E capitulated to their demands and reversed course.

Herb April 4, 2014 at 10:51 am

And all the Duck Dynasty at Walmart is still on clearance…..

celestus April 4, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Yes but that’s kind of a half case, I think- the conservatives “altered employment decisions” which were being made precisely because A&E feared being put in the same situation Mozilla was. While the conservatives applied pressure on A&E they weren’t the ones on the witch hunt, so to speak. Unless they demanded that A&E execs resign?

Jay April 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm

The furor started long before the conservatives, the furor was to get him fired over his interview where he voiced his opinions. Furor by people who have never and will never see the show, that’s the problem. The show’s main demographic, conservatives, came out to support him and A&E felt sufficiently threatened to lose a large portion of the audience and capitulated.

Benny Lava April 4, 2014 at 8:24 am

Tyler, can you explain the sentence “ambitious young people just got more boring”? I have no idea what this means in the context of the paragraph. Baffling really.

Aidan April 4, 2014 at 9:08 am

I suspect what Tyler’s arguing here is that a society in which conformity silences debate is a dull one, and that in forcing Eich to resign for his political views a lot of “ambitious young people” have shown themselves to value conformity over freedom. Boring.

John April 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

Or that they will no longer put themselves out there in ways that can lead themselves to get fired later in life.

Jon April 4, 2014 at 8:27 am

While I would agree with the traditional marriage crowd, as long as they are advocating retaining the traditional marriages of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I personally would not boycott a company for their political stance on this issue.

By buying a product, one is providing the leadership of the company the funds to promote those views; it is clearly within the rights, and in some cases the obligations of people to decide whether they want their resources used to promote a certain set of views.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

Yes, and there’s a good case to be made that in general we benefit from free debate, including people arguing for issues that are repungant to ourselves. And this is the case that even when our views are right. As J.S. Mills argues:

… the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

If there are any persons who contest a received opinion, or who will do so if law or opinion will let them, let us thank them for it, open our minds to listen to them, and rejoice that there is some one to do for us what we otherwise ought, if we have any regard for either the certainty or the vitality of our convictions, to do with much greater labor for ourselves.

http://www.bartleby.com/130/2.html

Dan in Philly April 4, 2014 at 8:34 am

I’ve been seeing a real life exercise of what I once learned to call free speech stifling. It seems many agree with this, which makes me re-examine my assumptions about previous free speech stifling, maybe the past was a case of voices which were unpopular at the time being shouted down, but as societies views changed those who wrote about the events recast them as struggle of good guys being stifled by evil guys, and maybe the whole point isn’t that the writers approve of free speech as a concept but the approved of the speech being stifled.

Chip April 4, 2014 at 8:37 am

Can you support the rights of gays to do whatever they want in a free society but be concerned about diluting the cultural importance of marriage?

I’m all for the former but undecided about the latter. The failure of marriage and two parent families has been awful for kids. We imbue traditional marriage with special meaning because raising kids is hard, and parents sometimes need that social glue to keep their marriage working.

If traditional marriage now has no special meaning, shall we now end senior discounts at the movies, maternity parking spots and demand mosques allow people to wear shoes? Where does culture end and enforced sameness begin?

libert April 4, 2014 at 10:01 am

I don’t understand. It seems the premise is “Marriage is important, and having two parents is good for kids”, and the conclusion is “We should make sure that fewer people get married and fewer kids have two parents”.

michael April 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm

@libert, that is a straw man argument.

I’ve never heard anyone say “two parents is good for kids” who didn’t mean (or explicitly say) that meant both a mother and a father.

I happen to believe gay marriage is unhealthy for the kids, but so is other parental behavior, like smoking and watching primetime television. I think the state should probably get out of the marriage business anyway.

albatross April 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I’d say a big part of the question of gay marriage comes down to the question you’re skipping over here–do gay marriages work about like straight ones in terms of their positive effects on kids and the surrounding society? They may, or (my guess) they may be very different but still have more positive than negative effects, but that’s a question that’s part of the debate, not something both sides agree with.

txslr April 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm

I think this is a very valid point which should be obvious to anyone, regardless of which side of the debate the come down on. That is why the notion of caving to political pressure and firing someone for having expressed an opinion sets a dangerous precedent. Clearly the goal here is not to engage and carry the debate. It is, rather, to intimidate the other side into surrender.

dirk April 4, 2014 at 8:40 am

This is the final nail in the coffin of the idea that the Internet promotes an open society.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 8:50 am

Or an example of it in practice – see the links above relating to x.org, LibreOffice, git, and the demise of ReiserFS.

In all cases, software was forked/replaced (for a variety of reasons) by other software freely created by other people.

This is even more effective than simply boycotting or demanding the removal of a CEO. And Mozilla is very aware of this fact.

Because the free software world is provably one of those communities where freedom is taken very seriously – both the benefits, and the consequences.

Chris Bird April 4, 2014 at 8:58 am

Did he step down/was he asked to resign for his views or was he unable to separate his views as an indidual from his responsibilities as the CEO? In an abstract sense I may not want to work for someone with whom I have a fundamental disagreement, as long as my boss’s position isn’t foisted on me, then I am good with that. I think he overstepped the line with the OKCUPID situation. Then his views became policy. That is the bad part.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 10:55 am

Surely it is good for such views to be public? Freedom of discourse is an important value for society.

Brian April 4, 2014 at 12:04 pm

What part of this was not an example of freedom of discourse? Eich was allowed to express his views. Users and developers expressed theirs. Mozilla then expressed the views of its board members. Is this not freedom of discourse? Nobody’s speech was curtailed or silenced. They all had a chance to speak their mind.

albatross April 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm

It clearly was not a first amendment issue, since nobody got hassled by the state or went to jail or anything. But there is a broad question raised here: should your job prospects be tied to a large extent to popular or unpopular political or social positions you are on record as believing?

Suppose tomorrow a CEO loses his job for advocating *for* gay marriage. Is that any different an issue than when the CEO lost his job for advocating against it?

Tracy W April 7, 2014 at 6:19 am

That the users and developers went beyond expressing their views of all the excellent reasons why same-sex marriage is a good idea, and then went on to call for the CEO to resign because of his views.

They showed a social intolerance to the differing idea, which is a bad thing because freedom of discourse has numerous practical benefits.

Lord April 4, 2014 at 3:32 pm

IFAIK he was not forced out but resigned which makes all this moot.

GC April 4, 2014 at 9:08 am

Let’s hunt down and force to resign also the other 7,001,083 people who were so misguided to be in the majority of the California voters who PASSED proposition 8! And let’s make unemployed the tenths of million of Americans who actually don’t believe gay marriages and adoptions are a good thing!
And then, let’s do the same in Europe, since we are at that.

Sheesh.

dave April 4, 2014 at 9:10 am

Celestus,
This money was donated anonymously. The IRS leaked the donors names from the campaign’s tax filing to a pro gay marriage advocacy group. That aspect should be chilling regardless of where one stands on the underlying matter, although the Dave Norths of the world may feel that the ends justify the means.

