Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why I Think It's Different

Last weekend, I wrote a pretty scathing piece on the way Mozilla treated Brendan Eich for his political views.  I come down strongly on the side that his first amendment protections for political speech were violated, and that this is one of those trends in society that is an endarkening.  I don't want to put words in anyone else' mouth, but I saw similar responses from several, including Borepatch (several pieces; here's one) and Karl Denninger at Market Ticker (example), along with examples I linked to in the post itself.

On the other hand, there has been a current running in the other direction.  Tam compared it to Zumbo and Metcalf being fired; a topic picked up and riffed on by McThag.
I've seen some pretty interesting rationalizations over the past few days from people nominally on my team for why it was okay for Metcalf and Zumbo to be shown the door for offending sponsors or being out of step with their subcultural zeitgeist, but Brendan Eich's ouster was just... zomg... FIRST AMENDMENT!
In my case, I didn't call for Dick Metcalf to be fired and I wasn't even in the shooting sports community when Jim Zumbo got canned, but I see these as very different cases.  I had to look Zumbo's case up: he essentially got fired for the same reason Dick Metcalf did, which had nothing to do with political speech and everything to do with pissing off your customers.  No surprise, it simply isn't good business to piss off your most loyal customers - just ask the Dixie Chicks.  They're still in business in some sense (two of three are off in a new band) but the Chicks are nowhere near the industry presence they were back in '03. 

What Metcalf and Zumbo did was massively, stupidly out of touch with their customers - at best.  In my mind, saying something stupid isn't a fireable offense, but if you say something stupid enough - especially if you're in the public eye - you've got to know it can happen.  People who talk on radio or TV for hours every week are bound to to eventually say something stupid enough to get in trouble for it.   (I think I'll save that excuse for writing a blog post every evening, too.)  Further, I don't think you have free speech protections in business.  How long do you think a marketing guy would last if he degraded his company's products with every potential customer? 

What Eich did was donate to a political cause in his role as a private person, not as CEO of Mozilla (of course; he wasn't CEO six years ago when he made the donation, the promotion was very recent).  Donating to a cause is the very essence of protected political speech.  Denninger argues that there is little that one can do that is more fundamentally political speech, other than voting.

The funny thing about someone in Eich's position is that if he were asked to sign a statement saying he would never go against the corporation's publicly declared position, and then did, I'd think it was a justified firing.  That would the same as saying the price he paid to get that CEO pay, corner office, and seat on the corporate jet, was that he signed away a civil right the rest of us have.   Don't know about you, but I've never heard that he signed away any rights, so he absolutely had the right to donate to whomever/whatever he wanted without retribution. 

I still come down that this was an unjustified firing caused by political correctness run amok.  It was brought on by a loud minority that can't bear the thought that everyone doesn't love them.  Mozilla is mind-numbingly hypocritical in their statements about the firing.  And the CEO of OKCupid, who appears to be the person who started the whole jihad against Eich, and who donated to an anti-gay group as well, is a hypocrite for the ages; a hypocrite of epic proportions. 

Need to download Opera or some other browsers and dump this Firefox/Thunderbird suite.


  1. Sorry, Gray. The First Amendment doesn't enter into it. It doesn't grant private individuals an unlimited, uninfringeable right to say or do whatever they please without suffering unpleasant consequences arising from the decisions of other private individuals; it says "Congress shall make no law."

    What happened to Eich was atrocious. It ought to cost Mozilla heavily, and at this point it appears that it will. But that, too, is a consequence of private individuals' decision making. Never forget that the Constitution, of which the Bill of Rights and other Amendments are part, is a bill of limitations on government, not on the people. The Ninth Amendment makes that explicit.

  2. Francis is right; Mozilla did exactly what I think all businesses have a right to do - they fired someone who they don't want to associate with anymore. I'm doing what I have a right to do in response - dumping their services and complaining about their actions.

  3. Well... Yes, but. The Supremes said that you must agree to photgraph gay weddings and bake them cakes. Maybe the Supremes are wrong but if they decide incoreectly legally it is still right and it is the law. Can Mozilla legally fire someone because they excercised their constitutional right? Can a person refuse to photgraph a gay wedding? I think the Supremes and the activists have backed themselves into a corner on this. Here is what I would do if I were Eich: Either Mozilla would have already agreed to a hefty cash settlement to make me leave and remain quiet or if they didn't I would take them to court and sue for millions for discrimination and denial of rights.

  4. Along the lines of what Anon1232 said, California specifically outlawed what Mozilla did to Eich, in the guise of preventing people who were anti-gay from getting rid of gays for political leanings. At least, according to that post by Denninger that I linked to.

    Yeah, sure the first amendment is a restraint on government and not individuals or corporations, which is why you can trade/sell those rights for the corner office. But just as the Bill of Rights doesn't grant rights, it simply confirms their preexistence and keeps the government out, free speech is a human right. Mozilla infringed his human rights.

  5. Mozilla can only have infringed on his human rights if there is a human right to the job of your choice independent of the wishes of your employer. As the customer of Eich's labor Mozilla has the right to determine if Eich is no longer providing a satisfactory product, and along with that goes the right to determine what makes a satisfactory product. Eich also has the right to refuse to provide the desired product. In this case part of the requirements was apparently "must not have a contrary opinion on same-sex marriage," or at least "must not be the target of a negative PR campaign." Eich didn't pass muster, so out he goes.

    Freedom of association goes both ways. A business relationship, like any relationship, must be entered into with mutual consent. Eich lost Mozilla's consent, and Mozilla has in turn lost mine. That's as far as it goes in this world.

  6. This sort of situation is a "Kobayoshi Maru" for a Corporation.

    "Do we stand by our valued employee in the face of public firestorm which will create a bigger backlash and more protests from the LGBT agitators? Or do we cave to that pressure then take the bigger backlash from the pro-freedom crowd?

    Simply put, it was an impossible position for Mozilla, no matter what they chose to do, accepting Eich's resignation or not, they were going to catch hell for it.

  7. AM - I think that's really a good way to put it. One may need to be a Star Trek geek to understand it, but I'll be most of my readers do.

  8. As I said at Tam's, Zumbo, Metcalf, and Mozilla all acted in a manner inconsistent with my values. Simple as that.