The Stale Catnip of Contemptsmanship

by John Holbo on April 12, 2014

I have resisted writing about the Brendan Eich Mozilla affair. Literally. The ‘resisted’ bit is literal, I mean. Every day, for more than a week, I have expended non-trivial willpower to post nothing. It’s the moral equivalent of a giant bag of snacks in the kitchen of my mind. Unopened. That I am so distracted by the knowledge that someone, right now, is writing something wrong on the internet about Brendan Eich, is a sign I am a glutton for empty calories of falsehood.

Thus, my new policy. I am allowed to eat as many stale snacks of falsehood as I want. I’m opening the Brendan Eich bag. Now. By commencing to write this post I have opened the bag. The temptation is increasing! But I’m … just going to let it sit, getting good and stale. It’s already sort of stale. I did manage to wait more than a week. If, after staleness really sets in, I still want to partake, I may do so. At which point I just may manage to do so moderately, in proportion to such true nutritional content as I may add.

Going forward, let it be so! Fresh truths and stale falsehoods served!

It ought to be a category. Teapots, Post-Tempest. Meme as Memento Mori of Memedom. Urgent hyperbole as deflated whoopee cushion, waiting to happen. The stale catnip of contemptsmanship. If I really want such things, I may have them.

OK, but a few jokes are permissible, even before the thing has passed its sell-by, so I can eat it. For example: back in the day, Norbizness made fun of the tendency to make a monstrous monolith of The Left. “The Left Is Attacking The City!” And, in the present case, the Left is being identified with Mozilla! Which is named after an actual giant monster. That attacked the city! What are the odds? (OK, it’s not a good joke. Aaand Alicublog beat me to it. But without noting the particular irony in the Mozilla name! But maybe it was just supposed to be obvious.)

What else can I do to resist getting sucked into this sort of thing, to no good end? Here’s something. This last week, rather than write about Brendan Eich, I’ve been catching up on Season 2 of The Following. It’s junk TV, but fun. Like a lot of genre fiction, it gives us reality plus one preposterous conceit of coincidence or alt-psychology. (Like: Angela Lansbury is never more than 20 feet from a murder. Murder, she caused. What a way to run a metaphysical railroad!) The conceit in The Following is … how to put this? That serial killers are kind of like … I dunno. Mice? They infest. If you see one, you know there are, like, 20 you can’t see but any second they will come out of the woodwork. You never have just one. They run in … packs, herds? What should be the mass noun for a typically tight-knit herd of serial killers? A flense? A flense of serial killers. That’s as good a mass noun as any. In the show, there is a nominal conceit that it’s due to the charismatic powers of one Joe Carroll, serial killer. But, honestly, it seems more like: in this world people just turn serial killer quite easily; and birds of that feather flock together. Everything in the show flows from that pair of facts. It’s fun! And it’s fun that it isn’t played for laughs. Even though, if you think about it, it’s laughable.

Now, getting back to the internet. What is annoying about this sort of thing – as in so many other cases! – is not that people are saying things that are wrong, but that they are saying things that are patently ridiculous, without awareness that their views exhibit this singular degree of epistemic weakness. Isn’t that the way of it?

Everyone agrees Brendan Eich’s case, in itself, is not the stuff of personal tragedy, not to the tune of a week of news cycles, let alone as fodder for some modern Aeschylus or Sophocles. He’s a rich guy who quit under pressure, but no law was broken, and he can get a good new job somewhere if he wants one. Somewhat bad judgment was exhibited by some, about something, at some point in this case. (Everyone can agree with that much.) But some people think that Eich’s case shows, additionally, the dark nature of the liberal mind – at least its dark side; or at very least liberalism’s contemporary tendency towards diet totalitarianism-lite, its core intolerance. Or at very very least its characteristic naivete about the complexity of what the other side is thinking and feeling. And, insofar as the Eich case is taken as some such diagnostic indicator of liberalism’s ills, it gets like The Following.

A moment’s reflection suffices to show this is just genre fiction. A few key features of liberalism, and of human nature itself – of basic psychology – are flagrantly falsified to occasion an entertainingly consistent cascade of catastrophe. It would be fun if all, or most, liberals were drawn to causes like marriage equality by a kind of intolerance; or if liberals had a tendency to form, spontaneously, little proto-fascist cells. If liberalism/fascism were, inherently, a perilous razor’s edge. If the Brendan Eich case showed us our culture, in the mirror, dancing a dance of the death of tolerance along that razor’s edge! It would even be funny if liberal responses to Eich were due to naivete about the case. (It’s always funny to imagine people getting through the minefield, without making a significant misstep, by sheer luck.)

Just like it would be fun if large numbers of people easily turned into serial killers who spontaneously form elaborate and reasonably stable social networks. Interesting times would be had.

I get why people like these stories. But it couldn’t actually – y’know – happen. I don’t just mean it couldn’t happen here. It’s not like The Following could be realistic in some other time and place, just not today in the US. And the Brendan Eich case is similar. People write it up as a kind of emotionally jolting genre fiction that couldn’t ever come true.

Of course, I’m not saying a liberal society can’t slide into fascism. But you have to imagine it happening by plausible psychological and sociological mechanisms. Sheesh.

And that’s why my fingers have been itching to write about the Eich case! Until now!

I want to explain to these people, who are fictionalizing the story, that they are being tricked by their taste in genre fiction. The tension and release they are getting from reading about Brendan Eich’s persecution is like the tension and release I get from watching Kevin Bacon be persecuted by flocks of serial killers. And: in wanting so desperately to make them see this, I crave my own sugar rush, of course. Like so many on the internet, I am quite the connoisseur of falsehood. (It isn’t quite right to say that Hobbes hated the false more than he loved truth. Rather, he loved falsehood … in others. I am that way, too.)

I like the taste of contempt.

It’s a common taste. Those who are excited by the Brendan Eich story are excited by their sense that this is an occasion for feeling and expressing superiority to liberals and liberalism. I am correspondingly excited by their excitement because I feel this is an occasion for feeling superior to their silly, misfiring sense of superiority. Oh the sweet, sweet irony, when the tables turn!

And they will turn, because I’m right, they’re wrong!

No small distinction, I think you will admit!

So argue already (you object)! You’ve opened the bag, are munching away. You’ve said all the people on the other side are deluded. Even Andrew Sullivan and Conor Friedersdorf, who are trying to be more moderate in their indictment of liberal responses to the case.

Where’s the argument they, too, are pretty much just indulging an unrealistic alt-psychology fantasy?

You’re right! I shouldn’t even have opened the bag. Shame! Shame! This post is written in weakness, although I am having tons of fun writing it. Here’s the thing. Either I’m right or I’m wrong. (Even conservatives will agree with that.) And I think I’m right and that I have absolutely devastating arguments to back it up. You may think I’m bluffing, that in my heart I know conservatives have won the argument, but I assure you: I don’t think I’m bluffing. I’m struggling to restrain myself from offering my best arguments. (In my mind, I’m admiring them. They are very good arguments. Gleaming weapons. The other side has nothing to compare.) It’s like I’m saying to myself: you want contempt? Fine! That’s all you get! They get to say you didn’t make an argument in this post! They get to be right about that much! Nice try, self!

Because if I’m right, there’s little point in giving them a blood-red spin through the public sphere, my arguments, at least not until everyone has forgotten Brendan Eich’s name. If, a week from now (let’s say) I think I can express my view about all this in a way that no one yet has – if I can put my finger on the pulse of the appeal of such a case, to those it appeals to – then maybe I’ll write a follow-up.

That’s why I’m not even linking to all the things I’m complaining about. I don’t think it’s healthy to join the conversation. It’s unfair, I know, to indict but not argue or even link. But I’m trying to make a point about craziness, you see. (It isn’t easy for me not to argue and link.)

The time is simply not yet unripe (I’m trying to keep a straight face here). The fruit of Brendan Eich’s resignation under pressure must be given a chance to overripen, bloat, rot, fall from the tree, decompose, be forgotten. Then, and only then, can I reach into the soil and – letting its rich, fragrant brownness slip between my fingers, for dramatic effect – sermonize about how this fecundity holds natural seeds of the next case. I will call it the ‘whatshisname case’, because I will have forgotten Eich’s name. It wasn’t important.

But, in the meantime, it is not impossible that I will have managed to annoy, say, Conor Friedersdorf and Andrew Sullivan, who think they are being psychologically observant of the complexity of the Eich case, whereas folks like me are too inclined to see it in black-and-white terms. So probably that’s my problem, but until I argue they can’t be sure. For they are scrupulous.

Look, I just think they’re seeing what they want. They are seeing a kind of complexity, yeah. But it’s a fictional sort that flatters their sensibilities. Also, they’re wound up about a whole lot of nothing, which is never good. I am, too.

What they need – what I need – is a break from the case. Let a whole week go by in which no one says a word about it.

But this post is likely to cause words to be said! (It could happen.) Ok, suppose the other side notices and someone is annoyed that I have said they are wrong – at such length! – without offering rational rebuttals to their rational arguments. Obviously that’s not post-worthy, because I didn’t even make an argument! Here’s a recipe for how to not post about this obviously unworthy-of-counter-argument offering, even though it’s provoking, the thing I say.

I am kind of serious about how you should read the other side’s rhetoric the way you watch a show like The Following. While I am watching, I know it couldn’t happen that way, but I am unbothered. It doesn’t call for an angry rebuttal. But then I may click over to National Review and see that there is a reader poll [scroll down], asking “Does the Mozilla firing show we have entered a new age of intolerance?” To which 98.12% of respondents have responded ‘yes’. Of course, people who respond to a poll like this are hardly a representative sample of anything, even of conservative readers of NR. Still, it bothers me that this happened. It really bothers me. It’s like you showed hundreds of people a dog and asked them, ‘is this a cat?’ and they all said ‘yes’. How badly did people have to want to see a cat, for that to be the case? I mean, sure: they’re really just saying ‘liberalism yuck!’ I get that. It makes no more sense to argue with a ‘yuck!’ than it does to argue with an episode of The Following, which is just supposed to push my buttons, in a fun way. Still.

But what are you going to do? Try this: imagine a fictional world in which basic facts, and human psychology, and even a few elemental conceptual truths are altered, such that it would be terrifyingly plausible that ‘The Mozilla firing shows we have entered a new age of intolerance’.

I’m going to fill in the details of this fan fiction (for that is really what it is: I am a fan of conservatism) courtesy of a detail in a Kevin Williamson piece that bothered me, I admit it. You are free to think I was stung by the truth of it. But I think it was more than I was provoked by the false of it, which weighed on my tongue like a stone. By what feat of verbal heroics could I ever hope to roll such a massive stone of wrongness away?

The convocation of clowns on the left screeched with one semi-literate and inchoate voice when my colleague Jonah Goldberg, borrowing the precise words of one of their own, titled a book Liberal Fascism. Most of them didn’t read it, but the ones who did apparently took what was intended as criticism and read it as a blueprint for political action.

Welcome to the Liberal Gulag.

That term may be perverse, but it is not an exaggeration.

Of course, in saying it is not an exaggeration, he is precisely and obviously exaggerating. I get that. (It’s like that whole ‘she was literally run off her feet’ thing.) Even so, just imagine it were true. It’s going to be kind of like Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth meets Idiocracy. Or Planet of The Apes meets Adventure Time. Or something. Imagine that, in the not-too-distant-future, an NR cruise ship strikes an iceberg and goes down and everyone dies, except Jonah Goldberg, who is frozen like Captain America after W.W. II, only to thaw out 50 years later into a world in which civilization has collapsed into one big liberal gulag. In the camp, which is the world, there’s kind of a barter economy, in which everyone trades acts of intolerance, that being the universal currency. Everyone got semi-literate, because there weren’t any non-liberals left after The Event, and the only book that was left was a single copy of Liberal Fascism. Which was mistaken for a positive blueprint. Imagine the bitter tears Goldberg sheds when he realizes this! (I think in the movie he will be played by Eddie Izzard, doing a very good American accent.) Anyway, eventually Goldberg figures out what The Event was. It was the Mozilla firing! (Not the firing itself, but the cultural aftermath. I don’t want to be ridiculous about this. It couldn’t be the firing itself. It would have to be the aftermath. The cultural penumbra.) So he builds a time machine, goes back to the Mozilla board room on the day, tells them to play off the OKCupid thing like it’s nothing, and civilization is saved!

Also, conservatives can play this game, too. Just imagine what it would be like if a Krugman op-ed were ever true! (How crazy would the world have to be, for that to be the case? Fill in the details!) If you are provoked by the elaborate wrongness of this post, don’t get mad. Instead, use your imagination to imagine a world crazy enough that Holbo’s response to it would be reasonable. In this crazy fiction, the Brendan Eich case literally causes conservatives, including Andrew Sullivan, plus Conor Friedersdorf, to lose track of, among other things, common sense about human psychology, for two weeks. If you think I’m wrong, then imagining this crazy fiction should be highly amusing for you. Amusing enough that maybe you won’t mind so much, waiting for the post in which I prove that it’s not fiction, but science fact! I was right all along! Which, possibly, I will decide isn’t even worth writing. Who would believe me, after all, who didn’t already believe it?

Being bemused by genre fiction is more fun than being annoyed.

Aaargh! Aargh! Aargh! I cannot believe the number of Brendan Eich things I have read, and the number of arguments against them I have compulsively formulated, over the past week.

{ 336 comments }

1

Metatone 04.12.14 at 8:20 am

Well, thanks a lot.
This was one swirling cultural mess that I’d managed to mostly ignore so far.
Now the temptation grows…

Anyway, for what it’s worth, given that Mozilla is a this odd foundation, I’m going to ignore the right-wing distractions except to ask them to imagine the head of AEI coming out for abortion…

For me what’s interesting is that being this odd foundation, Mozilla needs goodwill from this panoply of stakeholders. And “Silicon Valley” stakeholders are largely at least pseudo-libertarian and so Eich’s views are just not acceptable.

(I lied, that’s another thing for right-wingers to consider, at least those who claim to have libertarian instincts… this was a great example of how “liberty” works…)

Anyway, as many have noted, the unacceptability of Eich’s views show a pleasing sense of progress in attitudes towards same-sex issues amongst this influential “tech world.” One more data point that suggests this issue will fade in the culture wars…

What will rise? I’m really not sure.

2

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 04.12.14 at 8:27 am

I don’t think the fact that you’ve spelled Brendan’s name wrong every time in this post suggests good things about the arguments on hold. :-)

3

John Holbo 04.12.14 at 8:44 am

Thanks! I could say that me getting his name wrong just shows how culturally advanced I am. I’ve almost forgotten his name, as I recommend in the post! I practice what I preach.

But really it looks more like odd carelessness, on my part. Some sort of mental block, anyway. A form of insanity, where this case is concerned.

4

John Holbo 04.12.14 at 8:45 am

Misspellings corrected.

5

Kevin Donoghue 04.12.14 at 9:13 am

Kudos to David Quinn of the Irish Catholic for this:

Firefox is one of the most popular search engines on the internet. It is owned by a company called Mozilla. Last week the Chief Executive Officer of Mozilla, Brendan Eich was forced to resign. What had he done? Was he corrupt? Was he incompetent? Had he propositioned an employee?

To such questions one can only respond: let me Firefox that for you David.

6

Stephenson quoter-kun 04.12.14 at 9:13 am

I did write a lengthy comment about this, but it turned out to be pretty awful. If you want an argument as to why this case is a tragedy in some limited sense, this post puts it pretty well.

For my part, I’m an adherent of Eich’s school of thought as regards technology, but not as regards marriage equality, so to me this situation is a dead loss – he’s lost his influential position in the technology world, to no appreciable effect on the cause of marriage equality, a battle which has already been won.

7

Random Lurker 04.12.14 at 9:31 am

Jonah Goldberg and the Wayback machine?

8

Helen 04.12.14 at 9:43 am

From Ian McCullouch at Forbes magazine:

“He has a right to free speech!”
Indeed he does, and he is exercising it. You know who else has a right to free speech? The people objecting to his donation and saying, “I will not work for or with Brendan Eich.” (I strongly encourage objectors to leave the door open to a reversal and apology.) Should our rights of free speech and free choice be abridged instead?

Eich has not had any of his bank accounts or assets seized, and he is not going to be charged with any crimes since none were committed. Freedom of speech is about protecting citizens from the State. (Ask anyone from Russia, China, most of Africa, most of the Middle East, or most of South America.) It does not mean that people have to like what you say or that you can say/do what you want without any repercussions.

…As the Tumblr people say, THIS… and this is so often forgotten, or never learned.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2014/04/11/did-mozilla-ceo-brendan-eich-deserve-to-be-removed-from-his-position-due-to-his-support-for-proposition-8/

9

Pat 04.12.14 at 9:55 am

“I like the taste of contempt. It’s a common taste.”

Then I think you’re watching the wrong serial killer series. “There’s a common emotion we all recognize, not yet named: the happy anticipation of being able to feel contempt.”

10

Belle Waring 04.12.14 at 10:17 am

Beloved Stephenson-quoter-kun! You’re completely wrong! I am not entirely astounded by your view because I think that you are a programmer yourself (please correct me if I’m wrong) and it’s my sense that the community (the vast majority of whom are straight white guys) feels fellowship with Eich and also feels that one’s “private” life should not have an impact on one’s ability to work towards the goal of an open web. Like, these two streams should run separately and perhaps parallel to one another but should not be…ah…maybe ‘crossed’ is the word I’m seeking here. I don’t think this makes you an awful person or anything, but I’m mildly grieved that you should be so wrong, while I prance around being completely in the right, like a fluffy kitty unicorn.

“For more than 16 years, Brendan fought for openness and freedom on the web, and led many of the people who built that open and free web. This week, in a senseless, vicious convulsion, the web turned on him.”
I will be one among a zillion people to tell you that the convulsion, even if I were to grant that it were vicious (which is a colorable claim), was not senseless. I can’t even see any really good arguments to that end. [Everything that follows will merely demonstrate why unfogged.com has an analogy ban, but whatever.] You may remember that in 2000 Alabama had to overturn a (patently unconstitutional after Loving v. Virginia) law banning interracial marriage. 40% of Alabamans voted against repealing the anti-miscegenation law. AFAIK there was very little campaigning–but not no campaigning–against repeal.

Imagine that in 2000 Eich had donated a small amount of money to a campaign to leave the law in Alabama unchanged, with the understanding that it would never be enforced–purely as a symbolic anti-interracial-marriage gesture (and, of course, this would be something done with much less animus than a prop 8 donation, given that the latter actually had the achievable goal of preventing people from marrying). The Mozilla policy on such issues is quoted in your linked post:

Some Mozillians may identify with activities or organizations that do not support the same inclusion and diversity standards as Mozilla. When this is the case:
(a) support for exclusionary practices must not be carried into Mozilla activities.
(b) support for exclusionary practices in non-Mozilla activities should not be expressed in Mozilla spaces.
(c) when if (a) and (b) are met, other Mozillians should treat this as a private matter, not a Mozilla issue.

The employee whose opinion you endorse would appear to be bound to support Alabama Eich after such a hypothetical donation to an Alabaman RaHoWa group. Would you? Does the policy require that? If it is written in such a fashion that it does or appears to, don’t you think that the Mozilla board might overrule or disregard it and pressure Alabama Eich to step down, if it came to it? If not, is there any political donation that you think could or should jostle the little ball-bearing of Eich’s views out of its private track and into the adjacent Mozilla track? Any political views he might hold, absent donations? I’m sure someone already Godwin’ed the thread while I was typing, so, photo in an SS uniform with a sign saying. “Hitler didn’t kill enough jewy Jewish people using death”? Doesn’t it matter that Eich is, so to speak, the “face” of the organization in a way no ordinary employee is?
[I feel compelled to note I admire the poster's starting a numbered list with 0). Charming, truly.]

11

Manta 04.12.14 at 10:29 am

“Either I’m right or I’m wrong”:
you have quite a high opinion of yourself if you think that is generally the case.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

12

Pedantic grammarian 04.12.14 at 10:33 am

Also, “letting it’s its rich, fragrant brownness ….” Sorry, can’t resist.

13

John Holbo 04.12.14 at 10:41 am

“you have quite a high opinion of yourself if you think that is generally the case.”

I do admit that I am assuming I’m at least wrong. In fact, I’m pretty much assuming I’m right. What I’m not assuming is that others will also assume I’m right. But you are right. Given that I’m not assuming others will assume I’m right, I probably shouldn’t assume that others will assume that I’m at least wrong. Fair is fair.

Pat, I’m also watching “Hannibal”. It’s better than “The Following”. Not just for lines like that. But I did like that line.

14

Pat 04.12.14 at 10:43 am

Arrgh, I just got to the “Eddie Izzard doing a good American accent” part, and you’re definitely watching the wrong serial killer series! (“serial killer serial”?) Either that, or you’ve just trolled me rather successfully, in which case.

15

Pat 04.12.14 at 10:44 am

… oop, crossed comments. Should have suspected!

16

John Holbo 04.12.14 at 10:51 am

I suppose I was sort of thinking about Izzard’s role in “Hannibal”, since I’ve been watching. But also I just like Izzard from way back and he kind of looks like Goldberg, could certainly look a lot like Goldberg. And the thought of Eddie Izzard playing Goldberg is just funny. I didn’t mean to suggest that Goldberg should be played as a serial killer, of course.

17

soru 04.12.14 at 11:51 am

It’s not like The Following could be realistic in some other time and place, just not today in the US.

To pick up a tangent, is that really true? I mean, there didn’t used to be serial killers as such, until some French guy invented them in a novel. And then people read the book, and got the idea that killing could be a hobby, as opposed to a job.

Some sizable, say 1%, of the general populace being into serial killing in that way isn’t any more psychologicaly implausible than rather larger percentage of the population wearing uniforms and charging machine guns. Never underestimate what could be possible if society was structured towards a particular goal; it’s only human nature to go along with what everyone else is doing.

Obviously, at some point you get to the point where you hit hard economic constraints, destroying the ability to sustain that much destructive leisure activity. So you end up back at feudalism or hunter-gatherer tribes or whatever.

But there is a lot of resilience in modern society; frex Honduras has a murder rate that’s not off-scale when represented as a percentage (90 per 100,000, or 0.1%). So if you clean up the banditry and politics that cause that, you can call it an existence proof of the economic capaclty to support way more hobbyist predators than there would ever be screen time for in a TV show.

18

The Raven 04.12.14 at 12:30 pm

It is also true that Eich, as the inventor of Javascript and co-founder of Mozilla, has been a huge contributor to the modern web, and I don’t think I’ve seen this mentioned in any of the discussion.

What do we do when a person who has made a major and valuable contribution to the world turns out to hold a political view we find repugnant? Do we reward his contribution or diss his politics? Both? It’s hard to believe that gay people working either directly for the Mozilla Foundation or indirectly as contributors to Mozilla would not be subject to Eich’s bigotry. The symbolic weight of Eich as CEO of Mozilla is major, and it would be only a little less than the symbolic weight of Eich at CTO. At the same time, what Eich has actually done as developer is greatly positive and liberating. Do we give greater weight to his work or his political contributions?

Genuine moral conflict, coming to an internet near you, and being ignored.

19

Lemmy caution 04.12.14 at 12:52 pm

Apparently you can be fired for your political beliefs

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2002/07/can_your_boss_fire_you_for_your_political_beliefs.html

This seems like a bad idea to me. In practice, it doesn’t come up a lot, but if Walmart wanted to fire everybody who voted for Obama there is nothing stopping them from exercising its free speech rights. Imagining a world where this is a big fucking problem isn’t all that hard.

20

Barry 04.12.14 at 12:52 pm

Metatone: ” I’m going to ignore the right-wing distractions except to ask them to imagine the head of AEI coming out for abortion…”

Ask those who know AEI to imagine anybody there (except for Norm ‘why the f*ck is he still there?’ Ornstein) coming out with either (a) even a single liberal viewpoint, or (b) any piece of analysis which is not 100% bullsh*t.

21

P O'Neill 04.12.14 at 12:55 pm

It would be impossible for the National Review cruise to strike an iceberg because they know that global warming is a Far Left lie and someone would always be on iceberg watch unlike those liberals whose ship got icebound in the Antarctic on a trip to observe global warming even though the trip purpose was then covered up by the Liberal Gulag Media.

Also how did you get through such a long post without mentioning Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

22

John Holbo 04.12.14 at 1:12 pm

“has been a huge contributor to the modern web, and I don’t think I’ve seen this mentioned in any of the discussion.”

Well, that has been discussed a lot in discussions of the issue online. And it was mentioned upthread as well. I didn’t mention it in the post because my point was that we really should stop fixating on the case since it isn’t really a good ‘teachable moment’ as they say.

23

Stephenson quoter-kun 04.12.14 at 1:25 pm

Belle @10:

I am not entirely astounded by your view because I think that you are a programmer yourself

Is it that obvious? :-(

The employee whose opinion you endorse would appear to be bound to support Alabama Eich after such a hypothetical donation to an Alabaman RaHoWa group. Would you?

I could turn the reductio ad absurdum around here and ask you where you would draw the line – which political views or activities would you find disagreeable yet still permissible for a company’s CEO? But that would be trying to wriggle out of the question!

The set of all possible attempts to answer this question consists mostly of very bad answers. I could say that I see nothing wrong with being a racist, which isn’t a good answer (aside from being untrue). I could say that the donation is legal and above-board and therefore beyond questioning, or that if the people of Alabama don’t have a problem with that law then who am I to question it? Also pretty poor answers.

The only good one I can think of is this: as an officer of Mozilla, Eich was bound by the rules of the Foundation. Those rules appear to have provided a good enough guarantee of equality, openness and diversity within Mozilla that over the years the Corporation and the Foundation have both been seen as good places to work and volunteer for people of all kinds of different backgrounds and beliefs. By drawing up and publishing clear standards of behaviour for its employees and community members, Mozilla has achieved a largely exemplary record as an employer (something that cannot be said for enough companies in the technology sector). It has done all of this whilst maintaing a clear focus on the stated aims of the foundation, and has never allowed those aims to be confused with any other political agenda. And in all of that time, nobody has ever been able to accuse Eich of violating Mozilla’s standards.

This cannot be said to have happened because Eich was simply too low-profile to have been scrutinised. In his time there, he held the roles of Chief Software Architect and Chief Technology Officer. He was, to the technology community, as much of a public face of the company as Mitchell Baker and his status as creator of JavaScript and Mozilla’s representative in the multi-vendor ECMA standards process made him a public figure. He’s about as high profile as you can get as someone who is known primarily for programming achievements (e.g. he was one of 15 people profiled in Coders at Work, alongside Donald Knuth and Ken Thompson).

In short, whatever his private beliefs were, his public behaviour seems to have met high standards. In other words, the system worked. Despite his disagreeable views (whatever they are precisely), he held scrupulously to the standards expected of him by the community. To me, this represents an excellent model for how we can use institutions, conventions and community standards to enforce good behaviour. This is the same approach that is being attempted elsewhere in the tech community, such as the adoption of codes of conduct for behaviour at conferences. It doesn’t require people to purge themselves of bad beliefs, just bad behaviours. In my experience, most bad beliefs are actually rather unthinking ones – they’re habits rather than rationally-justified principles, and training people out of these habits is both an easier and more reliable way of getting them to abandon the bad beliefs than challenging them to an adversarial debate or demanding a public recantation.

To me, the alternative seems to be that we rely on the goodness of office-holders. I could become hyperbolic at this point and start talking about how in the future we’ll need thought police for anyone who aspires to hold some kind of office anywhere, but I think it’s easier to simply argue that rules and community standards of behaviour provide a better way to ensure good outcomes than investigation into the personal character of individuals does.

The upshot is that whilst I might be wrong, I don’t think I’m as grievously wrong as you say. You have a strong view that a person’s opinions can or should make a person unsuitable to a public role, presumably on the assumption of either: a) those opinions will inevitably feed in to their decision-making, which will result in them making the world a worse place or b) some kind of moral desert principle, viz. bad-people-shouldn’t-have-nice-things (I’m assuming it’s the former). I have a strong view that, in the presence of suitable constraints on behaviour, a person’s opinions are irrelevant insofar as they do not violate those constraints, even when that means letting some horrible opinions slide (viz. Alabama). In this case it seems that we’re in disagreement over whether or not we believe the Mozilla community’s rules would have governed Eich’s conduct effectively, which is a reasonable disagreement to have. (Or are we? I am assuming that your view is not “Whatever the underlying institutional reality, there’s no way people would believe that Eich’s behaviour could be constrained by the rules, so even if he’s done nothing wrong we cannot take the chance.”, or even “This just looks bad, and he had to go because a discussion about this question is too distracting”, which does serve as a possible explanation for why he had to quit, but does not serve as much of a justification).

