Saturday, April 05, 2014

Brendan Eich = Dalton Trumbo. Get it? (Plus: A plan of action!)

Many fools on the liberal side of the aisle have been offering some ill-advised critiques of Andrew Sullivan. As you will recall, Sullivan (a gay writer) voiced his outrage over the firing of Brendan Eich from Mozilla -- all because Eich, six years ago, donated $1000 to an anti-gay marriage initiative in California.

The entire argument against Sullivan comes down to three sentences from a piece of hate mail published on his blog. Sullivan's critic wrote the following about Eich:
He’s not going to prison; he just has to find a new job. For someone with his abilities, that should not be difficult. I just imagine it will be done more quietly this time.
The exact same words -- and I mean the exact same words -- could have been used to justify the blackballing of Dalton Trumbo and other victims of the Hollywood witch hunts of the 1950s. Trumbo didn't have to go to prison; he just had to find a new job. No prob, right?

As Sullivan says:
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? It’s staggering to me that a minority long persecuted for holding unpopular views can now turn around and persecute others for the exact same reason.
This is why I'm so infuriated by the kind of foolishness we have heard from such liberal stalwarts as BooMan:
Are we protected under the First Amendment from people (not Congress) voicing their displeasure? Are we protected from people demanding that we be fired? Are we protected against people boycotting our company?

Not under the First Amendment, we're not.
Again, the exact same argument was used when Hollywood studio moguls capitulated to the redbaiters and fired all creatives who had donated to socialist or quasi-socialist organizations. Of course, those donations had occurred years earlier, in a different political environment -- but such considerations simply don't matter when you've got a good witch hunt going on.

Can someone like BooMan mount a pro-Mozilla argument that cannot also be used to justify the firing of Dalton Trumbo? No. The circle is unsquarable. Such an argument simply cannot be made.

Look, I didn't vote in favor of Prop 8. In fact, I got a little sick to my stomach every time I saw a "Prop 8" sign on someone's front lawn. But it is insane to treat those who favored Prop 8 as if they are war criminals or serial killers. The measure passed. It probably would not pass now -- public opinion has shifted -- but we cannot argue that the majority of Californians deserve to be kicked out of any desirable jobs they might happen to hold simply because they once favored a ban on gay marriage.

(I can imagine a gay spokesperson offering a very amusing argument along those lines: "But...I'm not saying that 52% of Californians should go to jail. They just have to find new jobs!")

In that year, 2008, neither presidential candidate favored gay marriage. The same was true in 2004 and all previous years. Should we hound from office both Barack Obama and John McCain (on that basis, and that basis alone)?

Such is the ludicrous logic being offered by those who have lambasted Andrew Sullivan.

As for the First Amendment argument -- well, here's a thought experiment: If a black family moves into a predominantly white neighborhood, the white neighbors have a First Amendment right to stand on the sidewalk outside that home and shout racist insults. That's free speech. It's protected. But is it right? Is it decent? Is it thinkable? Is it in any sense socially permissible?

Young bullies have a First Amendment right to make the lives of your kids miserable by taunting them as they walk home from school each day. That kind of mindless mob behavior may be legal -- but is it right?

Suppose there is an effort to remove a CEO simply because he is gay. ("Hey, the guy's not going to prison; he just has to find a new job.") Wouldn't that effort be protected by the First Amendment?

Weren't the professional red-baiters of the 1950s simply exercising their rights to free speech? Wasn't Ann Coulter within her free speech rights when she issued her infamous and odious call for liberals to be "physically intimidated"?

Indeed she was. But the law is not everything. Our society will fall apart if we justify every abominable action with the words: "Yeah, but that action was technically legal." It used to be understood widely that civilization depends on the majority of citizens observing rules of behavior that can never be legislated.