The Anti-Gnostic April 4, 2014 at 10:00 am

Funny how we seem to be getting less democratic the more we scream about democracy.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 10:20 am

Oddly, the examples concerning x.org, LibreOffice, and git are all concrete examples of freedom in action.

Which is why this web site is extremely unlikely to explore the subject in detail.

albatross April 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm

If only it were possible for you to start your own blog, where you could explore these and other issues of interest to you at whatever depth you liked, without any Koch-bribed, ideologically-blinkered libertarian economists keeping you from it.

charlie April 4, 2014 at 9:20 am

I’d say it is just evidence that the open source movement is the 21st century circular firing squad.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

To keep hammering the point, since it seems no one here actually knows much about the free software world (in stark contrast to the people involved with Mozilla) – the examples of x.org, LibreOfiice, and git are all direct contradictions of this assertion.

Mesa April 4, 2014 at 9:24 am

The tyranny of the word “should” rises again in the opening sentence of the post. I don’t think any laws were broken here or rights trampled. Corporations are non-coerced contractual associations of human beings. Political speech is protected, but there are no guarantees against ramifications. So, what does “should” mean here? That there should be a law against this? That some people wouldn’t have fired Eich IF they were running Mozillla? Well, you can start your own company and hire this guy – he seems to be out of a job. But I’m more interested in parsing the meaning of “should” in posts like this. It seems like most “should” sentences are very anti-libertarian.

Adrian Ratnapala April 4, 2014 at 9:42 am

No there should be no laws against this.

No this should not have happened.

In a free country, people should be able to write sentences with the world “should” in it.

Mesa April 4, 2014 at 9:47 am

Write on. My point stands – the spirit of most of these “should” sentences is profoundly anti-libertarian.

libert April 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

I fully agree with Mesa.

Should has many meanings, and it’s not clear in what sense Tyler is using the word.

Is the question “there should be a law preventing people from boycotting a business for reasons unrelated to their primary business”
Or is it “there should be a law forcing this man to be fired?”
Or is it “there should be a law preventing companies from firing executives for their political activities?”

As far as I know, no one is arguing these. It also seems that no libertarian would support any of those ideas. So why are we discussing it?

Alternatively, it could be that the question is “I would prefer if Mozilla had made a different CEO hiring decision”, in which case I don’t see why I should care about the question.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:41 am

Or, possibly, there should be a social norm of tolerance of the expression of distasteful views?

Laws have their place. But they can’t mandate every good thing in society.

Adrian Ratnapala April 5, 2014 at 12:11 am

I would prefer that Mozilla made a different *firing* decision. I would prefer that various people who called for Eich’s firing just chilled out and worried less often about other people’s politics. I think the world would be freer if my preferences were social norm. Is that so hard to believe?

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

Most sentences that use “should” may be very anti-libertarian. But that doesn’t mean that all sentences that use the word “should” are anti-libertarian.
For example, if you were taking a trip with a libertarian guide in a part of the world that was new to you, it would hardly be anti-libertarian for the tour guide to warn you of some local dangers using terms like:
“You should check your boots for scorpions before putting them on”, or
“You should only drink water that’s been sterilised.”
In the case of speech, toleration of the expression of views we personally loathe is good for us, as it firstly reduces the risk we fall into error, and secondly means we better understand our own views. The “should” here is like the “should” in “you should check your boots for scorpions”, it’s because it’s a good idea in and of its own merits.

albatross April 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Libertarians draw a pretty clear distinction between morality (“shoulds”) and law (that which you can go to jail for violating, more or less). So there’s nothing non-libertarian about saying some things should and shouldn’t happen or be done. You shouldn’t preach hatred against gays in your church, and I will think bad things about you if you do, and yet I don’t want it illegal. Shockingly, this is a position that’s quite consistent with libertarianism.

Robert April 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I think there are a lot of contradictions and double standards in play here. First, many libertarians defend businesses when they have strict dress codes and fire employees over them. Sometimes employees have been fired for political opinions which in no way impact the job. They gush over the freedom of a firm to make its own hiring and firing policies. So surely that would apply here too. This private organization decided to edge him out. It seems there are greater protections for CEOs than for little underlings. This so often occurs.

Second, if this guy had donated to a cause for the removal of marriage rights from African Americans would Tyler be saying that he ‘should’ not be fired? I doubt that. Why would that be? Because, we all accept that there are certain fundamental liberties that all Americans are entitled too and the disregard for such liberties is repugnant to the values on which this republic was founded. And marriage for homosexuals is one of those basic rights. The only difference between this issue and legal discrimination on the basis of race is that is has taken the majority of Americans a while longer to comprehend that homosexuals deserve marriage equality. But just because this understanding has just come about recently makes it no less important. (Same idea with slavery in the nineteenth century – by the mid to late part of the nineteenth century most Americans realized slavery was wrong – it took a while from the countries founding but it made is no less morally repugnant than the denial of rights contained within the first ten amendments to the US constitution.)

If you are the type of person who opposes same sex marriage and yet is very educated and had much contact with gays and lesbians it’s quite obvious that you are quite contemptuous of people who are ‘different’ to you, you lack a certain sense of morality, and quite possibly you are even too much of a psychopath to be a CEO. You cannot plead ignorance – there are many peculiar old wives tales that many high school drop outs believe about gays, for example: ‘being gay’ is because someone was too ugly to obtain a partner from the opposite sex. None of this applies at the elite educational level. Part of being a CEO is understanding the environment around you, being able to rapidly process information, and to get a gestalt idea of the marketplace. Well this guy completely failed in this regard with respect to understanding there is no good reason (other than simply hatred of gays) to deny same sex marriage. Heck even if he could not stop feeling his own gay hatred, he could at least look at which way the wind was blowing and realize that very soon such a position would be seen as quite evil. Such a lack of understanding demonstrates profoundly bad judgment. Perhaps it shows cognitive decline? This man probably does not have the requisite skills to be a CEO of a company of any consequential size.

bmcburney April 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Robert,

Take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and try again. You say “we all accept that there are certain fundamental liberties that all Americans are entitled too and the disregard for such liberties is repugnant to the values on which this republic was founded. And marriage for homosexuals is one of those basic rights.” I am sure if you think about this for even a short while you will realize it is indefensible as a factual matter. However, even if this was not absolute nonsense you would still have to reconcile those social concerns with the political and free speach rights on which the republic actually was founded. Also, it is very unlikely that all or even most people who oppose your political and social ideas are actually psychopaths.

Saying things which are so obviously wrong simply undermine your own credibility.

Robert April 4, 2014 at 3:59 pm

bmcburney,

Au contraire:

From the declaration of independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..”

Note that is says AMONG, not these are the only rights. The United States was founded upon the preservation of individual rights and liberties and upon the furtherance of these rights by a constitutional republic. Marriage is an essential human and civil right and precisely what Jefferson was referring to when he used the word “among”.