An interesting question is how much we’d disagree about other cases. We clearly do allow people with odious views to hold office in other circumstances, relying on constitutions, by-laws, codes of conduct and social pressure to maintain good behaviour. This clearly works well enough that it’s not a crazy idea about how to run an institution. Most other cases where personal and political views are seen to interfere with a public role involve some direct conflict between personal belief or conduct and public mission, e.g. an anti-abortionist in charge of a public health authority that carries out abortions, or the general case of a convicted criminal being put in any position that requires substantial trust. Perhaps we do ultimately need both things – a strong set of behavioural rules, and some right of inquiry into personal beliefs and behaviour? If that’s the case, I’d prefer only that we lean more heavily on the former than the latter.

24

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 04.12.14 at 1:33 pm

Raven writes:

It’s hard to believe that gay people working either directly for the Mozilla Foundation or indirectly as contributors to Mozilla would not be subject to Eich’s bigotry.

First, Eich was not CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, he was CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, a wholly-owned for-profit subsidiary of the Foundation. Incidentally, the Mozilla employees who called for Eich’s resignation seem to all have been Foundation employees, and thus not reporting to Eich.

Second, a number of LGBT Mozillians supported Eich as CEO. Two examples:
http://subfictional.com/2014/03/24/on-brendan-eich-as-ceo-of-mozilla/
and http://www.twobraids.com/2014/04/back-into-light.html

25

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 04.12.14 at 1:50 pm

The Eiger Eich man Sanction

That’s the extent of my contribution.

But Thers has something to add.
~

26

Peter K. 04.12.14 at 2:00 pm

What’s the opposite of contemptmanship? I’m still digesting the news that Stephen Colbert will replace Letterman. As the political economy of the globe enters a Picketty Doom Loop of Oligarchy, the yutes get their news from the Daily Show and Colbert. Two Colbert highlights for me:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/opinion/14dowd.html

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/y8jsuk/stephest-colbchella–013—daft-punk-d

27

GChristie 04.12.14 at 2:02 pm

my feet usually fall asleep, propped up on my desk, but i laughed so hard it woke them up. OMg. LOL

28

bianca steele 04.12.14 at 2:20 pm

And, in the present case, the Left is being identified with Mozilla!

This is kind of funny, because Mozilla is kind of a left-wing browser, being free from the beginning, open-source, and all. So whatever the other issues, it’s amusing to see the for-profit companies jumping on the bandwagon and promoting their browsers as alternatives. But hey, we live in an age when The Social Circle can promote sharing with advertisers as the path to righteousness.

the only book that was left was a single copy of Liberal Fascism.

This is funny too.
I do realize that from a certain point of view, Mozilla looks very libertarian and hence right-wing, as opposed to the staid Establishment corporations that are basically liberal in a sort of Burkean neoliberal sense. Believe me, in the world where corporate managers live, it’s practically Communist.

29

bianca steele 04.12.14 at 2:21 pm

sorry, paragraphing fail, the last four lines should have been pushed up earlier in the comment

30

Collin Street 04.12.14 at 2:23 pm

In this case it seems that we’re in disagreement over whether or not we believe the Mozilla community’s rules would have governed Eich’s conduct effectively, which is a reasonable disagreement to have.

This is, fundamentally, an empirical question: finding the answer is a matter of technical knowledge and expertise.

31

Ronan(rf) 04.12.14 at 2:31 pm

Brendan Eich will be the rock the left perishes on.

32

Belle Waring 04.12.14 at 2:45 pm

This is the same approach that is being attempted elsewhere in the tech community, such as the adoption of codes of conduct for behaviour at conferences. It doesn’t require people to purge themselves of bad beliefs, just bad behaviours. In my experience, most bad beliefs are actually rather unthinking ones – they’re habits rather than rationally-justified principles, and training people out of these habits is both an easier and more reliable way of getting them to abandon the bad beliefs than challenging them to an adversarial debate or demanding a public recantation.

This is actually an excellent point as far as it goes, but is a much better point for the rank and file than for the brass. I don’t want my fellow programmers acting like assholes, so if they harass me in some crass way, I approach a conference organizer, and he removes or counsels the offending party. It’s fine if they go on thinking like assholes–up to a point. Up to what point? Well, up to the point at which I begin to think that they are muttering so darkly about injustice and political correctness, and to such big and appreciatively-nodding audiences, that the reprimand has brought more shit down on my head than it has on stipulative asshole guys’. Under what circumstances might such dark muttering be tolerated? Under such circumstances as the conference organizer himself having gone on record donating money to a political campaign the entire content of which is that feminism is a bunch of politically correct bullshit. What if the organizer is a saint and does his job year after year, reprimanding sexist assholes for prohibited behavior? [Wait...does any of this seem remotely plausible to you, because it's beginning to sound a but strained to me...never mind.] The organizer is a stand-up guy, and he is a rule-following, thoughtful person, and having been entrusted with a duty by his peers he carries it out despite thinking it’s a bunch of bullshit.

Are they going to think his heart is in it? Will they hear a wink wink nudge nudge even when he retrains himself to display no emotion? Will I genuinely approach this guy with my complaint, in real life? No, because real life. So, people who are tasked with not merely adhering to, but overseeing the carrying-out of, and even devising new, improved moral codes of tolerance do need to be held to a higher standard or the whole thing falls apart, nu?

As to whether enough attention has been paid to his crucial programming achievements, I agree it hasn’t. It goes a really long way towards explaining why people would suddenly see a love of Prop 8 (why Prop 8?! It was just pure anti-gay marriage, there was no content there!) as a totally fine thing that one would be able to keep separate from one’s work no problem. Because no gay people have been discriminated against until some come forward on their own and risk their careers! For certain!

33

phosphorious 04.12.14 at 3:07 pm

“I want to explain to these people, who are fictionalizing the story, that they are being tricked by their taste in genre fiction.”

And the genre here is “Both sides do it!” I’ve been following this kerfuffle through Andrew Sullivan. . . who, as far as I can tell is using it to distract from a much deeper controversy he was engaged in with Ta Nehisi Coates. Coates has been wrestling with the white supremacist roots (and branches, and fruit. . . ) of American history, and Sullivan has been patronizingly scolding his “gloominess.”

The Eich affair allows conservatives like Sullivan to say “But don;t you see, the right hates blacks. . . but the left hates homophobes!”

And the balance is maintained!

34

Main Street Muse 04.12.14 at 3:13 pm

I worked with a woman who was gay. After she died of a brief, horrific and aggressive battle with ovarian cancer, her partner of 20 years was not allowed to collect her body without permission from my colleague’s family. Her son, the bio child of her partner, was not deemed her son by the state, so he could not collect Social Security survivor benefits (as Paul Ryan was able to do after one of his parents died.) The state-sanctioned discrimination against gay marriage has significant bearing on how gay couples are legally treated.

As Belle suggested above, Eich’s objections to gay marriage are no different than a CEO who supports laws banning people of color marrying blanched people of no color. That said, Chik Fil A saw business increase when “lefties” focused media attention on Chik Fil A’s corporate policy for donating to anti-gay organizations. I suppose it all comes down to the customers and what they value.

From the link posted by Stephenson quoter-kun @6, it appears that at least one board member resigned due to concerns about Eich’s leadership abilities. Two other board members resigned concurrently – curious timing, though apparently those resignations had nothing to do with Eich at all. Perhaps there is more to the story of his resignation than just liberal flaming of an anti-gay CEO.

I love showing this student’s speech, a defense of gay marriage, to my public speaking students: http://bit.ly/1gT1UHI – it’s a fantastic argument for acceptance.

35

Bruce Baugh 04.12.14 at 3:51 pm

Eich spent a thousand dollars so that good friends of mine could, in two cases, have their marriage annulled and, in two others, have to cancel their plans for marriage and resume relying on the generosity of particular employers’ coverage of unmarried partners. It took five years to fully undo this.

There is no campaign to do that to Eich, or the scumbags at National Review, or anyone on that side of the issue. Apart from moments of anger, their opponents don’t even want to do that to them, because we think people deserve security and happiness even when we don’t like them.

How many of those defending Eich would be comfortable working for or with someone who spent real money to try to annul their marriages and deny them adoption and parental rights? There is no national movement to strip those rights from serial killers and war criminals – the thought of George Takei or Ellen Degeneres, or my friends, getting married rouses a substantial number of Americans to action in ways that the thought of Ted Bundy and John Demjanjuk marrying or staying married does not. I take note of it as a real threat to the well-being of people like my friends, but no way am I going to respect it.

This wasn’t the equivalent of Westboro Baptist and their signs. It must be genuinely painful to morn a loved one and know that some dickweeds are nearby with GOD HATES FAGS placards nearby, trying to get them in your face. But Eich wasn’t out there with a sign. He was out there helping annul marriages.

Conservatives and libertarians often quote Hayek and others about how state action to help people in need is bad because it upsets planning. It’s a major theme in The Road to Serfdom. I just can’t imagine more hostile to planning than demonstrating a group of haters can get your marriage annulled.

36

bianca steele 04.12.14 at 4:11 pm

I think Eich should have resigned. There’s a difference between a CEO supporting a controversial position and an ordinary worker doing the same. But it’s difficult for me to distinguish the people with no ties to Mozilla at all calling for his resignation from the fact that in all the years I’ve read CT, I’ve seen zero real outrage at cases of ordinary workers getting fired for, saying, having a bumper sticker on their car–outrage in the sense of saying it should not be okay. I’ve seen outrage at the world and at the entire universe of market-based employers, but no call for rules against it, no critique of iffy court cases supporting it, no support for people who think bosses shouldn’t be able to tell their employees what to think. As far as I can tell, if democracy supports bros who don’t like to be around feminists or female bosses, or people who don’t like to be around black people, or Muslims, if they have the numbers and the power, it would be totally okay for them to get all those people fired.

Belle makes a good point @32 (though surely the muttering has to be somewhat public for reprimands to happen), that someone tasked with implementing policies probably shouldn’t have a history of opposing those policies. But if we’re talking about people who’re going to intuit what the boss really thinks and take their chances that his rule-following and deference to outside forces won’t extend to firing them, and do what they feel in their heart is best for them, I’m not sure what the actual person in charge’s real beliefs even matter.

37

GiT 04.12.14 at 4:27 pm

“the fact that in all the years I’ve read CT, I’ve seen zero real outrage at cases of ordinary workers getting fired for, saying, having a bumper sticker on their car–outrage in the sense of saying it should not be okay”

What?

http://crookedtimber.org/2012/07/01/let-it-bleed-libertarianism-and-the-workplace/

38

MPAVictoria 04.12.14 at 4:43 pm

GiT Bianca is clearly talking about some other Crooked Timber as she could not possibly be talking about this one.

39

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 04.12.14 at 4:52 pm

Bruce Baugh, I encourage you to read the blog posts I linked to, which consist of LGBT Mozillians defending Eich, and thus providing an instance of “those defending Eich [who] would be comfortable working for or with someone who spent real money to try to annul their marriages and deny them adoption and parental rights”.

40

Bruce Baugh 04.12.14 at 4:56 pm

Sam, I’ve read them. I’m explaining my own response, and that of people I associate with. I think that in the long run, cutting slack for actions – not speech, actions – like Eich’s guarantees more actions like it. This is the “men with guns” stuff libertarians are always on about. If they feel in a position to be apostles to the homophobes and selective marriage-haters…good, and I mean that. But I don’t yet see a reason to change my own response.

41

bianca steele 04.12.14 at 5:03 pm

GiT: I’d consider that post “outrage at the entire universe of market-based employers.” If it wasn’t Chris’s intention to deny that there are existing norms that prohibit firing people for their political beliefs or that there’s even a possibility of engaging people in existing market enterprises and getting them not to fire people for those reasons, his argument doesn’t suggest any intention to contradict other posts that do. IIRC that post was part of a series arguing that those norms can’t have any possible effect in the real world because power.

42

Colin Danby 04.12.14 at 5:10 pm

Re the claim that the battle for marriage equality has been won: Certainly not globally and certainly not in the US of A: http://www.marriageequality.org/national-map

43

Glen Tomkins 04.12.14 at 5:17 pm

You have my hearty thanks for reminding me yet again, after years of not giving it a thought, that Dreyfus was indeed guilty.

The movie Z had that wonderful scene as the general who masterminded the assassination is leaving the prosecutor’s office where he has actually been indicted, as if that’s supposed to happen to generals who have people killed, and he’s mobbed by reporters. “I was framed!”, to which the commie reporter responds, “Like Dreyfus?”. His own predicament completely forgotten in a burst of pure ideological fervor over a case that everyone else on the planet but the general and the reporter have forgotten, the general shouts back, “Dreyfus was guilty!”

You have to get a laugh from these things, because there’s nothing else to them.

44

Mike Schilling 04.12.14 at 5:54 pm

Next time your JavaScript crashes because code enclosed in try-catch doesn’t necessarily catch, reflect that firing was too good for him.

45

Peter Hovde 04.12.14 at 6:00 pm

Izzard’s role in “The Riches,” as an American con man who always has something to pull out of his ass, might also be a kind of model (though his character is far more sympathetic than Goldberg).

46

mud man 04.12.14 at 6:01 pm

What do we do when a person who has made a major and valuable contribution to the world turns out to hold a political view we find repugnant? Do we reward his contribution or diss his politics?

Woody Allen? That other French director guy, Whatsisname. Of course that wasn’t about politics exactly. Is politics different than other kinds of morality? Or is it sex that’s different? Or not?

47

Bruce Baugh 04.12.14 at 6:44 pm

Mud man: it’s not like “we” are all going to do the same thing, anyway. Each of us should apply reason, information, and morality, and proceed, with ongoing updating and reflection, and then we all see what comes out of the interactions of our actions.

48

The Temporary Name 04.12.14 at 6:49 pm

such a long post

SOMEONE IS LONG ON THE INTERNET!

49

Barry 04.12.14 at 7:09 pm

” I’ve been following this kerfuffle through Andrew Sullivan. . .”

Who helped get Alec Baldwin fired, and crowed about it,
for calling a gay man a ‘c*cksucker’ in an argument.

Of course, that was a loooooooooong time ago – last November.

50

roy belmont 04.12.14 at 7:26 pm

Fuck contempt. There is nothing in the contemporary human social landscape that justifies it. Nothing.
Though there is plenty of it around.
I use Sea Monkey a lot. I had Phoenix 1.0 early on. Mozilla’s been one thing on the web that I never worried about it trying to bite me in order to drain me of precious bodily fluids. So there’s a natural affinity for the crew. They’ve done a lot I’m grateful for.

Eich did not being his views on Prop 8 forward from the private sphere of his individual citizenship. He was not using his position to weight the discussion.
It was dug out and snitched off. The weight of his position then used to condemn him.
That alone puts the entire thing into the context of pervasive info grab and possession a la NSA.
But it’s treated as if there’s no difference. Because the people who “outed” him haven’t got even a vestigial interest in the privacy of anyone outside their clads.

This isn’t liberal v. conservative, this is mutant eloi v. remnant humans-from-the-past or some shit.
With a bunch of compassless idiots running around with uniforms on acting like they’re what’s going on. And where are the Morlocks you ask?

CA Prop 8 was a Mormon thing. I have a serious problem with Mormon things generally – way over-represented in FBI for one – and the bizarro origin documents for another. But they aren’t wrong about everything. And there’s no public discussion possible in these volatilized polarities.

We’ve entered the amusement park of reality I think. Moral issues and consumer issues merge into the freedom to choose lunch in the food court of ideas.

I’d like to bring Alec Baldwin into this, but I don’t want to move any further into the line of fire on an issue that’s going to be decided by ballistics alone.

The conflation of racial injustice with gender bigotry – hey, because both humans, both pooped on by ignorant bad people – c’mon.
-
Thomas Harris’ Hannibal never once killed or ate someone who was his moral superior, or whose innocence was more intact than his own.
I doubt seriously whether the movie versions convey that the way the books do.

51

Ronan(rf) 04.12.14 at 7:27 pm

Leaving aside this specific case, (which seems more complicated than simply Eich being driven out for his political beliefs) I find this idea that CEO’s politics have to be purer than the driven snow as very peculiar.
Taken to its logical conclusions this would demand that *no* head position *in any* organisation (NGOs, corporations, government agencies/departments etc) should ever be held by anyone with political beliefs (or who has supported political campains) outside of the mainstream.
This would seem to be a course of action that would reinforce, rathern than tackle, ‘privilege’.

52

Abbe Faria 04.12.14 at 8:07 pm

I think you guys are assuming stuff just happened and getting it all back to front. Eich made the donation. People found out. They naturally became uncomfortable with it and protested. His position became untenable and he resigned. A natural reaction to Eich public bigotry, what’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that’s not how it went. In reality there was a campaign and lawsuits over obtaining the public release of donors ids, with the specific advance intent of using this list to harrass and blacklist prop 8 supporters. So that’s your freedom of speech violation, Eich does not have the right to keep silent and to himself an opinion he holds – and people went to court to ensure that. And then, does it suck that people became uncomfortable? Sure, but on the other-hand, it sucks for Eich that this position was deliberately engineered by people who wanted leverage to go after people like him – no one would have known if things had been left up to Eich. This isn’t passive victimisation, it’s actively making sure people are placed in a position where a grievance can be engineered to achieve a preplanned end.

53

Bruce Baugh 04.12.14 at 8:18 pm

“Donating money to destroy other people’s marriages and deny them rights their straight colleagues enjoy” and “objects to giving CEO power to people who donate money to destroy other people’s etc etc” are not symmetrical.

54

Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 04.12.14 at 8:22 pm

“…but if Walmart wanted to fire everybody who voted for Obama there is nothing stopping them from exercising its free speech rights.”

Not in California, incidentally. California has a law, labor law, against employers exercising influence over political activities of employees. Firing, or forcing to resign is out of the question.

55

Bruce Baugh 04.12.14 at 8:25 pm

Notice that people objecting to Eich’s promotion are not attempting to make it a law that no politically engaged homophobe can ever become CEO, nor – and this would approach symmetry with what Eich helped do – saying that any CEO found to have funded homophobic action must be fired. Nary a scrap of that talk. This is not a sort of National Organization for Marriage Equality trying to disenfranchise its enemies, nor strip them of basic civil rights. If the Mozilla board had chosen to stick with him as their choice…some people would have quit Mozilla, some would have ceased cooperating with them from outside the company, and some would have quit donating and otherwise providing support. And that’s it.

These fears of roaming gay gestapos and such are pure projection by people who are comfortable with such tactics themselves and can’t believe others would refrain if given the chance.

56

MPAVictoria 04.12.14 at 8:26 pm

Anyone else here supremely unsurprised by Roy’s response?

Hey Roy we get it, criticizing people for attacking homosexuals makes us worse than Hitler. Now how about posting something original.

57

MPAVictoria 04.12.14 at 8:31 pm

“it’s actively making sure people are placed in a position where a grievance can be engineered to achieve a preplanned end.”

Hmmm, not sure that you are using the word “engineered” correctly.

58

The Raven 04.12.14 at 8:42 pm

Kraw…never trust one’s thoughts after midnight. I was wrong.

59

GiT 04.12.14 at 8:44 pm

” Eich does not have the right to keep silent and to himself an opinion he holds – and people went to court to ensure that”

That sounds like freedom of conscience. Eich could have kept silent and to himself by keeping silent and to himself. Instead he decided to spent $1000 dollars on a ballot initiative. Perhaps political contributions shouldn’t be public. But if so it has nothing to do with keeping silent and to oneself one’s opinions. Rather it’s about expressing one’s opinions to others without them knowing it’s you doing the expressing.

60

Cranky Observer 04.12.14 at 8:45 pm

= = = Abbe Faria 04.12.14 at 8:07 pm -
Well, the problem is that’s not how it went. In reality there was a campaign and lawsuits over obtaining the public release of donors ids, with the specific advance intent of using this list to harrass and blacklist prop 8 supporters. So that’s your freedom of speech violation, [...] = = =

Actually, other than just pure news reporting on the part of the LA Times I believe the reason for the lawsuits to open up the Prop 8 donation lists was so that civilians could then take action against the tax -exempt charitable organizations that violated both California and Federal law in contributing substantial monetary and in-kind support to the campaign. Given the size and power of the organizations involved (primarily a very large organized church) neither state nor federal prosecutors were willing to go after those violations.

Cranky

61

Cranky Observer 04.12.14 at 8:52 pm

= = = roy belmont 04.12.14 at 7:26 pm -
[...] Eich did not being his views on Prop 8 forward from the private sphere of his individual citizenship. He was not using his position to weight the discussion.
It was dug out and snitched off. [...] = = =
</blockquote

Very deep digging:
http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml

Any particular reason why you think the Prop 8 donations should have been secret in the first place? Every donation I make to a federal candidate goes into that database and – given the state I live in – puts me at substantial risk for firing and social retaliation. Eich made a donation to a very public and very odious campaign; that should be kept secret because…?

Cranky

62

Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 04.12.14 at 9:29 pm

“Any particular reason why you think the Prop 8 donations should have been secret in the first place? “

Even if they are in a public database, still, someone would have to dig it out and start a harassment campaign — in public, rather than merely crossing him off your Christmas card list. I suppose it’d be fair enough if he really was a public persona, but a techie?

63

James Kitto 04.12.14 at 10:39 pm

” Eich does not have the right to keep silent and to himself an opinion he holds – and people went to court to ensure that”

That sounds like freedom of conscience. Eich could have kept silent and to himself by keeping silent and to himself. Instead he decided to spent $1000 dollars on a ballot initiative. Perhaps political contributions shouldn’t be public. But if so it has nothing to do with keeping silent and to oneself one’s opinions. Rather it’s about expressing one’s opinions to others without them knowing it’s you doing the expressing.

Money can be whatever it wants to be. If it wants to be speech, it’s speech. If it wants to be silent, we should all mind our own business.

64

The Temporary Name 04.13.14 at 12:36 am

If the Mozilla board had chosen to stick with him as their choice…some people would have quit Mozilla, some would have ceased cooperating with them from outside the company, and some would have quit donating and otherwise providing support. And that’s it.

Yes. Mozilla makes its living off donations, not just of cash but of work. People doing a kindness tend not to want to support someone who wants to deny people their rights.

65

roy belmont 04.13.14 at 1:06 am

Cranky Observer at 8:52 pm:

Because for the reason voting is, you know, private and stuff. And the ensurance of that privacy’s one of the more serious aspects of, like, democracy? No one has the right to know who you voted for?
Otherwise, yikes.
The moral character of the US isn’t monolithic, yes? Resolving the tensions of disagreement with force primarily is despotic.
Compassion, not agreement, is the opposite of contempt. A far more effective approach would be to see past the marginal haters to people concerned about their children and the future. Reassuring them that acceptance of gays won’t harm them.
Instead, power. Lovely power.
Also this “a very public and very odious campaign”.
We may agree on the odiosity, but again democracy’s not about agreement before campaigns and discussions and debates. It’s about after?
I think what you mean there is more “public, and of concern to me personally”.
I’m having a hard time imagining a state ballot proposition that isn’t pretty much public from the get. But how you vote on that, or what side you contribute to, shouldn’t be used to persecute anyone.
Lots of folks seem to think democracy’s great as long as everybody agrees with them, but if not, the hell with it, force majeure‘s just as effective.
Which yeah, trying to drag the public into an enlightened view sometimes you have to get the National Guard to help. But that’s dangerous and points can be made about the slope of it.
Mob will is a hideous thing, equal in its potential for depravity to any other despotism.
The Crucible?
Innumerable other works of art around power asserting itself, ungoverned by co-operative, and compassionate, disagreement, and how that so often goes seriously wrong.
-
Money has nothing central to do with Eich’s dilemma, he could have simply worked the phones at Prop 8 HQ and ended up in the same stocks. As in wooden things that hold you in place while the members of the community so inclined throw things at you and jeer etc.

66

The Temporary Name 04.13.14 at 1:35 am

Money has nothing central to do with Eich’s dilemma, he could have simply worked the phones at Prop 8 HQ and ended up in the same stocks. As in wooden things that hold you in place while the members of the community so inclined throw things at you and jeer etc.

Ooh, where are those stocks that Eich is in? Is there an admission fee?

67

Consumatopia 04.13.14 at 2:14 am

It didn’t particularly offend me that somebody who had given $1000 to a popular yet immoral ballot measure was the CEO of the company behind my web browser. Eich believes stupid, immoral things, but so do most of us humans.

OTOH, I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to work for or with someone who thinks they should have fewer rights than other people. That seems to be the logical end result of the pro-Eich (or anti-anti-Eich) position–that people should be obligated to work for an employer that they’re uncomfortable with. That if someone tells you that they’re looking for a new job because their boss is a bigot, you should yell at them because bigots have a right to be bosses or something.

After all, Eich wasn’t fired, he resigned. So if there is any coercion here, it’s not by Mozilla as an employer. It’s by people who said they didn’t want to work for or with Mozilla with Eich at the helm. And you know what? That’s a reasonable feeling for those people to have, even if it’s one I don’t share.

Compassion is great. What’s not so great is demanding it of people who are faced with ongoing injustice.

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MadeOutOfPeople 04.13.14 at 2:33 am

It should bs noted that it didn’t have to end this way. Eich made two public statements, neither of which said “I attempted to remove people’s ability to be legally joined, and i cabs ee how they might be bummed about it, and i won’t do it again.” instead he made mealy mouthed statements about “valuing diversity” while avoiding saying the dreaded h word. No wonder people felt he might not be sincere.

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shah8 04.13.14 at 2:43 am

Roy, that was not an effective rant.

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 2:44 am

Ronan @51 says:

Leaving aside this specific case…

What’s interesting to me about the Eich case is that it is impossible to leave aside this specific case. Eich’s resignation wasn’t just a free speech issue, it was about this cause, in that organization, in this state, for that position. I believe that, had any of that been different, he’d probably still be in his job today.

I also believe that he had to go, and I’m glad he did.

This is why, also contra Ronan, there can never be any taking of civil liberties
“to their logical conclusions” — no one ever extrapolates from the specific case to the general. Freeing the slaves did not lead directly to woman suffrage, despite many people pointing out that that was a logical conclusion of the 14th amendment.

This is also why the insinuation that we’re moving towards a world where “*no* head position *in any* organisation (NGOs, corporations, government agencies/departments etc) should ever be held by anyone with political beliefs (or who has supported political campaigns) outside of the mainstream” is silly.

What’s happened is actually much simpler: It has become unacceptable to be prejudiced against gays and lesbians. The question of allowing or denying marriage to same-sex couples used to be thought a matter of principle, on which people could disagree but still be members of the mainstream. And now it’s not.

This isn’t some generalized march of the liberal gulag. This is just how American society makes up its mind about a specific issue, just as we did about overt racism. No complaint about the lack of general principle in the Eich case will make a bit of difference, because that observation isn’t even targeting the right issue, which is whether it is acceptable to the employees and users of a particular open source product to have a CEO who wants legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians.

What people with a stake in Mozilla decided is that if you want to restrict marriage rights of same-sex couples, you are a bad person. You are so bad, in fact, that you are unfit to be in any position of symbolic importance. And any attempt to carve out some space where it is OK to disagree with that is not going to come across as a sophisticated idea about cognitive diversity, it’s going to come across as pure fag-hating, and will generate the backlash that has recently been attached to that opinion.

This is unfair, of course, in just the way it was unfair that men and women both assumed that they would work and the women would stay home, and then all of a sudden the women changed the deal without asking us whether we wanted them to take jobs. It is unfair in the way that all the ‘separate but equal’ bargains, hashed out over a painful century of co-existence, suddenly got thrown out without anyone asking we white people how we felt about being portrayed as villains.

Nothing anyone ever did at the Greensboro Woolworth’s was so bad that they and their store and their town deserved to be made synonymous with race hate. It was not fair that Greensboro was singled out, and it is not fair that Mozilla was singled out. But revolutions happen in particular places, and onlookers demanding that campaigns to disrupt complacency do so in ways that are deliberate and proportionate to the crime do not understand how or why revolutions happen in particular places.

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 2:47 am

Meant “This is unfair, of course, in just the way it was unfair that men and women both assumed that the men would work and the women would stay home…”

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shah8 04.13.14 at 2:52 am

I probably should have said this extra bit:

I become extremely unsympathetic when I read that “A far more effective approach would be to see past the marginal haters to people concerned about their children and the future. Reassuring them that acceptance of gays won’t harm them.”

