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Mozilla CEO Loose his Job over Political Correctness Issues

When Brendan Eich stepped down as the C.E.O. of Mozilla, after a mere two weeks on the job, the political correctness crowd saw this as the least surprising C.E.O. departure ever.  In fact they were grinding their axes since a very long time probably waiting for the right moment to strike.  Eich was one of the co-founders of Mozilla—which makes open-source software, including the Firefox browser—and is a brilliant software engineer who had been the company’s chief technology officer. But Eich was also an heretic.  He has his own ideas about what a family and how a decent society should look like.  This is a very grave crime these days.  Even if it is true that we live in a democratic society where everybody in principle is entitled to his free speech, Eich made the fatal mistake to pick the wrong side in the political correctness arena.  As a simple citizen he may have the right to pick any side he want in the great debates of our society.  But as the CEO of a big multinational compagny he had to pick the right side, which is in this case, the leftists side.   Which he didn’t.   Big mistake.  The man already had a big bulls-eye pined on his forehead from a couple years ago.  The problem is that Eich is well known for his opposition to gay marriage. As a matter of facts, in 2008, Eich donated a thousand dollars to support Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that sought to ban same-sex marriage. The initial revelation of that donation, back in 2012, led to a welter of criticism that eventually died down because he wasn’t such a big shot back then. But, when the compagny decided to elevate Eich to C.E.O., the Mozilla board brought his past to the forefront once again.  Of course, the political correctness zombies were still there around the corner,  waiting…  and they went right for the throat!  While Eich, in all “good faith” tried to defuse the problem with conciliatory blog posts and interviews about diversity and inclusiveness, he didn’t actually say that his views on gay marriage had changed.  Second big mistake.  It was bad enough that he first picked the wrong side in the gay marriage debate, but teh he had the audacity of not changing his mind.  Eich refused to “recant” his views before the political correctness inquisition and didn’t bow down to the new Liberal Gods.  That, inevitably, provoked a uprising within the Mozilla community: a public petition was circulated demanding that he step down, the dating site OkCupid recommended that its customers stop using Firefox, and some Mozilla employees (though far from all of them) called for his resignation.

The obvious point to make about Eich’s resignation is that it shows how much a part of the mainstream that support for gay rights has become, particularly in the technology world. Eich’s problem wasn’t that he took a political stance: Amazon.com’s C.E.O., Jeff Bezos, has weighed in on gay marriage, too, by donating more than $2.5 million in support of it. The problem was that Eich’s stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology. At this point, a tech company having a C.E.O. who opposes gay marriage is not all that different from a company in 1973 having a C.E.O. who donated money to fight interracial marriage: even if there were plenty of Americans who felt the same way at the time, the C.E.O. would still have been on the wrong side of history. And since the role of a C.E.O. as a public face of an organization is more important than ever these days, Eich’s personal views were inevitably going to shape his ability to run the company.

That’s especially true because of the unusual nature of Mozilla. Mozilla is not like most companies. It’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, and is just one part of the broader Mozilla community, which includes thousands of open-source software developers and other volunteers around the world. These people still do much of the work behind Mozilla’s products—contributing code, technical support, design improvements, and so on. This means that Mozilla depends on the goodwill of its supporters more than most corporations do; it relies on their willingness to donate their services in pursuit of the broader Mozilla project, which is all about keeping the Web transparent and accessible. If it alienates them, Mozilla’s entire mission will be at risk.

Eich tried to turn this fact to his advantage. In interviews, he repeatedly spoke about the need to respect the diverse views of Mozilla community members. (He alluded to countries where there’s less support for gay rights, like Indonesia, to make the point that the socially liberal views of many vocal tech users aren’t universal.) In effect, he was saying that keeping politics out of Mozilla was the way to keep the community together. But there was something self-evidently odd about the pairing of Eich’s rhetorical support for diversity with his financial support for denying legal rights to gay people. More important, while his views may be in sync with those of Mozillians in Indonesia, they were obviously out of step with the views of many of the most influential Mozillians—as well out of step with Silicon Valley, which is where the entire project was born.

On top of all this, Eich wasn’t even seen as a slam-dunk choice to run Mozilla in the first place. As the Wall Street Journal reported weeks ago, some Mozilla board members wanted to hire an outside C.E.O., presumably to shake up the organization, which has struggled to make inroads into the mobile business. Three of the company’s six board members actually resigned before Eich was appointed. (The company claimed, rather implausibly, that the resignations were unrelated to the C.E.O. search.) Eich himself told VentureBeat that the board had interviewed twenty-five candidates before settling on him; he even wondered aloud why they didn’t pick Jay Sullivan, who was the other internal candidate for the position.

The real mystery here, then, is not why Eich stepped down but why he ever got hired in the first place. His unquestioned technical ability notwithstanding, this was a candidate who divided the board, who had already been controversial, and whose promotion was guaranteed to generate reams of bad publicity. In that VentureBeat interview, Eich said of the C.E.O. job, “I was asked to put my hat in, and at first I didn’t want to.” Everyone involved would have been better off if he’d just listened to that impulse.

About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.

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