See:

Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 205, 211 (1888): Marriage is “the most important relation in life” and “the foundation of the family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”

Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923): The right “to marry, establish a home and bring up children” is a central part of liberty protected by the Due Process Clause.

Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942): Marriage “one of the basic civil rights of man,” “fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.”

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967): “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 376, 383 (1971): “[M]arriage involves interests of basic importance to our society” and is “a fundamental human relationship.”

Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 384 (1978): “[T]he right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals.”

M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102, 116 (1996): “Choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among associational rights this Court has ranked as ‘of basic importance in our society,’ rights sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.”

The list goes on. Jurisprudence takes it as a given that the right to marriage is a basic right. Take a look at the kinds of basic rights set forth by enlightenment thinkers that influenced the founding fathers.

And even in the nineteenth century Jeremy Bentham and the Marquis de Condorcet, were arguing that same-sex love should not be a crime. And there is no reason to deny that right to gays and lesbians given that we now know that being gay is not a mental illness, gays do not ‘harm’ children, being gay is not a not a stepping stone to anarchy, and homosexuality is something found throughout nature.

As to being a psychopath – it’s appropriate in as much as it means ‘someone who does not care about other people’.

In Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996) “Its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.”

The only explanation for anti gay laws in animus. And this has been shown in numerous cases. Indeed lawyers defending bans on same sex marriage have found themselves tongue tied trying to offer up a rational explanation.

And as to your note about ‘taking a deep breath’. Perhaps you should consider how your lungs might respond to the taking away of certain rights you require every day. Would you be so tranquil if your children were unjustly taken away or if your right to get married was eviscerated along with other legal protections. Indeed many libertarians are hardly passive as the government raises taxes and sometime even takes their property. And why so – because it hurts! It is always easy for ‘other’ people to calm down when the issue is not personal and immensely painful.

txslr April 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm

“I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

There are perfectly good arguments against gay marriage. You are free, of course, to disagree, but you are simply declining to engage on the issue.

bmcburney April 4, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Robert,

Nothing in the Declaration of Independance or in any of the cases you have cited actually supports the proposition that “marriage for homosexuals is one of th[e] basic rights” upon which “this republic was founded.” As a matter of history, that proposition is insupportable. And the word “psychopath” does not mean “someone who does not care about other people”. And “animus” is not the only explanation for proposition 8. And the lawyers defending proposition 8 were not tounge tied. And nothing in proposition 8 required anyone’s children to be “unjustly taken away.” All of those assertions are false. At best, they indicate that you are ignorant of American social, political and legal history, the meanings of certain words, the legal arguments made in favor of proposition 8 and the provisions of that law.

And, in fact, rights I “require every day” have been taken away and, you are correct, it is painful. In my case, however, the rights to which I refer are the actual fundamental human rights upon which this Republic was actually founded. If you weren’t such a psychopath (as you define the term) you would be able to recognize that fact.

Stephen Zailer April 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Great comment, Robert.

T. Gracchus April 4, 2014 at 9:58 am

“For which political views should a CEO have to resign?”
All of them.

GC April 4, 2014 at 10:28 am

CEO robots? because that’s the only way to have a CEO (or, generally, person) without any political view whatsoever.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 10:39 am

Any that harm the business he is leading in a material way.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

But the only reason this is harming the business is because his employees and presumably some customers hate the thought that he expressed them. It’s the hecklers veto.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 11:20 am

So, as I asked elsewhere, are you suggesting that a CEO should have a special class of freedom of speech that others cannot speak out against? Why would this be a good idea?

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I don’t know – why are you suggesting it? Why would you think that CEOs deserve a special class of freedom of speech? Why do you think that the ability to manage a large organisation would automatically mean someone’s freedom of speech would be better? The ability to put an argument as effectively as possible is not necessarily the same as a CEO’s skill set. Surely, everyone should have an equally protected freedom of speech?

To be honest, I think this idea of yours that CEOs deserve a special class of freedom of speech is stupid, and you should drop it. I much prefer my own idea that everyone should have freedom of speech. And I note that you haven’t made a single argument in support of your idea.

GC April 4, 2014 at 11:38 am

And the actual data that the business was being hurt is… where?

Brian April 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

When prominent and influential developers decided they would stop contributing while Eich was CEO. Mozilla obviously weren’t convinced they would be able to find a replacement for those people that spoke out, or that it would be better to keep Eich and lose those valuable contributors.

This would be like the chicken industry telling Chick-Fil-A they could no longer buy chicken.

GC April 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm

So, we are actually talking about monopolistic suppliers imposing their views. Alright, I can accept that, altho that’s a very peculiar use of “market spoke, business followed”.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Not at all. The “marketplace” is not just the end consumer. The “marketplace” has always included the supply chain.

Chris D April 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

The only reason that matters is that Mozilla is not an ordinary corporation. A nearly endless list of CEOs, even in tech, are bigots who donate to anti-gay causes and Republicans. Whatever.

The difference is that Mozilla named someone with a history of actively contributing to exclusion as the leader of an inclusive organization. Despite his chutzpah-tastic appeal to inclusiveness, Eich *has* been included in that community even since his donations became known, and he will be still. But the criteria for a member and for a leader are different, and as a leader of an inclusive community, he is disqualified.

I realize that’s not as much fun as fantasies about the thuggish left that wants the nanny state to stop Glenn Beck from speaking out or whatever, but it’s much closer to the truth.

Marie April 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I am not tech savvy.

Using Firefox means I support gay marriage? I had no idea. Do I need to click on “About Firefox” to find that? Or is it just that I can’t help write the next Firefox if I don’t support gay marriage? All this programming stuff is so confusing. . . .

triclops41 April 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm

A near content free tirade. Congratulations.
There was a tiny point in there about the difference in responsibility between a leader and regular member of a community, but the rest was pure partisan drivel. It wouldn’t even do to call it wrong.

Chris D April 4, 2014 at 6:44 pm

What?! That was full of my precious, precious personal beliefs!

Why, I never!

Marc Passy April 4, 2014 at 10:28 am

It’s not about users at all. It was never about customers. Mozilla’s products are all open-source and they rely heavily on the work of unpaid developers. When a couple of prominent developers decided that they would lead a boycott because of the issue, he was doomed. People can rant all they want about “liberal witchhunts” but this is the double-edged sword of choice and markets. These developers have a choice about where they devote their efforts – and they are free to do with that whatever they want. If there were enough developers that disagreed, that would flock to the company’s banner to protect Eich, the outcome would have been different – but there weren’t. This decision was ALL about “freedom.”

Brian G April 4, 2014 at 10:28 am

This is not about political views. This is about denying civil rights to a segment of the population. If some company put in a CEO that was in favor of segregation, and donated to causes pushing for that, should we not have an opinion about it? It isn’t about people being “boring”, it is about not having views that deny equal access, equal protection, and equal standing in our society. If you want to hold those views, you should not expect a free pass.

