Private lives, public opinion

As you may have heard, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has resigned. This has been blamed in part on OKCupid’s request that their users boycott Firefox due to the fact that Eich donated money to the Prop 8 campaign in CA in 2008. In an earlier interview with VentureBeat, Eich said “How I’ve conducted myself in my 16 years at Mozilla – I’ve always kept my personal beliefs out of it… We won’t succeed in the mission if people can’t leave irrelevant, exclusionary stuff at the door.” Mozilla as a company has a mission statement that is inclusive of everyone. So why does the CEO’s personal beliefs matter so much? Is his personal stance on gay marriage irrelevant to his role as the CEO of an inclusive company?

The question is an important one, and does get at the heart of how much an individual’s personal beliefs should be taken into consideration in the public sphere. On one hand, Eich apparently did support Mozilla’s inclusion initiatives. On the other hand, he clearly didn’t believe them enough to “walk the walk.” Or did he? Had he changed his opinion on same-sex marriage since 2008? Does that matter?

If Mozilla were a gay-rights organization, I’d see the problem. But it’s not. So again – does Eich’s personal belief on same-sex marriage have any bearing on his role as CEO at Mozilla? As someone who works in the industry, I’ll be the first to say that company culture comes top-down, and that many LGBT employees at Mozilla would likely feel hurt, betrayed, and ostracized by knowing that their boss actively disapproved of equality. That said, his political contribution was personal. Mozilla employees make their own political contributions, and they are not fired for them, nor forced to resign. They, like all Americans, have the freedom to make those decisions when they are not at work, and Eich should have been afforded the same privacy. I don’t agree with his stance on Prop 8, but he had a right to it, and had a right to support the cause he believed in without losing his job.

But that’s not exactly what happened, for he wasn’t fired. The thing here is that the public did what the public also has a right to do when they disagree with a company’s decision or where that company is headed. They voted with their money and their business. They boycotted Firefox. And because of the public backlash (and presumably the drop in business), Eich resigned to protect the company.

So what we have here is someone who used their right to free speech, and a group of people who did what one does in a capitalistic society when one doesn’t agree with that free speech. The whole thing was very American, in the end. I feel bad for Eich, but I’m proud of everyone in this situation who put their money where their mouth is.

Thoughts? Was OKCupid right to boycott Eich? Was Eich right to resign? Should his donation have an impact on his role as CEO? Does it?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s