Gay people aren’t lions or tigers or bears (however some of them like to think so). They certainly aren’t pedophiles either. Moreover, it’s possible to understand that such facile diversions are in bad faith, from the get go, and that there was never any chance to “reassure” such people with “concerns” about gay people. Those people simply wanted their life choices and natures validated at the expense of gay people, pure and simple. If you want “understanding”, then I’m afraid I must insist on some sort of compelling evidence that there will be mutual “understanding”.

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Belle Waring 04.13.14 at 2:58 am

How many of those defending Eich would be comfortable working for or with someone who spent real money to try to annul their marriages and deny them adoption and parental rights?
Hm? How many? What if you were a black man and it was Alabama Eich up there. You really believe he’s going to be able to leave his views on miscegenation all separate from everything else when promotion season comes around? Really? Because if so I have a bridge to sell you that connects the East Bay to a small island in the middle of the Bay to sell you, and an awesome place on Guerrero and 18th you can rent for only 3K. It has 4 bedrooms. This has nothing to do with Eich’s ability to be pleasant to people in the past, this is just going forward. I don’t think employers should be able to fire employees for political views and donations. I think employees, end users, and people who code for free ought to be able to pressure assholes who make Mozilla look bad resign. I’M LITERALLY WORSE THAN HITLER.

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Belle Waring 04.13.14 at 3:02 am

What I meant to say is, “what Clay Shirky says.”

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The Temporary Name 04.13.14 at 3:04 am

It has become unacceptable to be prejudiced against gays and lesbians.

It’s smaller than that. If someone from Wal-Mart does the same he’s gonna stay. Mozilla is just a place where people expect better.

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 3:31 am

Temp #75, that’s true, and re-reading my post, I realized I also switched between the more and less specific cases without marking that change clearly.

So let me take your observation about Wal-Mart, but project it into the future. In the same way that John Derbyshire was removed (from a deeply conservative publication!) for saying out loud the kind of things about blacks that I grew up with as commonplace observations, the ability to force Eich out now provides a template for applying similar pressures. While those pressures won’t hit Wal-Mart early, they will eventually (and probably soon), simply because Wal-Mart needs the American mainstream to shop there, and the American mainstream is shifting on this issue.

Chick-Fil-A was fought to a draw, Barilla backed down fairly quickly, Eich is out. There will still be private ways to send money to attack the rights of gays and lesbians, but there are fewer and fewer visible conservative figures willing to stand up for what they believe on this issue, if they aspire to reach any part of that mainstream.

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The Temporary Name 04.13.14 at 3:37 am

I agree.

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Belle Waring 04.13.14 at 3:40 am

I also agree that Andrew Sullivan pounced on this in weary gratefulness that he could shut Ta-Nehisi Coates up somehow now, and I really incline to think we should none of us ever give Sullivan the blogging time of day because he is racist. So much racist. Wow, so prejudice. So fuckstick.

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The Temporary Name 04.13.14 at 3:40 am

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John Holbo 04.13.14 at 4:45 am

Thanks for great comments, Clay!

Let me just clarify how something you say – which I agree with, which might seem inconsistent with the post – is consistent with the post. As I am sure you see (but others may not.)

“What’s interesting to me about the Eich case is that it is impossible to leave aside this specific case. Eich’s resignation wasn’t just a free speech issue, it was about this cause, in that organization, in this state, for that position. I believe that, had any of that been different, he’d probably still be in his job today.”

In the post I suggest, apparently to the contrary, that the Eich case isn’t that important. What’s important, if anything, are general issues that – for the moment – we can’t usefully discuss because passions over the Eich case are running too high. Instead of seeing the forest, everyone is yelling about one tree – Eich.

But Clay is saying this one tree – Eich – is unique and special, ergo (presumably) we should appreciate that?

So are Clay and I disagreeing? I think not. (And I think Clay thinks not.)

The thing that makes what Clay is saying and I am saying consistent is this: since the Eich case has distinctive features, you can’t just say ‘the whole country’s going Eich!’ At the same time, as Clay says, there is something plausible about the idea that ‘as goes Mozilla, so goes Wal-Mart in 10 or 20 years.’ This is plausible as prophecy. But (combining these thoughts): since the Mozilla case is distinctive, it would be very unreasonable for someone to reason like this. ‘I think the Mozilla case was handled in an unfortunate way, but it’s plausible that the whole country is going in the direction the Mozilla case suggests. Ergo, the whole country is going an unfortunate way.’ You can perfectly consistently believe the Mozilla case was unfortunate – or unfortunately handled – AND that the whole country is heading in a pro-same-sex marriage direction, AND that it doesn’t follow that for the whole country to be heading in this direction is unfortunate, or even that it follows that the right things are happening for the wrong reasons, overall.

I don’t, myself, believe that the Mozilla case was wrongly handled. Or rightly handled. I guess if I had to guess I’d say: the board was right to try to nudge him to resign (which I guess they did. Do we even know that?) But I don’t know and – although some folks know better than I do – I think few outsiders really know what went down. So we should not defend positions that hinge on us being able to say, confidently, how it went down, exactly. If you have to know what happened at Mozilla, or if you have to know Eich’s heart, to make your argument, you probably shouldn’t bother making your argument.

Let me focus just on those links, supportive of Eich, from LGBT Mozillans, provided upthread by Sam Tobin-Hochstadt. Sam quotes these, I think, as evidence that ‘he had to go!’ is wrong (since people who might be presumed unsupportive were supportive.) But it doesn’t suggest that. What it suggests, if anything, is that the board could have acted reasonably in a couple of ways (for all we outsiders know). Ergo, liberals are right that those who are saying Mozilla obviously acted wrongly are wrong.

How might the Mozilla board have responded to Sam’s links?

They could have said: Eich has convinced LGBT Mozillans that they can trust him. He stays! We will weather the media storm!

They could have said: the mission IS more important than being absolutely sure LGBT Mozillans can trust him. Maybe we made a wrong call, tapping him, but we should stick with him now rather than force him out and threaten the mission even more. We need his technical genius!

On the other hand they could have said: the fact that defenders have to dig up a few LGBT Mozillans who say they can trust him – or say the open web mission is more important than trust on LGBT issues – is a sign that, in fact, it isn’t obvious that this is true. You need to be able to do better than this: “Meet our new CEO! It wouldn’t be unreasonable to mistrust him on certain key issues, given what he has done. But, on the other hand, some insiders – who might be presumed to know a thing or two – do think they can trust him on those issues.” It wouldn’t be crazy for the board to think that’s just too weak a platform of defense.

And now this long comment should serve as a proof of how I was right when I said I didn’t want to get into the Eich weeds for that way lies madness.

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Lew Dog 04.13.14 at 6:24 am

My concern is the absolute absence of intellectual integrity here. How can you claim to be in any way liberal and meanwhile stamp out criticism for no damn reason at all?

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Michael Drew 04.13.14 at 6:30 am

This post reads like nothing so much as a ridiculous capitulation to the reality that there is just little profit in arguing against what this case looks and smells like to anyone not strongly inclined to side with those who sought his ouster. That’s independent of who’s right. It looks to me like the problem is that you know how this seems, and, whatever the winning and correct arguments might end up being, you know there’s ultimately almost nothing you can do to change the strong initial impression that this case makes on people without a strong initial commitment not to see it that way. Hence no profit in arguing. I predict you don’t follow up with any arguments precisely because there’s no profit in it.

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Bruce Baugh 04.13.14 at 6:42 am

John, a great set of comments. I’m reminded of something a friend and I talked about recently, about the evolution in when we trust insider perspectives and when not. Both of us find ourselves a lot more inclined to trust someone close to what may be a problem saying “yes, it’s a problem” than someone close saying “no, it’s not”. And even when we’re inclined to trust the latter, we go for a lot more supporting evidence to feel comfortable with it.

I think it’s the passage of time. We have ourselves had to make compromises to live with situations we couldn’t change, and see others having to do the same. The world provides so many opportunities to say that things are okay even when they’re very far from it, and so few rewards for saying how un-okay anything that you’ve come to rely on is.

The thing is, of course, that sometimes a situation really is okay in ways not obvious to outsiders, for reasons from not obviously connected but significant opportunities to flat-out misrepresentations made by adversaries to the public. Keeping open to that as well as the above is, well, tricky.

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shah8 04.13.14 at 6:47 am

In a world full of George Zimmermans and Angela Coreys, the idea that I, as Michael Drew suggests, have some lack of ability to walk in Eich’s shoes, is ludicrous. The narrative of John Holbo’s stream of logic stagnates in the state of moral exhaustion.

The very idea that someone who’s supposed to be above it all, all of a sudden has to be accountable to the peasantry in the least little way, as co-workers, as customers, as lobbyists (too!)–this idea seems to break certain people’s minds. Aren’t double standards and hypocrisy supposed to prevent even the need for such humbleness?

Maybe the peasants are getting tired of that shit, you know. Maybe they’ve got tumbrels hidden underneath their apple carts.

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John Holbo 04.13.14 at 7:06 am

“The narrative of John Holbo’s stream of logic stagnates in the state of moral exhaustion.”

This is true if the campaign for marriage equality is primarily a campaign of moral revenge. But that’s absurd. The primary goal has to be marriage equality as a right and a good. Right?

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shah8 04.13.14 at 7:25 am

You can’t help it if some folks think you’re out for revenge! That rights are zero sum, and if the gheys get the certificates, that means your certificate just ain’t as real anymore! Your love just ain’t as real anymore! Wait, did you really love her, or accessorize her? I can’t tell.

What I *can* tell is that Eich’s shoes are really well worn! Having been passed from geek to geek, traveling through snow and stone, through deserts and forests, sucked into mud, and chapped from the wind, and now I hold them in my hands, apparently urged to put them on and walk the sacred burden, knowing not what that saint felt, truly. I don’t know about you, but these shoes are nasty. I’d rather just hop on over to the Lost ‘n Found Thrift and Consignment store for shoes with a bit better…vibe.

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shah8 04.13.14 at 7:45 am

Man, I suppose I also want to add this, in more seriousness…

When Thomas Jefferson writes:

We hold these truths to be self-evident

–that phrase is meant to render the usual tap dancing in the harsh light. Didn’t really work for constructing the Constitution, but it did play a role in making some of its noxious loopholes politically and socially unacceptable in the long run. How much does anyone want to bet that it still plays a role in capturing the sense of fairness of many Americans? Of nudging people along, better than Cass Sunstein ever could, towards the full participation of GLBT in society? (not that I’m in favor of marriage, in general, so no gay marriage either, but still)

Eich, in the end, doesn’t agree with that, and so the shoes are worn, up against the current.

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John Holbo 04.13.14 at 7:49 am

“In a world full of George Zimmermans and Angela Coreys, the idea that I, as Michael Drew suggests, have some lack of ability to walk in Eich’s shoes, is ludicrous.”

Maybe this helps: George Zimmerman committed murder, and was acquitted. That is very bad. He was definitely psychologically and morally disturbed, and he has clearly gone way crazy since. But if someone asked me: exactly what sort of disturbed was Zimmerman, before he killed Trayvon Martin? I would reply: I don’t know exactly. But racial animus was part of it, no doubt. But I don’t think that recognizing the badness of unpunished murder requires me to calibrate exactly where his head was on the night of the murder. (Although I do admit it’s a psychologically interesting question.)

Eich contributed to Prop 8, which a person would only do out of animus towards homosexuals. Legal deprivation of the word ‘marriage’. (No one can make any ‘but think of the children!’ argument. And if you make a religious argument, then it is just a religious argument for animus to homosexuals. Same-same.) Eich said, later, that he didn’t do this thing, that could only be done out of animus, out of animus. He supports not just the letter but the spirit of Mozilla LGBT inclusiveness. All this just doesn’t compute. Exactly HOW it doesn’t compute I don’t know. But it is related to Eich having – or having had – negative attitudes towards homosexuality.

If somehow you feel sure you know exactly what kinds of negative attitudes Eich has, or had, such that you can tell whether you need to walk in the cognitive dissonance shoes, or the lying about what you think shoes, or the changed my mind but unwilling to admit I was wrong shoes, or some yet fancier pair of shoes – go nuts! My point: which of these pairs of shoes is the truly right one to walk in, to understand Eich, is not of vital importance for the marriage equality movement, neither theoretically nor in political practice.

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John Holbo 04.13.14 at 7:49 am

My comment crossed with shah8’s. I was still responding to what he said first.

90

John Holbo 04.13.14 at 7:53 am

“You can’t help it if some folks think you’re out for revenge!”

I’m not accusing you of being out for moral revenge, shah8. But by suggesting that if there couldn’t be revenge, there wouldn’t be a moral point, you yourself were implying that position. I don’t think you meant it, but you said it. I was hinting that you should retract it.

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Abbe Faria 04.13.14 at 8:26 am

“What’s happened is actually much simpler: It has become unacceptable to be prejudiced against gays and lesbians. The question of allowing or denying marriage to same-sex couples used to be thought a matter of principle, on which people could disagree but still be members of the mainstream. And now it’s not.”

Maybe it will at at some point. But that’s not what happened in California. What happened is prop 8 supporters got the majority, won the ballot. But then this was countered by successful attempt to have the law declared unconstitutional, and then an ongoing targetting of supporters.

That’s why the rancor, because they are a minority who were defeated and had to use extra democratic means to reach their goal. Very few people actually care about Eich specifically and his historic actions have had little importance. This is a demonstation of how a small group can mount an effective campaign, not any widespread rejection by the mainstream.

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Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 04.13.14 at 8:58 am

John, you seem to be under the impression that the board forced him to resign. But this isn’t true. I encourage you (and everyone else on this thread) to read https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2014/04/05/faq-on-ceo-resignation/ because it clears up a lot of mis-information that is quite prevalent here.

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Ze Kraggash 04.13.14 at 9:01 am

What Clay Shirky said works for a community, free association of like-minded folks, a private club. Everyone is a vegetarian, and if you’ve been seen ordering steak, you’re out. Great, I like it, and I don’t think anyone would object.

But it’s not good for a capitalist workplace, where people work to make a living. There, complying with the official rules has to be good enough, or we are, for all intents and purposes, in witch-hunt territory.

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Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 04.13.14 at 9:11 am

The Temporary Name,

Very little of Mozilla’s funding comes from donations. Specifically, 90+% of the Mozilla Corporation’s revenue comes from a deal with Google which makes Google the default search engine. This drives lots of profitable traffic to Google, and Google therefore pays upwards of $100 million per year for this.

The Mozilla Foundation also has a number of smaller projects funded primarily by foundations, but this does not support any of the widely known activities of Mozilla, such as developing Firefox.

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esch 04.13.14 at 9:38 am

Stephenson quoter-kun, 23:

The set of all possible attempts to answer this question consists mostly of very bad answers. I could say that I see nothing wrong with being a racist, which isn’t a good answer (aside from being untrue).

You could say that voting for Prop 8 is bad for marriage-equality, and that being a racist is bad for race-relations, but that neither is necessarily bad for the production of software.

You have a strong view that a person’s opinions can or should make a person unsuitable to a public role, presumably on the assumption of either: a) those opinions will inevitably feed in to their decision-making, which will result in them making the world a worse place or b) some kind of moral desert principle, viz. bad-people-shouldn’t-have-nice-things

Nailed it.

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esch 04.13.14 at 9:51 am

Clay Shirky, 70:

What people with a stake in Mozilla decided is that if you want to restrict marriage rights of same-sex couples, you are a bad person. You are so bad, in fact, that you are unfit to be in any position of symbolic importance.

The indefinite scope of this phrasing neglects what’s been reported upthread and on Mozilla’s website.

The Mozilla Blog reported that the board asked Eich to stay on in another C-level position after he submitted his resignation, that fewer than 10 Mozilla employees, none reporting to Eich directly, called for him to step down, and that the majority of Mozilla employees who expressed their views supported his leadership. David Flanagan, a programmer at Mozilla, agrees that most Mozillians were willing to treat it as a private matter, and “I believe we could have worked through the discomfort (as we did when Brendan’s donation was first revealed in 2011) and moved on with our mission.”

Therefore most of those with arguably the greatest stake in Mozilla, and closest to Eich professionally, did not make the decision you describe. I don’t know, and I doubt that you know, how popular that decision really is, though I don’t deny that its proponents are louder.

the right issue, which is whether it is acceptable to the employees and users of a particular open source product to have a CEO who wants legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians.

See above.

This is just how American society makes up its mind about a specific issue, just as we did about overt racism.

Again, the collective will of American society isn’t necessarily evident in Eich’s resignation, and most of Mozilla is still in what you characterize as bygone days. That aside, you seem to endorse the development that you imagine is taking place. If so, I disagree that online reactions to these events, abounding with misinformation and misunderstanding, hot tempers and animosity, serve as a laudable model for democracy or social progress, and I see little resemblance between them and the kinds of interactions that are gradually eroding racism and sexism.

Rather than unfairness-apologetics, why not embrace pragmatism or utilitarianism? You can advocate marriage-equality on the basis that it will add to the happiness, health, and wealth of the world. And as for Eich, on one hand, it’s not apparent that anyone will benefit by his resignation, and on the other hand, Mozilla, whose software is obviously in great demand, is likely where his skills could be put to best use (as S q-k, 6, said). But if you sincerely believe that all social progress requires a Woolworth’s, surely someone less productive than Eich can be found among the many who voted for Prop 8.

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John Holbo 04.13.14 at 9:58 am

“John, you seem to be under the impression that the board forced him to resign.”

I was a bit unclear about that, and possibly a bit misinformed, thanks for the link. I don’t think it really matters much whether he resigned because he was under general pressure or specific pressure from the board, or a bit of both. But best to be accurate, yes.

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novakant 04.13.14 at 10:03 am

I just wish these rather high moral standards would be applied in the same manner to all US CEOs.

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Nine 04.13.14 at 10:04 am

Belle Waring@10 – “I think that you are a programmer yourself (please correct me if I’m wrong) and it’s my sense that the community (the vast majority of whom are straight white guys) feels fellowship with Eich”

FWIW, I don’t think any of this is true anymore – apart from the bit about Eich’s defender being a programmer. It may not be germane to the discussion but in terms of name recognition Eich well below Knuth or Thompson or Norvig & probably several others in that “Coders at work” list.

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Nine 04.13.14 at 10:16 am

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt@24 – “Incidentally, the Mozilla employees who called for Eich’s resignation seem to all have been Foundation employees, and thus not reporting to Eich.”

So employees outside his scope of influence want him gone whereas his direct reports have blogged nice things about him. You might want to consider when using this as a defense that it can be interpreted other than benignly.

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Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 04.13.14 at 10:27 am

John, the largest portion of your comment at #80 is about actions/thoughts/feelings of the Mozilla Corporation board. But in fact, the events you’re discussing were not mostly actions taken by said board, or because of it, but caused instead by external pressure.

Nine, I haven’t made any defense of anything in this thread, other than accuracy about an organization that I care a lot about. But certainly, things could be interpreted that way. I think if you read what Mozilla employees have written about this, you would see that this is clearly the wrong interpretation, but who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?

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Nine 04.13.14 at 10:38 am

I’m sure Larry Ellison, who is widely regarded as a martinet and an unpleasant person to work for, could produce any number of glowing testimonials from current employees or indeed from past employees who may want to remain in his good graces. But, yeah, who knows what lurks in the heatrs of men.

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Stephenson quoter-kun 04.13.14 at 10:42 am

Belle @32:

Are they going to think his heart is in it? Will they hear a wink wink nudge nudge even when he retrains himself to display no emotion? Will I genuinely approach this guy with my complaint, in real life? No, because real life. So, people who are tasked with not merely adhering to, but overseeing the carrying-out of, and even devising new, improved moral codes of tolerance do need to be held to a higher standard or the whole thing falls apart, nu?

Don’t we depend on people to do this all of the time? Right down to something as simple as, say, moderating the comments on an internet forum, we expect people to put their personal opinions aside when deciding whether something has objectively broken the rules. That’s why the rules need to be published and, ideally, the process for changing the rules should be public and community-based. The whole reason for doing this is to ensure that we don’t need to care too deeply about the personalities of the people involved, so as to maximise the number of people who can participate. I don’t accept that we cannot bind those in powerful positions by the same mechanisms that we bind the ordinary folk, though we should certainly scrutinise them more.

As to whether enough attention has been paid to his crucial programming achievements, I agree it hasn’t. It goes a really long way towards explaining why people would suddenly see a love of Prop 8 (why Prop 8?! It was just pure anti-gay marriage, there was no content there!) as a totally fine thing that one would be able to keep separate from one’s work no problem.

I don’t think his achievements are particularly important, really. They explain how he got to be considered for CEO in the first place, and what we stand to lose by his withdrawal from Mozilla, but they don’t really affect the rights and wrongs of the case at all.

Because no gay people have been discriminated against until some come forward on their own and risk their careers! For certain!

Where’s the smoking gun here? The fact is that Mozilla has a very good reputation as an inclusive community and workplace, and this is an organisation that was co-founded by Brendan Eich. He was there from the very start at the very highest levels! If he had wanted to shape the culture in a way that was intolerant of gay people, he had plenty of opportunity to do so back when ‘Mozilla’ was just a name and a bunch of idealistic software developers. Instead, Mozilla’s culture is very much the opposite. You don’t think he deserves some credit for that?

You’re sarcastically suggesting that Eich must (because, c’mon, who’d really believe otherwise?) have discriminated against gay people at some point, despite all of the available evidence from Mozilla itself pointing in the opposite direction. In this specific case, it really does look as though Eich took the high road, deciding that whilst he personally doesn’t think that gay people should get married, he’d much rather Mozilla’s community be inclusive towards those people. I still think his views on marriage are repulsive but it really does seem as though his professional conduct has been unimpeachable.

Those who have worked closely with Eich also said pretty much the same thing – Mitchell Baker gave him a strong endorsement, along with a clear explanation of the the standards that the CEO is expected to adhere to. She also explained how the process for deciding those standards is community-based and not some lightly-held ‘diversity policy’ that exists for the sake of appearances. As a co-founder, former Corporation CEO and current Foundation Chairwoman, I’m inclined to take her word for it.

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Nine 04.13.14 at 11:12 am

“As a co-founder, former Corporation CEO and current Foundation Chairwoman, I’m inclined to take her word for it.”

Oooh, pulling rank ! Poor Brandon Eich, his defenders grow less persuasive by the minute.

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Stephenson quoter-kun 04.13.14 at 11:15 am

Somehow, I don’t imagine that you considered me to be very persuasive to start with :-)

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 11:22 am

Abbe #90,

Though the mechanism in the Californian case was judicial rather than legislative, the dropping of the anti-gay provisions of marriage rules was not, by the time of the defeat, a case of an anti-gay majority being forced to accept an outcome they didn’t like.

Prop 22 (2000) passed by 61%.
Prop 8 (2008) passed by 52%.
When 8 was struck down (2013) polling consistently found anti-gay opinion in the mid-30%s.

So though the reversal did not involve a plebiscite, the decision was not anti-majoritarian.

Indeed, Prop 8 had been a fairly explicit attempt to raise the structural stakes to the level of a Constitutional amendment, precisely because popular support was weakening. Since one proposition can always repeal another, and the number of committed marriage denialists was getting so low that any merely majoritarian strategy was clearly going to run out of steam circa 2010, 8 was the last attempt to take the question off the table before the majority switched sides on the issue.

More generally, what is happening is this: the liberals working on this issue have learned to work in the opposite direction from the common American theory of ‘hearts and minds’ change leading to public change. Instead, their goal is to make it unacceptable to advocate anti-gay positions in public, no matter one’s private beliefs, on the grounds that raising the cost of public expression of opinion also raises the coordination costs for conservative action to the level of a conspiracy.

Pop culture references to this change abound, from Seinfeld’s reflexive “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” as a way of maintaining a socially acceptable distance between private distaste and public acceptance, to The Princess Diaries’ princess’s response to the news that the handsome, well-dressed and seemingly eligible Prince is gay, which was, along with her friend, to declare “Right on!” while also indulging in some private disappointment.

If you polled California’s straight guys and said “Penis in your anus? Hot or not?”, I’m willing to bet you’d still find a sizable majority who would check the box marked “Squick.” What’s happened is that an increasing number of those people are no longer willing to raise that feeling to the level of political commitment.

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Nine 04.13.14 at 11:37 am

“Somehow, I don’t imagine that you considered me to be very persuasive to start with”

Amazingly perceptive, no wonder you made CEO !

But this … “He was there from the very start at the very highest levels! If he had wanted to shape the culture in a way that was intolerant of gay people, he had plenty of opportunity to do so back “

For someone who invokes “the community” at every turn isn’t it condescending to assert that one person, no matter his importance, could bend it to his will, especially on matters so personal ? It’s much more likely that he would have had his ass kicked . This is not Wal Mart, the tech world is famously fractious.

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 11:43 am

Stephenson #100,

Those who have worked closely with Eich also said pretty much the same thing – Mitchell Baker gave him a strong endorsement… As a co-founder, former Corporation CEO and current Foundation Chairwoman, I’m inclined to take her word for it.

This makes perfect sense, and Mitchell is one of the most amazing (and underappreciated) figures in the history of the web, but at the same time I think this paragraph describes exactly the mechanism of Eich’s defeat, which is that more people took the opposite side as you, and were inclined not to take anyone’s word for it.

This is why “But there are gay and lesbian employees who vouch for the guy” did little, and this is why his incredible contributions (including co-founding the organization) also did little. It wasn’t Eich’s contributions or views or his behavior that changed. The public just decided, collectively, that what he’d done was now, retroactively, unacceptable.

The people who want Eich’s defenestration to make sense will never be satisfied with this answer, because it doesn’t make sense.

Why was 2014 a year in which Eich’s funding of discriminatory laws unacceptable, but 2012 not? Why was the title CEO such a lightning rod, but CTO and co-founder not. Who knows? But here’s the thing. In democratic politics (in the larger, sloppier sense of ‘demos-driven’, the part that has always terrified elites as mob rule) no consistency is required.

2000, most of us don’t think gay marriage is a good idea. 2005, some of us have changed our minds, but don’t regard people who haven’t as evil. 2008, a politicizing year, you start to see something Manichean creep in. 2012, everyone gets a one-time pass to come into the growing pro-gay tent, and no historical credentials will be checked at the entrance. And now, 2014, if you’ve ever left a public trace of discrimination, you must now abjure it in the strongest possible terms, or you will face a PNG campaign.

And any attempt to find some principle underlying that shift will fail, because what shifted wasn’t principles, which are the same ones they always were. What happened is what usually happens, which is that people changed their minds without ever formulating a principled reason for the change.

Eich was on the far side of that change, and seemed to have a hard time understaning that something he could have weathered in 2012 was going to be fatal in 2014. (Which, to be fair, was a hard shift to grok quick.) But if you’re not willing to accept “It just be’s like that sometimes” as a description of social change, l’affaire Eich will never make sense (but neither will most social change make sense.)

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 11:43 am

Stephenson #100,

Those who have worked closely with Eich also said pretty much the same thing – Mitchell Baker gave him a strong endorsement… As a co-founder, former Corporation CEO and current Foundation Chairwoman, I’m inclined to take her word for it.

This makes perfect sense, and Mitchell is one of the most amazing (and underappreciated) figures in the history of the web, but at the same time I think this paragraph describes exactly the mechanism of Eich’s defeat, which is that more people took the opposite side as you, and were inclined not to take anyone’s word for it.

This is why “But there are gay and lesbian employees who vouch for the guy” did little, and this is why his incredible contributions (including co-founding the organization) also did little. It wasn’t Eich’s contributions or views or his behavior that changed. The public just decided, collectively, that what he’d done was now, retroactively, unacceptable.

The people who want Eich’s defenestration to make sense will never be satisfied with this answer, because it doesn’t make sense.

Why was 2014 a year in which Eich’s funding of discriminatory laws unacceptable, but 2012 not? Why was the title CEO such a lightning rod, but CTO and co-founder not. Who knows? But here’s the thing. In democratic politics (in the larger, sloppier sense of ‘demos-driven’, the part that has always terrified elites as mob rule) no consistency is required.

2000, most of us don’t think gay marriage is a good idea. 2005, some of us have changed our minds, but don’t regard people who haven’t as evil. 2008, a politicizing year, you start to see something Manichean creep in. 2012, everyone gets a one-time pass to come into the growing pro-gay tent, and no historical credentials will be checked at the entrance. And now, 2014, if you’ve ever left a public trace of discrimination, you must now abjure it in the strongest possible terms, or you will face a PNG campaign.