Additionally, his freedom of speech is not more sacred than the freedom of speech that others expressed. He has the freedom to donate to whatever cause he supports. He has the freedom to speak out about those views. Everyone else has the freedom to stop using a product based on that, or at least to express their opinion about those views. I don’t know that anybody forced Mozilla to oust Eich. They simply bowed to the freedom of speech expressed by others and made a business decision. It isn’t anymore complicated than that.

I am surprised that these simple points would be missed.

Millian April 4, 2014 at 10:39 am

Of course “civil rights” is a view. Some believe gay rights are civil rights. Some believe animal rights ought to be. Some believe rights of the unborn child are civil rights. If you deny the right to life of an unborn child, would you happily be punished in the name of freedom or would you expect your friends to accuse your persecutors of bullying? So the choice of which of these positions are true is a view, a deeply political one.

It is not clear to me that this is about legalistic freedom of speech; of course that’s not being infringed by anyone. Rather, it is about whether it is right to use one’s freedom in a manner that punishes people for their political views.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 10:49 am

In time, people arguing that gay marriage is not a civil right will look and sound just as foolish as people that wanted Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus. I am certain that is where we will end up, so calling it a simple “political view” is, to me, like saying whether you agreed with Apartheid or not is a simple difference in political views. I am talking about civil rights for adults, which we have long since agreed have legal standing in our society. While the exact legal standing of a zygote/embryo/fetus has not been determined, that argument is outside of the scope of the “political views” I was addressing.

The right of anyone to express a political view does not trump the right of anyone else to agree or disagree with the political view. It also does not outweigh their right to no longer contribute or otherwise transact business with that person or the organization they lead. Sounds like there are some people that want limits on freedom of speech when it comes to controversial issues. Who decides which issues people are allowed to have opinions about and which they are not? We should expect to be able to have opinions about anything and likewise to have somebody tell us what they think those opinions. The freedom to express your views brings the responsibility to deal with the consequences. It isn’t a one way street.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

The danger is when people go from expressing their views to refusing to associate with people with views they disapprove of, and calling for others to boycott them. People may have a right to boycott and to call for boycotts, but when they exercise that right on these cases they’re harming both society and themselves.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I think I do see your point, but where I diverge is that I don’t consider civil rights for adult humans to merely be a “political view” that is subject to the same whims as tax policy, foreign policy, etc. I don’t believe that our civil rights history in this nation was about differing political views. It was bigger than that. I don’t see it the same as a disagreement over tax rates or social security retirement age.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I don’t know how you think your argument is relevant. Every civil right should be up for discussion and that’s a good thing. We can only really understand a position if we’ve heard the best arguments against that position, or, to take what is humanly possible, the best arguments that the antagonists to that position can muster.

For example, how did you come to the adjective “adult” in your statement about civil rights? Most likely because you’ve heard arguments about children’s rights and abilities and come to a view something like “children are in general not as mentally competent or as experienced as adults” and thus should be rightly treated differently.

The topic is, as you say, much more important than tax policy, which makes it all the more important that it be subject to free debate. T

o pick up on your point about American history, it’s the Southern slavery states who tried to ban abolitionist speech, because they could not justify slavery in a free debate.

txslr April 4, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Let me summarize: I am right because I am right. In time everyone will see that I am right. Those who do not see that I am right will be ridiculed. Therefore I am right.

GC April 4, 2014 at 10:44 am

Surprised eh?

Where does the opinion that A constitutes a civil right ends and the one that A doesn’t starts? Who decides whether A is in fact a civil right? The voters? Not really, as the majority of the voters did in fact expressed themselves clearly AGAINST that particular thing being a right, to the point of wanting that to be clear inside the state’s constitution. So someone is supposed to lose its job because, together with the majority, thinks something to be wrong?

But then again: let’s make unemployed all the tenths of millions of people who still think gay marriages and adoptions are a bad idea? Because if one believes opposition to gay marriage warrants unemployment, then it has to be so for every single person who holds such belief or is applied on a case by case?

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 10:51 am

If Mozilla forced him out, they made a business decision. If the political views of 1 person does material harm to the operation of an enterprise, are they expected to ride that into obscurity?

Anonymous April 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Would it have been okay for your employer to fire you for your political views? We aren’t talking about some unusual view here.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 12:32 pm

If they felt it could cause them material harm, absolutely. Although, we should consider that under employment law we are dealing with very different issues when you get to the executive ranks and trying to compare that to the rank-and-file would be an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Anonymous April 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

People are reacting to the chilling atmosphere surrounding this issue. You aren’t allowed to talk about it unless you support the position of the powerful. In my liberal office, explaining my views on gay marriage would likely end my career. And I’m not the CEO. That doesn’t seem reasonable.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm

In general, it is best that your religious and political views never mix with your business aspirations, to the extent that you can possibly avoid it.

Anonymous April 4, 2014 at 2:36 pm

It’s not a religious view. I’m not a religious person. I’m a libertarian and my opposition stems from that.

There is no similar requirement that pro-gay-marriage people keep silent.

Brian G. April 5, 2014 at 7:09 am

You’re a libertarian and you opposed it based on that? That being a libertarian requires you to oppose marriage between two adults of the same gender?

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 10:53 am

Then again, was segregation right just because a majority of voters supported it? There were many states that still wanted to have slavery and was even one of the reasons a civil war was fought. Time and again, people on the wrong side of civil rights issues have had to be forced, at the point of a gun, to accept a new reality. Civil rights are not simply a matter of what the majority wants.

Das April 4, 2014 at 11:03 am

This is always what the majority said at any point in time: We are right (of course we are, if we weren’t we would change our position) and because we are right the others are wrong.

In the long run it doesn’t matter wether you defend the rights of gays, women, animals, a specific race or class against those who would attack them you will always feel that you are not only right but morally obligated to actively seek out and destroy dissenting elements.

You say: But defending gays from homophobes who would take their civil rights away is just like defending civil rights for blacks and has nothing whatsoever to do with socialists defeding the rights of the working class against capitalists, liberal democrats and landowners!

But this is all relative. It is all a matter of perspective. There is only one absolute: How does society handle dissenting opinions? Will you hurt the ones who have them or do you tolerate them?

Everyone who has ever been intolerant was so fur just reasons, for moral reasen, to defend the weak, for the betterment of humanity and so on.
Go defend you precious gay rights in this manner, go destroy the values your country was build on, go join China and Russia.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 11:13 am

If you read the U.S. Constitution, you will find all of this under Amendment 1. While the nation wasn’t founded under the U.S. Constitution, they played some role in creating it and found it pretty convincing. It has lasted this long. Are you suggesting that the freedom they wanted was for CEOs to be able to express an opinion but not those who disagree with it?

At the end of the day, this is exactly how a Libertarian society should work. The marketplace spoke and a business listened. We can drop the whole civil rights discussion completely.

GC April 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

“The marketplace spoke and a business listened.”

Actually, not really, there was no market indication of any actual harm.. seen any statistics in that direction? Are you really saying that a week was enough to understand how teh market (what market, actually?) was reacting? Please.

