Published On: Wed, Apr 23rd, 2014

Mozilla: The Scarlet Letter of Silicon Valley

It should be clear from the recent resignation of Mozilla co-founder, Brendan Eich, that the debate over same-sex marriage will not not end at the altar, but will proceed to the boardroom and beyond. After being named CEO last month, Eich was forced to step down by Mozilla’s board of directors when it was disclosed that, back in 2008, Eich had contributed $1,000 in support of Prop. 8 – a voter initiative that restricted the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Brendan Eich of Mozilla

While Prop. 8 initially passed by popular vote in 2008, it was subsequently struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court and same-sex marriage was legalized in California in 2013.

By all accounts, Eich was respectful toward gay co-workers and made sure that Mozilla complied with the new same-sex marriage law. He never disclosed his contribution to Prop. 8 or his opposition to same-sex marriage. The matter would have ended there had not a donor list of Prop. 8 supporters been made public and Mr. Eich’s name revealed.

The negative publicity that ensued compelled Mr. Eich to resign his post rather than compromise the good standing of Mozilla, a tech company he had helped build into a success.

Some in the gay community – notably Andrew Sullivan – objected to Mr. Eich’s ouster, calling it a witch hunt. But progressive politics has deep roots in Silicon Valley and, while the gay community may view marriage equality as a civil right’s issue, the Left views it as a litmus test for public life.

The Scarlet Letter According to the Left, supporters of Prop. 8 should be branded with a Scarlet Letter and barred from civil society. If this sounds like a stretch, recall that in The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is found guilty not just of adultery, but also the sin of pride. When questioned by church elders, Hester refuses to reveal the name of her paramour, Reverend Dimmesdale, the father of her illicit child, Pearl. In defiance of the court, she takes the burden of guilt upon herself and remains silent. She is therefore found guilty of two sins: 1) sexual impropriety and 2) pride. Unwilling to confess her lover’s name, Hester is pushed to the margins of Puritanical society and forced to wear a Scarlet “A” in shame.

(It’s ironic to note that one of the original functions of marriage was to protect the rights of mothers and their offspring from abandonment.)

Similarly, it now appears that Brendan Eich was given the opportunity to keep his job if he would publicly recant his opposition to same-sex marriage. Web developer, Hampton Catlin, asked him to make a public disavowal: “I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems. It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.”

He was further encouraged by tech insiders to donate money to LGBT causes and publicly apologize for voting for Prop. 8 as a matter of penance. But Mr. Eich declined these offers. Instead, he restated his respect for gays and gay rights and said that he would encourage their advancement at Mozilla.

Even Mozilla chairwoman, Mitchell Baker, came to Eich’s defense: “My experience is that Brendan is as committed to opportunity and diversity inside Mozilla as anyone, and more so than many. This commitment to opportunity for all within Mozilla has been a key foundation of our work for many years. I see it in action regularly.”

But that wasn’t good enough. The Left takes a literalist view of political correctness much in the same way as the Puritans took the Bible literally. They brook no dissent. A boycott of Mozilla was initiated and Eich was forced out of his CEO position as a deterrence to other heretics in Silicon Valley.

Puritan America

Man in Stocks

While it is encouraging that some liberals and gay rights activists have denounced Mr. Eich’s ill-treatment; the issue itself and its political application is moving beyond them. The Left operates by its own code of conduct and demands ideological conformity – whatever the issue. Its influence is in boardrooms, human resource departments, academia and the media. It is present in sensitivity training at work and in school. On a whim, it can jerk public opinion in any direction it wants – with the knowledge that it will meet little resistance from those in authority who fear being stigmatized. The Left views itself as the ultimate arbiter of public opinion and morals – and it abhors dissent.

Barring a public mea culpa, it is unlikely that Mr. Eich will find another job in Silicon Valley. He has been effectively labelled a pariah. He was found guilty of not just opposing same-sex marriage, but for failing to change his mind. In other words, he was guilty of the sin of pride. And for that he had to be purged.

[Update: A further example of this type  of witch hunt is seen in the recent withdrawal of Condi Rice from giving the  commencement speech at Rutgers University. She was hounded out by campus Leftists. This article traces her ouster to Herbert Marcuse’s concept of “Repressive Tolerance”. Also, this writer was blacklisted as a result of her name being published for supporting Prop. 8.]

About the Author

- Robert Maley has worked in publishing, banking and – as incongruent as it may seem – the theatrical world. After many years of living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he now resides in the more pastoral setting of Virginia. A playwright with an MFA from Columbia University, he has had several plays produced off-off-Broadway. Presently, he is a critic of the Cultural Marxism to which he once allied, especially as it pertains to the arts, faith and academia.