One of the more amusing aspects of the Mozilla affair has been watching writers trying to justify their intolerance through the use of allegedly universally applicable norms. Thanks to Conor Friedersdorf, I ran across this example from Slate’s Will Oremus.
Despite supporting Eich’s ouster, Oremus assures us that he’s not interested in firing people for their political views:
The notion that your political views shouldn’t affect your employment is a persuasive one. Where would we be as a democracy if Republicans were barred from jobs at Democrat-led companies, or vice versa?
Well said. But there’s more:
But this is different. Opposing gay marriage in America today is not akin to opposing tax hikes or even the war in Afghanistan. It’s more akin to opposing interracial marriage: It bespeaks a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others. An organization like Mozilla might tolerate that in an underling, and it might even tolerate it in a CTO. But in a CEO—the ultimate decision-maker and public face of an organization—it sends an awful message. That’s doubly so for an organization devoted to openness and freedom on the Web—not to mention one with numerous gay employees.
So there’s the principle. If you’re leading a company, and your personal views “bespeak a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others,” then you have to go.
Can anyone think of a contentious area of public policy where one side not only denies that other human beings deserve the same “basic rights as others,” they also deny those other human beings even have the right to live? What if that other side actually supported state subsidies for the mass killings of those other human beings? Or denied they were “people” at all — in spite of science, logic, and reason?
Our union — our culture — survives in large part because we have learned to live together and, yes, work together in spite of considerable differences over the deepest and most important issues in our lives. Of course there are mission-oriented organizations — like, say, a gay-rights organization or a Christian ministry, to take two examples — where there is a need to make sure that employees are unified in outlook and purpose, but if we argue that certain people no longer truly belong in the commercial life of this country because of their views on contentious issues, then we are crossing a line that will bring with it not only unintended consequences for the intolerant but also a fracturing of the cultural compact that keeps our nation together.
This fracturing will manifest itself not just in the headline-grabbing cases like Mozilla’s but also in the daily interactions and daily indignities that will continue our national sorting into ideological and religious enclaves. People tend to go where they’re wanted. Some people, of course, welcome this sorting, but I’d like to think that if Slate’s Oremus is a talented technology writer, his analysis of the latest trends at Apple or Google would be just as welcome at a conservative-dominated Tennessee-based employer as they would be in Slate. Likewise, I’d like to think my legal skills could translate to a San Francisco or New York law firm just as well as they do here in flyover country. My views on marriage have little to do with whether I’m able to litigate a contract dispute.
The bottom line: Apologists for intolerance aren’t embracing any sort of workable principle, they’re embracing mob rule when they’re the mob.