The Fall of Brendan Eich Happened Without Us

There is no doubt that being anti-gay in your beliefs and your actions now puts you on the short end of public opinion. It also puts you behind the American business community. Financial services companies wrote amicus briefs in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. Their leaders raise millions for marriage equality. Discriminating against folks is bad for business. So, in that sense, some could see the fall of Brendan Eich as a reminder that the business community has reached a consensus on gay rights.

But Mozilla is a unique business. It is a non-profit; it is the creator of Firefox, an open source web platform. It employs a phalanx of programmers, engineers, and techies who also believe in an open Internet. Mozilla is a community, and the board of directors of a community is charged with maintaining the values of that community, including, among many other ways, appointing an executive that shares and expresses those values. Mr. Eich, the board realized, neither shared nor could adequately represent the community he was hired to lead. No amount of programming skills and Internet vision could compensate for his central and basic inability to be a chief executive.

That is why opposition to his appointment came from Mozilla employees.

The media circus surrounding his departure is, therefore, utterly puzzling. But it drops from puzzling to disappointing when I see the entire affair being twisted into a pretext to condemn and criticize gay people, who really were pretty absent in this whole affair.

Mr. Sullivan, a man with many smart ideas and an important voice, calls it "repugnantly illiberal" to demand that a chief executive toe the progressive line on gay marriage and gay rights. He, instead, thinks we should be in the business of tolerance, that quintessentially liberal value of live-and-let-live, and maturity, not "shaming" a man simply because of his beliefs.

Let's accept, just for the moment, that these intolerant gays exist — there is, after all, intolerance everywhere.

First, this story is not about beliefs. Lots of people believe lots of different things and norms of freedom of conscience guarantee our right to believe whatever we want. This is a story about actions that were specifically intended to discriminate, harm, and keep down a disadvantaged minority. Ensuring that actions have consequences is not just a democratic right, it also happens to be a law of physics.

But it is Mr. Sullivan's presumption of liberality as the best path for gay rights that is his Waterloo. Equality is not simply about tolerance. I do not have to tolerate an avowed Nazi, who donates money to a movement to deport blacks to Africa, as the president of the company I work for. I can protest, I can leave, and I can tell the board that he needs to go. The board, in fact, should know that. As a society, we have determined that taking actions that deny the inherent dignity of Jews, African Americans, and women is simply inconsistent with our values and certainly inconsistent with good business. Including gays in that list is long overdue progress.

***

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Ari Ezra Waldman is a professor of law and the Director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. Ari writes weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.

Comments

  1. Homo Genius says

    “Mr. Eich made a jump from having an opinion to taking actions to hurt another group of people.”

    kind of like the 100,000’s of people who were the ones who actually VOTED for the prop.

  2. bobbyjoe says

    Ari,

    Could you please stop being accurate and logical about what really happened?

    You’re confusing Andrew Sullivan and Ben Shapiro.

    Thank you.

  3. says

    Sullivan’s gaspingly-stupid take on the whole thing was simply yet another example of him reminding us all what a cowardly excuse for a man he is. A man who continuously plays contrarian to win back the favor of a man, and a demographic, that will only ever view him as a crushing disappointment.
    He picks the wrong battles for the wrong reasons with alarming frequency.

    He’s a terrific example of what happens to a grown adult who never does the work to truly over the homophobic prejudices he was force-fed as a youth.

    there is no such thing as “liberal tolerance” – “liberal tolerance” is a derisive conservative buzz-term. Liberals do better than tolerance. Tolerance is what gay conservatives aim for, as they often know they can’t get actual support, or love, or acceptance or solidarity. Tolerance is their meal. It’s the best they figure they can get. I don’t know any liberals who promote “tolerance” – “tolerance” is saying “nice doggy” while holding a big rock behind your back, because too many people are potential witnesses…..

  4. MikeBoston says

    Ari, as always, this is a great analysis. But I think you are misquoting Newton slightly… his third law of physics is ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ – not consequences. Of course, I don’t expect you to be a physicist, too. And I will continue to admire your legal …um… briefs.

  5. ladi says

    Thank you for this article. I don’t understand Mr. Sullivan line of thinking at all. Sometimes it appears he likes it in the back of the bus.

  6. Reggie777 says

    Very well stated comment. Clears up a lot of the smoke and distraction. Unfortunately, people of AS’s ilk are not open to being told they are wrong.

  7. Bill says

    Andrew Sullivan needs to STFU and realize that his day has past. We are not in 1988 any longer.

    But that is where Sullivan’s mind set is stuck.

    He has become an annoying embarrassment to the younger generation of gays.

    More concerned with people’s perception of him that his actual character.

    He’s a ‘smaller picture’ kind of guy these days, and that isn’t his fault. He’s just old and unchanging now.

    And he needs to just go away. Retire. Maybe Camille Paglia needs someone to sublet her extra bedroom.

    They could have late night parties discussing their irrelevance.

  8. TampaZeke says

    I wasn’t surprised by Andrew Sullivan’s extremely flawed position on the issue. In fact I would have expected it. I was very surprised by Jim Burroway and Rob Tisinai over at Box Turtle Bulletin jumping on the bogus bandwagon promoting the lies that 1) Eich was fired, 2) Eichs First Amendment rights were violated and 3) big gay was to blame even though it’s clear that 1) he wasn’t fired, 2) this has nothing to do with First Amendment rights and 3)not one single national gay rights organization supported, promoted or even suggested a boycott of Mozilla. In fact the ONLY national organizations that were, and continue to, call for a boycott of Mozilla are/were ANTI-GAY groups.

  9. Håkon says

    “Mr. Sullivan, a man with many smart ideas and an important voice…”

    To say that Sullivan is intelligent and relevant is to relay a kindness he does not deserve. Still, a very good article.

