I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

“Political Views”

My thoughts on the anti-gay-marriage Mozilla CEO controversy got mostly positive responses in agreement. All others had the same argument: that Brendan Eich should not have lost his job because of his “political views” or “free speech”.

Even Andrew Sullivan took issue with the controversy:

If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

His right to free speech entitles him to express any opinion he pleases.1 But it does not shield him from the personal and professional repercussions of what he says.

Our right to free speech entitles us to be vocally outraged, to encourage others to boycott Firefox,2 or to call for his firing. What Mozilla pressures or forces him to do as a result is solely their decision and their problem, and has nothing to do with anyone’s free speech — it’s a business decision.

So let’s knock that argument right out. This is not a free speech issue, period, and it’s incorrect, misleading, and naive to attempt to make it one. Such distortions are the fastest way to pervert and derail an argument, as we often see from our politicians, and I expect better from intelligent people like Andrew Sullivan.

Let’s move on to “political views”.

Suppose, rather than fund an anti-gay-marriage bill, Eich had instead funded a fringe bill that prohibited black people from getting married. Or suppose he said during a press conference that he believed women shouldn’t have the right to vote.

Would it be reasonable for the public to be outraged and call for his firing then?

Assuming your answer is yes (I don’t think I can really help you if it’s not), why is that different from funding an anti-gay-marriage bill?

Opponents of gay marriage (and other equal rights and anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people) consider their opposition a valid “political view”, appealing to the already completely wrong and extremely destructive idea that all opinions on an issue are equally valid and deserve equal time and representation in media and public discourse.

“Beliefs” and “views” deserve no inherent protection, validity, or value to the rest of society simply because they’re political or religious. They’re just opinions, and just as many opinions are worth considering and discussing, many others are offensive, crazy, ignorant, or bigoted.

A hundred years ago, saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote was a “political view”. Now, that would be a ridiculous and highly offensive opinion regardless of what any religion or political party said on the topic. Most discriminating “political views” of this sort eventually become widely recognized as unacceptable, barbaric bigotry with no place in civilized society — it’s just a matter of time.

As much as gay-rights opponents would like to believe otherwise, that time has come for their “political views”.

  1. Unless they caused him to do something that is illegal, such as hiring discrimination. (There are many more exceptions and limitations to “free speech” that actual lawyers can tell you about.) ↩︎

  2. Much of the world was actually doing a pretty good job of inadvertently boycotting Firefox before this controversy. ↩︎