And any attempt to find some principle underlying that shift will fail, because what shifted wasn’t principles, which are the same ones they always were. What happened is what usually happens, which is that people changed their minds without ever formulating a principled reason for the change.

Eich was on the far side of that change, and seemed to have a hard time understaning that something he could have weathered in 2012 was going to be fatal in 2014. (Which, to be fair, was a hard shift to grok quick.) But if you’re not willing to accept “It just be’s like that sometimes” as a description of social change, l’affaire Eich will never make sense (but neither will most social change make sense.)

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Main Street Muse 04.13.14 at 11:50 am

How was Chik Fil A’s battle fought to a draw? Their business soared during the protest. And after the kerfluffle, they apparently donated more to anti-gay organizations. This year, apparently, they’ve scaled back on ALL charitable donations, making it look like they’ve given less to anti-gay organizations. In reality, they’re just giving less.

I think there is more to the story of Eich’s resignation. Seems weird that a $1K donation to support Prop 8 would force a CEO to resign, especially if the board was in support of him. Perhaps I’m too cynical. I see Paul Ryan running for president on a platform of racism and misogyny (see his views on rape as a method of conception) and he’s likely to be top of the GOP ticket…

111

Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 12:09 pm

Holbo @80:

…it would be very unreasonable for someone to reason like this. ‘I think the Mozilla case was handled in an unfortunate way, but it’s plausible that the whole country is going in the direction the Mozilla case suggests. Ergo, the whole country is going an unfortunate way.’

I think this is right.

For instance, no one has suggested that Mozilla will see an increase in its technical capabilities with Eich gone. It would be perfectly reasonable to say “Nobody’s perfect, and the guy’s an incredible talent” (the Orson Scott Card exemption, effectively) or to note that “Up to about 6 months ago, we were OK with a modus vivendi that let antis and pros work together without too much overt friction.”

Indeed, the only persuasive commentary I’ve seen that is both pro-gay and anti-Eich firing says “We’re winning, so we have some space to be gracious, and we got where we were not be demonizing mainstream opinion but by shifting it so slowly that people didn’t feel like they were changing their minds.” (If you want to change someone’s mind, try to allow them to believe that that is the one thing they are not actually doing.)

I wasn’t actually persuaded by that argument, but I didn’t regard it as ridiculous, and while I’m not in the philosophy trade like Holbo, so I worry less about which sorts of arguments can be placed in the bin marked ‘not unreasonable’, I do think, at the strategic level, that “We’ll let Eich stay and call it a victory so long as Mozilla enforces its codes of conduct” would have been a perfectly sensible strategy, had the strategy been run by insiders.

(Once OKcupid got involved, it wasn’t run by insiders any more, but that’s a whole nother kettle of worms, and pretty far from the philosophical sorting out of the ‘not unreasonable’ from the ‘just bonkers’, argumentationwise.)

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John Holbo 04.13.14 at 12:18 pm

“John, the largest portion of your comment at #80 is about actions/thoughts/feelings of the Mozilla Corporation board. But in fact, the events you’re discussing were not mostly actions taken by said board, or because of it, but caused instead by external pressure.”

And that is why I write, in comment 80: “the board was right to try to nudge him to resign (which I guess they did. Do we even know that?)”

That is, I was very careful to frame my hypothetical discussion of the actions/thoughts of the board with the caveat that perhaps nothing of the sort even happened.

Why even discuss it, then? Well, people sure have been. And I guess it’s sort of interesting to ask, hypothetically, what actions by the board would have been justifiable or reasonable, whether they took any of them or not. But I was trying to toss a bit of cold water on that by suggesting that, really, from the outside, a range of actions – from support of Eich to nudging him out – could be reasonable. So probably the ‘he had to go!’ ‘Mozilla caved to the hard left’ debate is a bit … frictionless.

Also, while I’m glad you linked that FAQ, I think we can all agree that probably if the board worked anything out, behind the scenes, they wouldn’t be totally forthcoming about reporting on all that. I don’t suspect a big cover-up or anything. But ‘Eich resigned on his own’ is the happiest way for him to leave, from their point of view, so it’s what they would want to be able to report. Grain of salt and all.

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 12:22 pm

MSM #107,

I characterize their reduction of charitable donations as the draw. They are simply less involved in projecting the beliefs of management into the public sphere, because it’s not worth the hassle.

What people often miss, in their ‘slacktivism is so useless!” pronouncements, is that bad publicity, even when it fails at its main goals, can create an asynchronous cost problem, where the part-time protestors can slander Dan Cathy as a hobby, while to respond, Cathy has to lawyer up. So my calculation of the draw is “Chik Fil A didn’t suffer in its core business, but it did see the costs of public arguing about this issue as not being worth the value.”

I’m also working on the assumption that other CEOs are now making similar calculations. Their hearts may burn with righteous anger at the effrontery of sodomites everywhere, while they still look for ways to avoid paying an army of Assistant Brand Managers to deal with bored teenagers dragging their logo through the meme-machine.

114

Ronan(rf) 04.13.14 at 12:59 pm

Clay Shirky – I don’t necessarily disagree with you, and my comment was a little lazy and hasty. I don’t think that taken to its logical conclusions we’re marching towards the liberal Gulag. Mine is an aesthetic argument primarily. As you say it’s unfair, and I agree. Eich should have been judged (imo – ideally) on his experience, professionalism, fitness for the job etc. Things that can be measured and that are relevant. (If it is the case that two board members voted specifically because of his politics, and they could make a strong case that his politics would (1) cause reputational damage for Mozilla (2) divide the workplace, then that would also be fair. In *my* ideal.)

I don’t buy your examples of Greensboro or women entering the workplace. Greensboro (afaik, though no expert on US history) was an attack on the practices and structures of discrimination, as they existed. Mozilla was an attack on an individual. It wasn’t an attack on a workplace that discriminated against gays,or an employer who harrassed his staff, it was an attack on a position an individual took on an issue.

Sure, if people want to campaign against businesses that bin every CV from housing estate X, or from every applicant with name Y, or refuses to implement/enforce rules that crack down on harrasment in the workplace, then count me in. I’m just saying that ideally, in my Utopia, someone’s job shouldn’t be dependant on what position they took on a specific issue. (Yes, this leaves me open to accusations of privilege and ‘why should anyone directly affected by Eich’s politics care what I think’, and Ive no problem (personally) with either response.
And Bruce (Baugh) I’m sorry to take an oppositional stance to you here , as I do(or hope I do) see what you’re saying.)

On the ‘taken to its logical conclusion’.. taken to its logical conclusions we’re not marching towards the liberal Gulag, but it’s reinforcing a norm that political beliefs and peoples jobs are fair game for political action. And, to my eyes /hyperbole on/ it’s just another float in our endless hate pageant /hyperbole off/ where the individual becomes the target for our ire, rather than the institution, norm, organisation etc.

Bascially I’d prefer to err on the side of not firing people for their political beliefs/actions and not have a political culture where corporate cliches like ‘repuational costs’ were taken seriously. (Also, look, Ive been fired, (from a sales job where I hit my targets), by a group email sent on a friday when I was still at work that I received when I got home. Not that that says anything particularly, but I think we are developing an insane attitude towards job securiy. Also I’ve worked in a workplace where the only non white (recent immigrant) was driven from the job not by management but due to pressure on the floor (racist abuse specifically) but also because it was a job you had to learn (welding) that no one was willing to take the time to teach him. So obviously he couldn’t do the job. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, and Im becoming incoherent.)
My logic such as it exists is obviously not flawless here, but thank you Clay Shirky for your thoughtful response.

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Ronan(rf) 04.13.14 at 1:03 pm

Btw, that thank you at the end wasn’t sarcastic. Reading back I should have said ‘thank you Clay’ rather than ‘thank you Clay Shirky.’ Thank you clay shirky sounds smartarsey. But it wasnt meant to be.

116

Main Street Muse 04.13.14 at 1:22 pm

To Clay – “I characterize their reduction of charitable donations as the draw. They are simply less involved in projecting the beliefs of management into the public sphere, because it’s not worth the hassle.”

I guess I don’t see the draw here. They still contribute to these organizations, though not as much. CEO Cathy is still in place. Business boomed during the boycott.

117

Consumatopia 04.13.14 at 1:24 pm

“But it’s not good for a capitalist workplace, where people work to make a living. There, complying with the official rules has to be good enough, or we are, for all intents and purposes, in witch-hunt territory.”

“The official rules” can never be the whole story, companies aren’t going to select a Communist as the CEO, even if said Communist promises to maximize shareholder value. The board of directors isn’t going to pick anyone they consider outside the mainstream. All “no witch hunts!” means in this context is that corporate boards and stockholders are the only ones allowed to make judgments like that–that as long as you follow the official rules (that you probably wrote yourself) customers and employees are morally obligated to continue doing business with you. It’s absurd.

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John Holbo 04.13.14 at 1:46 pm

Lew Dog: “My concern is the absolute absence of intellectual integrity here. How can you claim to be in any way liberal and meanwhile stamp out criticism for no damn reason at all?”

I don’t lay any claim to having stamped out criticism for ‘no damn reason at all’. If I have stamped out criticism for no damn reason, it is because I thought I had a damn reason. And then my reasons for claiming to be in any way liberal would flow from the damn reason, which would have to be a thing I took to be consistent with liberalism – as such things may be, in the rough and bumptious course of intellectual life.

But all this amounts to rather a high-elevation pass over the damn reason, or lack thereof.

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AcademicLurker 04.13.14 at 2:21 pm

@Ronan(rf): I’m somewhat sympathetic to your general point that following the formal rules should be enough to avoid termination and that anything that normalizes the idea that punishing employees for their non-work related behavior is pernicious. Our country’s devotion to the principle of total lack of security at all times for ordinary workers is indeed a problem. However, I don’t think it’s relevant in this case.

Putting aside the fact that Eich wasn’t fired, the important fact is that CEO’s, like the rich, really are different. We live in a culture that treats CEO’s like sultans. They come into their positions guaranteed lavish non-performance based compensation packages that will make them wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice regardless of whether they do well, mediocre, or drive the company into the ground.

The power discrepancy between CEO’s and ordinary employees is so massive that I think any argument based on an analogy between them risks becoming absurd before it even gets started.

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JimV 04.13.14 at 2:29 pm

I’m not sure if you’re fight or wrong (or neither), but I’m sure it was an excellent post.

Had I your strength of will to avoid unnecessary and unfruitful discussions I would not add this aside:

“Thomas Harris’ Hannibal never once killed or ate someone who was his moral superior, or whose innocence was more intact than his own.”

Well he didn’t eat the investigator in “The Red Dragon” but he tried to have him and his family killed. I see a lot of revisionist history after the success of “Silence of the Lambs” made Hollywood fall in love with serial killers. It is clear in both “The Red Dragon” and “The Silence of the Lambs” that Lector was an egotistical monster, e.g., pretending he could read the case file and find clues no one else was smart enough to see when all along he knew who Jame Gumb was and where he lived.

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Bruce Baugh 04.13.14 at 3:04 pm

Clay, I’d to take issue with just one part of your @108, with which I otherwise agree lots – about whether there was any principle behind some people’s (a lot of people’s) change of priorities on the issue. I think there was, and I think what happened is that people decided to act in a principled way.

“Let others live as they wish, as long as it doesn’t impose significant harm or threat on others” is, after all, a guiding principle. “All these thoughts I keep having about queers mess me up” is an assertion of harm, but not a very good one. What shifted in the last decade, for a lot of people, is one of two things: either they found it easier to stop obsessing over the buttsecks (as the kids sometimes put it), or they decided that the squick they felt didn’t actually rise to the level of a sufficient objection after all. Either way, they became willing to let the principle take over and keep their grumbles down to a non-binding-legislation/executive order/court ruling level.

I’m often, though not always, of the view that this is in general how civil rights progress. People decide that it’s no longer worth their while to keep digging out this particular “not for you, though, you awful $AWFULTHING” exception.

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 3:05 pm

MSM #116:

I think we may differ about the degree to which C-f-A got its wings clipped (ahem).

They had to issue a statement saying…

The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.

…which is hardly the muscular, Leviticus 20:13-inflected sentiment one might expect of a Bible-thumper like Cathy, and not one that offers much support to the people looking to Chik-fil-a as a beacon of hope for legitimated oppression.

Likewise, their recently released financial statements indicate that they have stopped donating to every one of the objected-to organizations except The Fellowship of Christian Athletes: http://goqnotes.com/27860/new-chick-fil-a-filings-show-decrease-in-anti-lgbt-funding/

And point-scoring politicians in Yankee hellholes like Chicago and Boston decided that they could show how Richard Florida they were by holding franchise licenses hostage, and although nobody likes a smug Yankee, there are enough dollars north of the barbecue line that it’s worth cooling it a bit on the gay hate if it means more franchises can send those dollars back home.

Not a skull on a pikestaff in the manner of Eich, but not nothing either. More like…a draw.

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Glen Tomkins 04.13.14 at 3:14 pm

I don’t see any of this as at all complicated.

Insofar as people on the right side of this argument ever defended the dignity and rights of gays and lesbians, back when that was the unpopular position, on purely formal grounds, that we all have the right to live our lives free of social and state prejudice, etc., yes, no doubt, that was intellectually lazy, and ineffective. Our bad.

The only useful sort of thing to argue back then was against the incorrect beliefs about gays and lesbians that led to most people being willing to go along with discrimination against gays and lesbians. Argue until you were blue in the face the formal position that we all deserve to live according to our own lights, but to people who held the incorrect belief that all gay men were by nature necessarily child molesters, of course you convinced exactly none of them that gay men should be allowed to live by their own lights. If that incorrect belief remained, of course gays were not going to be allowed to live by that.

Of course we prejudge, of course we’re biased, as individuals, as a society, and as society enforces its will through government. Some of those judgments are spot on and completely necessary, some are horribly unfair and result in massive injustice. The trick is distinguishing, judging which of these prejudgments are true and which are not.

If you want to defend Eich, if you want to convince us that he should never have been hounded from his position at Mozilla, convince us that he was right, not that he had some formal right to be wrong.

Convince us that we’re wrong to discriminate against someone who donated money that was used to reinforce the prejudice that gay men are inclined to child molestation.

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Ronan(rf) 04.13.14 at 3:18 pm

AcademicLurker – yeah, I don’t really disagree. I think I’ve just backed myself into a position that I dont agree with fully then tied it to other issues I agree with more strongly.
I don’t really know where I fall on this, tbh, and I’m not really all that concerned about Eich specifically. (who will be alright, more than likely)

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JML 04.13.14 at 3:26 pm

It simply comes down to whether thoughtful people can disagree on the issue. Clearly–today–it can’t be done. Maybe forty years it could be, because not much public debate had been invested in it. Ignorance, and misheld belief, takes time to winnow out.

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Anders Widebrant 04.13.14 at 3:55 pm

Just popped in here to say that I completely lost it at Izzard.

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Barry 04.13.14 at 4:04 pm

Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 04.12.14 at 9:29 pm

” I suppose it’d be fair enough if he really was a public persona, but a techie?”

That’s odd – in my universe the problems started for Eich when he became a CEO.
He was going along just fine as a CTO.

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bianca steele 04.13.14 at 4:13 pm

Academic Lurker @ 119 CEO’s . . . really are different

This is a bit off-topic, but by the same token, CEO’s are held to different (higher, more detailed) standards than ordinary workers. CEO’s are expected to present no objections to the general educated culture of the day, to the culture of customers and vendors and board members and other stakeholders. The CTO can have a bad haircut or a stutter or intermittent interpersonal skills–the CEO can’t. (In a different time, at a different corporation, this might mean the CTO could be gay but the CEO couldn’t. Today, it might mean the CEO can be Deval Patrick, the former corporate lawyer, but not Barack Obama, the former community organizer, regardless of either’s suitability for politics.)

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Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 04.13.14 at 4:52 pm

“in my universe the problems started for Eich when he became a CEO”

Still, a professional, a techie risen through the ranks, without any claim to a role model. Not a politician, not a journo, or head of a government agency. What is the point of the witch hunt in his case? He was not in a position to betray the country or to corrupt the youth or whatever it is bad people need to be stopped from doing. Just a professional punished for his political activity. Not a good thing in my book.

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shah8 04.13.14 at 4:54 pm

With morning, and tea, I reread…

John Holbo, there was no desire for revenge in my sentiments, and if there was any implication that you caught, feel free to dismiss it. My driving sentiment is how people like Eich gets the benefit of the doubt, in all its ways. That cultivated ambiguity, and the idea that we should parse *it*, rather than the action that sprung from the echo that is Eich–that cultivated ambiguity is a request for free labor, intellectually, emotionally. Any sense of moral force imparted by my words was meant to enable the practical defense of public social goods and private autonomy (from such elite class depredations). Suggesting that all moral suasions to restrain one element in favor of someone else, or to sustain an element selectively, are forms of revenge worthy of the Eumenides muddies the water between justice and feuding. Unhappily, this is also a fairly commonly expressed sentiment. Moral force is not formal judgement and it’s not punishment. It’s simply a demand that you live up to some sort of ideal, that said ideal has some sort of compelling sentiment.

Clay Shirky, Manichean creep? Isn’t that a vast oversimplification of public processes and sentiments? And man, that 109 comment…I wonder just how the historians who read the comments must have felt when they read that.

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Henry 04.13.14 at 5:32 pm

But it’s difficult for me to distinguish the people with no ties to Mozilla at all calling for his resignation from the fact that in all the years I’ve read CT, I’ve seen zero real outrage at cases of ordinary workers getting fired for, saying, having a bumper sticker on their car–outrage in the sense of saying it should not be okay. I’ve seen outrage at the world and at the entire universe of market-based employers, but no call for rules against it, no critique of iffy court cases supporting it, no support for people who think bosses shouldn’t be able to tell their employees what to think. As far as I can tell, if democracy supports bros who don’t like to be around feminists or female bosses, or people who don’t like to be around black people, or Muslims, if they have the numbers and the power, it would be totally okay for them to get all those people fired.

Also, in response to Bianca Steele, – this for another example. Which is itself a follow up to a broader post that Chris wrote on effective free speech which got attacked by Andrew Sullivan (first farce; then … farce and farce again), and only one of a number of posts we’ve written on these issues over the year. Shorter version: if Bianca hasn’t seen it, it’s because she hasn’t been looking closely enough, or because her memory is failing her.

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Main Street Muse 04.13.14 at 6:03 pm

It is my understanding that Eich resigned, was not fired, was not forced out, was not ask to quit. Again, I think there is more to the story than a $1K donation in support of Prop 8 made in 2008, discovered in 2012 and shouted about when Eich became CEO in 2014. Here is a 4/2/14 Venturebeat interview with Eich (when he was in that blip of a moment as CEO) – in which he talks about his assumption to power:

“So how did this unabashed nerd become the chief executive of the Mozilla Corporation, maker of the Firefox browser, parent of the Firefox OS for mobile phones, and general champion of the web?

“To hear Eich tell it, it’s all the board’s fault.

“’There was a CEO search,’ he told me. ‘They looked at around 100 candidates and interviewed around 25. That didn’t lead to anyone being hired. We also had an internal candidate, Jay Sullivan. The board didn’t pick him; I wish I could tell you why.’

“‘I was asked to put my hat in, and at first I didn’t want to. But now I’m it.’

“There’s an odd dissonance to his story. Other sources say three board members resigned over moral differences with Eich (Mozilla PR says those board members left for unrelated reasons). But resignations or none, Eich is ‘it.’”

He sounds like the Adlai Stevenson of CEOs – not really convinced he wanted the job…

(Here’s the link to the story: http://bit.ly/1hCKQfc . And here’s a link to a New Yorker story on how Mozilla lost its CEO – http://nyr.kr/1p0nGDh)

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The Temporary Name 04.13.14 at 6:13 pm

Very little of Mozilla’s funding comes from donations.

Happy to be corrected Sam.

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Timothy 04.13.14 at 6:44 pm

@109 / @111

2000, most of us don’t think gay marriage is a good idea. 2005, some of us have changed our minds, but don’t regard people who haven’t as evil. 2008, a politicizing year, you start to see something Manichean creep in. 2012, everyone gets a one-time pass to come into the growing pro-gay tent, and no historical credentials will be checked at the entrance. And now, 2014, if you’ve ever left a public trace of discrimination, you must now abjure it in the strongest possible terms, or you will face a PNG campaign.

I thought gay marriage was a good idea back around ’98-’99, represent. “Free pass” extends to 2013 for Hillary Clinton. And I’ve seen people literally say that Obama’s opposition was alright, because surely he was lying about his bigotry. (Personally I think arguing about “Obama’s true beliefs” on gay marriage is arguing about something that probably doesn’t exist.)

Indeed, the only persuasive commentary I’ve seen that is both pro-gay and anti-Eich firing says “We’re winning, so we have some space to be gracious, and we got where we were not be demonizing mainstream opinion but by shifting it so slowly that people didn’t feel like they were changing their minds.” (If you want to change someone’s mind, try to allow them to believe that that is the one thing they are not actually doing.)

Sounds about right. For all the talk here about what’s “unacceptable” the USA is still at 40% opposition to gay marriage, and of course it was higher in 2008. Right or wrong, I don’t think that the one “side” has the power to broadly declare 40-50% of Americans unsuitable for positions of responsibility.

This all has a distasteful element of spiking the political football. And the pendulum swings, of course. I think gay marriage is probably on lock, but 2014 and 2016 are probably Republican years. I expect I’ll come back around to numerous leftish forums and see that now people shouldn’t be hounded for their unpopular political views and free speech is pretty popular again…

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Cranky Observer 04.13.14 at 6:57 pm

= = = This all has a distasteful element of spiking the political football. = = =

The dominists and the hard Radical Right were all in favor of wedge issues and culture wars when they were winning them. Now… fainting couches all around. Sorry.

Cranky

By the way, can anyone point to any evidence that Eich’s vote on Prop 8 was ‘outed’, as opposed to his cash contribution? Hadn’t heard any reports of ballot box privacy violations in California.

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roy belmont 04.13.14 at 6:58 pm

Main Street Muse at 11:50 am:

That’s pretty much where I’m at on this. So you can have my proxy vote from here on.
Just don’t tell anyone where you got it.
On the internet and on TV/other media, the gay rights and its marriage-as-signifier question is answered and empowered. Over, done.
Nowhere I’ve seen has Greenwald’s marriage been used as a diminishing feature. That’s salient.
In the country itself this is still a volatile polarizing question.
The insular enlightened ones seem to think all that’s left is mopping up the tiny clots of bigotry out there. Whereas what I’m seeing is a really large demographic that’s being told they’re being attacked by lib-dem gayo-centrics. And they’re believing it.
Which they kind of are, but the decent reasonable humanish on both sides aren’t really hearing each other outside the inflammation. Confirming smugly achieved superiorities on both sides with cartoonish images of the other. Meanwhile…
My dad explained to me when I was like 12 or something, the reason homosexuals couldn’t hold public office was because they were susceptible to blackmail and coercion, because of the threat of exposure. That’s gone, from the national stage anyway.
Sort of an anti-Eichean thing. Similar dynamic. Now that’s not an issue. Or now it’s inverse is.
Shaming. Then revenge for shaming, by shaming.
Progress.
Gays have a right to marriage. No they don’t. Yes they do.
You’re stupid/ignorant/bigoted/perverted/wrong.
Pretty much the whole discussion right there.

The idea that we should be trying to eliminate unnecessary suffering?
Nah, bad people are supposed to suffer.
So all we have to do is figure out who the bad people are, and hurt em.

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bianca steele 04.13.14 at 6:59 pm

Henry, after posting that comment, I poked around that series of threads some more, and remembered a little more about it, and you’re right that there was some pushback on the idea that there’s just nothing to be done about situations like people being fired for having non-right political bumper stickers on their cars. In particular, Chris pushed back on the idea that there was no principled objection to a (male) boss asking a (female) employee for sex, and IIRC argued that there’s an implicit agreement about what tasks are relevant to the job and which aren’t (and that it is not implicitly assumed that women on the job are always there to perform personal services of one kind or another for the male boss). (I just looked at your link and it’s to a post about a different post by Chris, possibly before I started reading CT, which I’ll have to look at later.)

But:

I don’t recall a lot of support in comments for the idea that there was a principled objection to that, and the series of posts seemed to have evolved away from that.

Chris’s objection (in the 2012 posts) was to a specific argument by someone at a blog of academic libertarians, who as far as I can tell came to his position by deduction from first principles. It wasn’t an objection to any kind of plausible general attitude taken by most non-academics in the US, whether right-wing or liberal. (I suppose it’s possible that the attitude is taken by a significant number of people, but I don’t see a reason given to believe it.)

In the six or so years I’ve been reading CT, discussion of specific wrong practices (like Ronan’s, above) have generally been met with “but Capitalism!” (with some repeated circling, sometimes in separate threads, around the idea that it would be unfair to the white factory workers, whose social ethos—as everyone knows—dictates racism and harsh treatment of minorities, to ask them to work alongside a black man and treat him as an equal), and what feels like attempts to get the complainer to take a side, and agree that either way, the boss in the case not only had a perfect right to do what s/he did, and maybe was even morally right to do so. Discussion of the ethos of the workplace (or any specific group of people, any point of view that might provide a solid stance for defending against libertarianism) takes place here only to criticize it from abstract moral or legal principles. Discussion of jurisdictions that have more liberal standards are ridiculed, as if it’s going to hurt people to see that there are places where standards aren’t as conservative as can be imagined, and no pushback whatever on that attitude. Discussion of specific regulations of existing institutions seems, at least in comments, comfortably relegated to the likes of Richard Posner and others on the right.

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The Raven 04.13.14 at 7:01 pm

John Holbo@22: not a teachable moment, I agree, but a moment we had best study and learn from. Little good seems likely to come of this. I am fairly stunned that the right is treating this as something unique to the left: trial in the press and now on the internet is so common on the right. Motes and beams, motes and beams.

I think, by the way, you underestimate the effect of this on Eich; for him, personally, this may well be a tragedy. He worked on open web technologies for nearly 20 years and Mozilla for 16 years. He is going to have trouble finding a senior position in any FOSS project because of this. One of the oddities of the FOSS movement is it has thrust software engineers, who are mostly very private people, into very public positions. I wonder how it will all end up.

I look forward to your further thoughts.

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bianca steele 04.13.14 at 7:11 pm

around the idea that it would be unfair to the white factory workers, I don’t mean that any commenter at CT has ever explicitly defended this idea, only that the idea of whether it would be unfair is obsessively returned to, with no conclusive statement that I can recall that it would not, because coworkers just don’t have to share the same general social ethos, in or out of work.

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MPAVictoria 04.13.14 at 7:20 pm

“for him, personally, this may well be a tragedy.”

Yes, I am sure the next time we hear about him it will be because he has died homeless in a gutter somewhere. Let me put your mind at ease Raven, the millionaire former CEO will somehow land on his feet.

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Timothy 04.13.14 at 7:23 pm

@135

The dominists and the hard Radical Right were all in favor of wedge issues and culture wars when they were winning them. Now… fainting couches all around. Sorry.

For sure. And next time they have the temporary advantage, they’ll say the same thing about this stuff.

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Consumatopia 04.13.14 at 7:45 pm

Whereas what I’m seeing is a really large demographic that’s being told they’re being attacked by lib-dem gayo-centrics. And they’re believing it.
Which they kind of are, but the decent reasonable humanish on both sides aren’t really hearing each other outside the inflammation.

Remember, everyone on the other side is attacking. Opposing gay marriage is, itself, a bigoted attack, trying to use the force of law to take away someone else’s rights.

Is it ideal to respond to that legal attack with a rhetorical counter-attack? Especially when that rhetoric happens to be true? Maybe yes, maybe no. But what’s not reasonable or decent at all is demanding that the victims respond to attacks with nothing but compassion and forgiveness, or that they pretend arguments on the other side are reasonable when they aren’t.

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MPAVictoria 04.13.14 at 7:48 pm

“And next time they have the temporary advantage, they’ll say the same thing about this stuff.”

And you think they wouldn’t anyway?

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The Raven 04.13.14 at 7:48 pm

MPAVictoria@140: being cut off from a part of one’s life work is not a small thing, even if one is independently wealthy and does not need that work for income.

145

Consumatopia 04.13.14 at 7:55 pm

@144 Eich could have kept working at Mozilla, he could probably still work there now, he just can’t be CEO.

Unless he announced a change of heart, then he could probably be CEO.

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MPAVictoria 04.13.14 at 7:55 pm

“being cut off from a part of one’s life work is not a small thing, even if one is independently wealthy and does not need that work for income.”