  10. will says

    How my “community” reacted to Eich’s stepping down was (and IS) appalling. We’re a freaking Inquisition now. I have never hated my gay brothers and sisters more than this weekend with their bloodlust and the makings of a lynch mob. You’d think Eich was Tony Perkins from the way some of you nutjobs were doing your Apache war dance.

    This is Brenden Eich’s response when the controvery starting brewing. He himself wrote:

    Here are my commitments, and here’s what you can expect:

    •Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building.
    •Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn’t make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.
    •My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.
    •My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. More on this last item below.

    I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to “show, not tell”; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain … I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.

    ———-

    This would have been a fabulous time for US, my community, this weekend, to have shown some compassion for the guy. It’s in times of crisis that your true colors shine. We attacked him like vultures and acted like a gestapo.

    I don’t want the quality of ANY of your mercy. You guys are squandering all the goodwill the gay community has built up in the past 10 years.

  11. will says

    Here is Brendan Eich writing just as the controversy started to brew. He himself wrote:

    —–

    Here are my commitments, and here’s what you can expect:

    •Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building.
    •Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn’t make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.
    •My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.
    •My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. More on this last item below.

    I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to “show, not tell”; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain … I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.

  12. Jon says

    Inane opinion pieces like this, all dressed up in seemingly-intelligent garb, are what robs this great nation of ours of its greatness. We are a people not only of ideas, but of the right and leeway to express them in our political process. Yes, even of unpopular views.

    The hypocrisy here is deadening. And no amount of opinion pieces can mask the reality that too many in the gay rights movement have become the very political fascists they have always claimed their opponents of being.

    We also need to remember that Mr. Eich co-founded this company. Perish the thought that he actually be given the opportunity to be the CEO of the very company he helped to found. “Strip him of leadership and a job!!!” This all just makes me sick.

  13. anon says

    Don’t be silly. Of course people were calling for his scalp. The whole dating website protest was premised on his removal and there were countless comments on blogs like TR calling for his removal. It was pure mob animus.

  14. David Comfort says

    One cannot tolerate intolerance. One does not have to respect someone’s avowed racism or ant-Semitism or homophobia. We should not tolerate intolerance especially if someone’s intolerance threatens someone’s else rights or liberties.

    “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… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.” – Karl Popper

  15. oncemorewithfeeling says

    Congratulations on an excellent and concise analysis of the facts, citing irrefutable truth.

    It is not the least bit surprising that the trolls are ignoring all of it in favor of their usual hysteria.

    Trollroad’s trolls continue to make this the number one comment section on the Internet for utter weirdness and reliable stupidity.

  16. John Tedstrom says

    This analysis misses a hugely important point that others can learn from. Having served on both for-profit and non-profit boards, I have to say that the Mozilla board failed in managing Eich’s appointment. It knew of Eich’s donation–as did many other people–and had to have been aware of the controversy it would cause in today’s super-political atmosphere (otherwise one wonders whether the Board members should be the ones resigning). The board had the responsibility to have an open conversation with Eich about this, and if it wanted to move forward with the nomination, engage the LGBT and Allied stakeholders in an open and honest conversation. It should have then managed the communications around the appointment much more forthrightly, dealing specifically with the donation question and informing everyone that it had been throughly addressed to the Board’s satisfaction (which includes their assessment of stakeholder views). The steps taken and not taken by the Mozillza Board offer some important lessons for others to digest when it comes their turn.

  17. Reggie777 says

    I don’t understand. If someone here is willing to look at Towleroad as “Trollroad”, why are they sticking around? Aren’t they, then, trolls as well? Or are they the only one not a troll? Please respect the host. My parents taught me not to spit on the floor if I’m a guest in someone’s home. How about some civility, and common decency?

  18. Gerry says

    @Ari – Thank you! You hit the nail on the head. Thank goodness people are actually standing up to bigots and expressing their displeasure. Would Sullivan and others be beating the “we must be tolerant of intolerance” drum if Eich were a racist and was donating funds to the KKK? I think not. This is some kind of bizarre double standard on their part… racism is bad, but anti-gay behavior, not so much. It is really appalling.

  19. oliver says

    Nice article. But I wonder if Eich was an easy target? The CEO of Chick Fila seemed to have been a more formidable opponent with even deeper wallet. Are we patting ourselves on the back by picking off weaklings?

  20. john patrick says

    Excellent commentary. Sully had his say, and his readers (myself among them) responded with a resounding opposition to what he had to say. He now is hunkering down.

    As I wrote elsewhere, Eich donated money to a campaign of lies that led to the end of same sex marriages in California for several years. Had he and the campaign had their way in court, the thousands of same sex marriages that had already taken place would have been annulled. When Eich was named CEO, he not only would not talk about his past actions, but he would not state that he had made a mistake and would not state that he would not do the same thing again. That tells me that he would do the same thing again. Opposing his employment as CEO for acting against the civil rights of a whole group of people is not comparable to his intolerant behavior and his unwillingness to own up to that behavior.

    Nevertheless, it was not the non-existent outcry from LGBT groups or the outcry from individual LGBT people that led to his stepping down from the helm. It was a decision made internally.

  21. simon says

    Jon:
    It is business. Cofounding a company doesn’t mean he is like Lenin who founded the communist party in Russia. The board of directors were entirely within their rights to oust him. They have their rights not to pay him if they think he is no longer able to lead the company.

  22. DanB says

    John Tedstrom’s comments are on the mark, as are Ari Waldman’s.

    I was disturbed by Eich’s refusal to answer direct questions about his views from The Guardian. It seemed to indicate that his views had not changed. The written statements that Mozilla would work with the LGBT community seemed at odds with his unwillingness to be open about his personal views.

    In addition he or the board could have picked up the phone and gotten straight through to HRC, GLAAD, or any other reputable representative of the community. It seems disturbingly odd that simple steps were not taken. This created, at least for me, the feeling that transparency and willingness to engage in conversation were not on the agenda – at odds with Mozilla’s mission.

