What to do about Mozilla and Brendan Eich?

Brendan Eich was recently named CEO of Mozilla Foundation, which has met with some controversy, as he is a Prop. H8 donor. As a matter of principle, I think personal opinions should never be a barrier to anyone’s career advancement. In the actual world we actually live in, people do sometimes get punished in the workplace for their opinions, such as the sales rep who was fired for having an Air America bumper sticker. Likewise there are God’s plenty of small and medium sized businesses who wear their founders’ and/or owners’ faith on their shirt sleeves. John’s Lumber in suburban Detroit, for example, has as part of their hours of operation sign the statement “Closed on Sundays so our employees may go to church and spend time with their families.” Then there are numerous examples of businesses that have been used by their (usually) conservative owners as soap boxes, from Hobby Lobby to Papa John’s to Whole Foods and many more. Now I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be treated unfairly by a Christian-identified business such as John’s Lumber, but if I were an employee, I would definitely check my opinions at the door, as I do in any employment situation. I want to believe that’s the situation Brendan Eich finds himself in at Mozilla—that not only does Brendan Eich not speak for Mozilla, but perhaps finds Mozilla to be a space somewhat hostile to some causes he’s known to support. Rank has its privileges and, as shown in numerous examples above, CEO’s don’t always check their opinions at the door. Front-line worker don’t necessarily do so, but of course they’re under far more pressure to do so. I hate it when employers will use every excuse imaginable not to hire some tattooed or pierced person or some longhair, on the grounds that employees are a reflection on their employers. I want to live in a world in which it’s widely and clearly understood that employees ARE NOT a reflection on their employers, and that their own time is NOT company time, etc. Naturally, NOT boycotting Mozilla is the course of action consistent with this viewpoint. There’s still a part of me, though, that’s somewhat tribal in its affiliations, that sees any number of businesses being used as showcases of Biblical values or some other conservative cause, and wants there to be at least a few places with a payroll that push the other direction. It would be the icing on the cake if a few of these were places in which people might feel just a little intimidated about being out of the closet on something like support for something as contemptible as Prop. H8.

My own involvement in the Mozilla community has been at the periphery. I was an unpaid volunteer AMO (addons.mozilla.org) editor, which is to say, screener of Firefox add-ons on the lookout for any code which might betray Firefox users in some way. I’ve decided to take a hiatus from that activity. I developed three add-ons for Firefox, which I temporarily “disabled” (a loaded word in this context, to be sure) at addons.mozilla.org. Since philosophically, I can’t make a clear case for an all-out boycott, I’m thinking of it as an expression of disappointment than of rejection of an organization.

Will I re-join the Mozilla community, as an editor, a developer and a Firefox user. By the way, the text you are reading was posted using Midori, an obscure, minimalist, webkit-based open-source web browser which I love, but which admittedly crashes quite frequently on my system. So there’s a sacrifice right there: If I don’t use Firefox, I will use either an unstable browser or a closed-source browser. If I take my Firefox add-ons out of circulation, that’s probably more than 50% of my code portfolio. It’s hard to estimate the opportunity cost of something like that. If we assume that the probability of someone my age breaking into programming from the outside is zero anyway, then the opportunity cost would of course be zero. Open source software is a source of income for some and a labor of love for a much larger number, but even being in that larger number is a privilege rather than a right. So far I’ve found some amount of that privilege in activities pertaining to Firefox, so there’s the question of whether throwing that away is worthwhile as a way to make a statement. But of course there’s also the question of whether my relatively soft position on Mozilla’s decision is due to needing Mozilla more than Mozilla needs me. Too many questions all around. For example, I was really looking forward to participating in the Add-ons for Australis Contest. I have something I think is actually interesting and significant in the kitchen. I’m torn. I guess I have until April 15 to decide on that, although of course I won’t finish what I’m doing at all if I #UninstallFirefox

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One Response to What to do about Mozilla and Brendan Eich?

  1. n8chz says:

    I guess what I was trying to say was what TheGratefulNet says at Slashdot:

    tit for tat, I say.

    more and more, companies are invading your home life and privacy. you want this job, here, piss in a bottle since you are guilty unless you prove otherwise.

    what a person may choose to do at home while off-work is their business. right? well, companies don’t seem to think so. they want to invade your lifestyle choices and penalize you for it.

    well, same here! we have every right to inspect the CEO’s personality and character and if its not ‘in line’ with our core beliefs, sure, send him packing!

    when companies stop invading our home life styles, we will stop asking the c-levels about theirs.

    fair is fair.

    Is it fair? Fair would be if businesses were business and people were people and these were regarded as entirely separate classes of existence. People could have opinions of their own and businesses would be judged on their merits and not the opinions of their leaders. In the world we actually live in, perhaps mobbing the prominent for contributions to campaigns against fairness is fair. I must say, though, three days on Chromium, it bernz!

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