Asking the wrong questions; Brendan Eich, boycotts & freedom of speech.

In recent days, the appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla has caused somewhat of a stir.  This is in no small part due to Eich’s history of political donations to various right-wing curiosities, specifically his donations to campaigns working against equal marriage rights for homosexuals.

While I find Eich’s purported view to be regressive and harmful, the vehement reaction on social media sites has been arguably more problematic.  Sites like OkCupid have asked people to boycott Firefox, and there is a growing crowd wanting his head on a silver platter or at least whatever counts as a silver platter on Twitter these days.

People – as far as I can tell- aren’t asking whether his views affected his work but are asking only of his views.  Since when did we blithely disregard the right to free speech, e.g. First Amendment to US Constitution, Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the somewhat mealy-mouthed EU Convention on Human Rights.  The overriding feature of a right is that is must apply to everyone – no matter how much of a prejudicial bawbag that person may be – at least up till the point that their rights don’t interfere with other peoples’ rights.

The important question should be whether Brendan Eich’s views have affected his work decisions, not whether we are opposed to his views.  If it has affected work decisions, yes, of course he should step-down; if not, we are ourselves heading into dangerous territory.

Are we really willing to go down the path of petitioning companies and charities not to post people in prominent positions because we oppose their political views, which is ironically one of the first criticisms we levy against repressive regimes?  If people are hired-and-fired according to personal belief, is that not discrimination?

I don’t like Eich’s views.  At all.  I am however alarmed at the scant regard we as a society have for the very rights we proclaim to protect.

As a final thought: how many people who have boycotted Firefox have also turned-off Javascript support in their new browser of choice…



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