Sunday, April 13, 2014

Putting the Eich in Eichmann

The rumblings about Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s donation to the campaign against gay marriage reached me through a facebook posting by my friend Sarah N.:
So first I couldn't use Firefox to access the Obamacare website because it kept crashing. Then I couldn't use it to access OKCupid because OKCupid is protesting the Mozilla CEO's anti-gay stance. Time for a new browser, clearly. But I have not been able to find a good way to block annoying pop-up ads on Safari. Recommendations.”

Oh, no, I thought. My two least favorite issues – gay marriage and “free speech”, colliding – and in the middle of it all, I’m going to have to find a new browser?  (Though in the five years I’ve had an OKCupid profile, I’ve gotten exactly one date.)

You can imagine how relieved I was when Mozilla caved into the pressure and accepted Eich’s resignation.

Great.  Crisis averted.  I barely had to think about it, and now I could go back to using Mozilla searches to figure out why well-informed Americans can’t see the problem in trying to broker “peace” between Israelis and Palestinians while arming one side to the teeth. 

Then the media firestorm began.

It was not surprising that Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh launched into tirades about liberal fascists.  For better or worse, that’s their job.  I don’t think they even believe it any more.  They just do it because that’s what keeps the lights on in their mansions.

But when the liberal media joined in the condemnation of the “intolerance” of “the New Gay Orthodoxy”, I had to check back in.

Christian Science Monitor:  “The resignation was greeted with cheers among many in the gay community and beyond…But others are drawing a different lesson from what happened to Eich, likening the events to a “scorched earth” policy that’s antithetical to a society where tolerance for opposing viewpoints is a mainstay of the Constitution.”

REUTERS:  Tech workers in Silicon Valley debated on Friday whether Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich got the comeuppance he deserved or was himself a victim of intolerance when he resigned under pressure this week amid outrage over his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Andrew Sullivan appeared on Stephen Colbert, arguing that gay people got our rights by showing how nice we are.  Hey, Sullivan, that thing we commemorate every June wasn’t the Stonewall Ice Cream Social, it was a riot.

But again, Sullivan’s line wasn’t surprising – his claim to fame is that he’s the gay conservative.  More upsetting was that Colbert, reading between the lines of his conservative “character” to glimpse the real Colbert (who I don’t think will make it as David Letterman – but that’s another rant), seemed to agree with him.  So did Bill Maher, talking about“The Gay Mafia.” 

Sullivan’s argument, besides the “catch more flies with honey” baloney is that “when people in the workplace feel threatened for things they do completely outside of the workplace, their political views – I mean, in California, if you actually fired someone for a political view you disapproved of, it would be against the law.”   
He further expounded on his blog:

“When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance. If a socially conservative private entity fired someone because they discovered he had donated against Prop 8, how would you feel?”
 There are a few problems with Sullivan’s reason-ing and the liberals who are so comforted by it: 
  • There is no such thing as “McCarthyism by civil actors.”  McCarthyism, by definition, was about a government conducting political interrogations and purges.
  • This is why I hate discussions about “free speech”:  almost no one understands what it is.  Freedom of speech is supposed to mean one thing:  that we can’t be imprisoned for what we say (doesn’t always work – ask Sami al-Arian or Lynne Stewart).  Freedom of speech does not exist in the workplace.  I work for a corporation – I know.  They might not be able to fire me – in California – for voting Green but they sure could fire me for insulting one of their clients.  Refusing to do business with someone because I don’t like their politics is not violating their freedom of speech.  It’s exercising my right to choose who I want to associate with.  Drowning someone out in protest is not violating their right to free speech.  It’s just rude.
  • OK Cupid pressuring Mozilla to get rid of Eich is not the same as AIPAC and CAMERA pressuring universities to fire professors who criticize Israel (or, in the case of Iyemen Chehade, showing an Oscar-nominated film that makes Israel look bad).  Those professors are not advocating that some people be denied equal rights; they’re advocating rights for people who currently don’t have them.  Moreover, they are not the leading face of the university.  For every professor who supports Palestinian land rights, there are ten who don’t – more’s the pity.
  • Professors and teachers are fired, all the time, for their political beliefs, and I don’t recall Andrew Sullivan or Bill Maher springing to the defense of Debbie Almontaser, Ward Churchill, or Shannon Gibney.
  • The CEO of a company is not a “worker.”  It’s not like Mozilla went and checked the political affiliations of the people in the mailroom.  The CEO is a symbol of the company.  Mozilla did not fire Eich for his opinion. They pushed him out because his actions made them look bad.  Here are a couple things that happened last December: 
    • "Media company IAC has "parted ways" with company PR executive Justine Sacco over her tweet: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" 
    • Lululemon CEO Chip Wilson resigns in wake of controversial remarks.  “In an interview last month, Wilson touched off a flurry of criticism by suggesting to Bloomberg TV that production issues may not be the only issue. “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it,” he said. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there.” 

I never heard of either of those people, and I doubt most of you did either.  So why have we heard so much wailing about poor Brendan Eich?

In the end, what our liberal friends are saying is, “Gay rights aren’t really that important.”  If Brendan Eich had donated $1,000 to the Nazis, I don’t think Frank Bruni would have written, “Something remarkable has happened — something that’s mostly exciting but also a little disturbing ... I’m referring to the fact that in a great many circles, rejection of the Nazis has rather suddenly become nonnegotiable.”

Remember Anthony Wiener?  Most of the liberal establishment supported Nancy Pelosi in forcing him to resign from Congress.  So apparently, it’s okay to fire someone for taking pictures of their dick, but not for being one.