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Hypocrisy At Mozilla

April 30, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

There are times when it is worth listening to the left-wing members of the panels on the talk shows. And not just because it helps us to know what the other side is thinking. It can also shake us out of our comfort zone by forcing us to deal with a line of reasoning we might not have considered otherwise. Left-wingers are many things, but it a mistake to assume them stupid or not well read.
A recent example was a discussion of the campaign to force the resignation of Brendan Eich, the CEO of the web browser company Mozilla, by a group of employees angered by his $1,000 contribution in 2008 to support Proposition 8 in California. This was the ballot measure that would have amended California’s constitution to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. It passed with more than 52 percent of the vote in the state. Which is not surprising. At the time, even presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were on the record in opposition to same-sex marriage.
The knee-jerk reaction from conservatives has been to accuse the liberals at Mozilla of hypocrisy, of an un-American disregard for freedom of opinion, even of a “fascist” attitude. Pat Buchanan charged Mozilla with participating in a “new blacklist.” I suggest we think this out a bit more.
On the show in question (I think it was on MSNBC, but I can’t remember for sure) a supporter of Mozilla’s decision asked a question that left the conservatives on the panel flummoxed. I would say for good reason. He asked, “Would you be willing to keep a Holocaust denier on the staff of your company?” We could add to that list. If you owned a Catholic religious goods company, would you be willing to keep a member of NAMBLA, a neo-Nazi, a member of the Black Panther Party, a radical pro-abortion feminist, or an outspoken supporter of the views of the atheist Richard Dawkins on the sales staff? The question answers itself. No one would.
Rich Lowry, writing in the online edition of National Review, conceded this point. He wrote, “Liberal defenders of Mozilla say it is the company’s right to fire its CEO. No one disputes that. An act can be legal and still foolish and blameworthy.” My point goes beyond that. I say it is often neither foolish nor blameworthy to remove an employee who represents ideas or beliefs at odds with our company’s public image.
Am I saying the group at Mozilla was correct to remove Eich? No. They were hypocrites. I would bet the ranch that the people leading the charge against Eich are secular liberals who have spent their lives arguing for the free expression of ideas and “diversity.” I agree with Rich Lowry, who wrote, “It turns out that when the left inveighed against ‘imposing morality,’ what it meant is that it didn’t yet have the power to impose its own; that when they told us ‘about the need to fight authority and to resist conformity,’ they were merely waiting for the moment to wield the former to impose the latter”; that the “Mozilla episode is another indication that the regime of political correctness that characterizes academia is infecting the American mainstream.”
All true.
Then how do we draw these lines? What kind of ideas are beyond the pale? Those that are. There is no reason to be agnostic on this matter. The answer is that not all ideas and beliefs are morally equivalent.
Mozilla was hypocritical for firing a man who supported a belief that is held by sizable majority of Americans, a belief that is still very much part of the debate in the public square in this country, one that large numbers of Americans consider to be righteous and supportive of a virtuous society — a consensus belief of the Christian West. Those in charge of Mozilla were engaging in an act of cultural imperialism against the great mass of their fellow citizens in the name of a trendy left-wing novelty of our time. At the risk of beating this to death: Firing someone for wearing a Yankee hat to work is not the same as firing him for wearing one of those T-shirts with the smiling face of Charles Manson.
There is no moral equivalence between a belief in traditional marriage and Holocaust “deniers.” Only someone deliberately seeking to muddy the waters to gain an edge in the culture wars, or a man or woman so caught up in ideological enthusiasms on this issue of same-sex marriage, would fail to see the distinction. Or someone mired in the worst — and most simple-minded — form of moral relativism.
There is another angle to consider: the nature of the company contemplating the firing of an “unsuitable” employee. There are distinctions to be made in this regard. I am confident that few of us would look into the political and religious beliefs of the people who work in the kitchen of a restaurant we operated; or the mechanics we hired to fix a fleet of taxis we owned. We would view these matters as the employees’ private beliefs. As long as they did their job it would be no issue.
In the example I used above, however — a salesman for a religious goods company — it would be a different matter. He would be the face of our company, someone who talked regularly to our customers, someone whose ideological leanings would become known. If his political and cultural beliefs become an issue, they become an issue. We would be entitled to terminate him.
That was not the case with Brendan Eich. What Mozilla did was to fire an employee whose personal beliefs were unknown, before someone dredged them up with an Internet search. Eich was not making an issue of his beliefs. I have heard no one charge that he was proselytizing on the job. He was fired for what he thought; because his personal beliefs rubbed certain members of the company the wrong way.
That is Orwellian.

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