  23. Aaron says

    Great article, very well thought out and expressed. However, one additional piece of information is relevant.

    In addition to Eich’s donation to Prop 8, it was revealed last week that he also donated to the presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan – famed for his racist and anti-semitic views.

    That apparently, is what ultimately pushed the board over the top.

    It’s quotes like these that would have been revisited in the context of Mozilla’s new CEO:
    http://thinkprogress.org/media/2012/02/17/427875/why-msnbc-dumped-pat-buchanan-his-10-most-outrageous-statements/

  24. will says

    What I found appalling in some of OUR responses to the controversy was the ugliness of the bloodlust. I took the time to cut and paste a few choice comments from Towleroad commenters, a microcosm of the gay community:

    ———-

    “Victory! Bigots will now remember that withholding our right to marriage incurs serious costs.” — Sergio

    “We smell pork, it’s a pig.” — JackFknTwist

    “F-ck ANY apologist who even attempts to feel sorry for this man who voted and campaigned against the CIVIL RIGHTS of gay human beings. F-ck you and your own bigotry!” — Highes

    “Eich lived by the sword and must die by the sword…” — JackFknTwist

    “Anything that gives Christians anger makes me smile. F-CK YOU CHRISTIANS and your privilege. The days of you controlling other peoples lives are over” — Gio

    “BYE BIGOT!” — Weekendfun

    “Andrew Sullivan is mentally ill. He should be pitied if his views weren’t so dangerous.” — MARCUS BACHMANN

    “…this pig of a man totally demonizing gay people.” — Killian

    “Before he steps down, the gay community uninstalls their Mozilla products. After he is pressured to resign, the straight community uninstalls Mozilla products.
    The net result is that Mozilla loses in all cases.” — Just saying

  25. Tyler says

    Will, with friends like you, who needs enemies? Honestly, you seem to take extreme umbrage with LGBT people standing up for themselves in the face of extreme adversity. Eich actively pursued legally disenfranchising a minority group. Had this minority group been of the racial or gender variety, I’m sure you wouldn’t take issue with people denouncing Erich and revealing in his downfall. Sorry we don’t just stand idly by and let things go. We’re not all house fa**ots.

  26. says

    Nice obsessive copy-and-paste job, Will.

    Maybe one day you’ll have the spine to put your face to your opinions and become a visible, and vocal and proactive member of the community – actually representing what you want people to see, instead of being a rather sad armchair-critic.

    You’re appalled by “OUUURRRRR” responses – Uh…ok. And what, specifically, do you do, and who are you, and what incredible example of gay awesomeness are you living in your every day life?

    😀

  27. Smartypants says

    The one relevant piece of information missing from Ari’s superbly level-headed analysis is that the real back-breaking straw for this camel was the revelation that, in addition to support for Prop 8, Mr. Eich also made multiple contributions to Pat Buchanan’s racist, homophobic and anti-woman presidential campaign. This demonstrated his long-term support for values that are dramatically out of line with the values of the Mozilla community.

    Based on insider accounts it was only after his support for Buchanan came to light that the Mozilla board began to pressure Eich to resign in order to protect the Mozilla brand and affirm the values of the organization.

  28. Tyler says

    If you truly believe that people voting your rights away simply because of your sexual orientation is just a different opinion that you must respect out of politeness, then you clearly don’t believe you’re worth much. Have some self respect and grow a spine.

  29. Håkon says

    Would Jon and Will fight to protect a CEO who wanted to abrogate a woman’s right to vote? Or how about a CEO who donated to the most radical wing of the Black Panthers, wanting to take away already-established rights for white Americans? Somehow I think their double standard / hypocrisy only exist for gays.

  30. will says

    Two “readers letters” in Andrew Sullivan’s blog struck me over the course of the weekend and have stayed with me:

    1.
    I work for Mozilla (please don’t share my name, although I know you have a policy of anonymity anyway), and I have worked closely with Brendan Eich for many years… The part that makes me the saddest about this whole story was that the benefit for the equality movement was minimal at best, but the blow this strikes to the movement for an open and healthy Web could be huge. I so wish we had done better over the years at telling Mozilla’s story. (Did you or your readers know we’re a mission-driven, non-profit organization? It’s sad how few people do even to this day.) Brendan was our co-founder, one of our best minds, and one of the most passionate and committed members of the movement to keep the Web from being owned by powerful interests like Google and Microsoft. He was always scrupulous in his professional decorum, and despite a fierce ability to argue a technical or strategic point about Mozilla, I never once saw him treat anyone unfairly or with a hint of malice. But now I have to watch my Facebook feed fill up with stories of my fellow liberals high-fiving each other over the toppling of another ostensible corporate villain.

    2.
    I am a Christian who vocally supported the rights of gays to marry for many years – and did so in rural Texas, where doing so actually meant you were risking something. Sorry to say now that I regret it. Not because it was wrong to support gay marriage, but because the gay community apparently will not extend to me as a Christian the same respect. First it was wedding cakes and flower arrangements, now this. Not to be overly dramatic, but it seems I basically signed my own death warrant with respect to religious freedom. I guess I was naive not to expect this type of blowback.

    Sorry, guys. From here on out, you’re on your own.

    ———

  31. says

    We’re not on our own, Will. We’re united. You’re on your own, and you likely always will be, until the day you leave this earth.

    Your trolling is sad and unintelligent, your lack of spine and anonymity an expected relief. I’m sorry that you have nobody in your life that never stood up for you. You can leave now :)

  32. simon says

    Will:
    The letters you cited, like what you said about the “microcosm” of gay community, are not representative of the communities whatever the ones they are in. There are always people who like to imagine things and dramatize and blow things up out of proportion. Come back in six months and tell us what kind of negative effects it has caused. I bet the whole episode will be totally forgotten by then. The “gay mafia” didn’t exist after all.

