“Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid. Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”
–—Dating website OkCupid, calling for a boycott of Mozilla, including Firefox, its webserving software, because of the past political/social/religious views of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich
Full disclosure: 1) I use Firefox. 2) I detest boycotts,and 3) I am biased against them by nature, because they are almost always coercive, extortive, and unfair.
This statement, however, has more wrong with it than just its advocacy of a boycott.
The complaint is based on the fact that Eich gave $1000 to the effort promoting California’s Prop 8, the ballot initiative that banned gay marriage and was eventually ruled unconstitutional. That was six years ago, in 2008. Many, many Americans have changed their opinions about gay marriage in the last six years. “But Mr. Eich’s boilerplate statements in the time since make it seem like he has the same views now as he did then,” the OkCupid call for a boycott says. Make it seem? Economic boycotts aren’t trivial; if a group is going to call for one, it better make certain that its alleged justification is verified and valid.
Then there is this: “If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal.”
That’s misleading and untrue. Gay relationships are not illegal, and nobody is going to be prosecuted for being a gay couple united in a religious ceremony. The fact that gay marriage is not recognized by the laws of some states does not make it “illegal.” There is no law in California that says it is unlawful for gays to marry. If you are going to call for a boycott affecting the livelihood of others, you should have your facts straight, and should not mislead those you are trying to recruit into your ethically dubious project. Whatever his current beliefs are, I guarantee that Eich does not advocate making gay relationships illegal.
The liberal camp needs to have a little meeting and coordinate its positions. The Hobby Lobby challenge to the contraceptive mandate, currently before the Supreme Court,asserts that the owners of corporations dictate the corporation’s religious views. The opposition to this argument claims that only individuals, not organizations, have protected religious views, unless they are religious organizations. Firefox and Mozilla don’t have any views on gay rights at all, and can’t be presumed to have because one officer gave $1000 to support a ballot initiative six years ago. Punishing the company to hurt the CEO (who is not even the owner of the company, in Mozilla’s case) is exactly the kind of wanton shotgun justice that makes most boycotts ethically offensive. Innocent employees and their families get hurt. It is a form of extortion: “See things our way, or…hey, it’s a pretty nice company you have here! Be a shame if something were to happen to it…”
Is the objective to squeeze Eich out of his job? This is also unethical. Americans should be able to disagree publicly about policy and legislation, as well as participate in the electoral process, without adversaries trying to hurt them in unrelated spheres like their personal lives, jobs and business. The pro-gay marriage advocates have been particularly fond of these bullying tactics, despite giving lip service to tolerance when it benefits them. Will it advocate punishing citizens for their votes next? Tolerance extends to political speech.
For OKCupid to seek to boycott a company and harm its employees because its CEO contributed a lousy thousand bucks six years ago to support a law that is already defunct is many things, all of them reprehensible: petty, mean, vindictive, irresponsible, intolerant, un-American, and dumb.
If I had to choose which company most deserved boycotting, OkCupid would be the easy choice.
Pointer: Fred (thanks, and we miss you…)