Yeah, you know what else sucks? Not being able to marry the person you love. Forgive me if I don’t shed any tears for the bigot.

/ Also the man still has a computer and an internet connection. He can program to his hearts content.

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Cranky Observer 04.13.14 at 7:56 pm

= = =
Whereas what I’m seeing is a really large demographic that’s being told they’re being attacked by lib-dem gayo-centrics. And they’re believing it.= = =

Between the 1890 and 1900 Census’ the US population switched from majority rural to majority urban. Today the split is about 20/80 rural/urban. If you count the semi-rural collar areas, maybe 30/70 at most. However, almost all states and of course the US Senate are stuck with the bicameral legislative model with one house apportioned by geographic area – despite the fact that such a model makes absolutely zero sense in a nation where 80% of the population is no longer spread out over the land. A couple of years ago my daughter worked on a pro bono project (engineering school) for a county with twice the land area of our state’s most populous county but with a total population smaller than her high school (4,000) – yet that county gets a full one vote in our state’s geographically-apportioned house. One wonders how they find candidates to run for that seat, but they do: inevitably hard right Republican.

So when you say ” a really large demographic” I’d be careful that you aren’t thinking of the network’s non-cartogram’d red/blue maps with their huge areas of red in the unpopulated Great Plains, or the most extreme state legislatures (I’m not going to name any specific states such as Kansas). Oklahoma, Mississippi, and some of Plains states yes; the rest of the nation not so much. And a declining fraction by age group as far as I can tell, even in the hard right areas.

Cranky

PS Still waiting for some evidence of voting booth security violations in California. Thanks.

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Bruce Baugh 04.13.14 at 7:57 pm

The Raven: That’s true. It’s also true that an acquaintance of mine is still donating his time and legal services to helping out a good friend of his. This guy was going to marry his long-time partner late in 2008, but Prop. 8 stopped that. The partner died of surgical complications in 2009. The late partner’s relatives took custody of the children, and are still blocking the friend from even seeing them. Eich’s thousand dollars didn’t make or break that tragedy, but they helped, and my sympathy starts with people who haven’t been doing that, or who did do it but are genuinely remorseful.

In my mind, letting Eich experience no consequences for his choice would give him no incentive to do differently next time around. It’s better to learn without needing to be poked. But if it comes down to being a CTO with a good employment history and a lot of well-wishers even in the midst of this or a struggling erratically employed programmer who wants to see the step-children he helped raise, Eich is more than a little ahead and always will be. Even if my acquaintance’s friend finally wins out, that’ll be years of parenting that can never be done, thanks in part to Eich.

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adam.smith 04.13.14 at 8:04 pm

@bianca steel -
The BGR post from 2012 explicitly endorses banning firings without just-cause – also the default position of pretty much every social democrat in the world, to the extent that I wouldn’t even think it’d spark much discussion here apart from the occasional libertarian visitor. BGR explicitly point to “jurisdictions that have more liberal standards” on that count and I don’t think anyone ridiculed them because of it. Maybe you’re referring to something else entirely, but in that case it would be helpful if you could give some specific examples rather than to your lofty general statements, because like GiT and Henry I’m completely perplexed by what you’ve taken from 6 years of reading CT.

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bianca steele 04.13.14 at 8:25 pm

adam smith:

As I said, that series of posts did come down closer to the side of the idea that there’s something to be done on workers’ behalf than anything I’ve read on CT, that it isn’t hopeless because “domination” or “power” or nationwide trends extrapolated from specific cases in specific parts of the country, maybe ever.

But, a quick skim through the post shows me no instances where US circuits that tilt against the worker are criticized by means of listing US circuits that tilt more in favor. Can you give me a quote?

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Main Street Muse 04.13.14 at 8:25 pm

To The Raven,

Some years ago, another talented IT guy got publicly fired from a company he founded for going against the corporate grain… he went on to start Pixar and then get back to his true love, Apple, which he grew to the most valued company in the world.

With regard to Eich, I don’t think a man who resigned a CEO position he didn’t much want is doomed to the future you paint.

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adam.smith 04.13.14 at 9:10 pm

@bianca steele (sorry for missing e above)
it doesn’t criticize specific US districts (that’s a very specific requirement… and my understanding is that differences in labor law interpretation happen mainly at the state level) but does have:

Similarly, when states insist, as they do in many jurisdictions outside the United States (Montana is the only the state in America that has such a provision), that employers must show just cause for firing people, it thereby protects them against the kind of encroachments on their freedom that employers are tempted to make.

you claim that such discussions would be ridiculed. I see nothing of the kind. We have also in the past discussed other more protective labor codes. E.g. in California, as mentioned upthread somewhere, firing for political cause is illegal.
I think that’s pretty clear in both endorsing a just cause requirement and in pointing to existing jurisdictions (Montana and “many outside the United States”) that have it.
I still don’t understand, to be honest, what you’re talking about at all. I’m sure there are many critiques you can wield against Crooked Timber’s ideological bent, but a lack of commitment to standard social democratic employment and labor protection just seems like one of the oddest attacks I can fathom. Could you provide a single example of the type of CT post you’re objecting to?

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adam.smith 04.13.14 at 9:19 pm

The Raven @138

He is going to have trouble finding a senior position in any FOSS project because of this

I doubt this, at least as a causal statement (Since FOSS is chronically underfunded, finding a senior position at a FOSS project is going to be difficult, period, given that there aren’t very many such positions). No one is going to hire him as a CEO, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t have options even at the C-level, and most certainly at the senior developer level. Obviously I can’t prove this, but if he himself were very concerned about finding employment I doubt he’d have declined the offer to stay at mozilla at a C-level position.

@Consumatopia

But what’s not reasonable or decent at all is demanding that the victims respond to attacks with nothing but compassion and forgiveness,

not demand, but hope or suggest – yes. I’d tend to say for ethical reasons, though I’m not entirely sure about this (my hunch is that it’s problematic to go after people for a position – even a bigoted position – that was completely mainstream less than 10 years ago, but I’m open to be wrong about that). But even if not for ethical reasons, I’m pretty convinced that strategically – if we take the goal to be broad acceptance and legal assurance of equal rights for LBGT folks in the US – this was a mistake.

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Henry Farrell 04.13.14 at 9:30 pm

Bianca – this really isn’t convincing. You came in telling us that:

In all the years I’ve read CT, I’ve seen zero real outrage at cases of ordinary workers getting fired for, saying, having a bumper sticker on their car–outrage in the sense of saying it should not be okay. I’ve seen outrage at the world and at the entire universe of market-based employers, but no call for rules against it, no critique of iffy court cases supporting it, no support for people who think bosses shouldn’t be able to tell their employees what to think.

Very clearly, you were wrong. This is something that Chris and I have posted on; I’m pretty sure that Harry has done so too. The BGR post wasn’t “closer to” the idea “there’s something to be done on workers’ behalf ” – it was explicitly and indeed emphatically making that argument. I can quote you chapter and verse if you insist on it. Nor did adam.smith nor anyone else claim or even hint at a claim that there was a listing in that post of US circuits that were more, or less favorable to US worker rights – which would seem to be a rather large demand to make of writers who are after all political theorists rather than US labor lawyers.

So in short, posters at CT have made the arguments that you claimed (and still seem to be sorta-maybe-my-general-impression-is-that-people-don’t-seem-to-talk-about-it-much-and-by-the-way-look-at-how-those-comment-threads-circle-and-circle-ing-around-how-we-need-to-protect-white-workers-only-I-suppose-that-no-one-explicitly-ever-says-anything-about-white-workers-but-anyway-that’s-sort-of-my-argument-and-nowwhat-was-I-saying-ing) people on CT didn’t make. It’s fair enough that you made a mistake on this – people do. But I really think that you should just at this point say OK – I was wrong – rather than trying to construct some sort of sideways-logic case that people haven’t made arguments that they obviously have made, and have made as forcefully and directly as anyone could reasonably ask for.

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bianca steele 04.13.14 at 10:16 pm

Henry, you’re right, I’m sorry. There is lots of support on CT for worker’s rights, theoretical and practical, and for people trying to challenge their situations under existing law. Corey’s definitely enhanced coverage on this, but there was plenty before.

I’m also sorry you think my argument was as much mush as you say, and apparently I wasn’t even clear that I was talking about commenters as much or as more than headline posters, but I’m not going to pursue this.

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Clay Shirky 04.13.14 at 10:19 pm

Shah8 @130,

If ‘Manichean creep’ bugs you, try this:

In 2008, conversations about extending marriage rights to same-sex couples were being conducted with considerable variability when Prop 8 showed up, triggering the new American logic: all cultural politics is national. Prop 8 became a US-wide issue, with everything from fundraising to Facebook status changes being conducted from sea to shining sea.

In the places where people talk about politics, it became possible to assume that any person engaged with the issue at all had an opinion about Prop 8, and since Prop 8’s campaign language was as subtle as an Einstürzende Neubauten sound check, it left no wiggle room for compromises like ‘civil unions’ (the sort of thing Douhat has characterized as ‘negotiating the terms of the surrender.’)

The result was an increase in synchronized and public position-taking, with only two positions available, pro- and anti-, which, for each of the increasingly committed teams, were elided with the concepts of good and evil.

Now that’s more detailed than ‘Manichean creep’, but I don’t think it’s any more accurate, which is to say that I don’t think Manichean creep is oversimplified at all. It was just simple enough for my purposes.

As an aside, I’ve always been interested in when people use weasel words like ‘oversimplified’. All assertions about real events are simplifications. It comes with the territory, and by ‘the territory’, I mean language using. So asserting that something is an oversimplification is weaselly twice: first, it lets the user seem to be calling a statement wrong (which would require defending an alternate point of view) when in fact its just an argument about the degree of (inevitable) compression. (Another common trope for this form of shade-throwing is ‘naive’.)

And second, an assertion that a statement exists at the wrong degree of simplification would seem to require a description of what the right degree is. Living up to this, though, would pretty much blow the whole point of using a word like that in the first place, because it would involve noting that the simplification has to be fit to some purpose, and it will often turn out that the purpose of the shade-thrower is to throw shade, not to clarify anything.

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novakant 04.13.14 at 10:33 pm

So Eich is toast, awesome, well done.

Can we now go after all the CEOs whose companies actually do evil shit like exploiting (child) workers in SE Asia and Africa, flooding the unstable regions of the world with arms or making drones that blow up wedding parties.

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Henry 04.13.14 at 10:47 pm

No problem – don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything hugely egregious in any of this – instead, was writing as someone with some sympathy, as I have sometimes ended up digging myself a deeper hole in similar situations.

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Glen Tomkins 04.13.14 at 11:04 pm

novakant,

Baby steps.

People do tend to take it personally when you attack them personally, as Eich did. Maybe we can work on that so that people will be sufficiently outraged to do things for others more in need, more persecuted, next time. But people who can’t even be roused to fight back on their own behalf, aren’t likely to be mobilized on behalf of others.

160

Consumatopia 04.13.14 at 11:37 pm

not demand, but hope or suggest – yes. I’d tend to say for ethical reasons, though I’m not entirely sure about this (my hunch is that it’s problematic to go after people for a position – even a bigoted position – that was completely mainstream less than 10 years ago, but I’m open to be wrong about that). But even if not for ethical reasons, I’m pretty convinced that strategically – if we take the goal to be broad acceptance and legal assurance of equal rights for LBGT folks in the US – this was a mistake.

Ethically speaking, I think it’s entirely defensible to “go after people” in the following ways if they take bigoted positions, even if those positions are currently mainstream:

A) call them bigots
B) announce that you don’t want them as an employer
C) announce that you won’t use products made by a company they lead

Furthermore, I think A is also strategically sound–the first step to fighting an injustice is to actually label it as such.

B and C, I might agree are strategically problematic, at least in this case. I, myself, didn’t stop using Firefox and wouldn’t have done so if Eich had stayed.

However, I have deep reservations about asking victims to behave strategically here. If someone says they don’t feel comfortable working for Mozilla or using Firefox with Eich at the helm, who am I to ask them to keep doing so For The Cause?

You might argue that some actors, like OKCupid, went beyond B or C, trying to persuade other people to stop using Firefox. There’s a difference between “I don’t want to use Eich’s product” and “Nobody should use Eich’s product.” Once you go beyond acting on and sharing your own feelings to publicly campaigning against something, I think it is fair to ask for more strategic foresight. However, I think even if OKCupid had said nothing, the final outcome would have been the same–there were a lot of people who were less willing to work with a Mozilla led by Eich, and that would have eventually become clear.

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Anderson 04.14.14 at 12:27 am

Roy @ 50: Hannibal’s eating only his moral inferiors is part of what made him a monster.

One of the creepier moments in my life was seeing SOTL at the cinema, and when the asshole shrink deplaned in wherever he’d gone to hide … and the scene cut to Lecter in pursuit … the audience cheered.

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The Raven 04.14.14 at 1:50 am

Bruce Baugh@148: arguments like yours persuaded me to support gay marriage years ago. I was disagreeing with our host that this was a minor thing for Bredan Eich. Perhaps it is appropriate; I don’t know what I would end up thinking if I dug into the matter more deeply. I think, though, that the reaction to my remark, minimizing the impact on Eich’s life, suggests, though, that at least some people would very much like not to think about that question. I’m also bothered by how much like right-wing activism this sounds; character assassination in the media has been one of their tactics for longer than I have been alive.

163

MPAVictoria 04.14.14 at 2:04 am

“character assassination”

Is it character assassination if its true?

/honest question

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Sebastian H 04.14.14 at 2:10 am

Too complicated, it isn’t about false genre fiction it is about true psychology.

It boils down to the fact that liberals are humans, and left unchecked humans like to see people they think are wrong get hurt by it. Now conservatives of all people shouldn’t pretend they are above that but that is the essence of the story.

Which brings us to the idea that there are (or perhaps should be) norms which allow for political disagreement without pulling the trigger into economic civil wars/balkanizations. I tend to be of the belief that overmixing of live political disputes outside of the workplace with the day to day functioning of people’s work environs is a bad idea. IE you shouldn’t get fired/pushed out for most political disagreements.

Which of course raises the question of what counts as “most” or ” day to day” or “outside”. As befitting for someone who is advocating for this kind of procedural tolerance I think people can disagree on how the particulars fit in the mozilla case. But whichever way you come down on it, I’d prefer to use the case to strengthen the (or if you don’t think it exists an) overall norm against firing/driving people out over politics.

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The Raven 04.14.14 at 2:47 am

MPAVictoria@163: “Is it character assassination if its true?”

I think so: I consider Jocelyn Elders. Or all the Communists and ex-Communists who got blasted by the radical right back in the 1950s. Some had been, in fact, Communists. Some still were. Doesn’t mean it was right to trash their lives. On the other hand, there are times when it is imperative to speak up: to prevent certain harm or crimes, for instance, or to prevent on-going abuse, or the repetition of abuse as, for instance, with sexual harassment or rape.

I’m pretty sure this is actually a pretty big subject in law and ethical philosophy, and I know very little of it. Perhaps John will address it in a future post.

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John Holbo 04.14.14 at 3:28 am

“Too complicated, it isn’t about false genre fiction it is about true psychology.

It boils down to the fact that liberals are humans, and left unchecked humans like to see people they think are wrong get hurt by it.”

Actually, I think I’ll stick with my false genre fiction story. The drive towards marriage equality has not been, at its core, an intolerant vendetta. It is, at its core, a drive towards marriage equality as a right and as a good. People are vindictive, by nature, but the campaign for marriage equality hasn’t been notably vindictive.

Conservatives have a strong psychological motive for denying this and trying to make out, to the contrary, that liberals are primarily aiming at a wrong thing – destroying the family – for bad reasons – humiliating Christians. The likes of Sullivan and Friedersdorf are indulging a milder sort of genre fantasy, it seems to me.But I won’t go into that here.

Why did so many liberals crow about Eich’s resignation, in the aftermath of his resignation? It seems to me they didn’t – well, not exactly – because mostly people who want marriage-equality are not primarily concerned to grind individual opponents’ noses in the dirt of defeat. Rather, what happened was that the right exploded in outrage and THEN – because no one likes to be called a liberal fascist – liberals kind of got their backs up about the Eich case. And about Eich. So even the Eich case doesn’t ‘boil down’ to people wanting people to suffer for doing wrong. More to people not liking to be falsely accused of doing stuff wrong, by people who have rightly been accused of doing stuff wrong and are wrongly trying to make out that right is wrong, where their rights are concerned.

But all this is splitting it pretty fine.

You are right, Sebastian, that it’s best to keep politics out of the workplace. A world in which Democrats could only work at Democratic jobs and Republicans could only work at Republican jobs would be a worse one, definitely. Nevertheless, it is true that, IF it’s important to have a workplace in which LBGT rights are respected, and therefore important that people have confidence that they will be respected, you thereby make it hard for people who are less credible, as supporters for such rights, to be credible in certain positions of power. That’s just logic, not vendetta. If you want to resist this conclusion, the only thing you can do is say that, since we can’t say these people are less credible, you can’t make strong support for LBGT rights a feature of the workplace. You have to allow for people in positions of power who might be quite unenthusiastic about all that, possibly on religious grounds. You have to say that, since the rightness of certain rights is contested, the workplace needs to be a place in which they are contested. Which politicizes the workplace. So there’s no way around that. So we may as well politicize the workplace in the least bad way possible.

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Belle Waring 04.14.14 at 3:32 am

Stephenson-quoter-kun: it’s not at all fair for me to suggest that there was definitely preëxisting discrimination against gay people at Mozilla because we haven’t heard about it on general “significance of the dog not barking in the night” principles. BUT the reason I said it snarkily is because IF you are accustomed to imagine yourself not as the respected peer of a fellow but senior worker, BUT rather someone getting constant aggro from disrespectful senior workers hitting on you and making reaaaalllllly annoying sexist remarks, THEN you are inclined to think of all the nice things you would have to say about your senior workers and the people with power in your workplace (even if it was only power they accumulated by being so good at something as to be admired by all). Such nice things. Lovely things about lovely people! How bad would it have to be before you really started some giant hassle workplace action about something like that instead of just hating your colleague and bosses and bitching about them constantly and introducing errors into their personal projects which they don’t notice even though they think they’re such hot shit? REALLY bad. So, they fact that only employees who did not report directly to him protested seems very significant, actually–they’re the ones in the clear!

And I do doubt people’s ability to enforce certain types of rules without prejudice or favor if they are truly consumed with prejudice. I don’t want to deny anti-gay bigots nice things. No, I guess I probably do if they are awful shits, and there’s not reason they should swan around as the face of public organizations that depend at least in part on public good will–but again there’s an element of being bad at your job creeping in. It’s true that we should depend on rules and not on men, but it’s also fair to doubt someone’s ability to oversee the fair application of the rules when he has gone out of his way to publicly dedicate his personal life to unfair application of those rules in society at large as a matter of principle. It’s also too bad that someone who’s probably a saint compared to whoever runs ExxonMobil just got taken down, but your gun can only shoot so far, and now we’re just making better ammo.

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geo 04.14.14 at 4:45 am

Sebastian @164 raises an important question: what should be the bounds of the political sphere? Should even very bitter “political disagreements” carry over into “economic civil war”? When the Taft-Hartley Act outlawed secondary boycotts, it seemed Congress was saying no, you shouldn’t be able to use economic weapons to indirectly achieve political goals. Of course, they only said this to organized labor. I’m not aware of similar restrictions on the power of business to use indirect means of influencing either a specific labor dispute or policy more generally.

The current state of play — allowing business to spend nearly unlimited amounts to influence the resolution of “political disagreements” while making it illegal to organize popular actions like boycotts that might harm some company or other — is clearly one-sided class warfare. Money is capital’s form of social power; mass action is labor’s form. One is subject to far harsher restrictions than the other.

On the one hand, as Sebastian suggests, there are costs to politicizing more and more of everyday life. On the other hand, everyday life is already profoundly subjugated, regulated, conditioned by the power of business and its captive state. Exposing the extent of that power is the only way to arouse a radical popular majority. That may make those costs inevitable but worth incurring.

169

roy belmont 04.14.14 at 6:50 am

C.Obs:
PS Still waiting for some evidence of voting booth security violations in California. Thanks.

Well you are most welcome. I’m certainly not going to go rooting around for evidence to back a point I never made and have no interest in defending.
-
victims respond to attacks …

the public just decided, collectively, that what he’d done was …

The over-reach in these two statements is identical.
In the first “victims” is used, accurately if we have to see Prop 8 as a stealth move, not by intent defending hetero-marriage as it is specifically and clearly worded , but attacking gays, on purpose.
Whereas at least some of the people backing it, aside from the great majority that doesn’t give a shit one way or the other, are genuinely attempting to defend something, marriage as they see it, not attack gays for getting married and thereby legitimizing their romantic couplings. So reaching beyond the stated goal.

In the second, “the public”, which means something more than just a simple majority of whoever’s around, is used to expand the image of a changing-toward-enlightened-on-gender/sexuality-issues cultural front line into a picture of the bulk of the US. My impression is that comes from watching too much TV as a child, and spending too much time on the ‘net as an adult. What the people you look at are doing is what everybody’s doing. Which has the “monstrous” result of making itself true.
People who can’t find Ukraine on a map of Europe are increasingly accepting of gay marriage. Maybe not because they’re achieving wisdom rank.
Most of the regular (non-academic, non-current-events junkies) folks I talk to don’t care that much, but they’re irritated by what they see as having something forced at them. Told what to think and feel about something that doesn’t mean much to them..
They aren’t the ones I mean when I suggest, as in suggest, compassionate regard.
It’s the activists, many who, again, are trying to defend something specific, not attack someone specifically. Defusing them by vengeful triumph seems ineffective, and no different really than just smacking them into submission.
Which is fun if you have a taste for that kind of thing. And for some even more fun if you’re protected from anything like responsibility for the after-effects.
Estimating Eich’s job prospects, at this point, to evaluate the ethical color of his takedown is damn near an exercise in sadistic gloat.

170

adam.smith 04.14.14 at 7:39 am

In the first “victims” is used, accurately if we have to see Prop 8 as a stealth move, not by intent defending hetero-marriage as it is specifically and clearly worded , but attacking gays, on purpose.

I’ll point out that three courts have found that this is exactly what Prop 8 did. That’s why it was struck down.

@Belle:

And I do doubt people’s ability to enforce certain types of rules without prejudice or favor if they are truly consumed with prejudice.

I find that argument problematic. While I don’t work in a large organization, I’ve talked to a fair number of people who do and they all seem to agree that it’s not the people at the top, but those in the 2nd and 3rd level of top management who determine the work climate for most employees. In other words, if discrimination at the work place is really your central concern, I find it hard to see why Eich was supportable as CTO but not as CEO.

Also, your description of Eich seems to stretch the facts as we know them. You go from “opposes gay marriage enough to make a 1k donation” to “consumed by prejudice” and “gone out of his way to publicly dedicate his personal life”… I really hope that Eich didn’t get paid so poorly that a single $1k donation would constitute that type of dedication. I’m not saying he’s not a bigot – he is – but I’ve seen nothing to suggest that fighting against gay rights is a major part of his public life. If I understand correctly, the donation came to light in 2012 because donor lists were made public and even some close colleagues were surprised (and understandably hurt).

171

Collin Street 04.14.14 at 8:17 am

> In other words, if discrimination at the work place is really your central concern, I find it hard to see why Eich was supportable as CTO but not as CEO.

I doubt very much that he would be supportable as CTO were he put forward for the position today, yes. He was accepted as CTO, yes, but note the past tense there.

[yes, being a bigot makes you close to unemployable. We could pay disability pensions or something, I'd be open to that.]

172

Ronan(rf) 04.14.14 at 9:47 am

“While I don’t work in a large organization, I’ve talked to a fair number of people who do and they all seem to agree that it’s not the people at the top, but those in the 2nd and 3rd level of top management who determine the work climate for most employees.”

Yeah, that would have been my assumption. This is an argument that keeps coming up but I really can’t see any plausible story where someone at that level has any real effect on creating a hostile work climate. ( I would have extended it down (from my experience, also not large organisations) to people with direct managerial or supervisory roles who can have the most direct, pernicious effect on people* – if not on the broader ‘culture’ of the organisation – and opporunity for abuse. But a lot of that can be somewhat counteracted by a competent, well staffed, independent HR department, and a serious commitment to weeding out abuse and discrimination at the top; which I assumed would have been done at a level below CEO, or whatever the equivalent.)

* this is why most abuse occurs in smaller businesses, doesn’t it ? Which are much more (potentially) at the whim of a mini tyrant ? Or am I misremembering?

173

Ronan(rf) 04.14.14 at 9:52 am

“[yes, being a bigot makes you close to unemployable. We could pay disability pensions or something, I'd be open to that.]“

This is insane, Collin Street. With all due respect.

174

Cranky Observer 04.14.14 at 11:35 am

= = = roy belmont 04.14.14 at 6:50 am
C.Obs:
["]PS Still waiting for some evidence of voting booth security violations in California. Thanks.["]
Well you are most welcome. I’m certainly not going to go rooting around for evidence to back a point I never made and have no interest in defending. = = =

= = = roy belmont 04.13.14 at 1:06 am
Cranky Observer at 8:52 pm:
Because for the reason voting is, you know, private and stuff. And the ensurance of that privacy’s one of the more serious aspects of, like, democracy?No one has the right to know who you voted for? = = =

175

Clay Shirky 04.14.14 at 11:59 am

Holbo @166:

A world in which Democrats could only work at Democratic jobs and Republicans could only work at Republican jobs would be a worse one, definitely. Nevertheless, it is true that, IF it’s important to have a workplace in which LBGT rights are respected, and therefore important that people have confidence that they will be respected, you thereby make it hard for people who are less credible, as supporters for such rights, to be credible in certain positions of power.

You will be surprised to learn that Ross Douhat disagrees, per his most recent column:

It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.

I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.

See, the real issue isn’t whether you hate fags, it’s whether you have properly described your organization’s core ontological commitments (set by your Council of Workers, no doubt, with only per capita participation by senior management.) You could be all like “Sodomites gon’ BURN!” in inter-office memos, and as long as that sentiment appears under the heading “Chik-fil-A, An Evangelical Purveyor of Sandwiches”, you should be totes covered. That is only fair.

What’s so interesting about this particular civil rights moment (as opposed to what I’ve understood about others) is that the whole thing was so technocratic (Can government X give out a certain kind of license to same-sex couples?) and so fast (the famous essay appearing in 1989, which is to say less than a generation ago) that anyone over 40 can hold the whole process in memory.

Part of what people like Douhat are chewing on is recognizing that society does make certain beliefs unholdable in public — there is plenty of private anti-miscegenation talk in this country, but not much public talk — and that the religious institutions of that society largely adapt themselves to the change (surrendered wifery has entered it’s reactionary phase). What Douhat seems to me to be struggling with is the additional pain caused by having the change happen so quickly that there’s no way to adapt slowly. You don’t just have to change, you have to know you are changing.

His blog entries on the subject*, in contrast to his columns, are genuinely interesting on this subject, because unlike his column, where he comes out foursquare for allowing for-profit companies the freedom to say or do as they like in the name of religion, on his blog he is much more troubled about finding a balance between individual rights and the clannishness of communities.

* http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/08/the-case-of-brendan-eich/
http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/why-liberalism-needs-pluralism/

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Collin Street 04.14.14 at 12:02 pm

> This is insane, Collin Street. With all due respect.

You tell me what jobs you see them doing.

177

Ronan(rf) 04.14.14 at 12:08 pm

I think you’re understating the amount of bigots out there and the costs (economic and social) of supporting them perpetually on welfare. You’d pretty much be creating a huge, mass of p**sed of bigots with a lot of time on their hands, which isn’t going to end well.

178

Collin Street 04.14.14 at 12:28 pm

But none of what you write — however true — actually means that there’s any jobs out there you can be a bigot and still be qualified for, is the point. Can’t have any sort of supervisory authority, or decision-making powers that might affect individuals: can’t be trusted to deal in the company’s best interests with outsiders, be they customers, suppliers, regulators, or activist groups.

You rule all that out and you’ve got… what? All the meat-robot jobs got computerised or mechanised years ago. Where do you think a man like Eich can actually usefully be deployed?

179

Consumatopia 04.14.14 at 12:30 pm

Defending an institution by excluding other people trying to claim it is an attack on those people.

They aren’t the ones I mean when I suggest, as in suggest, compassionate regard.

You aren’t “suggesting” anything when you post long screeds condemning victims for rhetorically counter-attacking after being attacked by coercive state power.