  33. says

    Simon – Will isn’t a real human being. He’s a sad little man at a computer – who, a lot like Andrew Sullivan, lives each day worrying about winning back the “tolerance” of all he disappointed by being gay. And if you read between the lines, so far, for both them, it has not worked.

  34. will says

    Kiwi: I’m just a guy thinking out loud at my keyboard at work. Who made you fu–ing Queen Bee? Do you even realize how self-righteous and controlling you sound — with your cheap little platitudes and saccharine prose?

  35. Tyler says

    Will, you seem to worry far too much about what those in power think, and are uncomfortable with allowing those in power to be held accountable for their bigotry. You don’t seem to identify as a member of the LGBT community, and are completely paranoid about the loss of authority of those social groups (conservative Christians) who have been at the forefront of anti-gay bigotry (culturally and legally).

    Thankfully we don’t need your help. You don’t seem particularly invested in advancing LGBT equality since you won’t admit fault of the religious conservatives you seem to be so devoted to. You picked a side are now on the wrong side of history. Enjoy they legacy.

  36. says

    Who made me Queen Bee? Guys like you did – you know, anonymous wimpy hacks. I’m Queen Bee merely by default :)

    I sound self-righteous and controlling and you sound like a eunuch who will spend the rest of his life being a doormat.

    *elegant curtsy*

  37. will says

    F you, “Little” Kiwi (whay are you, seven?). Lecturing us on trans people, lecturing us on gender identity and who is and isn’t a “troll”. You and your freaking lecturn. Piker.

  38. says

    It’s not my fault you crawl on your belly in the mud and can’t get up.

    I nor any of the other commenters on here need to apologize to you, Eich, nor professional House-F@ggot Andrew Sullivan for being smarter than you and possessing of both spines and orbs.

  39. says

    it’s like the idiots who insisted the Chick-Fil-A thing was about The First Amendment.

    to believe that, you must not know any of the facts about the situation, and must also have zero understanding about what the fist amendment actually is.

    typically – conservatives never know those two things, as Sullivan proves.

  40. Lexis says

    What Sullivan doesn’t get is that Mozilla has stated that inclusiveness and diversity are core to their corporate values. Yeah, they can have peons down in the basement working on code who are bigots, but when it’s the guy at the top, then their whole message comes off hollow and false. After all, the CEO is the face of company. It’s like electing a president who takes an oath to defend the Constitution, but doesn’t really get how the equal protection clause applies to gay citizens.

  41. will says

    According to Andrew Sullivan we are turing into a “near-theological movement” regarding heretics:

    “One ugly manifestation of absolute certainty in near-theological movements is their approach to dissidents. Dissidents in these absolutist groups are outlawed, condescended to, pressured, bullied, lied about, trashed, slandered, and distorted out of any recognition. In this case, a geeky genius who invented Javascript and who had pledged total inclusivity in the workplace instantly became the equivalent of a Grand Master in the Ku Klux Klan. And yes, that analogy was – amazingly – everywhere! The actual, complicated, flawed human being was erased by thousands who never knew him but knew enough to hate him. Because that’s all they need to know. No space was really given for meaningful dialogue; and, most importantly, no mercy was given without total public repentance.”

    My concern is not about who was responsible for Eich’s stepping down (after he APOLOGIZED!) It’s about our reprehensible RESPONSE to the resignation — the pitchforks and the torches of the lynch mob.

  42. will says

    “A civil rights movement without toleration is not a civil rights movement; it is a cultural campaign to expunge and destroy its opponents. A moral movement without mercy is not moral; it is, when push comes to shove, cruel.” — Andrew Sullivan

  43. simon says

    It is not the end of the world. If he is a good programmer, he can easily find another technical job. I doubt big companies like Apple or Google will take him as CEO. It was his own fault. Don’t blame it on anyone else. There are all kind of comments on the internet. There is no point in getting upset about things like that.

  44. simon says

    Calm down. There is no “civil right movement” over this. Just a few comments here and there which you think too extreme. Andrew Sullivan is just a dram queen.

  45. will says

    “Can someone please fist me until I get AIDS? I wants fists full of AIDS inside me, then I’ll say five Hail Marys, and fellate a crucifix”
    –Andrew Sullivan, on craigslist

  46. Wzrd1 says

    I’ve incessantly heard people go on at great length and high volume about some mythical cabal of gays who have some mythical agenda for this nation. I’ve heard every version of their nonsense and to be honest, the only thing lacking was some mythical gay cabal convention!
    Now, what the truth is, we the citizens of the occasionally United States of America have finally decided that our observation and adherence to our Constitution should be full. Not the half-baked hypocrisy we’ve followed since the inception and ratification of our Constitution, but actual compliance.
    That leaves opponents with only one avenue, which is doomed to fail on its Constitutional merit, the “religious exemption”. One cannot disparage another his or her rights while expressing your own rights. We have an amendment with very nearly those very words that declares it!

    So, what really happened at Mozilla?
    There was internal pressure to the board. There was also external pressure. I know, as I personally signed petitions and wrote to the Mozilla foundation when this began.

    But, a funny thing happened along the way to Eich’s dismissal. Every one of the signatories on petitions and letters to the foundation that I personally know of are straight.
    Each one I know personally of agrees, it’s not a question of anything other than for once in our nation’s history, actually adhering to our Constitution.
    And when it comes to things governmental, that there is only one “bible”, that of the Constitution of the United States of America.

  47. Bill says

    (Not the same person who posted as “Bill” above.)

    I think Sullivan was reacting to what he was seeing in the comment sections of Towleroad and elsewhere, which of course are not a representative sample of the opinion of gays or LGBT organizations.

    There were people calling for Eich’s figurative head and bad-mouthing anyone who disagreed with them in the slightest, but these were random individuals, not the official position of an organized group.

