[Photo: Brendan Eich]

April 3, 2014

Consequences and the Mozilla announcement

[Photo: Brendan Eich]

I have very mixed feelings about the Mozilla announcement today. I’m sure that Mr. Eich is a nice enough guy in person, and smart enough to be respectful of everyone he encounters face-to-face, regardless of their sexual orientation or personal relationships. And yet still…

I find myself these days in the process of parenting a nine-year old boy, and like with my now 20-something daughters previously, I am teaching him that his choices have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are (for the most part) in-consequential, but sometimes they have huge ramifications. It is a tough lesson to teach a nine-year-old, but it is also an important one.

Mr. Eich is entitled to have his opinion, as we all are, and he is further entitled to put his money where his beliefs lay, but to be perfectly clear, he placed a substantial sum of money in support of a California ballot proposition that sought to make some people less equal than others, purely on their sexual orientation. What if, instead, he politically – and financially – supported the Klu Klux Klan? Or Keystone United? Would the public outrage and pressure to have him step down be any more (or less) palpable? Outraged? Justifiable? I’m not sure – I really don’t know.

I do know one thing: I personally continue to refuse to eat at Chick-fil-A (anti-gay) even though I am sure that there are gays working at Chick-fil-A; I will never shop at Hobby Lobby (anti-Semitic) even though I am sure that there are Jews that work there; and this year I bought triple the amount of Girl Scout cookies than usual (to try and off-set the anti-abortion bigots) because young girls who are learning about community and responsibility should not be the targets of hate groups – in short, any time a public figure, figurehead or group is seen as supporting a political stance that removes the rights of some people, no matter what the reason, then I believe I will not support them – in fact I will vote with my feet and seek to counter their bigotry. That’s my right too.

Mozilla had a problem. Perhaps it was blown out of proportion, perhaps not. But Mr. Eich made his choice when he made that financial contribution to support Prop 8, a ballot measure that sought to make “only marriage between a man and a woman valid or recognized in California”. It was a conscious choice, and he alone is responsible for its consequences, just like the nine-year-old I am parenting now, or my daughters before him. He was not pressured out of the CEO position because of his personal opinions, but rather because he financially contributed towards a cause that was, and is, at its very heart bigoted. And no matter how much of a nice guy he may be in person, or how effective he is/was/may have been as the CEO of the Mozilla foundation, his personal choice and actions would be forever linked to his persona as head honcho at Mozilla.

Consequences can be a bitch. If you insist on a society where you, I and Mr. Eich are free to hold our own opinions, and make our own choices, then we must also accept that that same society and freedom of choice(s) comes with consequences. I feel badly for Mr. Eich, the family man and nice-guy-in-person, but I am glad he is removed from the position of CEO, because his personal stand and financial contribution against same-sex marriage had to be tied up into who he really is as a person, and thus as the leader of the Mozilla Foundation. There could be no other way of seeing it.

I wish Mr. Eich well, and hope that the pain and turmoil he has recently undergone personally will subside.

My take-away lesson here? Chose wisely, and be prepared to own your consequences.

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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Consequences and the Mozilla announcement by John Foliot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Posted by John

I am a 16 year veteran of Web Accessibility, living and working in Austin, Texas. Currently Principal Accessibility Strategist at Deque Systems Inc., I have previously held accessibility related positions at JPMorgan Chase and Stanford University. I am also actively involved with the W3C - the international internet standards body - where I attempt to stir the pot, fight hard for accessibility on the web, and am currently co-chairing a subcommittee on the accessibility of media elements in HTML5.

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