But then again, let’s assume the principle was right: “The marketplace spoke and a business listened.”… then are you in favor of allowing, say, restaurants to refuse to serve who they don’t want to serve and allow the market to decide?

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:06 am

It isn’t about people being “boring”, it is about not having views that deny equal access, equal protection, and equal standing in our society. If you want to hold those views, you should not expect a free pass. –

And yet, the only way we can be reasonably confident that our views about equal access, equal protection and equal standing are valid is if people are free to challenge them.

Additionally, his freedom of speech is not more sacred than the freedom of speech that others expressed.

Indeed not. The benefits of freedom of speech are imminently practical.

Everyone else has the freedom to stop using a product based on that, or at least to express their opinion about those views.

Of course. But not every freedom is good for the exerciser. These people, by trying to stop such views being expressed at all are harming themselves and society more broadly.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 11:15 am

Perhaps yes, perhaps not. Ultimately, I doubt he was forced out because of his views on gay marriage. This had everything to do with the impact those views were going to have to Mozilla. We should expect that any enterprise is likely to oust a CEO when their personal views appear likely to have a negative impact on that business.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:44 am

The only reason these views were going to have a negative impact though was because a bunchbof employees started a campaign calling for the ceo to leave.
It’s the hecklers’ veto. And the hecklers’ veto harms both the broader society and in the long run the hecklers themselves.

Brian April 4, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I’m not sure it does this, but let’s assume it does. Are you saying that people have an obligation to continue working for and using the products of companies with whom they disagree? Or that they must keep silent about their disagreements? The very discourse you appear to say we need sounds like the one you wish we did not have.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Um, no.

Do try to respond to my actual arguments, not the ones you’re making up.

Das April 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

It has always been like this: Oppose the majority and you pay the price.

“Like Sullivan, I see such such ideological witch hunts as unjust, counterproductive, and stifling of free discourse.”
And what do you do about it? Did you argue publicly for him? Will you now stop using Mozilla or announce to your readers they should do so?

No of course not. You say you are against it so you can keep the moral high ground but you do not fight it.

Bah. At least the guys forcing him out were honest about their intentions.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 10:57 am

Prof. Cowen is not a programmer, has to the best of my knowledge never contribute to any free software project in any way, and quite honestly, seems surprised at how freedom works.

Which, if one believes in the stereotypes of tenured academic libertarians, is extremely unsurprising.

triclops41 April 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm

You are a fascinating creature, PA.

txslr April 4, 2014 at 4:55 pm

If by fascinating you mean incredibly tedious…

GC April 4, 2014 at 11:51 am

“It has always been like this: Oppose the majority and you pay the price”

Except, of course, the majority of the Californian voters actually backed proposition 8.

steve April 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

If you believe in free speech, you have to let people make demands that people be removed because of their political views. If you believe in free enterprise, You have to let companies decide to release a CEO if they think that his views are harming business. As was pointed out above, a business suspended the Duck Dynasty guy because they thought he was going to harm their bottom line. When they concluded otherwise, they reinstated him. My inclination in this case is to let the board decide whether or not it is worth keeping Eich. They should know their business better than anyone else.

Steve

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:06 am

But if you believe in free speech, you can point out how bad is it for peoplw to make demands that people be removed because of their political views.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 11:18 am

But not how bad it may be to appoint a CEO who has those views? Why should a CEO have a special class of protected freedom of speech? A CEO should be allowed to have those views, but others should not be allowed to speak out against those views?

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:50 am

A) who said that CEOs should have a special class of protected freedom of speech? Why do you think that CEOs deserve a special class? I don’t see how the ability to successfully manage a business makes their views any more inherently valuable than anyone else’s.

B) speaking out against those views is good for all concerned. Calling for the speaker to be boycotted for expressing them is bad for all concerned. Yes, people have a right to do that, just as they have a right to smoke, lie around on their couch all day, and have unprotected sex with strangers, but that doesn’t mean it’s wise for them to exercise those rights.

Brian April 4, 2014 at 12:10 pm

You seemed to be suggesting that it was ok for Eich to have his views, but not correct for others to have their views. If I misunderstood, I’m sorry. You do seem to suggest that the suppliers/developers/users should not ever stop contributing/selling/buying/using because of a CEO’s personal views. I disagree with that assertion. I think that every individual should make decisions about these matters based on whatever factual evidence is available. Eich did not deny his views on this matter. Everyone else took their own positions on the matter. Nobody “forced” anyone to do anything.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Can I take it from this that you now agree with me that everyone deserve equal rights of freedom of speech? And that you reject your earlier idea that CEOs should have a special protected class?

I agree that every individual should make decisions about these matters based on whatever factual evidence is available, and some of that factual evidence is the fact that letting our ideas be open to debate is important for society, even when our ideas are right. We can only fully understand our ideas once we have listened to the best arguments possible against those ideas. And while we can never know what the best arguments are, we can at least listen to the best that the committed antagonists put forward.

I don’t know why you’re bringing the word “forced” into this and putting emphasis on it. I never used it.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I never said they should have a protected freedom of speech. Your opinion suggested they should, by suggesting that Eich be allowed to have his views and that those opposing it were wrong to make their own decisions based on it.

It is this simple: Eich disagrees with the concept of gay marriage. Some significant developers/users disliked this view to the point that they were going to walk away from Mozilla. Mozilla decided it was in their best interest to jettison Eich instead.

Who is wrong? Eich? The users and developers who disagreed with him? Mozilla? Does Mozilla, or any other business entity, have an obligation to suffer damage due to the personal views of their CEO? Or should they have the freedom to make the business decision that it is better to live without that CEO instead?

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Uh, you did indeed say that CEOs should have a special class of protected freedom of speech, just scroll up and read your own comments. You tried to attibute your idea to me, but it’s clearly your own. And a darn stupid one too, IMO.

As for people being allowed to make their own decisions, well I don’t really follow your logic as nearly all your replies to me ignore my arguments in favour of asking if I support some stupid ideas you just made up. But I’m getting the impression that you see no difference between having a legal right to do something and it being a good idea to exercise that right in all circumstances. Is this a correct statement of your starting point? Or have I misunderstood somehow?

Anyway, I think someone can have a legal right to do something while it still being a stupid idea for them to do it in some set of circumstances. To answer your questions:
1) I think Eich was wrong to be opposed to gay marriage.
2) I think said developers/users are right to be in favour of it.
3) I think said developers / users have and should have every legal right to stop using Mozilla and call for a boycott.
4) I think said developers/users were wrong on a practical basis to call for a boycott of Mozilla based on Eich’s position.

So to summarise, Eich 100% wrong. Developers/users right on underlying issue, right on legal, wrong tactic from the whole-of-society and their long-term interests on practical grounds.

Now please respond to my actual arguments, please don’t make up more stupid ideas and try to pretend they’re mine.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I wish I had been making it up.

What action do you propose they should take when they disagree with a CEO, if deciding to walk away is not one of them? Should they have to be silent about their boycott rather than organize and spread the word? Is that the part you are unhappy about?

