The Conversation

Mozilla thoughtcrime, IRS corruption, and the devaluation of marriage

Just a couple of weeks into his tenure as CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich has been ousted by a mob of jackbooted same-sex marriage supporters, for the unforgivable crime of donating $1000 in 2008 to the Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban in California.  Eich co-founded Mozilla and created the indispensable Javascript programming language, but none of that counted for much against his long-ago financial support of traditional marriage.

We've had a few nasty culture clashes of late, but this one takes the cake.  Eich was quite literally persecuted for a thoughtcrime.  He didn't say something that the gay marriage crowd found offensive, as with the "Duck Dynasty" flap.  He didn't get involved with organizations that actively promoted traditional marriage, like the Chick-Fil-A guy.  By all accounts, he rarely discussed the issue in public, and never at work, citing Mozilla's policies against such social and political discussions in the office.  Another officer of the company said she had no idea he was a traditional marriage supporter until the media broke stories about his thousand-dollar donation in 2012.

And how did the media find out about it?  A post at First Things links the story to one of the most infamous cases of IRS corruption:

Why, then, the ruckus? Amazingly enough, it is entirely due to the fact that Eich made a $1,000 donation to the campaign urging a ‘yes’ vote on California’s Proposition 8. When this fact first came to light in 2012, after the Internal Revenue Service leaked a copy of the National Organization for Marriage’s 2008 tax return to a gay-advocacy group, Eich, who was then CTO of Mozilla, published a post on his personal blog stating that his donation was not motivated by any sort of animosity towards gays or lesbians, and challenging those who did not believe this to cite any “incident where I displayed hatred, or ever treated someone less than respectfully because of group affinity or individual identity.”

[See update below; I'm not sure how strong that link to the NOM case is.]  That'll teach Eich to make perfectly legal donations to causes with majority support that our banana-republic government and a gang of neo-fascists decide they don't like!  Part of the reason all those jackboots came thudding down on Eich's skull was to send a message to others who might dare to disagree with the mob.  Keep your opinions to yourself, and avoid engaging in democracy, if you know what's good for you.

This isn't just un-American, it's anti-American, the polar opposite of the values this nation was founded upon.  This is not supposed to be a place where people are terrified to exercise their rights of free speech and political support because it's more trouble than it's worth.  I notice nobody who donated money against Prop 8 seems in fear of their jobs; if someone was fired for that reason, the jackbooted mob would riot.  That's the definition of totalitarianism - principles shift, and rights are restricted, based entirely on allegiance to the dominant political ideology.  There are no absolute rights or wrongs - it all depends on your identity and group allegiance.  "Tolerance" means you can have all the free speech you want, provided you don't disagree.

This seems like odd behavior, given that we're constantly told gay marriage is inevitable now.  The people who hounded Brendan Eich out of his job don't appear terribly confident of their arguments or moral standing.  Remember how President Obama was yammering the other day that Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea because he's weak and frightened?  Organizing a lynch mob to go after someone because of a six-year-old donation is a sign of weakness.  You don't have to gang-muzzle the other side when you're winning a debate.

When the big push for gay marriage got under way, we were assured its proponents wanted it for the best of reasons.  They insisted they weren't motivated by bigotry toward religious people, or blind animosity against tradition.  They said it was silly to worry that redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would damage traditional marriage in any way.  

Boy, how the last couple of years have given the lie to those arguments!  The last skirmish in the marriage wars involved forcing people with objections of conscience to cater gay weddings, under threat of legal punishment.  The Brendan Eich fiasco is entirely about treating people who support traditional marriage as monsters and pariahs, even if their support is quiet, and they insist they harbor no ill will toward gay people.  Eich's persecutors write about him as though he were a barely-reformed skinhead, or a candidate for psychiatric care.  Some of them said they'd be willing to let him stay on as Mozilla CEO if he recanted his views in public and begged for absolution.  His insistence that he doesn't harbor ill will toward homosexuals is dismissed out of hand; liberal publications simply refer to individuals and groups skeptical of same-sex marriage as "anti-gay," period.  A political position is thus personalized until dissent in good faith is ruled impossible.

This kind of treatment inevitably devalues traditional marriage.  It's being treated as a heresy.  Support for it has been redefined as a sin, targeted by a perpetual Inquisition that can strike years after the "offense" was rendered.  

I have heard supporters of same-sex marriage argue that fading reverence for traditional marriage - rising divorce rates, young people who don't take the institution seriously - paved the way for their cause; why was anyone trying to defend marriage between men and women as special, when it hadn't been treated as anything terribly special by so much of the culture, in recent years?  It does seem as if much of the younger generation has concluded there's nothing valuable or unique enough in traditional marriage to justify hurting the feelings of gay couples by denying them a wedding.  

That calculation could change, if the younger generation does begin seeing the union of men and women as something special again.  Perhaps that's why same-sex marriage supporters are subjecting high-profile targets like Brendan Eich to scorched-earth treatment.  The only way to kill an idea is to frighten people out of considering it.

Update: I wonder if the First Things article linked above might have included a somewhat poorly written paragraph that implies a connection between Eich and the National Organization for Marriage IRS case; the author might have been establishing timing, rather than cause and effect.  I did a bit of online research and didn't see anything else connecting these two incidents.  Also, I recall reading something written by Eich in which he said California state laws required the disclosure of his name and employer when making the donation; the current controversy began when the L.A. Times wrote about the 2008 donation in 2012, but I got the impression they found it by reviewing public documents.  I'll leave the First Things paragraph quoted as it was written, but consider it asterisked pending further investigation.

Update: Incidentally, I'm not entirely on board with the notion of boycotting Mozilla products because they forced Eich out; I've grown weary of boycott wars.  I won't be uninstalling Firefox because I haven't even considered using it in years; I've been a happy Google Chrome user since the day I got my hands on a beta version.  I'm also not the biggest fan of Javascript, but there's no denying its importance, or the magnitude of Eich's achievement in creating it.


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