A gay reader (well, presumably gay, and presumably now a former reader) sent in the following hysterical response to my own post:
It's abundantly clear to me, having been a long-time reader of this blog, despite promises to leave it after some very ridiculous posts, this one included, that Joseph pretty much hates (or fatally misunderstands) anyone who is not gender-normative AND hetero-normative.
Actually, I recommend dating women with bisexual experience. They don't get all insecure and judgmental when a guy makes a lascivious remark about an actress' cleavage. Hell, they make the same remarks. It's great!
Exterminate homosexuals and all non-heterosexuals, go ahead. It's the only way you will shut the fuck up about folks you know nothing about.
Yes, you read that correctly. This hyper-emotional ninny actually thinks that a writer who voted against Prop 8 nevertheless wants to kill all gays. If you're a narcissist, be sure to work up a good persecution complex. I'm sure it feels yummy.

My response:
"Exterminate"...? Are you fucking KIDDING me?

Sure. Right. And anyone who dares to criticize Israel must be an anti-Semite who wants to kill all Jews. And anyone who voted against Barack Obama in 2008 must be a racist who wants to kill all blacks.

Folks, the time for that kind of manipulative horseshit is PAST. We just ain't gonna fall for it any more.

The plan of action. I think we should make Mozilla pay by dumping their flagship product. In fact, I am on record as saying before Eich's firing that we should consider moving on to other browsers -- and I say that as someone who was a fan of Firefox for years.

Forget the Prop 8 business for a moment. Eich, I have learned, was a desktop guy. Some members of the board were angry at his elevation because they wanted Mozilla to concentrate on mobile development.

For too long (I argued), Mozilla has devalued desktop users like me. The company refused to fix some massive glitches which have, during the past year or two, rendered Firefox nearly unusable on traditional computers. To repeat my earlier words:
For example, if you have two browser windows loaded up, the window you don't want to look at will often scoot in front of the one you do want to look at -- for no reason. Worst of all are the high-CPU flare-ups, which have become intractable and frequent. Forget multitasking, even on a reasonably powerful system.
Also, Firefox is no longer fully compatible with Flash; see here. (I've simply gotten used to calling up another browser when playing a non-YouTube video.)

The answer -- well, one answer -- is clear: Pale Moon. It's basically the familiar Firefox browser with better code, allowing you to keep your favorite add-ons and cosmetic improvements.

If you like the way Firefox used to be, reach for the Moon. And if you want to teach Mozilla a lesson, make use of your First Amendment right to contact the company. Tell 'em you made the switch because you didn't like what they did to Eich.

Even if you support what happened to Eich -- after all, he didn't go to jail; he just has to find a new job! -- consider going Pale. As they say: It just works.
A functional democracy depends upon letting the other side speak. But Prop 8 was especially offensive since it was essentially written and funded by the Mormon Church. This crossed the line in regards to separation of church and state. A great wedge issue though. They've gotten a lot of mileage out of it.

I'd blamed the unwanted switching of active windows, PDF issues, Flash issues, and endless repeated crashes upon my using an old computer. Now I know better.
I have long been a proponent against the thought police. Not being able to use words like "retard," "Oriental," or even "nigger," make censorship all the more possible. However, holding people up to a standard of decency is not exactly the same thing. I am a huge supporter of gay marriage who see this as a civil rights struggle. If a CEO was Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan would he keep his job over the protest? Of course not. If a CEO was a member of NAMBLA, he wouldn't make it to the door before someone would punch him. The is a dig difference between being a Communist or a Muslim or some other belief system that differs from your own and believing in something fundamentally awful and being shunned for it. I would like to see more of this in society too because the only way to get some people to change their ways is, as Plato put it, drag them kicking and screaming into the light of reason. The Tea Party is a blight on society whose proponents are advocating a compete fascist society. Shouldn't those fuckers be shunned too? Isn't that the only way to get some to see that what they are doing is very, very wrong? Gay people are people PERIOD and deserve the same rights as anyone else. It's called being on the wrong side of history as Southerners found out after the Civil Rights movement in the 60's when they tried to keep their bigoted ways and lost. The same is happening now. This is some people's past catching up with them and realizing actions have consequences. Had this guy come forward and apologized and said he was wrong, supported gay marriage now and donated a hefty sum to a pro-gay group, he'd still have a job. I agree that many are WAY too sensitive about race, religion and whatnot but gay rights have been for too long been a punching bag for the right and people are fighting back which is what happens when such things occur. We need more tolerance, not less and until that happens, gay people are going to be a lot LESS tolerant until the others side is as well. Such is life.