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Your wish is already granted. In the future, please try to make up less stupid stuff.

The action I propose they take, Mr CEOs-should-have-special-speech-rights, is saying why Eich’s views are wrong. Unlike you, I think everyone has a right to freedom of speech, and I reject utterly your stupid idea that special freedom-of-speech-rights should be granted only to CEOs.

Brian G. April 5, 2014 at 7:12 am

I am glad you reject the outcome of your own writings. You are upset that some people exercised their right to speak in opposition to Eich and also withdrew their support from Mozilla, his employer. You want Eich’s freedom of speech to be protected, but continue to seem unhappy that everyone else has the same freedom of speech.

Tracy W April 7, 2014 at 6:22 am

Brian, did you read a single thing I wrote?

albatross April 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I agree that there is no legal issue here, this is free markets and free speech in action.

However, I also think it’s broadly a bad thing to have the common idea in the society that expressing certain political beliefs or supporting certain political causes should cost you your job, or get your books or movies or products boycotted, or whatever. I think a society that broadly accepts that idea will in general be worse off than one that does not, because more people will be very careful never to go on record having a controversial opinion that might get them in trouble later, fewer people will be willing to get involved in politics or donate to political movements they like, or subscribe to magazines or donate to bloggers with controversial views, or whatever. It seems pretty common to see high-profile people fired or brought low because they express offensive or unpopular opinions, and I do not believe this makes us smarter or kinder as a society. Instead, it just ensures that the talking heads on TV and the prominent people who get interviewed and such are all *really careful* to stay within the lines of acceptable discourse, even when those lines change radically in just a few years. (Gay marriage is one example, opposition to the Iraq war is another–the mainstream, respectable position changed in just a few years.) So I am very interested in pushing back on this idea that if you express offensive views, you should in general get fired.

This is independent of the issue of gay marriage or the issue of how open-source software is developed, though the overlap of those two mattered a great deal in this case.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm

+1

Rahul April 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm

But this boycott trend is hardly anything new right? People were screaming at Dow for manufacturing Napalm in the 1960′s.

If you are a religious book publisher & go about gambling, drinking, womanizing & then your clientele shuns your firm, can you really complain? Do not alienate your customers is just reality.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Neither Tyler Cowan nor Andrew Sullivan are CEOs here.
And the argument is whether the customers should have been alienated.

prior_approval April 5, 2014 at 8:54 am

Well, I recognize in reality his position is not so exalted, but Prof. Cowen is the chairman of the Mercatus Center, and yes, he could be forced to leave if he did not correct political/social views (though only if the Center’s main patrons agreed – public pressure is extremely unlikely to play any role in their decision making process).

dirk April 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

This event isn’t mainly about an internecine battle within the open source community, as some are suggesting. OK Cupid and fag rags like Gawker and Slate are claiming this as a victory for free speech in America, because toleration is all about consequences now, or something.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 11:07 am

Is it not a victory for freedom of speech whenever people are allowed to express themselves? The magic of this freedom comes not only from the ability to say what you think, but to also hear what others think of what you had to say. It is the freedom to exchange these views that we should be celebrating. CEOs should not be granted a special class of freedom of speech. They get the same one as everybody else.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 11:53 am

Uh weren’t you saying above in response to me that CEOs should be granted a special class of freedom of speech?

Brian April 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm

No, you were suggesting that CEOs should be able to speak their mind and nobody should stop using/buying/selling/contributing/supplying to their company because of it. The vast majority of your comments have suggested that it was wrong for people to threaten to leave Mozilla’s projects over Eich’s personal views. This would indicate a belief that Eich is privy to a protected freedom of speech. He is allowed to have personal views that you may disagree with, but you are not allowed to express your views in response to it.

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Huh? Why do you think that I should not be allowed to express my views in response to someone’s speech?

Wouldn’t that be harmful? I mean, how could we fully understand the value of Eich’s speech, if I am not allowed to express my views in response to it? Is this intended as some slight aimed at my intelligence?

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm

What views are they allowed to express? You have said that withdrawing support from a company is wrong, so what should they do? Continue developing/supplying to the projects and using the products anyway?

Tracy W April 4, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Why are you asking me that? Immediately before you were telling me that I wasn’t allowed to express my views.

Anyway, since you have no way of imposing your denial of my right to speak, they’re allowed to express any views they like. Luckily you’re not the one defining who has a right of free speech. What with your “special protected rights for CEOS “, and trying to me that I have no rights to speak you’re the last person I’d want to have that job.

Brian G. April 5, 2014 at 7:16 am

You are a funny person. At this point, I can only surmise that you are trolling this discussion since you flip your views constantly. Eich’s freedom of speech must be preserved, but the developers/users that withdrew their support were wrong. That the board then decided to remove Eich after that continues to be seen as wrong by you, per your own writings here.

It appears, based on your own writings, that you would prefer they had continued to develop for Mozilla and use their products, while merely speaking out that they disagree with Eich. You’re upset that they chose to do more than speak?

Tracy W April 7, 2014 at 6:25 am

Ah, finally, you’re starting to get it!
Yes, I’m upset that the users/developers went beyond expressing their own views, and instead called for the CEO to resign. Yes, yes, yes!

Thank you! I was getting the miserable feeling that I was banging my head against a brick wall trying to get this concept through to you!

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 11:40 am

GC:

The marketplace, in this case, are some prominent developers (you could call them suppliers/vendors) to Mozilla’s projects. They decided they would no longer contribute and Mozilla blinked.

If anything, I am pointing out the kind of society that Libertarians would lead us into and how they don’t really want that as much as they might think.

prior_approval April 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

‘If anything, I am pointing out the kind of society that Libertarians would lead us into and how they don’t really want that as much as they might think.’

Which might just explain the number of promptly following posts on a Friday afternoon – watching freedom in action tends to be disturbing to those that only like to talk about it.

Larry April 4, 2014 at 11:49 am

Such egregious anti-social acts must be rooted out wherever they rears their ugly head. I don’t know why up to this point the effort to enforce correct thinking has been limited to CEOs. Its focus should be broadened to include the bulk of companies’ employees. And it’s not enough to simply consult public records for such things as contributions to anti-social causes. This will catch only the small group of miscreants who donate. The problem is much broader than this small group. Implicit Association Tests should be given as part of the hiring process. These tests are designed to reveal one’s true but hidden beliefs about certain other groups of people.

I hope such measures are being considered in federal government circles. As a start, I hope the Department of Re-education is drafting rules that will encourage universities to institute such pre-employment screening of administrators, professors, and teaching assistants. But the more difficult challenge will be to enforce correct attitudes onto the private sector.

As for recantation, it is deeply unfortunate that recantation of anti-social acts and expression serves to insulate these malefactors from justice. This is due in great part to the softness exhibited by those of us whose task it is to expose and punish this anti-social behavior. Comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev recanted their crimes but revolutionary justice required that their punishment be carried out nonetheless.