    Ari needs to be a bit more careful before claiming that Eich too actions intended to harm others, as that, or at least the extent of that, depends on the timing. Prop 8 was filed in August or September of 2007, after which the signature gathering phase began. At this point, Proposition 22 was still in effect and all Prop 8 would have done is to copy the wording into the state constitution. While I think that is a bad idea – as Obama indicated, constitutions generally grant rights rather than restrict rights – it could have been sold to non-religious conservatives as an attempt to prevent an “activist judge” from “legislating from the bench”. The “Yes on Eight” side needed over a million dollars just to gather enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. It isn’t clear if Eich’s donation was during the signature-gathering phase or the campaign. About the time they had enough signatures, the California Supreme Court declared Prop 22 unconstitutional. From that point, Prop 8 changed from an initiative that attempted to maintain the status quo into one whose main effect was to remove an existing (albeit recently-granted) right.

    Unless we know the timing, it isn’t clear what was going on – was Eich’s main issue same-sex marriage, activists judges, or some libertarian thing about the “people” deciding important issues because “the legislature can’t be trusted” (a common libertarian belief, it seems). We don’t even know if he gave his $1000 contribution to fund the actual campaign or to fund the signature gathering, or maybe both.

  48. Rowan says

    BILL, exactly. So why wouldn’t he discuss it??

    That’s all anyone wanted from the start.

    But again, you’ve ignored the Pat Buchanan support AND the 2 board members who resigned…AND the gay staff MOZILLA members who complained about him!

    Towleroad is just a blog guys. Please. Sullivan is just using this ‘drama’ to rant about liberal gays.

    WILL, you’re opinion which was welcomed became NAUGHT by your refusal to explain the Pat Buchanan support. Or is it only gays that deserve no equal rights?

  49. Harker says

    One of the more ridiculous piece of left wing hysteria I have read on this. And I am a lefty. Massively, and I mean massively unpersuasive. As a liberal I decry the destroying of people lives due to unpopular political beliefs that, sorry, are not rank bigotry on the par with Nazis. What lunacy.

    This is groupthink, vilification and abuse masquerading as righteousness. It is harmful, indefensible and yes, illiberal. This is exactly the same as McCarthyism and every one of you should be ashamed and chastened by what harm you have done to a decent man who disagrees with you.

  50. JJ says

    @BILL: “Ari needs to be a bit more careful before claiming that Eich too actions intended to harm others, as that, or at least the extent of that, depends on the timing.”

    Bullsh!t. Elevating existing discrimination into the state constitution is still malicious. The whole purpose of that is to strip gays of the protection of the courts that everyone else enjoys. That is not maintaining the status quo.

    “it could have been sold to non-religious conservatives as an attempt to prevent an “activist judge” from “legislating from the bench”.”

    So what? People are responsible for their own moral decisions. Claiming that someone else convinced you to hurt people isn’t a defense. Claiming that the harm you caused agrees with your philosophy—whether libertarianism, judicial restraint, separation of powers, or bigotry—isn’t a defense. We don’t take people’s own logic as justification for their actions. We measure them against objective standards like harm, reciprocity, equality, and against the consensus of their peers.

    Eich got the reckoning he deserved, regardless of his “timing.” There’s no gap in our knowledge where you can cower for refuge and argue that Eich’s intentions may have been pure and he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t. He hurt people. If he had a good reason, the onus was on him to explain it.

  51. Icebloo says

    Eich being forced out had very little to do with his views on gay rights but much to do with his views on racial issues and his financial contributions to Ron Paul (who admits his links to the KKK)& another right wing racist extremist politician.

    Mozilla knew they could weather the storm over his views on gay rights but they also knew they would not survive if the general public found out about his views on race.

    We gays are being conveniently blamed for this. Mozilla did not give a f#ck about the gays protesting.

  52. simon says

    “As a liberal I decry the destroying of people lives due to unpopular political beliefs”
    Drama much? CEO comes and goes. Business world is like that. His life is not destroyed. He can easily find another job. Even Eich himself won’t agree with you. It is all in your imagination. He is fine.

  53. ENOUGH says

    Harker – you sound like a dunce. He didn’t “disagree”, he actively worked and donated to make our lives worse. It’s not a mere disagreement. This nuance is lost on gay conservatives with daddy issues.

  54. ProudlyOlderGayGeneration says

    A sad state of affairs when snarky personal attacks from this “new generation of gays” seek to strengthen it “happened without us” fallacy. Like the Colonel Mustard did it in the Conservatory theory, Mr. Waldman simply redeploys the notion … guns don’t kill, people do…

  55. simon says

    There were two software developers working for Mozilla who complained about Eich. There was the KCUPID dating site boycotting Mozilla.
    Also some reporters reporting this story.
    They are not “us”. If you think you were responsible because you are gay, that is your problem.

  56. Bill says

    @Rowan: why don’t you ask him why he won’t talk about it? Some people want to keep their private lives separated from their work. Do you have any data indicating whether he is one of those or not? Unlike a lot of people, I’m simply not going to jump to conclusions.

    @JJ: Some of us don’t believe in mind reading. I’ve no idea as to his motives for making that contribution, but being against gay rights is only one possibility. You don’t even know if he actively contacted the “Yes on Eight” people to send in a contribution or if he was approached in some way and fell for a sales pitch, possibly tailored to him. If he’s a Mormon (no idea), was he at some church event were everyone was expected to donate and simply succumbed to peer pressure? If it was during the signature-gathering phase, very few people knew about the details, making it easier to fool someone into donating: a link to a New York Times article I posted showed that the “Yes on Eight” campaign gave their fund raisers scripts with contingencies based on how people reacted. This was a highly manipulative campaign designed to extract money from people by being careful to avoid saying anything that might raise red flags.

    This may surprise you, but some of us actually have the quaint idea that, if there is a lack of data, you shouldn’t go off and fill in the blanks, and then attack people based on what might be something you imagined.

