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The Case of Brendan Eich


James Taranto believes that the briefly tenured CEO of Firefox has an unspecified right to continue to be a CEO, and that political donations should remain private:

But California’s disclosure law turns out to have been a grievous violation of Eich’s rights and the rights of others.

Prominent intarwebs hack Glenn Reynolds, whose interest in gay and lesbian rights begins and ends with opportunities to play various forms of poetic-justice-as-fairness with liberals, inevitably invokes fascism:

GLEICHSCHALTUNG! Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich forced to resign for supporting traditional marriage laws. To be clear, for holding, in 2009, the view of gay marriage that Barack Obama held, instead of the view that Dick Cheney held.

As someone who was publicly supporting gay marriage even before Dick Cheney, I find this degree of bullying and blacklisting repellent. I’m beginning to think that the only thing the left found wrong with the 1950s blacklists was that they were aimed at . . . the left.

Let’s try apply some actual thought to this question:

  • As an aside, Eich didn’t hold the “same view” of gay marriage that Barack Obama did in 2009.  Obama opposed Prop 8 at the time, and also supported constitutional efforts to have it overturned.  Dick Cheney, conversely, refused to oppose the George W. Bush-supported Federal Marriage Amendment, although he was willing to be open about his Miss America conservatism when it was no longer politically consequential.
  • The rather obvious difference between Eich resigning and the blacklist of the 50s is that the blacklist was generally directed at ordinary employees, not top-decision makers.  If an ordinary employee was fired for supporting Prop 8, I would actually be inclined to agree with Taranto and Reynolds.   But a CEO, or anyone else who publicly represents an organization and has discretion over employment decisions — that’s a different question.  A single past donation to an anti-LBGT cause is not necessarily disqualifying in itself, but it’s fair to ask questions about whether someone’s bias on these questions might affect their decisions or reflect badly on the company.
  • The fact that has was CEO is relevant for another reason as well: he wasn’t fired, he resigned.  Nobody was in the position to “demand”  that he do anything.   He decided that he didn’t want to say and defend his various odious reactionary political views as head of a progressive non-profit rather than make his commitment to equality clear.   This isn’t much of a “blacklist.”
  • I must have missed Reynolds, Taranto et al. foaming at the mouth over, say World Vision pledging to maintain a refusal to hire employees in same-sex relationships after facing pressure from evangelical groups far more intense than anything Mozilla faced.  Again, if you actually cared about outside pressure restricting the free speech rights of employees, this is a much more pressing concern.  But obviously Reynolds and Taranto don’t care in the slightest about the pressure faced by ordinary employees; they care about saying nyah-nyah to liberals.

…As runsinbackground (following up on ChrisTS) notes in comments about the specious comparison to the 50s blacklist: “in this retelling there’s no McCarthy, and no HUAC either, unless you want to count a popular free dating website.”  Another commenter notes this from Josh Marshall, which is indeed excellent on the crucial difference between a CEO and an ordinary employee.


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