You’re not a bigot, Roy. You’re just a lying defender of oppressors.

180

Anderson 04.14.14 at 1:01 pm

178: I’m sure FoxNews is hiring.

Why it’s surprising that, say, an avowed racist might be difficult to employ, I cannot gather.

181

Ronan(rf) 04.14.14 at 1:20 pm

Collin Street – I was half joking with my response, as I can’t really see the idea being in any way practical. The question isn’t so much (I don’t think) ‘what job could a bigot do’ (many, possibly all of them. Theoretically) but how could you set up a system (through the force of law I assume) that would exclude every bigot (for what definition of bigot) from employment. I’d think such as a system would obviously be rife for abuse and morally problematic, to say the least !
Ideally, in general, in a well functioning workplace you’d have rules, norms, enforcement mechanisms etc to punish someone if they allowed their bigotry flourish (to customers, to colleagues etc) At some stage I’d assume self interest thrumps ideological bigotry and the costs of being bigoted at work would outweigh the (whatever they might be) positives. So if someone hands out pamphlets for the BNP on Saturday afternoon but behaves during working hours, and does their job, I really can’t fathom why such a person should *be prevented* from having a job. (having said all that I have no idea what the law says here – for a general definition of the law on this – so maybe you’re right)

There are obviously hard, stupid (hypothetical) cases. What if you find out the head of HR is a Neo Nazi ? Indeed.

182

MPAVictoria 04.14.14 at 2:05 pm

“You aren’t “suggesting” anything when you post long screeds condemning victims for rhetorically counter-attacking after being attacked by coercive state power.”

As I pointed out further up thread this is roy’s schtick. In every single thread about discrimination he feels the need to chime in about how bigots/homophobes/racists/sexists are the real victims.

183

elm 04.14.14 at 2:25 pm

Sullivan kisses up & punches down. Yawn.

184

Bruce Baugh 04.14.14 at 3:45 pm

The idea that things like protesting Eich’s appointment are expanding the role of politics in the workplace is laughable. Prop. 8 was political and so were the decades before it in which queers, women, union activists, people of color, and so many others got dumped on. All that’s changed is that sometimes now people who generally do the dumping occasionally have to face consequence for it themselves. For them, “politics” means only “exercises of power that are inconvenient for me”.

185

novakant 04.14.14 at 4:31 pm

CEOs are better people than the rest of us – who knew? You should get out more.

186

Trader Joe 04.14.14 at 5:53 pm

The whole matter proves, yet again, that free speech doesn’t mean free from consequences of speech.

The three things I know for sure:

1) Some company or organization, as yet unknown, will be getting an excellent technologiest and leader when the hire Mr. Eich and they will have comparatively few concerns about what Mr. Eich spent his money on years ago…they will craft an announcement with all the right EEOC language, praise Eich’s leadership and technical credibility and then get on with doing what they do. They will have gotten something of value for almost nothing.

2) Mozilla has lost a person of value and gotten nothing in return. One might say they kept their reputation intact, but that’s only value by avoidance. They are not better able to fulfill their mission than they were before, they are weaker, at least for now.

3) Neither Mr. Eich’s head nor 10 more just like it will undo the 2008 Prop 8 vote and the hardships it caused until it was eventually reversed. Throughout history headhunting, shaming and blacklisting have been the tools of the victors and this instance, regarless of its moral correctness, proves that point too.

187

A different Brendan 04.14.14 at 7:38 pm

I’d be happier about the whole thing if it didn’t seem so… faddish? As novakant has noted above, it would be nice if we could muster the same amount of interest in any of the other terrible things that corporate executives have been responsible for.

Last week Condoleezza Rice joined Dropbox’s board of directors; the outrage has been somewhat muted in comparison.

188

The Temporary Name 04.14.14 at 8:10 pm

will be getting an excellent technologiest and leader

The interviews during the event didn’t really do much for the “leader” idea.

189

Trader Joe 04.14.14 at 8:42 pm

@187
If you’re going to judge a man’s entire character by a six year old political contribution, perhaps consider judging his leadership skills over +15 years of valuable service to the open source community rather than a few days in the eye of the storm.

190

The Temporary Name 04.14.14 at 9:32 pm

Why? The eye of the storm is not CEO-navigable?

I don’t doubt his talents.

191

Collin Street 04.14.14 at 9:36 pm

> perhaps consider judging his leadership skills over +15 years of valuable service to the open source community rather than a few days in the eye of the storm.

“With notably rare exceptions”, and all of that.

192

The Temporary Name 04.14.14 at 9:39 pm

Or rather, what Collin said because I obviously do doubt the leadership talent where it concerns people.

193

roy belmont 04.14.14 at 10:04 pm

Pretty quick now I’m gonna have the wondrous gratificational excitement of being perceived as defending anti-gay bigotry and serial killing monsters in the same few paragraphs. Thanks to Ted Kaczynski John Holbo’s OP.
But not yet.
First, Cranky Ob.
You’re making the distinction between individual citizens’ political donations and voting, and saying one is private and one isn’t. I’m not. They’re the same thing to me, regardless of their legislative status at the moment. There seems to be some fairly high level judicial agreement there.
If you want to debate that I guess we could, but I’d much rather not.

Also not super interested in replying to accusations of bigotry. When asked to provide some, no hard evidence of bigoted expressions forthcome. But…
Well defending bigotry is bigotry. No, defending free speech, even for bigots.
Well calling for tolerance of the intolerant is bigotry.
Oh tolerance, yeah, too much of that and next thing you know all the marginal creeps and freaks and weirdos come crawling out of their shadowy lairs and…
But wait.
Saying that open discussion of questions is vital to good change, questions that at least some of the disagreeing participants think are already long-decided, is what now? Bigotry?
Homosexuals do/do not have a right to marry freely. That was the question.
It’s answered without discussion pretty much by both of the extremes in the polarity.
So that advocating open discussion becomes a betrayal of both sides, the laser-sights hitting front and back. Which I’m fine with.
Only both sides aren’t here (at this site) equally represented and actively discussing. One side is. Any real advocate from the other team (which I’m not, as anyone who knows me well can testify) gets piled on, roughed up, and run out of town, figuratively speaking.
I just happen to frequent this place, for some unfathomable reason.
Marriage is a successful undertaking in what, like 50% of the hetero versions now? Success being longevity to some x number of years? It’s become a consumer thing mostly, as have children. That’s the actual nub for me.
The old traditional forms aren’t working, aren’t holding together. And here comes a gay version of the old traditional form. Yay!
La-di-da.
What I’m really interested in is expansion of the discourse into taboo regions. All of them, no sides, no prejudice, no partisanship in the forum itself. Any voice, no matter its affinities, free to talk about anything, to take any side.
That does seem to have been the original idea about democracy, which a whole lot of people have been, at least now and then over the millennia it’s been around, pretty excited about. To the point of being willing to sacrifice themselves so other people could have it.

194

Consumatopia 04.14.14 at 10:38 pm

Also not super interested in replying to accusations of bigotry.

That’s good, because I just said “You’re not a bigot, Roy.” You seem to be much more interested in replying to imaginary accusations than anyone else was in making them.

To reiterate, you like to defend oppressors and attack the oppressed for complaining about oppression. That’s not bigotry, that’s just being an asshole.

You don’t advocate open discussion. In an open discussion, I don’t have to pretend an argument is reasonable when it isn’t. I’m allowed to say when someone is putting forward a bigoted position for bigoted reasons, as opponents of gay marriage are. Those are legitimate (and correct) points of view that you repeatedly try to shout down.

I’m not glad to see Eich go. I hope to hear that he’s working on more stuff, the post of his announcing his resignation hinted at some intriguing ideas ( https://brendaneich.com/2014/04/the-next-mission/ ). But I don’t understand what kind of coercive apparatus–whether through state power or social norms–we would have to put into place to stop people from looking for a different job or web browser whenever they don’t like the CEO.

195

godoggo 04.14.14 at 10:49 pm

You should be more patient with Roy. He’s just a dumb Mick. Probably drunk, too.

196

godoggo 04.14.14 at 10:50 pm

Sorry, just being meta.

197

godoggo 04.14.14 at 10:54 pm

Good thing I don’t have a TV show…

198

The Temporary Name 04.14.14 at 10:56 pm

You should have a TV show on which any voice, no matter its affinities is free to talk about anything, to take any side. Except Roy Belmont.

199

godoggo 04.14.14 at 11:06 pm

Anyway, I already regret that attempt at humor. I apologize.

200

Bruce Baugh 04.14.14 at 11:25 pm

Trader Joe: If Eich had said anything like “In retrospect, that was a terrible action; I fell for what were shown in court to be bald-faced lies, and I’m very sorry I did and wouldn’t do it again”, half or more of his critics would have switched from opposing his appointment to neutrality or wary support. Everybody is sometimes taken in by scoundrels, and most of us respect people willing to learn from their mistakes. The crucial issue here isn’t what he or anyone else did six years ago but what they’re saying and doing about it now.

201

roy belmont 04.14.14 at 11:35 pm

Consumatopia: you’re so right. I completely misread that.
Must be jumpy for some reason.
Maybe it’s what happens when I read things like: to defend oppressors and attack the oppressed. Which seems at least mildly prejudicial and impugning. Not to say it’s an accusation of my being cruel and weak and morally indefensible. Considering my actual true biographical history of getting the shit kicked out of me for defending the picked on and defenseless, it’s also laughably inaccurate.
But, says I, to meself and t’others near, but wait, says I, ye have na seen me up aginst dem udder guys, now have ye?
Are you seriously suggesting that I can withstand the sneering contempt of dweebs like the posters following you, and yet I’d be all cozy with haters and such?
Really? No, you can’t possibly really think that.
It’s just the mega-ironic that in this context the oppressed are ganged up and pumping, and the oppressors, such few as they are (here! not out there, irl) are drifting through in individual units of contemptible wrongness. With targets on their backs.
So in this context, they are the oppressed. Fr’instance Eich. Oppressed. And them ducks guys, oppressed. And that guy defending the duck guys whatever his name was. Here.

other poster:
When I get drunk and get online I usually write elsewhere, like poetry and stuff.
And your self-permission to insult me here may be a near universal feature of online anonymity and virtual distance, and it may have moderator approval as a function of some site dedication to free speech and consensus values generally, but it is not something you would ever venture in person, without a gang around you, and me drunk and whirling, with me shoes untied and no friends in sight.
Then maybe you would talk that way. Not face to face. You don’t have the character for it. Chag sameach.

202

godoggo 04.15.14 at 12:00 am

Yeah, you’re probably right. Anyway it was stupid.

203

godoggo 04.15.14 at 12:07 am

Honestly yours is almost the only name I ever click on here because everybody else is so boring.

204

godoggo 04.15.14 at 12:10 am

It was meant in an ironic way fwiw, but no, I don’t say that kind of shit to people in person.

205

Consumatopia 04.15.14 at 12:15 am

It’s just the mega-ironic that in this context the oppressed are ganged up and pumping, and the oppressors, such few as they are (here! not out there, irl) are drifting through in individual units of contemptible wrongness. With targets on their backs.
So in this context, they are the oppressed.

Are victims allowed to become anything other than victims? Are they allowed to call out bigotry and injustice as they see it? Are they allowed to build their own spaces for support? Do I have to take a poll of everyone I invite into my home to make sure there’s an equal percentage of people on both sides of the issue?

I simply don’t buy the principle that we completely ignore the global context when we’re looking at a local context. I’m not happy with what happened to Eich, but I’m not sure who I’m supposed to point a finger at for it. I think OKCupid might have crossed a line, but I think the same thing would have happened, if more slowly, if they had stayed out of it. Am I supposed to go after individual complaining Mozilla employees, telling them they should keep punching their time cards, whatever they think about Eich? That they may be facing irl oppression makes me very hesitant to do that.

Fr’instance Eich. Oppressed. And them ducks guys, oppressed.

Eich, sort of. Phil Robertson, absolutely no way. If you make a living by turning your personality into a brand, then you’ve got no basis to complain if people turn against your brand because of your character flaws.

206

MPAVictoria 04.15.14 at 12:28 am

“It’s answered without discussion pretty much by both of the extremes in the polarity.”

Just want to point out that one side of “extremists” simply want the same rights you have roy. The other side wants to deny them those rights. There are actual good guys and bad guys in this little morality tale.

/Also, I would happily say all this to your face.

207

The Temporary Name 04.15.14 at 12:47 am

I would happily say all this to your face.

Would Roy think to oppress you? Obviously not!

208

Collin Street 04.15.14 at 1:28 am

> I simply don’t buy the principle that we completely ignore the global context when we’re looking at a local context.

A lot of systemic problems only exist in the global context: in each individual local context, people are acting reasonably given the situation. It’s only when you have a look at how everything connects that you can see the existence of the problem. [sort of like topology here, how spheres, planes, and tori look identical locally.] All your “perverse incentive” situations and things like that.

If you’re benefitting from some sort of systemic problem — say there’s some complex interaction of social structures that acts to marginalise groups you don’t like the members of — you’re going to be pushing the local view as the only legitimate one, of course.

209

godoggo 04.15.14 at 4:02 am

Temporary:

I made a stupid, offensive, joke. I crossed a line I shouldn’t have crossed. I tried to apologize.

There are no points to be scored from it.

210

The Temporary Name 04.15.14 at 4:05 am

I understood it when you made it (although I agree it was not nice and your apology is a nice). There is, unfortunately, meta everything.

211

AJtron the Invincible 04.15.14 at 6:43 am

One thing I don’t understand is why, as a CEO, a smart person wouldn’t at least water down his or her super-controversial views, even if he or she has them, to the greatest extent possible, especially if it is about actual people involved. At some level, it seems dumb in a “Darwin Awards” kind of a way.

If there were a “CEO Darwin Awards”, Eich would win it.

212

Aristodemus 04.15.14 at 6:55 am

“Where do you think that a man like Eich can be usefully deployed?”

It depends on your definition of ‘useful’. If the chief qualification is something like ‘can execute projects without revealing his toxically bigoted psychological disease’, it seems to me that he’s been recently fired from such a position. After all, he successfully suppressed his bigotry and homophobia in his previous post, and in spite of working with the man for decades, colleagues seem to have a difficult time remembering him ever publicly or privately calling anyone a ‘fag’ or not promoting an otherwise-worthy candidate who also happened to be LGBT.

It’s like saying that Wagner wouldn’t deserve an NEA fellowship to write Tristan. Just because (people say) you’re a bigot doesn’t mean you’re incapable of excellence.

“No one’s saying that Eich wasn’t good at his job.”

Okay. If not, then what you’re saying is that Eich’s bigotry ought to play a role in whether it is appropriate to hire him for a position with respect to which the expression of his bigotry plays no role. In other words, Eich’s position (and evidently almost all jobs) demands a statement of faith: “I do not personally hold any position which can be construed as demeaning or belittling to any employee or group of employees.” Not quite “one holy catholic and apostolic Church”, but it’s hard to deny the similarities.

“Actually, Eich wasn’t good at his job. He needed to be able to lead his employees, and a significant enough number of them didn’t trust him not to treat them with prejudice.”

But shouldn’t his track record of promotions and relationships serve a better indicator of whether employees had anything to fear from Eich’s bigotry? And the challenge Eich issued on his site, for anyone who knows him publicly or privately to recall an incident in which they felt in any way mistreated by him in virtue of his views about gay marriage, has not been met.

Eich uses a few choice words in that post that ought to make clear just how fundamentally foolish the liberals appear on this issue. Being a bigot seems to entail animosity towards the object of your bigotry. Or at least, it’s the animosity that makes a bigoted attitude morally deplorable. No one, including those programmers who threatened to quit, can seem to offer examples of such animosity in Eich.

213

Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 04.15.14 at 9:22 am

Something is seriously wrong with describing the opposition to expanding the definition of marriage as rights-denying, not to mention “toxically bigoted psychological disease”. Overheated rhetoric is presented as a matter of fact.

I’ve read the wikipedia entry for “human rights”, and, aside from the fact that they are individual, not couples’ rights, there is nothing there about same-sex marriage being a right. The issue is described at “government recognition of same-sex relationships”, which is not incompatible with preserving the traditional definition of marriage.

214

MPAVictoria 04.15.14 at 10:36 am

Shorter Christ, Uhren and Schmuch: Derp!

/Don’t worry CUS I am sure roy will be along soon to defend you from the Gay Mafia or whatever…

215

Consumatopia 04.15.14 at 12:27 pm

I’ve read the wikipedia entry for “human rights”, and, aside from the fact that they are individual, not couples’ rights

So, apparently, refusing to recognize interracial marriages doesn’t violate anyone’s rights. Nor would it violate anyone’s rights to ban religious ceremonies involving more than one person.

216

Consumatopia 04.15.14 at 12:41 pm

No one, including those programmers who threatened to quit, can seem to offer examples of such animosity in Eich.

Working to take away someone’s rights represents animosity, and that animosity is a matter of public record. You might say they should wait for some instance of someone being provably mistreated on the job because of that animosity. That seems like an unfair obligation to impose on employees.

217

adam.smith 04.15.14 at 2:34 pm

CUS – reading comprehension not so hot today is it? The person writing “toxically bigoted psychological disease” uses it to – oh so cleverly – ridicule people who allegedly think this. Too clever, unfortunately, for his friends, apparently.

As for individual vs. couples’ rights, I recommend you read the US v. Windsor decision or Garret Epp’s discussion of it at http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/kennedys-marriage-ruling-is-about-gay-rights-not-states-rights/277251/
The right to not have the state prevent you from marrying who you want is an individual right.

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AJtron the Invincible 04.15.14 at 3:12 pm

Couldn’t a CEO say – Due to high call volumes, I would like to place everyone on hold while I try to evaluate the merits of this important issue. Can I place everyone on hold? It is due to high call volumes.

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AJtron the Invincible 04.15.14 at 3:20 pm

“As long as there are CEOs, the world will always be in need of one more management consultant.”

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Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 04.15.14 at 3:22 pm

What I’m saying is that there is no right to same-sex marriage. There is the traditional definition of marriage, and some want to preserve it. There is also the issue of “government recognition of same-sex relationships”, which can be resolved by expanding the definition of marriage, or some other way. This thread’s overblown weird rhetoric gives some credence to (obviously also overblown) “Welcome to the Liberal Gulag” reaction.

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The Temporary Name 04.15.14 at 3:31 pm

What I’m saying is that there is no right to same-sex marriage.

Or, to put it another way, there is. And this latter way of putting it is becoming more true because it’s just.

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MPAVictoria 04.15.14 at 3:51 pm

“There is the traditional definition of marriage,”

Is this the definition of marriage that considers women to be the property of their husbands? Or the one between a man and a woman and another woman? Or perhaps it is the one where it is legal for a husband to rape his wife?

So please enlighten me as to which “traditional definition” of marriage you are referring to.

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Trader Joe 04.15.14 at 6:26 pm

“What I’m saying is that there is no right to same-sex marriage”

Nor is there any right to different sex marriage.

A “right” became attached to “marriage” at the moment when it began to confer benefits to those choosing it ….whether it be survivor benefits, tax benefits, any number of benefits that exist throughout laws of states or nations.

An infinitely wise governmnet might have – to use your phrase – expanded the definition exactly at that point in time realizing that if some recognized institution conferred benefits on persons that the rights to said benefits should be available equally to all with out regard to race, sex, etc.. As it happens it has taken until approximately “now” (not fully, but closer) to get where it should have been in the first place.

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Bruce Baugh 04.15.14 at 6:33 pm

Trader Joe: Having disagreed earlier in the thread, I’m happy to read this and think “Yeah!” and “I must remember that phrasing.”

225

Trader Joe 04.15.14 at 7:09 pm

@224 Bruce
Thanks for the kind words….I liked your post @35, but didn’t comment as the strand had moved far from there by the time I had joined.

You had suggested he could have admitted the error of his ways and that would have been nice had it been earnest. If it wasn’t earnest, I’d rather credit him as wrong but with conviction, than as a hypocrite.

To be clear, my defense of Mr. Eich extends to his right to free speech and I also give him credit for accepting the consequences of that choice (i.e. losing his job). Said differently, I don’t support what he has to say but defend his right to say it and accept the consequences of his belief.

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Christ, Uhren, und Schmuck 04.15.14 at 7:47 pm

“An infinitely wise governmnet might have – to use your phrase – expanded the definition exactly at that point in time realizing that if some recognized institution conferred benefits on persons that the rights to said benefits should be available equally to all with out regard to race, sex, etc..”

This is a very odd way conceptualize, by getting rid of the context. There was a purpose, there were reasons for giving the benefits. To avoid arguing about the details, we could generalize it as ‘shaping a better society’. And this is still the case, for most people. Otherwise, if this is all about not giving one category of people a penny more than another, the single people should be complaining (and some are) about the injustice of giving benefits to the married couples. Different people have different ideas of what constitutes a better society and ways to achieve it. For starters, they could simply be fearful of making sudden radical changes to long-established institutions. I don’t see a reason to assume that they are necessarily against giving the same benefits to same-sex couples in stable relationships, under a different rubric.
Anyway, it’s pointless to argue with true believers, so I’m out of here.

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AJtron the Invincible 04.15.14 at 7:59 pm

Ah, MPAVictoria, you are still around.

You once called me a kook. I ask you to please tell me the reason you did so. The thread closed, alas, before I could respond, but it is important for me that I give you a chance to state your reasons for saying so. I am giving you a chance. Which is more than you did for me.

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MPAVictoria 04.15.14 at 8:06 pm

“You once called me a kook. I ask you to please tell me the reason you did so. The thread closed, alas, before I could respond, but it is important for me that I give you a chance to state your reasons for saying so. I am giving you a chance. Which is more than you did for me.”

Hmmm sorry AJtron but I do not remember you. If I was wrong in calling you a kook my apologies.

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AJtron the Invincible 04.15.14 at 8:52 pm

@228 – Hey, no problem. Cheers! :)

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Consumatopia 04.15.14 at 8:54 pm

To avoid arguing about the details, we could generalize it as ‘shaping a better society’.

You really should avoid language like that if you don’t want to be compared to racists.

For starters, they could simply be fearful of making sudden radical changes to long-established institutions. I don’t see a reason to assume that they are necessarily against giving the same benefits to same-sex couples in stable relationships, under a different rubric.

People want a middle ground so they reach for civil unions, but note that this justification–the fear of radical change–makes absolutely no sense. Creating an entirely new parallel-yet-inferior marriage-like institution is a much more radical change than expanding the existing institution to include everyone without unjustified discrimination.

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ralph 04.16.14 at 3:30 am

Having read this all, I’m kinda surprised (or did I miss it?) that no one really focused on the fact that CEO is not a “working position” as much as it is a political one. (I’m not being tricky here; note that unions are not for management…..) Eich was appointed to a political position, one where he “helps” make the critical decisions about the direction of the company but also has to sell those decisions, both internally and externally, because in only rare cases can he punish all those who might disagree by firing them. Typically, even when possible, it destroys the entity.

So I find it odd to be concerned for a very successful, wealthy-as-he-wants-to-be man, who is attacked for his public (per cranky, donations are publicly listed) commitment to a cause that can both disturb workers’ confidence in their workplace and also cause outsiders to agitate about what that means about the company. In the absence of anything resembling coercion or illegality — and certainly he’s not really lost any money — this is entirely uninteresting except as an example of the larger processes, the discussion of which I’ve quite appreciated.

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Hey Skipper 04.16.14 at 7:36 am

Why did Eich oppose gay marriage?

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MPAVictoria 04.16.14 at 11:13 am

Good point ralph.

/Oh look it’s Skippy…. I wonder what side of this issue he will come down on….

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dk 04.16.14 at 2:27 pm

Lemmy @19

Apparently you have never held a job where being fired due to political beliefs is a concern. I promise you that many working-class jobs fall in that category. For instance, you might believe that you have the right to take time off work to go vote…

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Hey Skipper 04.16.14 at 4:48 pm

MPAV:

Depends. Why did Eich oppose gay marriage?

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MPAVictoria 04.16.14 at 5:20 pm

“Why did Eich oppose gay marriage?”

Go ask him.

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Bruce Baugh 04.16.14 at 7:58 pm

It’s not like Eich’s been denied an opportunity to explain.

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roy belmont 04.16.14 at 8:37 pm

godoggo:

You should change your screen name to “The astonishing godoggo”.
I am moved. Impressed. Inspired.
Humans! Talking to each other!
Life!
Wow!

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etv13 04.17.14 at 12:06 am

dk @ 234: If you live in California, you do. Elections Code section 14000.

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Hey Skipper 04.17.14 at 5:22 am

Vicky:

So the takeaway from this is that being progressive means “why” doesn’t matter, just go ahead and fire up that hate machine.

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John Holbo 04.17.14 at 5:43 am

“So the takeaway from this is that being progressive means “why” doesn’t matter, just go ahead and fire up that hate machine.”

I’m going to do you the courtesy of providing a serious answer, Skipper, even though I suspect your challenge is not meant seriously.

Eich has said only that it is obvious that he didn’t support Prop 8 out of animus towards homosexuals. The reason those on the other side don’t accept this sort of thing, at face value, is that there is no apparent reason to support Prop 8, except to express animus towards homosexuals. The court struck it down for that very reason.

Imagine the following situation. Someone hits you in the face. Then, when asked why he did it, your assailant replies only: it is obvious that I didn’t intend to hurt you in the face by hitting you in the face. It is not logically impossible that there is some story to be told along these lines. Life is strange and subtle! But it is also obvious that things look kind of bad. If he really wants you to believe that, by hitting you in the face he didn’t mean to hurt you in the face, he really ought to tell his side of the story, rather than saying that there is some obvious, innocent explanation, when there obviously isn’t an OBVIOUS innocent explanation. Clear?

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roy belmont 04.17.14 at 6:15 am

It’s not like Eich’s been denied an opportunity to explain.

Care to ponder how much virulent hate mail he’s been the target of, whether or not it’s making it to his home or inbox directly? Given any thought to that? Why do I doubt it?
Obviously Eich’s world-view’s come in for some serious re-calibration.
Likely it hasn’t been of the “Oh these people are so much more enlightened and lovingly tolerant than we are” variety.
-
What is probably closer to the real issue is something around the difference between consumer gratification and the long term goals of something like “the human race”.
All you need to be a consumer is money, and money doesn’t care what you are, what you want, or where you getting what you want leads.
The human stuff more or less does, though for most of our history it hasn’t been particularly conscious or articulable.
Not the history of Judeo-Christian Western Civ.
The history of humanity, at least fifty thousand years of surviving all kinds of threats and dangers.

Money’s a big part of why gay marriage has risen so swiftly into public acceptance. The demographic is got bank.

If it was a question of a true shift toward tolerance and acceptance there’d be some formal apologies being made to our Muslim brothers and sisters, I think.

The underlying moral attitude from the resistance-to-gays side isn’t all repressed Puritanical vestiges. There’s a real fear of something, something important being lost.
Even attacked. It isn’t as silly as it’s made out to be. There’s also a fairly rational indignation at incoherent moral assertions that have no substance.

There’s no difference between natural human female breasts and silicone implants, or there is.
There certainly is to a nursing infant. To a lustful sex partner, not so much, maybe.
If there’s a “right” for two women to marry, why isn’t there a “right” for a man to marry three women? Or a woman to marry five men?
These are awkward and uncomfortable areas for some.
But it’s where the question’s sitting.

What keeps me hopping the imperative is the issue of gay marriage is happening in a cultural moment when almost every aspect of our biology is being replicated by technology. So that a defense of traditional anything is like a mouse waving a wooden sword at a giant cat robot.
I’m a lot more worried about that robot than I am about the Mormons.
And I do worry some about them Mormons.

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adam.smith 04.17.14 at 6:19 am

If there’s a “right” for two women to marry, why isn’t there a “right” for a man to marry three women? Or a woman to marry five men?

or their dog! or their horse! Or their Furby! The slope is so slippery!

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John Holbo 04.17.14 at 6:41 am

“So that a defense of traditional anything is like a mouse waving a wooden sword at a giant cat robot.”

I think if the NY Times replaced Ross Douthat with a trained mouse and a giant cat robot, the results would be … well, it depends. Just how big a robot are we talking? (Also, I can’t help but think that if the NY Times really did this, it would look like they were expressing animus at Douthat, and conservatism generally.)

On a more serious note: Eich may be so inundated with hate email that he is literally unable to send anything out – although I can’t help but think there must be a technical work-around. But you, Roy, are not in that situation. So you play Eich. Give us a reason why Prop 8 could be reasonable and have some good effect. And none of this decline of civilization stuff. First, it’s vague. Second, it presumably depends, for its sense, on animus towards homosexuals, and on the proposition that expressing animus towards homosexuals may have some salutary effect – may stop the slide. Right?