  57. simon says

    It is ironic the right-wing commenters talked about McCarthyism. McCarthy blamed everything mainly on the communists and by the way also the gays. Hitler blamed the burning of the Reichstag on the communists. It is a well-known right-wing tactics. Now they are pushing the “gay mafia” conspiracy theory.

  58. TKinSC says

    I don’t care much for Mozilla or Eich one way or the other, but it’s important to set the record straight.

    Eich didn’t donate money to deny anyone’s civil rights. He donated money to overturn/reverse a misguided California Supreme Court opinion that tried to force an unwanted redefinition of marriage onto the state.

    Marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Everyone with common sense knows that, and Eich happens to be a rare individual who is both extremely intelligent and has common sense.

    Gays have an equal right to marry as heterosexual people. Granted I don’t see why they would want to, as marriage is inherently heterosexual, but the right to do so is exactly the same.

    What gays do not have the right to do (any more than straights) is force normal society to pretend that they are “married” to someone of the same sex when they clearly are not.

  59. Bill says

    @simon : Aside from any alleged “gay mafia”, what they are doing to to compare Eich to Obama because during the 2008 campaign Obama said he believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. What they aren’t saying is that during the presidential debate besides that statement Obama said that he opposed Proposition Eight because it was divisive and because constitutions generally protect rights rather than limit rights.
    .

  60. Bill says

    @TKinSC : the idea that he donated money to overturn a California Supreme Court decision is pure conjecture at this point because that decision happened after the initiative was filed, and no one has yet provided the date of his donation.

    He could have made the donation before the California Supreme Court decision.

  61. NMSam says

    @Will: I’m not sure why some of the commenters attack you rather than communicate with you. I have to say, I somewhat agree with you. I wouldn’t particularly quote Mr. Sullivan, and even though I do not believe it was the LGBT community that forced Mr. Eich’s resignation, I think this situation provides a perfect opportunity for discussion. As a gay man, I have wondered where do we draw the line? Mr. Eich’s donation was an “action” against the LGBT community. I wish he were willing to discuss and debate it, but he kept his silence; that was unfortunate. Many commenters here believe it to be a b&w issue, I wish it were that simple for me. If Mr. Eich was truly fired for his personal opinions on gay marriage, would it be right to go after him on a professional level on those grounds? I honestly don’t know. After a week of contemplating that question, I am no closer to an answer than when I first asked myself that. I have a lot of questions, but no answers. I’m a proud gay man, that believes in civil rights for all, including for our own community. I just do not know where to draw that line. I wish I could find the answer.

  62. minty says

    Sully is a mess. Whether or not Eich apologized, opposing same-sex marriage is the worst form of bigotry. We have every right to call for Eich’s removal.

    Obviously, it works both ways. Anti-gay corporations should have the right to remove individuals who donate to pro-gay causes as well. But would you really want to work for them anyway? I think not.

  63. minty says

    Sully is a mess. Whether or not Eich apologized, opposing same-sex marriage is the worst form of bigotry. We have every right to call for Eich’s removal.

    Obviously, it works both ways. Anti-gay corporations should have the right to remove individuals who donate to pro-gay causes as well. But would you really want to work for them anyway? I think not.

  64. JJ says

    @Bill, I don’t see how your rebuttal addressed any of my points. I’ll clarify…

    No mind reading is necessary. It’s an objective fact that Prop 8 codified discrimination into the constitution. It’s an objective fact that Prop 8 stripped gays of court protection that everyone else enjoyed. The imposition of inequality is harmful on its face, and the effort to enact Prop 8 was by definition the intent to cause the harm it set forth. There’s no set of circumstances that would make working to enact Prop 8 acceptable. Ignorance is not a defense, because people who assume the responsibility of working to enact a law, accept the responsibility of knowing what the law does. Manipulation is not a defense, because everyone is ultimately responsible and accountable for his own decisions. Social pressure is not a defense for the same reason. There’s no dark corner of ambiguity from which to grovel your apologies.

  65. simon says

    Tkinsc:
    Just go ahead to marry a woman if that is “normal” for you. Others can marry whoever they want which is none of your business. Perhaps you are too stupid to understand that.

  66. Matt says

    I am not at all puzzled by the “media circus” surrounding his departure. The media circus was orchestrated by conservatives, using Fox News and other conservative media. They did it because of fear. They are afraid that if people start losing their high-paid executive positions because of their beliefs and actions, specifically against gay people, that they could be next. They’re terrified! They want to spread that terror to everyone else so that no executive can ever be let go again for being anti-gay. It’s really pretty simple. It’s the same tack they have taken with the ACA. Continually call it “Obamacare”, tie it to their constant bashing and generating hatred of President Obama since before his first election. Tell everyone how awful it is, over and over again, with no evidence. Keep saying over and over that it doesn’t work, that it’s broken. Bring up real-life people who have lost their coverage because of Obamacare (many of whom are just conservative shills). Show people who will have a more expensive policy that they can’t afford (omitting any reference to the fact that the government will pay for a percentage of your policy, based on your income). Tell the lies often enough and loud enough, and people start to believe them. As the saying goes, “There’s no smoke without fire”. And people actually believe that. They believe that just because somebody on the news said it, there must be at least some truth to it.

  67. simon says

    Michael:
    It said:”In fact, Board members tried to get Brendan to stay at Mozilla in another role.”
    That means demotion.
    Essentially they fired him as CEO and demoted him. Of course that looks better on his resume if they just say “resign” instead of “fired”.
    He could have gone back to his old technical position. He chose to leave.

  68. simon says

    Actually it is quite common in corporate world, they don’t fire you directly. They may give you a shorter contract or a lower position. Most people choose to leave.

