33

Intolerance

The techie world has been rocked by a witch hunt in the name of tolerance over the last week, as gay rights activists have demanded that Mozilla (the non-profit organization which produces the FireFox web browser) fire its newly named CEO Brendan Eich, because six years ago he made a $1,000 personal donation to the political campaign for Proposition 8, the successful California ballot initiative to amend the California constitution to define marriage as only possible between one man and one woman. There have been previous cases of activists digging through the rolls of who provided donations to the Prop 8 campaign, and targeting people for their support of traditional marriage. Eich’s donation apparently became known within the company and caused some controversy among employees about a year ago, and this then escalated to a wider campaign last week when he was named the new CEO. This campaign claimed its scalp yesterday as Eich resigned from both the CEO position and Mozilla’s board.

Mozilla put up a blog post announcing the resignation and stating that employing Eich (who was a founder of the company and one of the original developers of JavaScript) was not in keeping with their values:

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

The wording of the last paragraph in particular, since Eich was forced out precisely for holding different views than the majority of Mozilla’s employees and other vocal advocates in the tech community.

It seems to me that this serves as a key example of a new and increasingly strident intolerance, a deep illiberality, on the part of the “liberal” end of the political spectrum. One online commentator I read had this to say in justification of forcing Eich out of the company he helped found:

The only way to defend recently won liberties is to ensure that activists attempting to deprive people of said liberties are regarded (justly, in this and similar cases) as politically untouchable and deplorable. Gays had to spend millennia hiding in shadows, living secret lives in fear of blacklisting or, more likely, outright murder; making modern opponents of gay equality politically unpalatable in high-profile leadership positions doesn’t even begin to compare.

Solidifying gains by destroying the political power of those who advocate retrogression is always necessary.

This attitude strikes me as destructive to any kind of democracy or pluralistic society. Democracy does not simply mean that the side with the most votes wins. Maintaining a democratic culture requires that the winning majority not immediately turn around and use their political and economic power to destroy the lives and livelihoods of those they have successfully defeated (this time.) That approach to democracy naturally leads to one party dictatorship or civil war. It is unstable. It is mob rule.

Fortunately, not even all gay advocates are on board with this scorched earth approach. Andrew Sullivan writes:

Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

But I can’t help thinking that on his side, Sullivan is in the minority.

It’s tempting in this kind of situation to turn to bluster: What? They want to take it to the streets? Well, bring it! We’ll see who wins that!

But while it’s emotionally satisfying to revel in how bad the other side is (and don’t get me wrong, I think that behavior of the people demanding that Eich be kicked out of his job is darkly totalitarian and says very bad things about where the “progressive” side of our culture is heading) what I want is not some kind of a tit-for-tat battle in which each side seeks to purge and destroy each other. I actually support a liberal society in which you do not fire someone because you disagree with his political and religious beliefs. But with each outrage like this, that moderation becomes harder to maintain.

I’m not among those who thinks we’re heading for an actual civil war — our country is far too prosperous and lazy for that — but I do think this kind of thing represents a degradation of the political world similar to that which (in countries with far more people who believe they have nothing to lose and thus are willing to resort to civil violence) we see in countries getting ready to destroy their democratic cultures and resort to fighting over who gets to punish their opponents using the machinery of the economy and the state.

In this case, of course, what we see is people using cultural and economic power, not state power to hound their opponents. However, I’m not convinced there’s necessarily a bright line of difference in terms of destroying the culture of democracy. Even those within Mozilla who profess themselves very glad of Eich’s ouster admit that there is no evidence of his ever discriminating in the workplace — indeed some express having been surprised when they first heard that the supported Prop 8 — but merely working with someone who holds different political and moral views has become repugnant to them. That is not a good sign.

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DarwinCatholic

Now an Ohio Catholic!

