Today I have the opportunity to present on an international stage. It's a hugely exciting time for me, not just for the international speaking opportunity, but because it's my first ever trip to South America.
Until he stepped down about a week later.
A Frightening Idea
Among other things, I studied political science in college. I enjoyed learning about the forces that make the world turn and studying the underlying theories about those forces.
In one class, we studied the theories upon which democracy is built - that individual votes should all count and how a contrarian political system is vital to prevent the "tyranny of the majority."
One theory, though, scared me to death. It was the antithesis of a contrarian political system - when you lose a vote, it means you didn't just have a difference of opinion, you were wrong and needed to change your stance to conform to the majority.
Imagine what America would be like if this was the way of the world. If you had to change parties at the end of an electoral season because your candidate lost. If views and principles you vehemently defended before casting a ballot were effectively made illegal in the wake of an election.
He is also a passionate opponent of same sex marriage, having put his money where his mouth is by donating money to California's Proposition 8 campaign in 2008. Oddly, a position supported by the majority of Californians at the time (though Proposition 8 passed at the time, it was later struck down by a Federal court).
Neither of those are going to happen now. He's stepped down from his position and been removed from the speaker lineup (Mozilla is still a sponsor).
The Internet is full of Trolls
I am utterly disgusted by how this all came about.
Was Mr Eich wrong in his support of Proposition 8? Yes. Is he wrong to continue to support such a position? I still say yes.
Does this mean he's unqualified to lead a public organization such as Mozilla? The Internet almost unanimously said yes.
The Internet decried Eich's promotion, with some service providers going so far as to block access to their services from customers using Mozilla's flagship browser, Firefox.[ref]I'm actually surprised this act by companies like OKCupid was embraced by the same community still ranting about Netflix/Comcast's breach of "net neutrality." Forcing your political views on customers by refusing to accept their choice in a browser vendor is by definition not-neutral.[/ref] Some of Mozilla's directors even resigned over the appointment, and Eich himself stepped down to quell the controversy so everyone involved could just move on.
The arguments I've seen most are that his financial backing of Proposition 8 meant he's refuse to value or respect any of his co-workers or reports who identify as homosexual. Arguments that he's a bigot who shouldn't represent a company with a mission of "embracing diversity."
Frankly, refusing to engage Eich on his beliefs - and discounting him as CEO material because of them - is just as bigoted as he was accused of being.
Bigotry is Never OK
Proposition 8 was a horrendous, bigoted law made OK in the eyes of the public (though thankfully not the courts) because it was supported by the majority of California voters.
Eich's Internet bashing was a horrendous, bigoted event made OK in the eyes of the public because it was supported by the majority of large players online.
"Made OK in the eyes of the public" does not mean that either was actually OK. In fact, both are heinous violations of any semblance of free discourse, diversity, or the equality of ideas we've ever claimed to have.
Mozilla's public statement in the wake of the controversy is a good summation:
Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.
Fighting for equality and free speech means that, sometimes, someone will say something you don't like - either with their words or their political contributions. Writing them off as a potential employee, supervisor, service provider, or customer is, in fact, saying their views are wrong because they disagree with you - further refusing to engage them on the topic is removing from them any equality they had with you in the conversation.
I will, to my dying day, fight for your right to think - and tell others you think - my opinions are wrong. Would you do the same for me? Did you do the same for Brendan Eich?