In the latest dispatch from the Error Has No Rights front, Guardian columnist Matt Andrews says that new Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich should not be running the company because six years ago, he gave $1,000 to the Prop 8 campaign against same-sex marriage. That is, because he sided with a voting majority of Californians, and with the majority of the American people back then. Andrews says:
An organisation should not be treated as a single homogeneous hivemind, with all employees sharing the same viewpoints. Diversity of belief and opinion is an important asset to a modern, innovative company. But issues of equality are more than just matters of conscience. These are the things that define us, our attitudes and our actions.
Eich’s stance is unlikely to change. But by placing him in this leadership role, Mozilla ignores the unspoken message its silence implies: that it will turn a blind eye to a leader’s presumed desire to shut down, invalidate and remove a whole subgroup’s rights.
Nobody should have to to police their thoughts and tow the company line in their personal life. But to pretend that the opinions and actions of the CEO of a global organisation are independent of the way that company is perceived and the way its values are lived is to ignore an ugly truth. How can a company striving for openness appoint someone paying to oppose it?
The web community could live with Brendan Eich’s opinion that same-sex marriage is wrong – that is his right to believe. But it can’t live with his funding of this campaign which runs counter to what the web aims to address: that the internet affords us the opportunity to redress inequalities and barriers.
What specious nonsense. Eich has gone out of his way to assure his employees that he’s committed to the company’s policies regarding LGBT employees. This is not about punishing him for things he’s done in the office, because there is no evidence that he has done anything objectionable to LGBTs, but by punishing him for privately expressed political speech six years ago. Are we going to go back and scour records of corporate executives’ donations to political campaigns and causes in the past, and demand that they quit their job if they took what we regard as the wrong side of an issue?
How far down the corporate ladder does this go? Shall we start examining public records to see how middle managers, and employees lower than that, donated, and make their jobs contingent on them having not backed the wrong horse? How would Matt Andrews and his crew feel if a pro-gay rights Mozilla CEO began combing through the political donation records of all company employees, and sending pink slips to any employee who donated to Prop 8? I have no doubt that many of these progressive employees would be thrilled to have their workplace purged of thought criminals. But how would they feel if Brandon Eich, as CEO, with the backing of th board, used the same inquisitorial tactics against them that they’re using against him: seeing if their name turned up on anti-Prop 8 campaign donor lists, then pushing them out the door?
And as long as we’re going to live by this principle, I suppose the gay rights Puritans would have no problem with the employees of a company who, upon discovering that their CEO had privately given $1,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, demanding his resignation. Me, I would have a big problem with that. There are exceptions, of course, but as a general rule, as long as the CEO upheld the company’s policies in the workplace, what he does with his own money on his own time is no concern of mine or anybody else’s. It has to be, if a meaningful zone of privacy is going to be established and protected. We should be extremely reluctant to impose political correctness tests on employees or managers, because there is, in principle, no limit to where this stops.
If the gay-rights McCarthyites prevail against Eich, they will have established this question as an unspoken part of the job interview process: Are you now or have you ever been against same-sex marriage? And they will have created a blacklist. Only those without a record, and who are willing to lie about what they believe, will be able to get jobs. Why should they stop here? Why not ask, “Miss Smith, you have been seen regularly coming out of St. Brendan’s Catholic Church on Sundays. The priest at that parish has been criticized for his homophobic sermons. Care to explain why your affiliation with that homophobic organization does not pose a threat to the well-being of our LGBT employees?”
What we have here is a witch-hunt without religion. Joseph Bottum diagnoses the social pathology well in his new book An Anxious Age. Excerpt:
We live in what can only be called a spiritual age, swayed by its metaphysical fears and hungers, when we imagine that our ordinary political opponents are not merely mistaken but actually evil. When we assume that past ages, and the people who lived in them, are defined by the systematic crimes of history. When we suppose that some vast ethical miasma — racism, radicalism, cultural self-hatred, selfish blindness — determines the beliefs of classes other than our own. When we can make no rhetorical distinction between absolute wickedness and the people with whom we disagree: The Republican Congress is the Taliban! President Obama is a Communist! Wisconsin’s governor is a Nazi!
We live in a spiritual age, in other words, when we believe ourselves surrounded by social beings of occult and mystic power. When we live with titanic cultural forces contending across the sky, and our moral sense of ourselves — of whether or not we are good people, of whether or not we are saved — takes its cues primarily from our relation to those forces. We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When he we vote is how our souls are saved.
What you must understand is that Brendan Eich is a witch. We must not suffer a witch to serve as CEO, because he will poison the water. This is the world the enlightened progressives are creating for us. They will drive all of us guilty of crimethought out of public life if they can, purifying the world to make it safe for what they call, without a sliver of irony, diversity.