33 Comments

  1. “I’m not among those who thinks we’re heading for an actual civil war — our country is far too prosperous and lazy for that”

    I pray that you are right Darwin, but prior to our Civil War the general consensus was that fighting would not occur, and both sides made that assumption. Shelby Foote used to talk about the Southern Congressman who offered to clean up all the blood spilled with his handkerchief. Foote then wondered how many railroad boxcars full of handkerchiefs it would have taken to wipe up all the blood spilled in the Civil War. I pray that we avoid a Civil War II, and I think we will, but I am far less optimistic today than I was just a few years ago.

  2. I would suggest that Spain rather than the United States would be the precedent. Spain suffered a business recession during the period from 1929 to 1931 of roughly ordinary dimensions. Acute economic distress was not implicated in that conflict (though abiding social resentments were). The main driver was culture. You can find quotations from Manuel Azana which are stupefyingly familiar. The Spanish Republicans were in all a large minority which acquired a majority due to the vagaries of the electoral and party system and they cared little for any core interest their opposition had (“I won”). On the table was the expropriation of agricultural land and closure of Catholic secondary schools (“It is a matter of public health”). Take someone’s property and come after their kid and they just might be ready to rumble.

    Repair to Stanley Rothman’s study of elites. One way to interpret the last 80 years is to understand it as an escalating encroachment on the business sectors (and later the military and uniformed civil service) by the word-merchant sectors. A resolution of this conflict which restores the discretion of private citizens and local communities is going to involve putting the helping professions in their place (not difficult, up to a point), putting academe in its place (not difficult, up to a point), putting the entertainment complex in its place (dicey), and putting the legal profession in its place (which one suspects would get ugly because our customary means of regularized dispute resolution relies on it).

    By the way. If we had a civil war of the intensity of that which erupted in Spain, it would leave 15 million dead and leave the country under a bureaucratic-authoritarian state for a period of indeterminate duration.

  3. I don’t recall Martin Luther King trying to make his opponents unemployable. Today’s activists claim to be following in his footsteps, but I have my doubts that they really are.

  4. The social contract is being torn up in our faces, and a new one–of adhesion–is in draft.

    I think Art is correct in seeing the parallels to Spain in the 1930s. I also see cultural divisions comparable to the late Third Republic in France, which actually erupted into a low-grade civil war during the Vichy period.

    You throw in the fact that we are in dire financial straits…there’s a lot of dry kindling. Pray that it may be drenched.

  5. Dale Price wrote “I also see cultural divisions comparable to the late Third Republic in France, which actually erupted into a low-grade civil war during the Vichy period.”

    You are so correct, I hadn’t thought about it in that way before. Also, the conflict over Algeria in 50s and 60s can be seen as an extension of that conflict. The proximate causes differ (just as the proximate causes of the English Civil War and the American Revolution differed) but the underlying motives and arguments were similar.

  6. “Solidifying gains by destroying the political power of those who advocate retrogression is always necessary.”
    .
    And thus we are reduced to the only commonality being that of brute force. They will be sorry if they live long enough to see the error of this path.

  7. Sigh. Live by the “free market” die by the “free market”. Note that nothing in this case is incompatible with that detestable philosophy known as classical liberalism or libertarianism. To borrow from Paul Simon…Where have you gone, Pat Buchanan? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

  8. Mozilla.
    Well, ther’es one internet browser that can be assured that my name will never grace their user list.

  9. Yes, Art, it was more the Spanish Civil War that I was thinking of as well — my main contrary hope being that although the factions of our culture arguably hate each other as much as the Spanish factions did, and we are going through an extended recession, we started off so much better off that I’m not sure there are that many people in our society for whom resorting to armed conflict would look attractive.

    Tom, Although when we think of Libertarianism or Classical Liberalism we generally think of “freedom from” for the individual in relation to the government, but no limit on what the individual can do (such as fire people whose politics he doesn’t like) there is actually a tradition within Classical Liberalism which looks at the important of maintaining liberalism within the culture as a whole, not just the state. John Stewart Mill (not one of my favorite thinkers, but here I agree with him) wrote:

    For it is this—it is the opinions men entertain, and the feelings they cherish, respecting those who disown the beliefs they deem important, which makes this country [England] not a place of mental freedom… It is [social] stigma which is really effective, and so effective is it, that the profession of opinions which are under the ban of society is much less common in England, than is, in many other countries, the avowal of those which incur risk of judicial punishment. In respect to all persons but those whose pecuniary circumstances make them independent of the good will of other people, opinion, on this subject, is as efficacious as law; men might as well be imprisoned, as excluded from the means of earning their bread… But though we do not now inflict so much evil on those who think differently from us, as it was formerly our custom to do, it may be that we do ourselves as much evil as ever by our treatment of them. Socrates was put to death, but the Socratic philosophy rose like the sun in heaven… Christians were cast to the lions, but the Christian church grew up a stately and spreading tree… Our merely social intolerance kills no one, roots out no opinions, but induces men to disguise them, or to abstain from any active effort for their diffusion… And thus is kept up a state of things very satisfactory to some minds, because, without the unpleasant process of fining or imprisoning anybody, it maintains all prevailing opinions outwardly undisturbed… But the price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification, is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind.”
    – J.S. Mill, On Liberty, Chapter II, “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion”

  10. WK Aiken,

    And thus we are reduced to the only commonality being that of brute force. They will be sorry if they live long enough to see the error of this path.

    Indeed.

    Though mostly, I can’t stop smiling over seeing this line next to your profile pic of the rabbit reaction to being scratched with a toothbrush. Somehow that’s just awesome.

  11. Liberalism which looks at the important of maintaining liberalism within the culture as a whole, not just the state.

    Or balks at gleichschaltung, where voluntary association is subsumed under broad social and political camps. The trouble is, that the logic of employment and housing discrimination law effectively renders the opposition proscribed.

  12. “’I want power to order people about!’ is an idea neither new nor noble.” See Don Boudreaux at “Café Hayek.”

    Again, from Zero Hedge: “What is the shelf life of a system that rewards confidence-gaming sociopaths rather than competence? Those in power exhibit hubris, arrogance, bullying, deception and substitute rule by elites for the rule of law. The status quo rewards misrepresentation, obfuscation, legalized looting, embezzlement, fraud, a variety of cons, gaming the system, deviousness, lying and cleverly designed deceptions.

    “Our leadership was selected not for competence but for deviousness. What’s incentivized in our system is spinning half-truths and propaganda with a straight face and running cons that entrench the pathology of power.”

    I want to buy more ammunition.

  13. “Though mostly, I can’t stop smiling over seeing this line next to your profile pic of the rabbit reaction to being scratched with a toothbrush. Somehow that’s just awesome.”

    I have long admired that image also Darwin!

  14. I’m confused. Wasn’t the activist left in a tizzy about corporations imposing their views on their employees just recently?

    Somebody help me out here.

  15. When are these guys going to figure out that stories of dystopian, totalitarian governments aren’t supposed to be where you go for pointers?

    Silencing those who disagree doesn’t turn out good, but it does tend to make sure that the body count is higher.

  16. “What is the shelf life of a system that rewards confidence-gaming sociopaths rather than competence? Those in power exhibit hubris, arrogance, bullying, deception and substitute rule by elites for the rule of law. The status quo rewards misrepresentation, obfuscation, legalized looting, embezzlement, fraud, a variety of cons, gaming the system, deviousness, lying and cleverly designed deceptions.

    The combine now formed by the appellate judiciary, the legal professoriate and the elite bar (Theodore Olson, &c) is so described. Six or seven of our more recent notable presidential candidates are so described. Standard issue administrators in higher education are so described. The crew that ran Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the ground are so described. Jon Corzine…

  17. Democracy does not simply mean that the side with the most votes wins.

    .
    Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. Which is why the Framers gave us a Republic “if you can keep it,” as Franklin said.
    .
    Maintaining a democratic republican culture requires that the winning majority not immediately turn around and use their political and economic power to destroy the lives and livelihoods of those they have successfully defeated (this time.) That approach to democracy naturally leads to one party dictatorship or civil war. It is unstable. It is mob rule.
    .
    If I remember correctly, mob rule is what Aristotle had in mind by
    Demokratia (apologies if the greek is wrong).