Brian April 4, 2014 at 11:53 am

Absurdity, of course, meant to somehow shock. The fallacy is that government force was not wielded at all in this incident and your thought police have not found a home.

triclops41 April 4, 2014 at 1:46 pm

You are a study in deliberate obtuseness Brian.
He is accurately anticipating the leftist argument in 25 years. It is not shocking, but prescient.
The relevant point for today though, is that this call for firings based on non-publicized beliefs is only selectively applied. Why it is selectively applied deserves scrutiny which the apologists on this site wish to elide.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm

This was a unique situation where some parties had enough influence to persuade Mozilla. I don’t think it accurately predicts a future where this type of influence will persuade boards to take similar action across all industry.

bmcburney April 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Brian,

“The fallacy is that government force was not wielded at all in this incident and your thought police have not found a home.” This is not quite correct. Although it is true that there was no government involvement (that we know of at this moment) in the “anti-Eich movement”, by law Mr. Eich’s political contributions are supposed to be confidential but were leaked by the IRS to a “marriage equality” group. Thus, without active assistance from the government, it would not have been possible for left wing groups to retailiate against Mr. Eich for his political and social opinions.

At the same time, of course, contributor lists for the anti-Prop. 8 campaign were not leaked by the IRS. Control of the IRS and similar agencies by the left is a necessary part of this type of activity.

Brian G. April 5, 2014 at 7:19 am

Is this a widespread thing? Just curious. You speak as if this is sweeping the nation, but I am not aware of this. Please point me to something that is more than FUD.

bmcburney April 6, 2014 at 5:26 pm

How widespread does it need to be? There are now a number of examples in California in which people have lost jobs, had their property vandalized and so forth because they contributed to the “yes on proposition 8″ campaign. I don’t know how frequently this occurs in other parts of the Country. Given the level of success that gay rights groups have had with these methods in California, I imagine you will soon see more of it left-leaning States.

As for specific examples, the following is from Justice Thomas’ dissent in the “Citizens United” case:

“Some opponents of Proposition 8 compiled this information and created Web sites with maps showing the locations of homes or businesses of Proposition 8 supporters. Many supporters (or their customers) suffered property damage, or threats of physical violence or death, as a result. They cited these incidents in a complaint they filed after the 2008 election, seeking to invalidate California’s mandatory disclosure laws. Supporters recounted being told: “Consider yourself lucky. If I had a gun I would have gunned you down along with each and every other supporter,” or, “we have plans for you and your friends.” Proposition 8 opponents also allegedly harassed the measure’s supporters by defacing or damaging their property. Two religious organizations supporting Proposition 8 reportedly received through the mail envelopes containing a white powdery substance.

Those accounts are consistent with media reports describing Proposition 8-related retaliation. The director of the nonprofit California Musical Theater gave $1,000 to support the initiative; he was forced to resign after artists complained to his employer. The director of the Los Angeles Film Festival was forced to resign after giving $1,500 because opponents threatened to boycott and picket the next festival. And a woman who had managed her popular, family-owned restaurant for 26 years was forced to resign after she gave $100, because “throngs of [angry] protesters” repeatedly arrived at the restaurant and “shout[ed] ‘shame on you’ at customers.” The police even had to “arriv[e] in riot gear one night to quell the angry mob” at the restaurant. Ibid. Some supporters of Proposition 8 engaged in similar tactics; one real estate businessman in San Diego who had donated to a group opposing Proposition 8 “received a letter from the Prop. 8 Executive Committee threatening to publish his company’s name if he didn’t also donate to the ‘Yes on 8′ campaign.”

Art Deco April 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

For which political views should a CEO have to resign?

As a matter of law or of social practice? As a matter of law, next-to-none, really. If the CEO is in solitary after a conviction for aiding the enemy, it would be rather a challenge for him to run the company. As a matter of social practice, when it’s injuring the business or when people who have to interact with the CEO one-on-one would rather not. That’s going to be quite rare. Characters like George Lincoln Rockwell very seldom have the chops to run a commercial company of note. It’s the view of the gay lobby that Maggie Gallagher should be treated as if she were George Lincoln Rockwell, but that’s their narcissism and malice talking (which sensible societies do not encourage).

Rahul April 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm

This particular case wasn’t a matter of law, was it? It was pure pressure.

And I agree with your “when it’s injuring the business” thumb rule. In any case, isn’t the position of CEO pretty much an appointment at pleasure? If the board of directors feels they ought to get rid of one, they can, right?

Art Deco April 4, 2014 at 12:32 pm

The problem is that labor law is concocted (and administered by the courts) to add special privileges and immunities to clients of the Democratic Party (which is the electoral vehicle of the word-merchant sector). In effect, no one else gets those dispensations. So, it allows the word-merchant sector to advance their social ethic by firings and civil penalties while no one else can. In a decent society, the thumbs would be off the scale. (The campaign finance regulations favored by the Democratic Party work pretty much the same way).

Locke April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Intolerance for the intolerant.

Art Deco April 4, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Except he was not intolerant. He was just of the view that deviant user-defined associations do not deserve legal recognition.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm

That is certainly an antiquated view. I can understand though, depending on your age, because it was only 1973 when homosexuality was finally removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Rahul April 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Pfft! Who cares about such trivial facts.

Art Deco April 4, 2014 at 4:22 pm

That is certainly an antiquated view.

Amazes me the number of people who do dandy imitations of caricatures.

txslr April 4, 2014 at 4:42 pm

As Tom Lehrer put it: “Some people don’t love their fellow humans, and I hate people like that.”

Robert April 5, 2014 at 11:33 am

As Karl Popper put it:

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

Here, unless we are intolerant of people who would not tolerate homosexuality then we cannot achieve laws that protect homosexuality. Right now many states go out of their way to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Many Republican members of congress hate homosexuals so much that they oppose anti-discrimination laws for gays. And in the past such people were the victims of violence – much of it state sponsored. They are still subject to ridicule and even to violence right now. That history informs us that robust action is called for.

It similar to boycotts in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s against businesses that discriminated on the basis of race. Without agitation of expressed intolerance of racism we would not have alleviated much of it – and that agitation expressed intolerance of racism. And despite such a movement it is still with us to a lesser degree, which strongly implies continued vigilance.

Our republic was founded on intolerance of the British government. Sometimes intolerance is called for – otherwise civil rights cannot be secured. Asking nicely is simply not enough.

[I would not however criminalize being a bigot. One should have the right to express repulsive opinions be they racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, or treasonous. However such bigots should suffer the social consequences of their action by being shunned in various ways. Such actions perpetuate the stigma against the unacceptable usurpation of civil rights.]

John B. Chilton April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Interesting to follow. Mozilla was going to lose customers whether the CEO left or not.

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23boycottmozilla&src=tyah

Beliavsky April 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

This incident is an argument for allowing anonymous political donations, so that people won’t be bullied for supporting causes they believe in. There should be a niche for a tech company that creates an environment that is not unwelcoming for socially conservative employees.

