A few days ago, OKCupid’s website tried to persuade people to stop using Firefox. Contrary to reports, the site did not “block” Firefox. If you browsed there, you got a message saying they did not want people to use Firefox because Firefox’s CEO — Brendan Eich — had given $1000 to the Proposition 8 campaign. But you could still click through. Today, he resigned under intense pressure.
You guys know that I support gay marriage and opposed Proposition 8. But this action makes me deeply uncomfortable.
It’s odd. In isolation, none of the elements in this particularly bother me. Mozilla is a private company and can fire their CEO for whatever reason they want. I seem to have to repeat this every time someone is fired for a dumb remark, editorial or tweet, but Eich’s first amendment rights have not been violated. If Mozilla wanted to stay away from the controversy, that’s their right and, one might argue, their duty. OKCupid can refuse to do business with a company they don’t like and can call out people who advocate views they disagree with.
But the combination of events here is bothersome. The more I think about it, the more I dislike hounding out political opponents like this and dislike a company caving in so fast. Eich was not spearheading the Prop 8 campaign. He wasn’t a politician opposing gay marriage and supporting DOMA (as the President did until relatively recently). He’s just someone who doesn’t think gays should be allowed to marry and gave some of his own money to the cause. There are probably millions in the country who have given money, time and effort to advance views I disagree with or even find repugnant. I don’t think they should be publicly shunned for it.
It’s not like Eich was advocating rounding up gays or sending them to pray-away-the-gay camps. He was supporting a cause that the majority of the people, the entirety of the Republican Party, the vast majority of the Democratic Party and the future President of the United States agreed with. He wasn’t even remotely outside the mainstream. He’s still not outside of it as opposition to gay marriage is still the majority view in parts of the country and a very strong minority in the rest.
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.
The trends on same-sex marriage are quite obvious to everyone. In the polls, at the ballot box, and in the Courts, the argument for marriage equality is winning the day and it is only a matter of time at this point before same-sex marriage is recognized in every state in the nation. Given that, one does have to wonder just how much of a victory dance those of us on the winning side need to do. Is it really necessary to make everyone who disagreed with us pay the price for that disagreement?
I understand that the Prop 8 fight was demoralizing and hurtful to many gay people and their supporters. I understand that they might want to hold responsible those who pushed it forward. Fine. But going after a man who gave $1000 to the cause seems an odd place to start holding people responsible.
Look, in an open society, people can be held responsible for their political views. I get that. But where does this end? Tens of millions of people opposed and oppose gay marriage. Thousands, perhaps millions, donated time and money to support laws and amendments against it. Are they all to be called out like this? Are we to check all the CEO’s to make sure they are ideologically pure?
I’ve never liked boycotts even when the company involved is doing something I don’t like. But now we’re supposed to boycott companies because of the political beliefs of their employees? I seem to keep saying this but must we politicize everything? Must we dig through every company and make sure they didn’t give a donation to Slay the Whales or something? Must we, like Mother Jones laughably did, pore through a company’s 401k options to see if there are companies there we don’t like or that disagree with their views? (I’ll pause a moment for you to stomach the hypocrisy of Mother Jones — recently called out for paying their interns sub-minimum wage — complaining about someone else’s labor practices).
Screw this. No one should live their life in fear that their political views will fall out of favor and they’ll be hounded out of public life. And no one should spend their life checking every app to make sure it wasn’t written by Obamacare supporters. If you want to do some good in the political world, concentrate on what is going on right now. Concentrate on those who hold power right now. Gay marriage is still illegal in most of the country. I think gay rights activists would be far better off focusing their energy on that than on shaming those who have already been defeated.