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are you now or have you ever been a homophobe?

It’s not surprising, but still disappointing, to learn that Brendan Eich was essentially dismissed as Mozilla CEO.

Whatever his personal views are, this was a great opportunity for Eich to prove that one’s personal and professional lives could be kept separate. That’s the kind of world I’d like to live in, a world where it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as it doesn’t affect your job performance. Instead, we’ve proven the opposite. If your activities outside of work don’t conform, out you go.

Eich would have been subject to serious scrutiny. Often people even overcompensate to prove they’re unbiased (though it’s hard to imagine what overcompensation would be in this case). But he was never given the chance. Now he’ll go back to whatever he was working on before, maybe making a javascript engine that doesn’t run gay javascript, but without as much public oversight.

What’s most alarming to me is the abuse of campaign finance transparency laws. These transparency laws are meant to expose corruption. When Senator Bubba says a new oil pipeline is good for America, knowing how much Big Frack, Inc. contributed to his campaign helps me to determine how much to trust him. But those laws aren’t meant and shouldn’t be used to track down people we disagree with. I think it’s a bad idea to apply such logic to corporations; I think it’s horrific when used to target individuals.

Let’s separate thought from deed. Campaign donations can be considered an action, but it’s an indirect one. Voting in favor of Prop 8 was an overt act to restrict the freedom of others. An overt act performed by 7,001,084 people. Should the full list of all those people be published? How else can we be certain that nobody on the Chrome team is secretly working to block gay websites?

Brendan Eich is on the wrong side of history, but it’s ludicrous to believe we are and will always be on the right side. Javascript was released in September 1995, a full year before the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, by a software engineer at the tender age of 34. I wonder how many of the past week’s most vocal critics are still younger than 34? What strong convictions do they believe that will be forbidden in 20 years time? Apparently it doesn’t count as groupthink as long as you’re part of the group.

(A note about the word homophobe since I used it in the title. I’ve seen many people pass around variations of this joke. “I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You are not scared; you are an asshole.” Despite the fake origin, it’s used to mock the stupidity of the people who use the term. Thing is, I’ve never met a homophobe who self identified as such. It’s a label applied by others. So who’s the real language idiot?)

(For the record, my position here is issue agnostic. If it had been a donation to the Society for the Mulching of Babies, it would still be completely irrelevant until there was some indication he planned to implement a baby mulching policy at Mozilla.)

Posted 04 Apr 2014 02:29 by tedu Updated: 20 Apr 2014 16:58