Brian G. April 4, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I think I can agree with the idea of anonymous donations from individuals (such as this matter), but never for anonymous donations from business entities.

Art Deco April 4, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Definitely a trade-off here.

chip April 4, 2014 at 10:47 pm

It was anonymous. But the IRS leaked it to a political group.

This is the really creepy part. And that a purportedly open source community that probably sympathizes with Snowden should take this IRS leak and run with it, well, what can you say other than WTF.

dirk April 4, 2014 at 1:02 pm

One way to frame this battle is the speech of corporations vs. the speech of individuals. The corporation OK Cupid, motivated by profits, decided to protest the actions of an individual who as an individual backed the wrong side of an election in California six years ago. Several corporations in the entertainment/news business, also motivated by profits, further vilified the individual for backing the wrong side of the election.

Corporate speech wins! Individual speech loses! Average is over.

KPres April 4, 2014 at 2:42 pm

LOL! Well done.

Justin April 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm

It’s not a “witch hunt”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt#Metaphorical_usage

“In modern terminology ‘witch-hunt’ has acquired usage referring to the act of seeking and persecuting any perceived enemy, particularly when the search is conducted using extreme measures and with little regard to actual guilt or innocence. ”

Last part is the important part. Eich wasn’t a perceived enemy, nor was his guilt in question. He actively opposed gay marriage with a public donation, and he continued to support the position. This isn’t satanism in Dungeons and Dragons, or throwing accused Communists at the wall and seeing what sticks.

To answer the question in the title of the post: “For which political views should a CEO have to resign?” Basically, just this one. No other issue (outside similarly blatant racism or sexism) could have united a coalition this large (including a sizable corporation like OKCupid). I have to imagine a video of Eich singing in blackface would be received similarly (or possibly even better, because in that case he’d almost certainly have the good sense to apologize). Opposition to gay marriage is increasingly perceived as institutionalized bigotry. It’s unclear to me what other “eccentricities” could move to being so universally reviled.

dirk April 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm

“nor was his guilt in question”

As Kafka taught us: “Guilt is never to be doubted.”

triclops41 April 4, 2014 at 1:51 pm

He could have said that differences between the number of men and women in science could be due to more than just sexism.
Or that the black community cannot blame all of us problems on racism.

I could go on.

albatross April 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm

One might also wonder what other views will have this same status in, say, a decade. You and I cannot know that, but we can probably guess that it’s safer to stay on the sidelines on all controversial issues, just to be safe.

txslr April 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Sounds like a witch hunt to me. Please note that “with little regard to actual guilt” is not given as a necessary condition in the provided definition. Further, there is no question that he gave $1000 to the cause in question. Whether that makes him “guilty” of something is an open question which his opponents assert to be closed as a justification for his vilification.

GC April 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm
txslr April 4, 2014 at 4:52 pm

No, because we all know that he was lying. And since he was lying in a good cause, it is acceptable. Was it Lenin who said that telling the truth is a petite bourgeois habit?

BTW April 5, 2014 at 12:43 am

If you are against gay couples marrying you are against gay people usually in any issue. It is like seeing an iceberg, you know there is much more below the surface.

The Other Jim April 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

>If you are against gay couples marrying you are against gay people usually in any issue.

Well, that is wildly untrue, but thanks for refusing to address the issue at hand, and instead calling people bigots for absolutely no reason.

For large numbers of people, same-sex marriage makes about as much sense as male motherhood. And that’s all there is to it.

If you have no problem calling two guys married, you should also have no problem calling them both mothers when they adopt someone, using the pronoun “she” when referring to them, and calling their genitals “vaginas.”

After all, these are just words. Stop being such a hater and get over your obsession with these antiquated patriarchal words!

C April 5, 2014 at 11:59 am

I’m a strong supporter of same-sex marriage and hope that one day it will be an established norm and we won’t think twice about it. But what you’re proposing in your comment there is really scary to me, and it is immensely troubling if that is in fact the kind of view that many in the same-sex rights world share. First, what about the shift in numbers of supporters of same-sex marriage in the past decade? How do you account for that if your view holds true? You’re essentially assuming an antagonistic relationship with a set of people, some of whom will likely change over time as they become more comfortable with the notion. Second, it assumes that a person who is against same-sex marriage by default lacks any complexity or depth in their world views. That’s a really shallow and unfair conclusion to make for an entire set of people. Sure, some will definitely have a bunch of other issues with LGBT in addition to their problems with same-sex marriage; but many won’t. Many might just be trying to figure out how to negotiate deeply held views inculcated over their entire lives, with this new reality that they see evolving before their eyes. You’ll never engage with these decent and good people and hope to change their minds if you just assume they’re dyed in the wool anti-LGBT enemies.

This whole situation with Mozilla and Eich will probably be forgotten in a few weeks, if that long. But it definitely has left a really negative impression on me. I’m not pleased with the actions of Mozilla, I’m not convinced or comforted by their arguments or the arguments of their supporting voices. I feel like Eich was really treated poorly.

Art Deco April 6, 2014 at 7:16 pm

If you are against gay couples marrying you are against gay people usually in any issue.

Most issues, yes. The gay lobby’s agenda is unjust and unreasonable. I gather viewing it as such renders me unfit to run a software company and who knows what else.

prior_approval April 7, 2014 at 4:21 am

‘I gather viewing it as such renders me unfit to run a software company and who knows what else.’

Chick-fil-A wants people who think like you. Along with the Roman Catholic Church and its various enterprises.

And since 33 American states still ban same sex marriage, it isn’t as you cannot find a state whose legal framework in this subject fits your concepts perfectly.

Jeroen April 7, 2014 at 6:56 am

Man.. the internet libertarians are out in force the last days…

And, for some reason, they choose the liberty of a guy to donate to a cause to be more important than a number of employees and customers to threaten to boycott? Both are valid expression forms.

Boards have the power to appoint and fire (or ask to resign) a CEO. They chose the future of the company to be more important than the job of a certain CEO and pressured Eich to resign.

Whose rights have been violated here exactly? Answer: no-one’s. To turn it around: how long do you think the president of the Boy Scouts of America would last if it was found out that he donated to gay and atheist causes?

prior_approval April 7, 2014 at 7:22 am

Well, we already know the answer to that one in a concrete way, at a lower level, and at roughly during the same time frame as what happened with Eich -

‘SEATTLE—The Boy Scouts of America on Monday banned an openly gay Scoutmaster from the organization, saying its national policy barred gay adults from membership.

Geoff McGrath, 49, leader of Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood, is believed to be the first gay adult to be booted from the Boy Scouts of America since it held a controversial ballot last May allowing gay youth—but not adults—to participate in one of the country’s most popular youth organizations. The Scouts had severed ties with gay adults in previous years, before the vote to admit gay youth, but McGrath, an Eagle Scout, had been hoping for a different response in this new era of Scouting.’ http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/extremely-disappointing-scouts-boot-openly-gay-troop-leader-n67961

Art Deco, the BSA is also for you.

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