  69. Bill says

    @JJ: I realize that you are “intellectually challenged” but try very hard to understand – the issue is not whether you should like Eich or whether whatever he did was acceptable, but rather what he actually did. People are making statements as to his motives when he simply hasn’t said what they were. Without knowing when the donation was made, you can’t even say if he was trying to take a right away versus maintaining the status quo provided by an unjust law. That’s because the State Supreme Court decision declaring Proposition 22 unconstitutional was made after the signature gathering for Prop 8 started, and we don’t know if Eich made his donation before or after that decision.

    You may think it is wrong regardless, just as you might think killing someone is wrong, but that isn’t an excuse to say someone is guilty of 1st degree murder when you don’t know if is first, degree, second degree, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter.

    Meanwhile, objectively, random individuals going after Eich has done far more damage than Eich’s $1000 did – there was a long discussion about him on NPR this morning, plus various people using the incident to try to reduce public support of LBGT issues. Ari was trying to correct some of the misconceptions, but hardly anyone is going to pay any attention to what Ari is saying as he doesn’t have the mass-media budget that the opposition does.

  70. JJ says

    @Bill: “we don’t know if Eich made his donation before or after that decision.”

    Eich made two contributions: one for $500 on 10/25/2008—five months after Prop 22 was struck down and ten days before the election—and another for $500 on 10/28/2008. The records are available from the California Secretary of State’s web site at
    http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1302592&session=2007&view=received

    I trust this puts your excuses to rest.

    “Meanwhile, objectively, random individuals going after Eich has done far more damage than Eich’s $1000 did”

    You mean in terms of material contributions, labor, and votes? By “objectively” I trust you mean you have data to back up your claim. If you want to be taken seriously, show your data.

  71. Bill says

    @JJ: nobody had provided the actual dates previously. If you look at the NY Time article I posted – http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/15/us/politics/15marriage.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 – it turns out that in the last two weeks of the campaign, there was a huge fund-raising effort by “Yes on Eight” as the people running the campaign hit the panic button.

    For the people they had canvasing neighborhoods,
    according to the Yew York Times, they used different stories depending on who they were talking to: “If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

    “But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.”

    Because voters at the start of the campaign didn’t seem to care all that much, the “Yes on Eight” side put out propaganda (again see the NY Time article) “painting the specter of churches’ losing tax exempt status or people ‘sued for personal beliefs’ or objections to same-sex marriage,” so the obvious question is whether Eich fell for that argument or something similar.

    So, the dates you provide don’t really answer the question and if anything raise new ones. If Eich was so intent on taking away gay rights, why did he wait until October 25 to write his first check, followed by another one only 3 days later? It’s not like he would have been waiting for a paycheck to come in. It sounds to me like he was being pressured to make a donation. Someone thinking about it would have written a single check, not two checks 3 days apart.

  72. JJ says

    “It sounds to me like he was being pressured to make a donation.”

    However noble you think Eich’s decision process may have been, or however weak under pressure, the fact remains that once he arrived at his eventual point of view, he _also_ sought to impose it on others by stripping them of equality, an act that was undeniably intentional and irrefutably harmful. Being convinced or pressured to do harm, doesn’t remove the intent. It’s perfectly accurate, then, of Ari to say “he took actions that were specifically intended to harm others.” That’s a documented fact, even if in his own mind he thought the harm was justified.

  73. Wilberforce says

    I good article, except for one point.
    Sullivan is intelligent? No. He’s an idiot and always has been, from when he was advertising for bareback sex to promoting GWB to cheering the Iraq war.
    I can think of two reasons you would say this. Either you’re not so smart yourself. Or you’re another social climber, playing the usual game of celebrity kiss a–, hoping it’ll get you a better job in the media.

  74. Bill says

    @JJ: Are you ever deluded! Where did your “noble” come from? I just figured he got pressured either at a church or via a fund-raising call and was too burned out from dealing with Firefox (specifically the software development process) to think all that clearly. Just before a major release – and this is true in general – software developers and their managers end up in fire-drill mode, and Mozilla is dependent on volunteers, so its a fire drill while herding cats. Many people in Silicon Valley put in 60+ hour weeks. Do you expect them to keep up on all the issues as well? Without some hard evidence to the contrary, it is plausible that Eich was simply sweet talked out of $1000 (maybe with some help from a leader at his church if he goes to one), and given that I’m not going to figuratively crucify him until I see some hard data indicating that I should.

    Finally, if you want some objective data about the harm going after Eich would do, check out
    http://www.adweek.com/news/television/their-prime-broadcast-spot-costs-soar-132805 which claims that the cost of a prime-time “spot” (e.g., an ad) is just over $100,000 a pop. I just heard at least 15 minutes of discussion on NPR this morning about Eich, with callers worried about free speech. How expensive do you think it is going to be to correct their misconceptions? For $1000 you can’t even pay for a single nationwide ad. Meanwhile in the last two days, I saw one editorial in a local rag run by a nutty libertarian comparing Eich to Obama (who actually opposed Prop 8 on national TV), two letters blaming “liberals”, and one from a certified religious nut (he goes around standing on street corners with gory signs about abortion) who ranted about how homosexuality was a crime against action and accused some imaginary gay mafia of terrorists acts against free speech.

    The religious nut is not a threat – everyone knows that he is crazy, so people just roll their eyes and wonder why this rag would print the rantings of a mentally disturbed individual when it would only embarrass any sensible members of his family.

  75. JJ says

    @BILL, nothing you said refutes my point. Eich “took actions that were specifically intended to harm others,” as Ari and others have said. That’s documented fact. Your increasingly elaborate and desperate excuses do nothing to mitigate that. Whatever circumstances led Eich to his decision, in the end, he deliberately and knowingly acted to help strip gay people of equal protection. He bears the responsibility for that. Your baroque fantasies of what might have happened could only ever stand beside the documented facts, not remake them. Eich “took actions that were specifically intended to harm others.” End of discussion.

  76. Bill says

    @JJ: you simply haven’t shown “intent”, and intent is not a “documented fact” because to show intent, you have to determine what he was thinking when he made the donations, and he apparently has said nothing or next to nothing that would indicate intent. If you have a link to a quote by him that shows intent rather than cluelessness, why don’t you provide it?