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roy belmont 04.17.14 at 6:43 am

JHolbo:

there is no apparent reason to support Prop 8, except to express animus towards homosexuals

This is, rhetorically, beneath you. Without using words like “nuance”, what at least some of the energy behind Prop 8 is is animus toward the assertion that homosexual marriage is the equivalent of heterosexual marriage.
Partisan insistence that they’re the same thing doesn’t make them the same thing.
Gay marriage has been constructed as a proof-of-acceptance for the gay community and its supporters and sympathizers.
To the point there’s a kind of deceit inherent in the conflation.
So animus toward gay marriage is, legally, animus toward gays.

Citing courts and their decisions at this point, as though there were some higher wisdom and moral guidance coming from anywhere in the American judiciary…I mean really. The US legal system is a marketplace.

It’s probable that Eich’s clad has real animus toward gays, or what they think of when they think of gays more accurately, but it’s intentionally naive to see that as all bogus and thoughtless stupidity.
This is a depraved hour. You may be comfortable in the midst of depravity, safe from its effects, as you see them, on your kids, but is it really unthinkable that other less sophisticated folks are not?
You know and I know that gay people aren’t bringing the depravity, but the antis see societal decay simultaneous with rising acceptance of what they’ve been taught are sinners.
Dismissing that is easy, but it doesn’t do fuck-all to resolve the tension.
And I’m pretty convinced for most of the partisans there’s no real desire to resolve it. People are just choosing sides in a Darwinian throw-down.

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roy belmont 04.17.14 at 6:43 am

cross post

247

John Holbo 04.17.14 at 7:06 am

“This is, rhetorically, beneath you … Citing courts and their decisions at this point, as though there were some higher wisdom and moral guidance coming from anywhere in the American judiciary…I mean really.”

Let me get this straight. You are telling me that I – John Holbo – am so much better than anyone in the American judiciary that for me to breath a kind word about anything to do with that whole institution is to besmirch my glorious moral self? Which I have now done. So that brief moment where I was a kind of moral god is gone now?

I don’t believe you believe any of this for a second. Snap out of it.

“So animus toward gay marriage is, legally, animus toward gays.”

No, there is no legal principle that says animus towards gay marriage equals, legally, animus towards gays. But you aren’t allowed to make law, the exclusive point of which is to express animus towards a minority group. And Prop 8, by its very simplicity, made it impossible to construe any other function as the intended function.

In your comment you strike the obligatory ‘but think of the children!’ pose. I appreciate that you did so without thinking, but I ask you to reflect now on the manner in which your knee jerked. You can’t say that Prop 8 depends on ‘but think of the children!’ Because there is no way in which merely forbidding gay people the use of ‘marriage’ – the word – will help the children. At the very least, you need to do something more: deprive them of the right to raise children. Something like that. (How else can it be plausible that you are helping the children?) Of course, that gets you into other problems.

So I ask you again: can you think of anything besides expressing animus towards homosexuals that could be the point of Prop 8?

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The Temporary Name 04.17.14 at 7:22 am

What a fabulous display. You’d have said the same thing about white people and black people marrying.

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The Temporary Name 04.17.14 at 7:23 am

The “you” being handwaving-liberal-capitulator Roy of course.

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Hey Skipper 04.17.14 at 7:29 am

[John Holbo:] The reason those on the other side don’t accept this sort of thing, at face value, is that there is no apparent reason to support Prop 8, except to express animus towards homosexuals.

That there isn’t one apparent to you doesn’t amount to proof non-exist. (Full disclosure here: I’m not anti-gay marriage; I don’t much care one way or the other. On the other hand, I am very much against the progressive hate machine.)

Here is one possible reason: Eich felt that such a significant change in a long-standing cultural institution should not be imposed by judicial fiat. No animus there.

Another: The traditional definition of marriage was very tightly defined. So long as that definition held, then it was clear what fit, and what didn’t. Allowing gay marriage as a “rights” issue is fine as far as it goes, but doing so leaves absolutely no ground on which to stand to exclude other kinds of relationships that I’d bet the vast majority of people, including advocates of gay marriage, wouldn’t be happy with. Perhaps Eich felt there was another way to achieve gays’ justifiable aims without radically altering the definition of marriage. No animus there, either.

To be clear, I have absolutely no idea what Eich’s reasons were.

You don’t either. Yet despite that ignorance you are happy to pronounce sentence.

251

Hey Skipper 04.17.14 at 7:30 am

… proof of non-existence.

(If my proof reading skills were better, I wouldn’t need an edit function nearly so badly.)

252

roy belmont 04.17.14 at 7:32 am

Eich may be so inundated with hate email that he is literally unable to send anything out – although I can’t help but think there must be a technical work-around.

I’m still forming an impression of your dedication to truthy things, and stuff like that isn’t helping the overall index much.
My pretty obvious purpose in saying that was that it may have had some shaping influence on his desire to address what probably looks to him like a mob bearing digital pitchforks and torches. Not that he would be technologically disabled by the volume of animosity-mail.
Keeping in mind he’s on the books as conservative and concerned about the collapse toward moral degeneracy of society, at least in some areas. It’s conceivable he’s under the impression he’s been assaulted by the Dark Side.

Give us a reason why Prop 8 could be reasonable and have some good effect.

I don’t have to.
Not for the purposes of my argument, which is that Prop 8 was seen by some of its adherents as reasonable and having some good effect.
That their reasoning, and more important to me their emotional logic, is/was flawed doesn’t have much weight if the point, my point, is that the way to defeat flawed reason is with superior reason, bad emotional logic with good.
But okay. Except wait:

Give us a reason why Prop 8 could be reasonable and have some good effect. And none of this decline of civilization stuff. First, it’s vague. Second, it presumably depends, for its sense, on animus towards homosexuals, and on the proposition that expressing animus towards homosexuals may have some salutary effect – may stop the slide. Right?

1. It’s vague because it’s civilization, which is very big. So, hard to see. But there is one. And it’s declining like a pound of feathers dropped from the Tower of Pisa.

2. If you aren’t going to not conflate “animus toward homosexual marriage” with “animus to homosexuals” then I just don’t know what.
See the above illustration where silicone tits are on offer right beside the infant-friendly milk bars of normal human maternal configuration.

I don’t go around interviewing people, but I talk to some now and again, mostly regular folk types of one sort or another. My impression is that the active resistance to gay marriage, where it isn’t just more Judeo-Christian sex pathology projected, is focused on what they’re saying it is, defense of marriage.
Where marriage isn’t some consumer arrangement between two consumers for purposes of mutual consumption, but something *vague* and as yet formless, because its goal is in the future, where things are vague and formless to us, here in the present.
The view is that getting the kids to that future intact, with promise and a solid resource base, is a very good goal. Traditional marriage is seen as a foundational necessity for that progress.
So the difference between hetero-marriage just sits there doing what it’s supposed to – the kids – and gay marriage just gets up alongside it, or gay marriage brings hetero-marriage down toward itself by negating any meaningful difference between the two. And kids are just another artifact of hedonistic consumption.
Some of what nobody gets at is the underlying view of gays as secondary, not necessarily morally unacceptable but biologically secondary.
Analogous maybe to paraplegics being secondary to the able-bodied. Not fun to talk about, and why make the distinction anyway?
Is there something about being able to walk, or not?
Is there something about being able to organically conceive, or not?

Like to be clear that I haven’t dropped anything like a personal view on any of this.
Very clear.

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roy belmont 04.17.14 at 7:43 am

What a fabulous display. You’d have said the same thing about white people and black people marrying.

Well yeah, dimwit. If I was trying to get a bunch of closed-minded dimwits to see that the objections, made by others, were a little more complex than flat-out racism.
Your view of this, either question, is about as ahistorical as it could be. It’s like you’ve been raised in an amusement park.
It was against the law for blacks and whites to marry in many parts of the US when I was growing up. That was accepted as normal and fine.
Because people then were stupid, right?
Guess what, dimwit, they still are!
Only about different things!

254

The Temporary Name 04.17.14 at 7:50 am

Cuddling Strom Thurmond would have solved it all.

255

John Holbo 04.17.14 at 8:04 am

“If I was trying to get a bunch of closed-minded dimwits to see that the objections, made by others, were a little more complex than flat-out racism.”

Look, roy, no one is stopping you. Just go ahead and do it. (As my old biology teacher used to say: do not speak of love, do it!) You keep saying you have an argument, so make it already. What the hell is it?

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John Holbo 04.17.14 at 8:06 am

“That there isn’t one apparent to you doesn’t amount to proof non-exist.”

You cannot pass a rational-basis test by saying that maybe there’s a rational basis that no one has thought up yet, Skipper. That’s not how it works.

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MPAVictoria 04.17.14 at 11:02 am

Anyone else here appalled that roy just compared LGTBQ relationships to, in his charming phrase, “fake tits”?

/ go fuck a rusty chainsaw you bigoted ass

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 11:45 am

255 “What the hell is it?”

He made some perfectly good arguments, and others did too. But you don’t see them. Ideological blindness.

It’s not really all that complicated. To some people ‘marriage’ is an institution for heterosexual couples to form families, procreate, and raise their biological children. Which seems quite straightforward and unobjectionable, nor does it imply any animosity. To others it’s more like ‘when two people love each other very much they marry and get the tax break’. Which is fine too. Instead of yelling, insulting, and demonizing each other they should, perhaps, … well … divorce. Split the ‘marriage’ in two: quasi-religious procreational part (marriage), and government-administered domestic partnership with tax breaks and all the rest of it. Everyone would be happier.

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Niall McAuley 04.17.14 at 12:02 pm

Ze Kraggash: To some people ‘marriage’ is an institution for heterosexual couples to form families, procreate, and raise their biological children.

Can you name one of these people? I’ve never heard of anyone who thought infertile heterosexual couples should not be allowed to marry.

260

MPAVictoria 04.17.14 at 12:02 pm

“To some people ‘marriage’ is an institution for heterosexual couples to form families, procreate, and raise their biological children.”

To some people marriage is an institution for heterosexual couples of the same race to form families, procreate, and raise their biological children.

/in 30 years every last one of you is going to be ashamed you made these arguments
//Also exactly no one believes your definition of marriage. Otherwise they would be against adoption and spend their time picketing outside the weddings of infertile couples and senior citizens.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 12:16 pm

“Can you name one of these people?”

Your parents, most likely. That’s two.

“I’ve never heard of anyone who thought infertile heterosexual couples should not be allowed to marry.”

Nevertheless. Gotcha! is not a refutation.
Serious question: what motivates you to deny the obvious? Whatever your doublethink skills, you must realize that’s what you’re doing here.

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Niall McAuley 04.17.14 at 1:02 pm

My father’s second marriage was never going to be about procreation, and a refutation is still a refutation even if I shout “Gotcha!” and do a little dance.

What motivates me to argue for gay marriage is a sense of fairness and decency.

263

Consumatopia 04.17.14 at 1:15 pm

He made some perfectly good arguments

Fine, we’ll look closer at them.

Here is one possible reason: Eich felt that such a significant change in a long-standing cultural institution should not be imposed by judicial fiat. No animus there.

If the proposed ballot measure was merely to give the California legislature or voters the right to decide on marriage, he could make that argument (he’d still be wrong), but Proposition 8 went further and made it unconstitutional to recognize gay marriages.

Another: The traditional definition of marriage was very tightly defined. So long as that definition held, then it was clear what fit, and what didn’t. Allowing gay marriage as a “rights” issue is fine as far as it goes, but doing so leaves absolutely no ground on which to stand to exclude other kinds of relationships that I’d bet the vast majority of people, including advocates of gay marriage, wouldn’t be happy with.

It’s not actually clear–traditional definitions would permit the very ancient institutions of polygamy and child marriage. And marriage is already a rights issue–see Loving v. Virginia. What that means is not that all marriage is permitted (e.g. kids, animals), but that to ban a kind of marriage you need to provide a legitimate state interest in blocking it.

But, of course, the problem is not just that these arguments are wrong, but that they aren’t even arguments about gay marriage. They aren’t against gay marriage itself, they’re looking for some higher-order principle that lets him reach the same conclusion. But the absence of any good argument against gay marriage itself makes both of these two higher-order principles inapplicable. If there isn’t any good argument against gay marriage itself, then judges should overrule bans of it–they violate the Constitution. And just because we permit something when there isn’t any good reason not to doesn’t mean that we’re somehow forced to permit something when there is a good reason–we just have to actually state the good reason, not assume it exists.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 1:22 pm

“What motivates me to argue for gay marriage is a sense of fairness and decency.”

But you’re not arguing for gay marriage. Even in this phrase you’re clearly implying that defenders of traditional marriage are scoundrels. That is not an argument, it’s a jihad. Crusade.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 1:44 pm

“My father’s second marriage was never going to be about procreation, and a refutation is still a refutation even if I shout “Gotcha!” and do a little dance.”

It’s still not a refutation, because it’s perfectly obvious that many, certainly a vast majority of people world-wide, think of ‘marriage’ as the institution that gives structure to biological procreation. They don’t subscribe to “when two people love each-other, they marry, end of story” definition. They view childless marriages as failure “to start a family”, and adoption only as the Plan B. How can you deny the obvious, and then explain it by your sense of fairness and decency? What about common sense?

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Consumatopia 04.17.14 at 2:01 pm

Even in this phrase you’re clearly implying that defenders of traditional marriage are scoundrels.

So no one is allowed to argue for fairness and decency, because that implies the other side is made up of scoundrels. The real scoundrels are all those fair and decent people, oppressing the rest of us by making us look bad!

I don’t think very many of those opposed to Eich would call him a “scoundrel”.

They view childless marriages as failure “to start a family”, and adoption only as the Plan B.

Lots of people would prefer to have their own children than adopt, but, obviously, very few Americans would claim that a childless marriage is a failed marriage, and fewer still would say that a marriage with only adopted children is a failed marriage.

As far as I know, no Western government or Christian denomination claims that entering into a knowingly childless marriage is illegitimate.

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JanieM 04.17.14 at 2:04 pm

Nor is there any fertility test for marriage, or upper age limit.

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Clay Shirky 04.17.14 at 2:28 pm

Ze @264, defenders of traditional marriage ARE scoundrels, but not per se. They are scoundrels because a) they want to deny same-sex couples a right they regard as essential for different-sex couples and b) denying your fellow citizens certain rights based on sexual preference is a scoundrelly thing to do.

You could of course argue that they are not scoundrels by denying that one of those two statements is false. The problem with many defenders of traditional marriage is that statement a is not merely descriptively true, it is the goal of the movement.

This leaves disputing b, and while many such affirmers of discrimination want to deny b without being thought of as prejudiced against gays and lesbians, this is, for the obvious reason, a fairly hard argument to make.

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Clay Shirky 04.17.14 at 2:29 pm

“…the problem FOR many defenders…”

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Niall McAuley 04.17.14 at 2:39 pm

Ze Kraggash: You are the one who dragged my parents into the argument as if they were on your side, but in fact my father remarried when his new wife was past childbearing age, and yes, everyone DID say when two people love each other etc., and not one single solitary person of any age or political persuasion said that their guaranteed childless marriage was a failure, an attempt to undermine real marriage, a political statement, a satire, a grotesque parody, or any of the other hateful things people say about gay marriages.

So that is an absolute refutation of your assertion that people think of marriage the way you say they do. People really don’t.

“Some people” come out with that poorly thought out position when asked why they oppose recognition of the equal rights of gay people to get married, and resort, like yourself, to “La la not listening” when “traditionally” valid and guaranteed childless marriages are pointed out.

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The Temporary Name 04.17.14 at 2:45 pm

That is not an argument, it’s a jihad.

If you complain about getting called a bigot you might want to recast this sentence.

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Layman 04.17.14 at 2:50 pm

Hey Skipper @ 250

‘The traditional definition of marriage was very tightly defined. So long as that definition held, then it was clear what fit, and what didn’t. Allowing gay marriage as a “rights” issue is fine as far as it goes, but doing so leaves absolutely no ground on which to stand to exclude other kinds of relationships that I’d bet the vast majority of people, including advocates of gay marriage, wouldn’t be happy with.’

What are those other currently excluded, widely disliked kinds of relationships to which you refer at the bottom of this slippery slope?

(wait for it..!)

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JanieM 04.17.14 at 3:13 pm

The traditional definition of marriage was very tightly defined.

The traditional definition of marriage has always been in flux since forever and is different, and has evolved differently, in different jurisdictions. See George Bernard Shaw’s play Getting Married, and its preface, for a lucid and entertaining (if partially dated) overview and analysis.

Right now, the US states differ widely on lower age limits, ranging from 12 to 21, depending on how many people sign off (parents, judges, etc.).

From Wikipedia:

Massachusetts: 18 for first marriage, 14 (male) 12 (female) with parental and judicial consent.

Asserting that there is a single “traditional” view of marriage is a sure sign of someone who hasn’t been thinking about this very hard or for very long, or who hasn’t done any homework, or…I won’t bother with the other most obvious possible factor.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 4:12 pm

“when “traditionally” valid and guaranteed childless marriages are pointed out.”

Yes, this is a fair point, but it’s a minor point. Yes, there are symbolic marriages, there are also marriages for the sole purpose of getting the benefits. Still, most marry in relatively young age, with the purpose to “start a family”: procreate and raise their biological children. This is the situation that is considered ‘normal’ by most people in the world. And if some of them object to expanding the definition to dilute this perceived ‘normality’ even more, it doesn’t make them scoundrels, or haters, or bigots, or rights-takers.

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MPAVictoria 04.17.14 at 4:14 pm

Curious is our local contrarians think this Louisiana law is rooted in “animus” towards the LGBTQ community?

“”Louisiana’s anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral,” stated the letter to lawmakers from the Louisiana Family Forum. “

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/laboratories-of-democracy-041714

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MPAVictoria 04.17.14 at 4:16 pm

“And if some of them object to expanding the definition to dilute this perceived ‘normality’ even more, it doesn’t make them scoundrels, or haters, or bigots, or rights-takers.”

Yes actually it does. Are you seriously going to argue that supporters of Prop 8 were not “rights-takers”? Taking away the right to marry from homosexuals was the whole point of the Proposition.

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The Temporary Name 04.17.14 at 4:17 pm

Yes, this is a fair point, but it’s a minor point.

When you suggest someone’s parents would disapprove of something like that it’s a major point: it suggests you do not know what you’re talking about.

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Bruce Baugh 04.17.14 at 5:17 pm

In the Clinton years, Social Security made some changes to how it handles SSI benefits. In particular, the changes meant that couples where each partner receives SSI can marry without either losing benefits from it. Before that, marriage would cost you benefits, and since nobody gets SSI without living very close to the brink, there was a substantial population of cohabiting people lying to the state about their actual living arrangements and wishes. In the wake of that change, quite a few disabled adults of all ages got married, making their legal status reflect the reality of their wishes. This includes, of course, a great many people cannot have children, and more who physically could but know they’re in no position to raise children well and choose not to.

Ze Kraggash, show us the backlash against this from defenders of traditional marriage. We’ll wait.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 5:57 pm

“Ze Kraggash, show us the backlash against this from defenders of traditional marriage. We’ll wait.”

Funny you’d say this. I’ve never thought of that before, but now, after reading this thread, I’m beginning to feel strongly that giving money (tax breaks, etc.) to two people (whatever the genders) just for choosing to live together in the same dwelling is grossly unfair to those who choose to live alone, or are unable to find a partner. Couples are not comprised of bread-winners and dependents anymore. And those who live together spend less, for the necessities, anyway (economy of scale); what could possibly be the reason to give them even more? If anything, they need to be taxed at a higher rate.

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The Temporary Name 04.17.14 at 6:19 pm

Funny you’d say this. I’ve never thought of that before

I know!

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Bruce Baugh 04.17.14 at 7:04 pm

Ze Kraggash: Of course, your thoughts about the tax code right now have absolutely nothing at all to do with what organized vocal defenders of “traditional marriage” have done about a particular bloc of childless hetero couples, in the 1990s, or the ’00s, or now. Which is the thing I’m pointing at – those activists, and their lack of action.

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Niall McAuley 04.17.14 at 7:31 pm

Ze Kraggash writes: Yes, there are symbolic marriages, there are also marriages for the sole purpose of getting the benefits.

There are also people who marry for love who have no capacity or no desire to have children. There always have been.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 7:38 pm

@Bruce. There is an old institution, a system with a purpose. Some, it could be said considering the purpose, ‘game the system’. There is no backlash, perhaps because people understand: no system is perfect, but this one does the job. You suggest to include a whole new category, which only function, from the “the purpose is procreation” point of view, is to game the system. Or worse: you are changing the purpose to “two people have relationships, live together, recognized by the state”. Procreation is about to become an insignificant side-effect. Now there is a backlash. What is so surprising or sinister about this?

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JanieM 04.17.14 at 7:50 pm

Lots of kids live in gay-parented families.

Oh, wait, I forgot, those aren’t “real” families.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 8:13 pm

Lots of kids live in single-parent families too. But the conservative viewpoint is that two biological parents is the much-preferred environment, and this is what the institution of marriage – with its benefits and its quasi-religious status – signifies to them. What’s the outrage in that? It’s conservative, yes. Perfectly legitimate conservative view.

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Consumatopia 04.17.14 at 8:25 pm

Some, it could be said considering the purpose, ‘game the system’.

No, it cannot be said by anyone honest that childless couples “game the system”. No one calls it that. Virtually no one thinks there’s anything abnormal (atypical, perhaps, but not abnormal) about childless marriages or adoption. Children are typically not even mentioned in wedding vows. The defining feature of marriage is commitment. It is not considered unusual or “symbolic” for people with no intention of procreating to want their long-term relationships to be fully committed–possibly because they intend to raise adopted children.

We have already established that gays can enter long-term relationships and raise adopted children. Whatever reason there is for the state to refuse to recognize their commitments, procreation cannot honestly be one of them.

Note that something like 90% of Americans have or want to have children sometime in their lives (this presumably includes some gays). Most people would say that children without marriage is a bad idea, but marriage without children, while not necessarily typical, is perfectly acceptable.

But the conservative viewpoint is that two biological parents

I’ve never heard a conservative complaint about adoption. Gay adoption, yes. Adoption by heterosexual childless couples, no. No one can honestly say this is honestly about procreation.

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JanieM 04.17.14 at 8:29 pm

Conservatives have no right to enshrine their preferences in laws that boil down to saying to people like me, “It’s my world, not yours.”

Perfectly legitimate non-conservative view.

(And I’m done playing this stupid game. Bottom line: it’s my world too.)

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js. 04.17.14 at 9:07 pm

But the conservative viewpoint is that two biological parents is the much-preferred environment

Do you know anything, and I mean anything, about conservatives’ attitudes towards adoption? Or is this just: something pops into Ze Kraggash’s head, and it pops right out into the comment box?

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 9:51 pm

“Do you know anything, and I mean anything, about conservatives’ attitudes towards adoption? Or is this just: something pops…”

How could this outburst be brought up by the phrase “the conservative viewpoint is that two biological parents is the much-preferred environment”? Do you believe I am mistaking, and the conservative viewpoint is NOT that two biological parents is the much-preferred environment? Well, then tell me what it is, in your opinion.

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 9:59 pm

Sorry, it’s late, and what am doing here anyway. No one is going to convince anyone.

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js. 04.17.14 at 10:00 pm

Well, it’s not that hard, is it? If two biological parents were the “much preferred” option, then you’d expect to see negative attitudes associated with adoption, since adoptive parents are not biological parents and so are failing to provide the “much preferred environment” to their adopted kids. So: do you find that conservatives display negative attitudes towards adoption? If they don’t, would this suggest something about what they do or don’t consider to be the “much preferred [family] environment” for kids?

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Ze Kraggash 04.17.14 at 11:12 pm

“Well, it’s not that hard, is it? If two biological parents were the “much preferred” option, then you’d expect to see negative attitudes associated with adoption, since adoptive parents are not biological parents and so are failing to provide the “much preferred environment” to their adopted kids.”

This is so incredibly stupid that it doesn’t need a reply. Just re-read it a few times.

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Collin Street 04.18.14 at 12:26 am

Ze:
+ to prefer A to B is to dislike B more than A,
+ de morgan’s rule. [if A always comes with B, and B didn't come, then A didn't come either]

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 2:13 am

“It’s still not a refutation, because it’s perfectly obvious that many, certainly a vast majority of people world-wide, think of ‘marriage’ as the institution that gives structure to biological procreation. They don’t subscribe to “when two people love each-other, they marry, end of story” definition. They view childless marriages as failure “to start a family”, and adoption only as the Plan B. How can you deny the obvious, and then explain it by your sense of fairness and decency? What about common sense?”

Ze, your position is certainly traditional, in a sense; but it is bereft of common sense – as many defenses of tradition are.

You have advanced a general proposition about people’s attitudes towards marriage. Namely, they think of marriage as for procreation. Period. Other people in this thread have refuted that proposition (you may call it a ‘gotcha’, but it’s technical name is ‘refutation’. And the consequence of it happening is that, like it our not, your claim is revealed as false.) If you were right, people would look with disfavor on things like second marriages for love, rather than children. They do not look with disfavor no such things. Ergo, you are not right. Your statement about people’s attitudes towards marriage was false.

Let’s run it through a different way.

Everyone (or near enough to make no matter) in fact holds what we might call the Swiss army knife view of marriage. It isn’t a tool for doing one thing. It’s a tool for doing many things. It has many functions, some of them major, some minor; all proper, in their way. Wanting the thingy to get the stones from horses hooves, plus a tweezer, plus a can opener, is a sufficient reason for wanting a Swiss army knife, even if you don’t use the actual knife. When you buy a Swiss army knife they don’t quiz you: but are you going to use the KNIFE? You can actually buy a version of the Swiss army knife that has no knife. Just other tools. It’s still called a ‘Swiss army knife’ because we’re used to that name by now. Why would you want such a thing? Well, maybe you want to fly with it. Or you want some specific array of non-knife tools. Does it make everyone else’s Swiss army knives, that come with knives, less knife-like, that there is someone out there, somewhere, with a Swiss army knife, without a knife? Not obviously. If someone wanted to be snarky about it and say the ones without knives shouldn’t be called knives, I guess they could privately reserve judgment. But it would be strange to campaign to forbid their sale, under that name, on the ground that the sale was harmful to others.

Campaigning to forbid the sale of Swiss army knives, without knives, to people who have a good reason to want them, on the ground that it would be harmful to the people with Swiss army knives, with the knives, if the people who want them, without the knives, can get them … might be called many things. But ‘common sense’ is not near the top of the list.

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 2:18 am

And, just to complete the thought. Since my hypothetical anti-Swiss army knives without knives campaign is obviously insane, and no one would propose to amend anyone’s Constitution to forbid such abominations, we are back to plain old: many people don’t like gays. That is the root. That is their right, but it isn’t their privilege to make law on that basis. And, insofar as society is coming around to the view that it isn’t right – whether you’ve got the right or not – people who express anti-gay animus have to expect to be on the receiving end of anti-anti-gay animus. People resent those who try to deprive their fellow citizens of equal treatment under the law.

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 2:36 am

Come to think of it, I didn’t make the Swiss army knife example quite ridiculous enough.

Suppose that some people were perfectly happy to allow the sale of Swiss army knives, without the knives. But they want to forbid the sale of Swiss army knives to some people – but not other people – on the ground that those people aren’t going to use the knife bit.

Would that be common sense, or not?

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JanieM 04.18.14 at 2:41 am

John Holbo — having lived through 5 or 6 statewide referenda on gay rights or gay marriage, worked for some of the campaigns, written op-eds, and in general pondered the issues and debating points until you’d think I was drowning in thought trains — I have never seen anything quite like your Swiss army knife analogy.

Nice job. :-)

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Hey Skipper 04.18.14 at 3:05 am

[John Holbo:] You cannot pass a rational-basis test by saying that maybe there’s a rational basis that no one has thought up yet, Skipper. That’s not how it works.

You insisted there was no such thing as an argument against gay marriage that didn’t involve animus against gays.

I gave you two. And I didn’t say no one has thought of them yet — I summarized two I have heard elsewhere — only that your lack of awareness isn’t a limit upon their existence.

[Consumatopia:] It’s not actually clear–traditional definitions would permit the very ancient institutions of polygamy and child marriage.

But ancient institutions aren’t what is in play; rather it is the Western model.

