On the appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla
Of course Brendan Eich has always been part of Mozilla’s DNA. He has done good. Several Mozilla employees, including people I count as close friends and trust and respect, have enthusiastically supported his appointment. Mitchell Baker has said that “If we start to try to make ‘Mozilla’ mean ‘those people who share not only the Mozilla mission but also my general political / social / religious / environmental view’ we will fail” and Christie Koehler, Mozilla Education Lead, has written that she’s always felt respected at Mozilla, pointing out that they have same-sex benefits and trans-inclusive healthcare.
That’s great. Of course I want diversity — an echo chamber serves no one. Of course those benefits rock (and apparently Mr Eich has reiterated his support for them). But Mozilla is more than a company with employees. As Ms Koehler points out, it is a very unique organization in that it operates in a strange hybrid space between tech company and non-profit. It has employees, but also a lot of Mozillans — volunteers who support its mission and values.
I am a Mozillan. Along with thousands of others, I take time from paid work, evenings, and weekends to advance the cause of the open web. This isn’t just because I care about tech. As Ursula Franklin and many others have pointed out, there are values embedded into the decisions that make up technologies. So the open web is intimately tied to an open society. And that means a society that treats all of its citizens equally.
Diverse views and opinions are crucial to an open society. But there are lines between open and closed: human rights is one of those lines. The framing of this as “diversity” is disconcerting. In my mind, supporting Proposition 8 is the same as supporting efforts to overturn Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Gay marriage, like interracial marriage, is a human rights issue. It affects more than just benefits, extending to medical decisions, adoption, and immigration. Human rights are more fundamental than politics — going way beyond issues like fiscal or foreign policy.
I have not decided what I am going to do. And I don’t know what Åke will do. I would like to understand Mr Eich’s reasoning and context. He won’t discuss it online, which is understandable given some people’s inability to engage in civil discourse. And because I’m one degree from Mr Eich through people I hold dear I do feel some empathy for him. So all of this leaves me saddened and conflicted.
Looking at the many Mozilla stickers on my computer, I can’t help but to feel they are now imbued with a different meaning.