    The fact is that you and many others are jumping to conclusions. You’ve yet to explain how your “intent” hypothesis is consistent with him making his first contribution on Oct 25 (the date you provided), only a couple of weeks before the election. If he intended to harm gay rights, why didn’t he make the donation much earlier? It is not like he was saving up for it. If he simply responded to a telemarketing call or calls, possibly primed by what he heard at a church (if he goes to one), what he intended could very plausibly be what the sales pitch suggested he was supporting.

    And the “Yes on Eight” side was very careful to pretend they were not against gays, only “protecting marriage”. Their test marketing indicated that an explicitly anti-gay campaign would not win, so they soft-peddled that.

    Or do you really not understand the difference between “causing harm” and “intending to cause harm”?

  77. JJ says

    @BILL: “you simply haven’t shown “intent””

    I have. The title of the measure was, “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.” Eich’s multiple donations establish beyond any reasonable doubt that he intended to inflict that harm. The doubts you’ve raised are wildly speculative and unreasonable, assuming an extraordinary lack of awareness on Eich’s part without any documented facts to support that improbably assumption. It’s perfectly fair to say Eich “took actions that were specifically intended to harm others.” He can dispute that with facts if he so chooses. But he isn’t entitled to the benefit of the doubt when those doubts are unreasonable.

  78. Bill says

    @JJ: your proof of “intent” is laughable. The title of the initiative that appeared on the ballot was written by a California elected official over the objections of the sponsors of the initiative, and it is not clear if Eich had even read that – it appeared in the voter pamphlet. When looking at the voter pamphlet, I’ll typically skip the title and the arguments for and against, as most of the people who write those are liars. I’ll use the legislative analyst’s statements to determine which initiatives to consider (the rest get a default vote of “no” – basically triage) and read the text of the few that are left. Even the radio stays turned off when the campaigns are in full swing due to the non-stop ads.

    The “Yes on Eight” side went out of their way to pretend the measure was not anti-gay, and their fund raisers probably did the same thing.

    The fact is that you don’t know Eich’s intent. If he’s religious, his intent might have been simply to appear virtuous to others at his church, or maybe his wife was worried about their social standing at a church and pressured him. There are a lot of reasons he might have contributed to it that had nothing to do with gay rights.

    So, you can be mad at him for the donation if you wish, but you can’t legitimately talk about his intent without proof as to what that intent actually was.

  79. JJ says

    @BILL: “The title of the initiative that appeared on the ballot”

    It was also widely reported, it stated what Prop 8 would do, and that effect was the subject of an intense $83 million political war. It’s simply not credible to insist that less than two weeks before the end of the highest profile initiative campaign in California history, Eich may yet have heard and understood only what Prop 8 proponents wanted him to hear. It’s reasonable to assume Eich knew the harm he was financing and that he did so advisedly. It’s unreasonable to suppose otherwise, particularly in light of the fact that he has had ample opportunity and incentive to defend his actions.

    Your standard for intent amounts to insisting on omniscience to establish intent. That would render the very notion of intent meaningless, and it’s obviously not the concept of intent that Ari meant. It goes without saying that we can never know someone’s intent with absolute certainty. Nevertheless, the facts _reasonably_ establish that Eich “took actions that were specifically intended to harm others.” If your position is that one can never in principle know someone’s intent with absolute certainty, and absolute certainty is the minimum acceptable threshold, then we aren’t talking about the same concept of intent. However, by that standard, your earlier analogy to 1st degree murder makes no sense, unless your position is also that 1st degree murder can never be proven.

  80. Bill says

    @JJ: it may have been “widely reported” in The Advocate and some newspaper editorials, but what most people see are the TV ads, where each side of every initiative puts up the same sort of ads used to sell soap. You end up with one side saying its the best thing since sliced bread, the other side saying its the apocalypse, while the voters who are supposed to listen merely run to the refrigerator and get something else to eat.

    Plus you are not factoring in how much time Eich was probably spending on his job at the time and what news sources he paid attention to. A lot of software developers and managers put in very long hours. We had one conservative Christian in our group at work who apparently got his news by listening to right-wing talk radio or maybe Fox News. What do you think he heard about Prop 8 in what was “widely reported” on the media he used?

    You’ll simply have to do a lot better if you want to argue about intentions.

  81. JJ says

    “You’ll simply have to do a lot better if you want to argue about intentions.”

    Ha ha. Nice try, but I’ve got all the consensus, all the facts, and Eich’s resignation on my side. You’ve got wishful thinking.

  82. Bill says

    @JJ: you are ignoring the facts you don’t like and making up ones you don’t have. And “consensus” is just BS – the opinions of an unrepresentative sample.

    To make a case that Eich’s actions were intended to harm gays (as opposed to possibilities such as intending merely to make himself look “good” at church, or to preserve religious freedom (if he fell for the propaganda), you’d have to show something beyond a mere contribution. You’d also have to explain why, given his likely net worth, he waited until Oct 25 before contributing a dime (that was the date you gave for his first contribution), and why he made two donations only 3 days apart, which sounds odd if he had actually planned to make a donation as opposed to merely responding to a sales pitch.

    It’s not a question of liking the contribution (why would I like it when I donated to the “No on Eight” group), but of what his intentions were.

    You are assuming malice on Eich’s part. As someone once quipped, never assign to malice what can be explained by stupidity (not that Eich is stupid in general, just that he might have been so preoccupied with work that he hadn’t even gotten around to looking at the voter pamphlet when he made those donations.)

    BTW, I normally don’t read the voter pamphlet until the week before the election, and have a rule (with exceptions for anything obviously important) that I have a quota of 1 or 2 “yes” votes for initiatives. I’m paying the legislature. Why should I do their work for them unless something is really broken?

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