And I’m making no claims about the correctness of the arguments — I don’t think they are nearly as easily dismissed as you do — only that it is possible to disagree with gays marrying and not have any animus towards gays.

Yet the common assumption, completely devoid of evidence, is that animus motivated Eich.

As far as I know, no Western government or Christian denomination claims that entering into a knowingly childless marriage is illegitimate.

Catholicism is a bit sticky on that point. After the Falklands War, the Catholic Church in Britain refused to marry a soldier who had been rendered sterile to the nurse that helped him recover, because the marriage would have no choice of creating life.

I can’t remember the outcome, but there was no small amount of backlash.

[Clay Shirky:] They are scoundrels because a) they want to deny same-sex couples a right they regard as essential for different-sex couples and b) denying your fellow citizens certain rights based on sexual preference is a scoundrelly thing to do.

No, it isn’t. If their view is that marriage exists for very specific reasons which make gay marriage a non-sequitor. In their view, self-procreating pairings are essential to society’s continued existence, and for that reason deserve special consideration in law.

That isn’t a scoundrelly argument, and it isn’t particularly easy to refute either. After all, different sex couples are capable of doing something that same sex couples cannot.

To repeat, I am not against gay marriage. But it requires a real ideological blindness to demonize people who are not making demonic arguments.

[Layman:] What are those other currently excluded, widely disliked kinds of relationships to which you refer at the bottom of this slippery slope?

Until relatively recently, marriage was an obligatory institution. It is far less so now, but until the revolution in gay marriage, the institution wasn’t defined as accessible solely by asserting a “rights” argument.

Okay, fine.

But what if three people assert a right to marry? Or any number? Once granting the initial rights argument, against which the existing heterosexual definition was no bulwark, then confining marriage to just two people is a similarly arbitrary definition. Why must the state not extend to them the privileges of marriage?

[JanieM:] Asserting that there is a single “traditional” view of marriage is a sure sign of someone who hasn’t been thinking about this very hard or for very long, or who hasn’t done any homework, or…I won’t bother with the other most obvious possible factor.

I’m asserting that in the US or Western Europe, from which most of our traditions hail, that if you asked anyone even 10 years ago to define marriage, they would all have said exactly the same thing.

Details like the minimum age for marriage is just quibbling.

Also, until a few years ago — indeed, at the very time Eich made his donation — Pres. Obama was firmly wedded to the idea of traditional marriage. Where are the pitchforks?

[Vicky:] “”Louisiana’s anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral,” stated the letter to lawmakers from the Louisiana Family Forum. “

I don’t agree with anti-sodomy statutes, but before you pile on the Louisiana Family Forum, you might count up the number of dead due to sodomy. The AIDS scourge seems to justify the terms “dangerous” and “unhealthy”.

[Ze Kraggash:] Lots of kids live in single-parent families too. But the conservative viewpoint is …

Well put.

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Collin Street 04.18.14 at 3:32 am

Ze, your position is certainly traditional, in a sense; but it is bereft of common sense – as many defenses of tradition are.

It’s a dynamics thing, I think. Like “states rights”: things that are traditional and have merit can be defended on their merit, there’s no need to drag tradition into it. You’d only go for “but it’s traditional” if you couldn’t find anything better.

Mind, if your traditional practices harmed noone then your “it’s traditional” would be enough to justify their continuation… but practices that harm noone are practices that noone cares to end, anyway: the question never arises.

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JanieM 04.18.14 at 3:48 am

Another thing that makes a hash of the notion that there’s a single “traditional” kind of marriage: women’s property rights, and married women’s rights in general, which have been evolving for a couple of hundred years in the US and in the states. When Maine had its first same-sex marriage referendum in 2009, a professor who teaches con law (!!!) at a college in Maine wrote an op-ed bemoaning the fact that no one was sympathetic to the grief he felt at the possibility of losing his legal status as a husband (along with some other grievances about things he had dreamed up).

In fact, the marriage statute mentions spouses, not husbands and wives; the difference in the legal status of the two partners was done away with some time ago (I’m not at home so I don’t have my notes on the details). So this guy was whining about losing something he didn’t actually have; the word “husband” had no legal force.

In 1821, just as a taste of how things used to be, if a “feme sole” (single woman) had been named the adminstrator of an estate, and she then married, her role did not (as some roles/responsibilities/rights did) pass to her husband, nor could she continue in that role. As regards that role, it was henceforth “as if she were dead.”

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 4:16 am

Skipper, it doesn’t help to change “that no one has thought up yet” to “that someone may have thought of already, but we don’t know about it yet”. Legally, a rational basis needs to be positively presented. And, in case it isn’t obvious, “that such a significant change in a long-standing cultural institution should not be imposed by judicial fiat” wouldn’t pass the test, either – not legally. The problem is that, even though this motive is not, per se, inadmissable, the means still is. If someone says ‘let’s send a message to the out-of-control judiciary by systematically stigmatizing a disfavored minority group!’ you can’t do it, not because you can’t send messages to the judiciary, but because the proposed means of posting the message, as it were, is not permissible.

Psychologically, you are quite right that Eich might be thinking something like ‘I am supporting Prop 8 in protest against the corruption of the legal system by bad decisions.’ He might be thinking any of an infinite number of things. But this is 1) rather unlikely. Most of the things that, logically, he might be thinking, are rather unlikely. And, in any case, 2) if he really were thinking some strange and relatively innocent thing, rather than the thing people think he was thinking, surely it would be in his interest to raise the possibility explicitly. That is, he would just say what his reasons were.

In short, your ‘maybe he’s thinking some other thing’ thought is fine, but not yet likely enough to stand on its own two feet. And anything you say to support it, more solidly, needs to pass the common sense sniff test independently. You can’t expect that people will just set aside common sense, when it comes to assessing other people’s motives and mental states. Legally, there is such a thing as innocent until proven guilty. But we aren’t talking law now, we’re talking plain old thinking about the world.

“‘It’s not actually clear–traditional definitions would permit the very ancient institutions of polygamy and child marriage.’

But ancient institutions aren’t what is in play; rather it is the Western model.”

This is no odder than some other things you’ve said, in my opinion, but it’s a different flavor of odd, so I’m guessing you didn’t mean it. Are you seriously arguing – surely not! – that the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the whole history of the West, are not part of the ‘Western model’? Obviously there’s plenty of polygamy and child marriage (by modern standards) in the Bible, and in western history. By the ‘Western model’ do you just mean something like: what Americans thought marriage was about, recently, but before people started talking about gay marriage? If so, that seems to beg the question.

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MPAVictoria 04.18.14 at 4:52 am

Ever had your dick sucked Skippy? Congrats you just engaged in sodomy.

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Ze Kraggash 04.18.14 at 7:11 am

294

I disagree that, when discussing social phenomena (unlike math), pointing out to an exception and yelling gotcha! is a refutation. For obvious (I think) reasons. Besides, while we do know that conservatives don’t campaign against “things like second marriages for love, rather than children”, we don’t know that they favor them. They may very well resent them. You get married, you start a family, you raise your biological children together, and you ruthlessly suppress your emotions of love (lust) that are not directed towards your spouse. After the spouse dies you live alone. Isn’t this the iconic conservative picture? The fact that they do tolerate the “love/companionship/no children” model for the heterosexuals doesn’t prove much. Try to expand this model and make it dominant, and resentment spills over into protest.

Anyway, obviously in the end we’ll have to agree to disagree, because one of us is wrong and can’t see it. I’m not emotionally invested in any of this, I’m not playing for a team, so it’s fine with me.

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 7:18 am

“I disagree that, when discussing social phenomena (unlike math), pointing out to an exception and yelling gotcha! is a refutation.”

I – and others – weren’t pointing to some oddball exception to the rule that can be ignored as an oddball exception that proves the rule. Rather, the examples we gave proved that you mischaracterized the social norm in question. It is false that people have the social attitude you say they do: namely, they think marriage has one function only – procreation – and they disapprove of other marriages. Is is true to say that people have the Swiss army knife conception.

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Ze Kraggash 04.18.14 at 7:36 am

Notice that I’m talking specifically about ‘conservatives’, and you’re talking about ‘people’ and ‘social norms’ in general. Damn it. Now you can have the last word, I swear. I’m closing the tab. I have other things to do.

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Bruce Baugh 04.18.14 at 7:40 am

Oh for crying out loud. Ze, you are playing for a team: you’re providing cover for homophobes. You haven’t shown any willingness to check any of their claims of fact; you just pick up their banners and brandish them at us.

Here’s an assertion: every justification for denying marriage equality, other than admitted dislike of non-straight people and what the deniers think they’re up to sexually, is a lie.

“Marriage is for procreation.” Which states require fertility tests? Who is pushing for a state or national requirement for them? Divorce standards generally allow infertility as a ground for separation, but which ones require it? Who is pushing to deny marriage to women past menopause? Who is on the air condemning childless marriages?

“It’s the $BIGNUM-year tradition.” Who is pushing to undo laws against spousal rape, against women owning property in their own name, against parents’ rights to use any force up to lethal against their children? In these cases there actually are some highly-placed officials and public figures trying, but their movement is in general not with them, let alone the rest. Most of marriage as we practice it now is of quite recent invention, but people attempting this defense never admit that.

“Children do best with one parent of each sex, who’s their biological parent.” Who’s trying to cut off adoption rights for fertile couples? Who’s trying to take children away from second marriages (particularly since step-parents are one of the highest-risk sources of child abuse and molestation)?

“It’s about basic decency.” There is no movement to deny marriage rights to convicted serial killers. This is an argument that George Takei’s and Ellen Degeneres’ marriages are more dangerous to the public weal than Ted Bundy’s. Someone needs to show their work.

Justifications used only to attack one group of people and never, ever applied to others are not in fact commitments or principles. They’re rationalizations, and their crap. Show us the powerful, well-funded, widespread movements who use their justifications against anyone but people wanting same-sex marriages, and we’ll have something to talk about.

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 7:40 am

“Isn’t this the iconic conservative picture?”

Perhaps your confusion is this (I do believe that you are sincerely confused about social norms, and not just intentionally making conceptual mistakes to troll us, ze.) There is a difference between a paradigm case – an iconic case, as you say – and a concept. Perhaps if you ask people to present a paradigm case of a marriage they would – conservatively – draw a father and a mother and a little girl and a boy. Perhaps additionally they would say: the father works! (I could go on.) But it does not follow that even conservatives tend to regard a wide range of cases that don’t match this icon as, presumptively, non-marriages. People don’t regard childless marriages as non-marriages. People don’t regard cases in which the woman works and the man stays home as non-marriages. They may say: those people aren’t being properly conservative! But they don’t say: I guess they weren’t married, after all. Look at her, going to work, and him staying home with the kids every day.

You say: perhaps conservatives secretly resent the existence of marriages that perform more than one function – procreation. I have to say: this suggestion has the virtue of originality. But it suffers from a deficit of reality. Conservatives, like everyone else, have the Swiss army knife conception of marriage. Indeed, that marriage has many functions is as constant a feature of the institution as procreation, as a feature. Marriage for love may come and go. Marriages to forge social alliances between families occur in some eras, not others. Different types of marriage are countenanced. But in all eras, marriages serve more than one social function. I challenge you to find a counter-example. (Maybe there is one, but I can’t think of it.)

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 7:49 am

Alas, my comment crossed with ze’s closing of the tab.

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Niall McAuley 04.18.14 at 8:07 am

Ze Kraggash writes:I disagree that, when discussing social phenomena (unlike math), pointing out to an exception and yelling gotcha! is a refutation.

If you aren’t actually going to use logic, I’d suggest that you don’t bother posting things that look as if they are meant to be logical arguments. Doing so just invites people to show how they are invalid or unsound, and you clearly don’t care.

Why not just declare yourself Universal Pontifex, and issue a decree that you win all arguments, past, present and future?

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 8:18 am

As stale catnip of contemptsmanship goes, this thread offers some pretty fresh stale catnip of contemptsmanship, I think.

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Bruce Baugh 04.18.14 at 8:31 am

John, I do have the nagging feeling of having provided a very wordy confirmation of your thesis. :)

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John Holbo 04.18.14 at 8:37 am

Oh I think there’s plenty of confirmation to go around all around, Bruce.

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PGD 04.18.14 at 11:15 pm

Yes, obviously, opposition to gay marriage makes no sense if you assume that people have a right to realize their sexual and romantic desires in any way they wish, that romantic desire is at the heart of personal identity, and that marriage is a form of self-expression. Obviously it makes much more sense if you assume that sexual desire is a dangerous temptation that must be disciplined and controlled, and that marriage is a religious framework for disciplining human sexuality in the production and rearing of recognized ‘legitimate’ children. (Which is clearly the background of sacramental marriage in the West for thousands of years, notwithstanding rare or unintended exceptions). We have been transitioning from one vision of sexuality and marriage for about two centuries, it is only within the last century that *straight* people have really been freed from the bonds of the religiously conceived marriage obligation. (In the traditional view, marriage is as much an obligation as a ‘right’, although it does have to be available as there is no other way to legitimately exercise sexuality or to have your own children). Marriage is at the heart of that traditional vision so it’s not surprising that people will have their views lag with the rapid transition we have had in gay rights — bigotry not necessary. What would you say about someone who, for instance, in 2008 favored civil unions, legal employment protections for homosexuals, and anti-hate crime laws protecting homosexuals, but opposed gay marriage? If you look at the last two decades of opinion polls, it is quite clear that many such people existed, since public opinion was far more favorable toward gay employment protections and hate crime protections than gay marriage (even though the former are still not fully achieved and are legally more radical). Would they be bigots who need to be driven out of their jobs?

Clearly gay rights is winning and attitudes are changing rapidly, and for the most part that’s not happening because of endless self-righteous preaching-to-the-converted lectures about ‘bigotry’ on the internet. It’s happening because peoples’ lived experience tells them that homosexuals are their neighbors and their friends have the freedom to live their lives the way they choose. Engaging in witch hunts toward people whose attitudes took time to fully shift on the issues most closely related to traditional attitudes toward marriage is ungracious in the extreme and not the way to continue that progress.

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Consumatopia 04.18.14 at 11:30 pm

Obviously it makes much more sense if you assume that sexual desire is a dangerous temptation that must be disciplined and controlled

Splitting this apart, this first assumption, though I concede that it’s very widely held, isn’t enough to justify opposition to gay marriage. Sexual desire could just as easily be a dangerous temptation for gays in monogamous relationships.

and that marriage is a religious framework for disciplining human sexuality in the production and rearing of recognized ‘legitimate’ children.

This one is the reverse–it would justify opposition to gay marriage, but nobody really believes it sincerely. It’s absurd to say that childless marriages or adopted children are somehow “exceptions”.

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Collin Street 04.18.14 at 11:39 pm

> Engaging in witch hunts toward people whose attitudes took time to fully shift

By which you mean “telling people who are slow that they are slow and that this causes problems for others”, no doubt.

If you’re wrong you cop it. If you’re wrong and you stay wrong you’ve made two mistakes and you cop to both of them. If you’re wrong and you stay wrong and you bitch when people tell you you’ve been wrong you’ve made three mistakes and you’re not going to cop to any of them [four mistakes] or to that one either [five].

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Layman 04.19.14 at 12:12 am

Hey Skipper:

“Until relatively recently, marriage was an obligatory institution.”

I think you’ll have to say more here. When & where was marriage obligatory? We’re still talking about the western tradition, right?

“But what if three people assert a right to marry? Or any number.”

Frankly, if they’re all consenting adults, of sound mind, & free of coercion, I’m happy to throw some rice their way. How does their marriage harm me?

317

GiT 04.19.14 at 12:30 am

“it is only within the last century that *straight* people have really been freed from the bonds of the religiously conceived marriage obligation. “

What’s the data on actual marriage and cohabitation practices among the masses from, say, the middle ages to the 19th century? I wouldn’t be surprised if things were more fluid and amorphous than “tradition” would suggest.

318

roy belmont 04.19.14 at 5:43 am

You keep saying you have an argument…

That countering irrational hatred and contempt with irrational hatred and contempt furthers nothing and destroys much that is important, including the possibilities of recognized commonality.

319

The Temporary Name 04.19.14 at 6:09 am

Then why haven’t you stopped being an asshole? You’re a walking self-diagnosis.

320

Hey Skipper 04.19.14 at 7:38 am

[John Holbo:] In short, your ‘maybe he’s thinking some other thing’ thought is fine, but not yet likely enough to stand on its own two feet. And anything you say to support it, more solidly, needs to pass the common sense sniff test independently. You can’t expect that people will just set aside common sense, when it comes to assessing other people’s motives and mental states.

You, and everyone else at this point, are completely ignorant of what Eich was thinking at the time. Therefore your use of the term “likely” is completely misplaced. Whatever it might have been, his thinking at the time wasn’t “likely”; rather, it was certainly whatever it was. I do expect people not to go straight for defenestration based on pure ignorance. Of course, I suppose it would be valid to include his long record of discrimination against gays as evidence. Because he’s done that, right?

And I am quite certain you are just as certain of Pres. Obama’s evil motives when he, at the same time Eich was contributing to the Prop 8 campaign, was voicing his support for traditional marriage.

Are you seriously arguing – surely not! – that the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the whole history of the West, are not part of the ‘Western model’? Obviously there’s plenty of polygamy and child marriage (by modern standards) in the Bible, and in western history.

In all of Christendom, when has polygamy been either legal, or even tolerated?

[Hey Skipper:] Until relatively recently, marriage was an obligatory institution.

[Layman:] I think you’ll have to say more here. When & where was marriage obligatory? We’re still talking about the western tradition, right?

I don’t know how old you are. At 59, I’m just old enough to remember when the Pill happened. Before then, women, because of the ever present risk of pregnancy and far more pronounced ostracism in the event, were much more reluctant to engage in sex outside of marriage, or at least the promise thereof. And should a woman become pregnant, there was significant pressure for the father to marry her. You have heard of a shotgun wedding, right?

Within the Western tradition, I doubt you will find, until very recently, any significant tolerance for illegitimacy. That’s what I mean by “obligatory.”

[Layman:] Frankly, if they’re all consenting adults, of sound mind, & free of coercion, I’m happy to throw some rice their way. How does their marriage harm me?

Lost Boys.

(PGD #313 pretty much perfectly describes opposition to gay marriage that has nothing to whatsoever to do with any animus towards gays. And, in his closing para, he also perfectly describes the virtuous cycle — the more gays become accepted the faster they become even more accepted. IMHO, his comment is the thread winner.)

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John Holbo 04.19.14 at 8:46 am

Skipper: “You, and everyone else at this point, are completely ignorant of what Eich was thinking at the time.”

At the time that he donated $1000 to support Prop 8?

If that’s what you mean, then: no, we most certainly aren’t completely ignorant. We know (to start with) that he donated $1000 to Prop 8. And we can reasonable infer other things like: he wanted to donate $1000; he supported Prop 8. There is an extremely short list of likely reasons for wanting to support Prop 8. It is likely that Eich’s motives are on that list. In the event that they are not, it is likely that he would have told people about them, to avoid confusion. This is just common sense, Skipper. We form beliefs about the beliefs and desires of our fellow human beings on the basis of their words and actions and so forth. Do you deny this? Are you angling for some problem of other minds-type doubt? It’s true that, in a sense, I don’t strictly know that Eich even exists, as a person. In a sense, I don’t know that I’m not trapped in the Matrix. But this sort of hyper-skeptical doubt does not seem relevant. Assuming there is a world, etc., and Eich is a person, and wrote the check, etc., we aren’t completely ignorant, as you suggest.

“In all of Christendom, when has polygamy been either legal, or even tolerated?”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy_in_Christianity

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The Temporary Name 04.19.14 at 3:33 pm

Prop 8 commercials remain on the internet. People giving money to that effort were at least clear that using bigotry as a political tool was part of the plan. Whatever claims you want to make about the sterility of Eich’s vote, that $1000 was a political contribution to practical and honest abuse.

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Layman 04.19.14 at 3:45 pm

Hey Skipper @ 320

To say that marriage confers respectability is not the same thing as to say marriage is obligatory. And, if I say I wouldn’t restrict polygamy in the absence of coercion, an example featuring coercion isn’t an effective counter-argument.

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Hey Skipper 04.19.14 at 9:52 pm

We form beliefs about the beliefs and desires of our fellow human beings on the basis of their words and actions and so forth. Do you deny this?

Of course I don’t. Other than the fact he donated to Prop 8, an action for which he could well have had reasons devoid of animus for gays.

Those reasons do, in fact, exist. You have no words or actions available to you to determine he didn’t hold one of them. So despite the complete absence of any substantiating evidence, you simply assign to him a specific type of motivation.

A different one, apparently, than you charitably accord to Pres. Obama.

Odd, that.

[Hey Skipper:] In all of Christendom, when has polygamy been either legal, or even tolerated?

I had read that Wikipedia article before writing that statement. You know what the link does not contain? Any mention of time in Christendom when polygamy was legal, or even tolerated. You can quibble about the FLDS, but that is the exception that proves the rule.

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John Holbo 04.20.14 at 8:42 am

” You have no words or actions available to you to determine he didn’t hold one of them. So despite the complete absence of any substantiating evidence, you simply assign to him a specific type of motivation.”

Skipper, I’m going to lighten up a bit here at the end. You are clutching a ‘you can’t prove it!’ argument for dear life. And it’s true. I can’t prove a thing about Eich. (Nor do I really care to. Honestly. It’s not that important.) Strictly speaking, I can’t prove that X, which looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, is a duck. It could be a strange, non-duck, but duck-like thing! But, all the same, there’s nothing strange in the fact that people make reasonable inferences about what is probable, rather than always holding back on ‘you can’t prove it!’ grounds. Actually, let me lighten up by recommending the same technique to you: lighten up! How awful is it, at the end of the day (at the end of the thread) that people made fairly reasonable inferences about what Eich probably thinks?

As to Christianity and polygamy: if it brings you satisfaction to think about how, apart from the Judeo-bit, the Judeo-Christian heritage is largely free of polygamy – great! You are quite right that, on the whole, polygamy has been stamped out wherever it appeared in Christianity. But it is still true that there was lots of child marriage in the past (by our standards), so it still seems confused to contrast an alleged ‘Western model’ – which opposes child marriage and polygamy – from an alleged ‘ancient model’ – that admits them. These two models naturally tend to cross in the ancient West, after all. But if you can derive satisfaction or legitimate argumentative leverage from the whole ‘almost entirely free of polygamy thing’ – more power to you! And best of luck.

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Hey Skipper 04.20.14 at 2:55 pm

(Nor do I really care to. Honestly. It’s not that important.)

When the consequence is a sort of defenestration, I think it is very important.

Your condemnage may vary.

But it is still true that there was lots of child marriage in the past (by our standards), so it still seems confused to contrast an alleged ‘Western model’

There are two components to the Western model: gender, and age.

Until very recently, there was precisely zero confusion on the former. Previously, you can find no confusion as to either number or confusion. Pulling in age is pure quibbling. Yes, it was young by contemporary standards, but, SFAIK, it was (pace Islam) never prepubescent.

327

Hey Skipper 04.20.14 at 2:58 pm

Speaking, BTW, as someone whose brother married pre-Prop 8.

It isn’t clear to me how his life changed. But, I am quite certain, my clarity on the matter wasn’t material to him or his husband. The entire family celebrated without question or reservation.

He got divorced a few months ago.

So the lawyers are now happy, and richer, too.

328

John Holbo 04.20.14 at 3:33 pm

“When the consequence is a sort of defenestration”

I will admit that if it were literally a case of throwing him out of a window, innocent until proven guilty would definitely be a more reasonable standard.

329

Consumatopia 04.20.14 at 4:31 pm

if it brings you satisfaction to think about how, apart from the Judeo-bit, the Judeo-Christian heritage is largely free of polygamy – great!

Though it’s worth nothing that this does nothing for the “definition of marriage” argument, because while Christians disapprove of polygamous marriages, they still call them marriages (or the women in the relationship “wives”) whenever they translate the Old Testament. The definition does nothing to protect against polygamy. (Or children).

Whatever this “Western model” of proper marriages includes, the set of things Westerners are willing to call marriages extends beyond it.

330

roy belmont 04.20.14 at 11:01 pm

Identifying someone or some practice as an obstacle to your goals, and consequently perceiving them in a negative light because they’re an obstacle is not the same as perceiving someone or some practice in a negative light just because of what they are, which is more like an aesthetic or emotional thing.
That’s operating on both sides of the debate and in between too.

The re-direction of a rational goal-directed attitude that you think is wrong is a lot easier to accomplish than reworking an emotional or aesthetic misjudgment from the ground up.

What I’ve been consistently working at is the necessity for distinction as opposed to conflation of those two very different things. So that open-minded discussion can happen.
Consistently receiving bile because
a. homophobe
b. defender of homophobes
neither of which has any even slight validity, is illuminating, and has helped a lot to free me of any vestigial loyalty to mainstream progressivism, or whatever it is that holds the bulk of that bile in readiness.
One tries to imagine the experience of an actual real-life defender of actual real-life positions on this subject in a forum like this, one cannot.

It’s just so much easier to see it all as bad faith ignorance. But it isn’t, not all of it. Some of what’s central to this is good faith, however misguided.
I don’t know of any productive method to resolve that than open-minded discussion and contemplation.
One of the ways into an open-minded discussion is pointing out to shrieking incoherent fools that they are in fact shrieking incoherent fools. Or calling a version of that hysterical mind state that’s more relaxed and confident, calmer because it has gained enough power that its prejudices can be enacted and enforced as de facto law, what it is.

You can define marriage as essentially a consumer relationship, with clear boundaries not much different than any other contract. Or you can define it as the substrate of societal responsibility toward children, which has no clear boundaries, not least because “children” is a temporary condition of all human beings.
Plus that view has the future in it, which is not susceptible to accurate testimony by anybody who isn’t from there.
The big discourse bounces between those, mostly arbitrarily according to the needs of the arguers.
But the children one is important because the future’s important. And a future in the hands of mindless hedonists is probably not going to work out well.
-
John Holbo 04.20.14 at 3:33 pm:
What if the window was only three feet off the ground?

What if he had a suit made out of dense-core foam padding, and a face-mask/helmet, and the window was only seven feet off the ground, and there was sand?

What if he had one of those wing-suits on, and experience already, and the window was really high in the Alps, and there was a gorge below it with perfect winds and a ground-crew filming the whole thing, plus his wife went with him because it was their anniversary?

331

Consumatopia 04.21.14 at 5:17 am

They chose the goals because they hate an aspect of the people. Go pick up the Bible and see why it doesn’t like homosexuality–because it says homosexuals are terrible people who will commit pretty much every other sin.

332

Hey Skipper 04.21.14 at 8:55 am

Progressives fire up the 2minutehate — one thing they are really good at — against Eich having the same views on marriage at the same time as Pres. Obama.

Discuss.

333

Consumatopia 04.21.14 at 1:36 pm

No, Obama opposed Proposition 8 before it was enacted.

“Senator Obama supports civil unions, and he has consistently opposed federal and state constitutional marriage amendments because as we have seen in some states, enshrining a definition of marriage into the constitution can allow states to roll back the civil rights and benefits that are provided in domestic partnerships and civil unions.”

The homophobic campaign ads for Proposition 8 might also have had something to do with Obama’s opposition: http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/04/04/brendan_eich_supported_prop_8_which_was_worse_than_you_remember.html . That’s the side Eich donated to. It isn’t even clear if Eich would have supported civil unions. And if Eich’s views have evolved like many people’s views have, he’s had every chance to announce that.

When you say “Discuss.”, that seems to translate to “I just said something trivially idiotic long after discussion had died down and the topic wasn’t even on the front page anymore.”

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Bruce Baugh 04.21.14 at 1:51 pm

Of course Eich wasn’t defenestrated. He left Mozilla, not Microsoft’s operating systems unit.

This has been your requisite nerd tech “joke” for the day.

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Hey Skipper 04.21.14 at 8:22 pm

Consumatopia:

That is a non-responsive answer. In 2008, what was Pres. Obama’s view on same-sex marriage?

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Consumatopia 04.22.14 at 1:56 am

You said Eich had “the same views on marriage at the same time as Pres. Obama”. I falsified that claim @333. Part of Eich’s view on marriage was that a definition of it should be enshrined in state constitutions. Obama did not agree with that aspect of Eich’s view on marriage.

If you want to say they both opposed same-sex marriage in 2008, that would be correct. But that’s not what you wrote.

Obama opposed Prop 8, he supported civil unions, he improved his views since then. None of that seems to be true for Eich. Eich did not have the same views as Obama in 2008, and they’ve grown further apart by now.

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