  18. I have used Mozilla for years. No more. Granted, Microsoft and its lousy Explorer are run by the Planned Parenthood and Common Core idiot Bill Gates. Google is as left wing and nasty as, well, internet atheists.

    I’ll use Opera and DuckDuckGo.

  19. Proposition 8, that marriage consisted of a man and a woman made husband and a wife by their informed consent, was the voice of the people of the state of California shut down by a Ninth Circuit practicing homosexual judge, Vaughn Walker, who did not recuse himself because of conflict of interest and vested self interest. Proposition 8, the voice of the people of the state of California was taken up a second time and the voice of the people was silenced by existing non-discrimination laws. I do not know if these non-discrimination laws were made ex post facto, after the fact, to silence the voice and the will of the people of California, and does the government have a right and the authentic authority to silence the voice of the people against codifying homosexual acts as personal identification. Will it next be overweight people?
    .
    The practice of vice is separate from being same-sex attracted.
    .
    Donating $1,000.00 to keep the democratic process operational six years ago is not a crime nor is it discrimination because no individual person was targeted. Isn’t there a law that governs political donations?
    .
    If this was the deep South before the Civil War and the money was donated to free the slaves, would Brendan Eich have fared any better? I think not

  20. Lord Acton has a very telling passage in describing the work of the Constituent Assembly, during the French Revolution: “the reign of opinion was beginning on the Continent. They fancied that it was an invincible force, and a complete security for human rights. It was invaluable if it secured right without weakening power, like the other contrivances of Liberalism. They thought that when men were safe from the force above them, they required no saving from the influence around them. Opinion finds its own level, and a man yields easily and not unkindly to what surrounds him daily. Pressure from equals is not to be confounded with persecution by superiors. It is right that the majority, by degrees, should absorb the minority. The work of limiting authority had been accomplished by the Rights of Man.”

  21. “”The work of limiting authority had been accomplished by the Rights of Man.””
    .
    The Rights of Man, unless acknowledged as coming from an infinite Creator, endowed, sustained and a living testament to the sovereign personhood of man, are nothing more than an opinion.
    .
    The Rights of Man are eternal Truth.
    .
    The individual substance of a rational nature, as Saint Thomas Aquinas has defined the sovereign person, then, has an opinion, to which some men adhere and to which some men object. All opinions of men must be founded on the eternal Truth.
    .
    Perhaps it would be wise to ask: “Who gave you that opinion?” Who is like unto God.

  22. I’ll use Opera and DuckDuckGo.

    Thanks for the idea. I just installed Opera and so far, it’s just as good as any and better than most.

  23. Mary de Voe

    “Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being [« en présence et sous les auspices de l’Etre Suprême »], the following rights of man and of the citizen…”

  24. Didn’t our president in his first term state that he was all for the Defense of Marriage Act, i. e., marriage defined as between a man and a woman? That might have been just about 6 years ago about the same time as Brendan Eich donated his $1k.
    How can maybe 10%, if that, of the population have such clout. “Tolerance” and “intolerance” are being used but what they want is universal acceptance.
    I like Mozilla Firefox but I’ll download something else.

  25. Such thuggish tactics are a manifestation of the Protestant heresy
    in its death throes. Protestantism is descending into a degenerate,
    misanthropic ideology, which has had some influence on the
    Catholic Church.

  26. Where else could the thread above exist but here? From the ousting of a CEO for his privately held views to a comparison and analysis of the breakdown of moder States. Amazing! Astounding! Thanks.

  27. This is fitting here: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship,” from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Church.
    .
    The progressives bully whom they will in our constitutional republic and the ignorant masses follow suit.

  28. I’ve been going round and round with a homosexual on Eich’s removal was an act of intolerance and revenge. Too tired to give commentary on it.

    I am, with heavy heart, slowly migrating from Firefox. My only real option on Linux so far is Chrome, which doesn’t please me. At least I’ve not heard a case of Google canning someone for disagreeing with the opinions of the executives or majority of employees.

    If you are interested in letting Mozilla know your opinion on this, provide negative feedback at this page: https://input.mozilla.org/en-US/

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