Mozilla foundation's new CEO causes concern due to anti-gay-marriage views

by
in legal on (#3HA)
story imageThe guy co-founded Mozilla and served as Netscape's chief architect . He invented Javascript . He's been Mozilla's chief technical officer for 9 years. On March 24th, Brendan Eich became the Mozilla Foundation's CEO - and members of Mozilla's staff promptly demanded that he step down . Why? Because Brendan Eich is anti-gay-marriage.

The BBC , CFO World , and others are reporting that online dating site OK Cupid is notifying users of Firefox of the views of the Mozilla Foundation's new CEO - and requesting that they use another browser to access the site. It's not quite a boycott - users can still click through to access the site while using Firefox - but it's definitely a statement. This isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened. Hobby Lobby , Chick-Fil-A , and Costco have all experienced similar backlashes.

Mark Surman, XO of Mozilla, says:
"I worry that we do a bad job of explaining ourselves, that people are angry and don't know who we are or where we stand. And, I worry that in the time it takes to work this through and explain ourselves the things I love about Mozilla will be deeply damaged."

At what point do a person's political, personal, or religious views outweigh their qualifications for leadership - and does using Firefox in any way imply support of these views?

Re: Who would have known anyway if they hadn't complained so much? (Score: 1)

by kerrany@pipedot.org on 2014-04-04 13:55 (#ZA)

This is the first post you've made that wasn't outright insulting. Kudos! (No, seriously. I want some interesting discussion! +1!)

Correct, I don't think I could hold an opinion contrary to a legal requirement and still be in charge of supporting the legal requirement. For example... the RIAA. I could not run it. I would just... not be able to bring myself to press the button on the robo-lawsuits. I'd be a poor choice to run the RIAA or MPAA, because I just cannot take it as seriously as they do. (I just... can't. Little Johnny downloaded a song, ohnoes! Pay us a billion bucks!)

I'm trying to think of something a little more equivalent and more serious - Eich's position on gay marriage was only tangential to his corporation's main duties. It wasn't The Gay and Lesbian Love In Society he was CEO of. It's hard to find a good example without bringing religion or politics into it, though. Or classic flame wars like vi versus emacs. Sexism is a good fallback, I suppose. (The alternative was racism. It's early and I haven't had my coffee yet. Suggestions welcome.)

Let us say that I am a complete sexist - dyed in the wool chauvinist pig - and I have somehow managed not to let it render me impossible to hire - I hide it, except for my political donations to a fringe group that wants to keep women from working. I get hired as CEO of General Motors. I walk into the office every day and I see the lady who works in accounting. ...Yeah, I would personally have trouble not twitching every time she gave me a report, if I felt that strongly about it. I don't know that it would affect my conscious decisions, but it would certainly affect my unconscious decisions. I might be reluctant to be in an elevator with her. I might make an inappropriate comment or a pass. I might not invite her to my "private" birthday party where basically the whole company showed up, except the girls. When given the choice between two resumes, where one had the name "John" at the top, and the other had "Jane", and they were equivalent, I might pick John first, and rationalize that "his cover letter was better." I might, in fact, pick Jane, because I know I'm being sexist - when you catch yourself doing it, you tend to overcorrect. Sexism is subtle, it's insidious. Same with racism and homophobia. There's a reason that the first thing out of a racist's mouth is usually "Some of my best friends are..." It affects you in ways you can't predict - which just isn't good for a CEO. I might step down on the basis that I was not a good fit for the company if I knew that about myself and wanted the best for the company.

Yeah, that's limiting. Some limits are good. I shouldn't be in charge of people I want to oppress. Neither should anyone else.

Now, supposing I didn't step down. And supposing it came out in the news that I, personally, think that women are not fit for the workplace, that they should all be in the kitchen, pregnant, making me sandwiches, and that I had supported a political action committee which operated with the express purpose of suppressing women's wages and whose eventual goal was to remove their right to vote - six years ago. And I'm CEO of General Motors.

Granted, women are a bigger demographic than gay people, but bear with me here: are the people who work at GM justified in speaking up about it? Definitely - they stand to be directly oppressed by my mistakes. Are the people who work outside GM but drive GM's cars justified in speaking up about it? Yes, because they stand to receive potentially inferior cars made by the best men for the job, not the best people for the job. Are people everywhere justified in speaking up about it? I think so, even if they don't have a stake in it. It's kinda like seeing a bully push someone over in the playground. You step in or you're a coward.

Incidentally, when I did research, I discovered that people spoke up when Eich was originally made CTO at Mozilla. It's not just the "CEO" part they're objecting to. It's "being in charge of people". They chose not to take it any more. Good for them.

There is, I think, a difference between this - internet outrage over a guy who is a grownup, knew full well what he was doing, and refuses to take it back, and getting him to step down from his people-managing job - and other incidents of internet outrage that have gotten people fired for silly reasons. Damned if I can articulate very well what that difference is, though. Perhaps it's the feeling while doing it which is different: the feeling of going after someone who ought to be able to defend themselves, versus the feeling of picking on someone who was completely unprepared for the fallout of their idle, accidental comments or photos or videos. Nobody needed to pile on Rebecca Black as hard as they did. Brendan Eich, however, could stand up for himself.
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