He gave money to LIBERTARIANS! You may now proceed with the lynching, Cannon. Unleash hell!
Whew, I'm glad to know it wasn't just me having a hard time with Firefox. Thanks for the Pale Moon recommendation...and I'll certainly shoot Mozilla a letter about the political firing.

And, yes, CBarr, the Mormon Church should pay for their interference, big time.

Thanks, also, Joseph, for trying to explain principles to our so-called "reality-based" community.
Stephen, Stephen...if the Pando guys can't make my knee jerk in that particular direction, don't presume that YOU can do the trick!

That said, most libertarians were rather good on things like Prop 8. So we are not in the clearest of landscapes here.
Well, gee, try being a school teacher in any non-union environment-- the only job where the law and public opinion holds that firing a school teacher over a rumor, not a fact, is perfectly fine.
prowlerzee, I think the Mormon Church has suffered serious blow-back for their actions. A significant number of young Mormons had their eyes opened with the shenanigans behind Prop 8 and decided to pack up and leave the church behind in the 19th century.
"Tell 'em you made the switch because you didn't like what they did to Eich." You might want to add that Eich's politics are offensive, but you wouldn't wish what they did upon anybody.

Bob Harrison; Even at a local high school here in California, which would be unionized, a pair of vindictive manipulative students have managed to force out two teachers. The deck is stacked if administration doesn't have your back.
So, Joseph, why do you suppose that growing, steaming pile of Firefox glitches (I've sure been bedeviled by some of them) has been allowed to linger and expand for such a long time?

Could there be moles in the Firefox hierarchy who are actually undermining their venerable browser at the (secret) behest of Redmond's Evil Empire?
NAMBLA advocate raping children. The KKK lynched people. Npt letting gays marry isn't anywhere near the same thing.
Teachers can be easily forced out in public schools. They don't have "tenure" but only the same right to a sham hearing as other public employees. It's been misnamed "tenure" by some state statutes and by privatizers who use it to deliberately conflate what K-12 teachers have with what professors in both public and private colleges and universities have. K-12 teachers don't have lifetime jobs and are extremely vulnerable to being sacked or run out of their jobs by lousy administrators, who in turn are backed to the hilt by the school districts. I know this from personal experience.

"Due process" exists for public employees because public employment is considered a property right, and government employers cannot deny them that right to property without due process. "Tenure" in post-secondary teaching goes hand in hand with the concept of "academic freedom," which once again K-12 teachers don't have.

Excellent post on tolerance! And on the implications of the issue.

I don't agree with Eich's views in 2008. But he shouldn't lose his job over it, anymore than someone at WalMart should be fired -- errr, pressured to resign -- for donating to a measure to raise taxes on the filthy rich.

--NW Luna
There is a law in Indiana for public employees called at will which basically says they serve at the pleasure of their employer he can fire demote or punish them at will no questions asked
I've not had any of the problems with Firefox you mention here. No crashes, no CPU issues, no tab issues. I don't have a high end computer, either (not a home computer I built myself about 2 years is more high end, but still not more than average for such things). I keep Firefox open all the time, with 8-10 tabs open, and several other applications running at the same time. No noticeable slowness or inordinately heavy CPU usage. Never had a problem with Flash in Firefox either.

Still, I like the idea behind Pando, so I'll probably try it out.

As to the main topic, I think I pretty much made myself clear with my post on the first post you made about this......but basically, I hate thought police. However, it's up to individual companies to make firing decisions. If they thought he was a liability for whatever reason, then they can fire him. End of story, even if I don't agree with the reason being an ideological one.
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