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Criticism, Self-Criticism

Apr 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 29 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Whenever the topic is broached, proponents of same-sex marriage assert that people who have reservations about redefining the primary building block of civilization are simply on the “wrong side of history.” Now, no one would deny that the political crusade for same-sex marriage is on the march. But it must not actually be historically inevitable. If it were, its advocates could relax and enjoy watching the grand chronological process unfold, like waves eating away at a barrier island. That’s hardly what we’re seeing. Instead, pressure is being cranked up on any person of influence or standing who dares to disagree, with an insistence that the recalcitrant oddball buckle under and begin displaying a Maoist degree of political conformity.

Brendan Eich

Brendan Eich

The latest case in point: A few weeks ago, tech company Mozilla, which makes the popular Firefox web browser, appointed Brendan Eich CEO. Eich’s qualifications for the job are not in doubt; the man invented the JavaScript language which is foundational to modern-day web programming. But as soon as Eich was appointed CEO he made a preemptive statement that he would allocate additional resources to a project to bring more gay people into the tech industry and reaffirmed the company’s policy of offering benefits to same-sex partners. The statement was necessary because of the revelation in 2012 that Eich had donated $1,000 to the campaign for Proposition 8​—​a 2008 ballot measure (approved by voters, coincidentally) which attempted to add a line to the state constitution asserting that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

We know that Eich made this donation only because someone at the IRS​—​where President Obama assures us there’s not a “smidgen of corruption”​—​leaked the National Organization for Marriage’s tax documents to the press. At the time Eich was “outed,” so to speak, he made a statement on his blog saying that the donation was not motivated by animosity or hatred. He further explained, “not only [is] insisting on ideological uniformity impractical, it is counter-productive. So I do not insist that anyone agree with me on a great many things, including political issues, and I refrain from putting my personal beliefs in others’ way in all matters Mozilla, JS, and Web.”

Eich’s plea for respectful disagreement hardly put the matter to rest. Indeed, an outcry began immediately upon his being named CEO. In a short-lived publicity stunt, dating service OkCupid blocked users from accessing their website with Firefox browsers. Within the tech industry, a column from Owen Thomas, the managing editor of tech gossip website Valleywag, began making the rounds. Thomas made the following demands of Eich:

Stop saying that this was merely a private matter that won’t affect your work as Mozilla’s CEO. That’s disingenuous and beneath a leader of your stature.

Say that whatever chain of logic led you to conclude that your personal views required you to support Proposition 8 was flawed, erroneous, incorrect. You may well maintain those same views​—​that’s your prerogative​—​but you don’t have to draw the same conclusions from them today as you did six years ago.

Go further. Say that you support the rights of people to enter into same-sex marriages everywhere. Say that you will not only support employees in the United States who are in same-sex marriages, but that you will also fight for the civil rights of Mozilla employees who work in societies with less progressive views.

Finally, make a donation equal in amount to the money you gave to Proposition 8 and candidates who supported it to the Human Rights Campaign or another organization that fights for the civil rights of LGBT people.

Writing at First Things, an anonymous member of the tech industry sympathetic to Eich observed, “One of the most striking things about this passage is its tone, or perhaps we should say its genre. The remedies demanded (public recantation, propitiatory sacrifice) are of the sort necessitated by ritual defilement, rather than the giving of offense.” In any event, the angry zealots were appeased. Eich resigned last Thursday.

In light of this, the statement from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) greeting Eich’s resignation was ironic, to say the least: “Mozilla’s strong statement in favor of equality today reflects where corporate America is: inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all.”

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