Witch Hunt of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Still Haunts Silicon Valley
The controversy over the firing of Mozilla CEO Brandon Eich over his views on traditional marriage is still reverberating, with a long article at CNET.com claiming Eich's ideas on gay marriage were already well known before he became CEO and that LGBT activists used his past as a platform for activism.
The piece also argues that his stance on gay marriage was only the last step in a series of bad management moves that offended employees and details the intolerance that Silicon Valley has developed for traditional Christian views.
In a June 13 column, CNET.com columnist Stephen Shankland prophesied that it will take "some time" for the Mozilla community to recover from Eich's firing. Especially hard hit was Mozilla's claim to be a place where the First Amendment actually meant something.
Shankland points out that the attitude in Silicon Valley has shifted from one of profit and success to a blanket of politically correct oppression:
"In the old days it was, 'Can you generate a return for shareholders?'" said Scott McNealy, who during more than two decades as CEO of Sun Microsystems espoused fiscally conservative politics and sharply libertarian views. "Now we have, 'How do you feel about gun control, immigration, gay marriage, abortion, and big government?'"
The columnist also said that because things have become so toxic in the high-tech corridor, "few high-ranking figures in the Bay Area's tech scene were willing to go on the record" about Eich's firing.
Shankland recalled one tech executive's comment: "Taking a public stand on Eich means painting a target on yourself, said one tech company executive. 'Intolerance tends to beget intolerance. There are no winners here.'"
Eich's views on gay marriage, though, were well known long before the eruption that caused his departure from Mozilla, and no one had any desire to knock him out of his important position with the company over it all.
Also, when Eich was considered for CEO, "At no point did the board discuss Eich's history on Proposition 8, an effort to ban gay marriage in California," Shankland says.
Yet once he became CEO, it appears that gay activists saw an opportunity.
"The pressure on Eich, Mozilla, and Firefox began immediately," Shankland wrote. "The opening salvo came from Rarebit developers Hampton Catlin and Michael Lintorn Catlin, married gay men who took Eich's Prop. 8 support personally. The same day Eich took over, they withdrew their Firefox OS app Color Puzzle from the Firefox Marketplace app store."
Shankland, though, made the attempt to paint Eich's departure as a result of his failure to manage.
"Eich, described as 'opinionated' and 'intense' by those who know him, had a strong technical track record," the CNET.com writer said. "But some within the organization lacked faith in his management credentials."
"Brendan's biggest flaw... was his inability to connect and empathize with people. I've seen and felt that over the years, finding Brendan brilliant, but distant," Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman wrote in a blog post after Eich resigned. "He is the perfect chief scientist," said another who's worked with Eich at Mozilla.
Eich's "people skills just weren't good enough to defuse the Prop. 8 issue," the writer claimed.
The lack of support for Eich was still startling because it was also known that he never forced his ideological views on anyone. Despite his views on traditional marriage, one employee said of the deposed CEO, "If you disagreed with that view you would still be welcome inside that organization."
In the end, though, political correctness was stronger than Eich's importance to the history of web development, his own tolerance of other's views, or his position at Mozilla.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.