I guess I should feel encouraged that some part of America is still uncomfortable with what happened to Brendan Eich last week. He was forced to step down as CEO of Mozilla (which makes Firefox) after it came to light that he donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign back in 2008.
And actually, the backlash against Eich’s firing has been very strong, currently running about 10-1 against their decision. (You can submit your feedback here).
What’s even more interesting to see is how many prominent supporters of gay marriage have come out against what Mozilla did. Andrew Sullivan wrote on his blog:
“Will [Eich] now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”
And when Bill Maher discussed the episode, his comment was: “I think there is a gay mafia,” Maher quipped. “I think if you cross them, you do get whacked. I really do.”
With notable liberals being quick to distance themselves from the action, who’s actually to blame for what happened?
They all are. Even the ones who claim to be against such things.
What liberal activists who favor redefining marriage forget is that words have consequences. When they go around claiming their opponents are “bigots” and “haters”, their own supporters hear these words and proceed to act upon them accordingly.
Especially the young. Saying that young people are impressionable isn’t a cliché, it’s true. Adults and thought leaders on the left, in academia and in the media, have forfeited their responsibility to lead by example and tone down the rhetoric around the marriage issue.
What they’ve done is create a generation of little monsters. Young men and women who really do see in people like Brendan Eich, hatred and bigotry akin to a pro-segregationist racist. They believe what they’ve been taught by their elders and act upon the rhetoric they’ve heard from the media. The core of this protest began at the dating website OKCupid. That tells you a lot about the average age of the people who were signing protests and sending emails.
Now people like Andrew Sullivan and Bill Maher are acting surprised and dismayed over what happened to Mr. Eich.
But that’s what happens when they create little monsters, they can’t control them, but they are responsible for their actions.
Liberal writer William Saletan has argued satirically that, to be consistent, activists should now trying to fire the other 35,000 people who donated to Proposition 8. He was trying to point out how absurd it is to attempt to purge everyone you find ideologically suspect.
But to young liberal activists, with lots of time on their hands thanks to the poor economy and free contraception, what better thing to devote their lives to, then rooting out the new undesirables from society?
The Eich firing isn’t about new fractures in the left, between reasonable activists who don’t want to see people’s livelihoods threatened, and zealots who want to see those they disagree with fired. The Eich affair is about the left intentionally creating a toxic environment for those who disagree with them about the most important issues of the day.
This has led Richard Lowry to observe:
“For decades, we’ve heard from the Left about the need to fight authority and to resist conformity. Now it is clearer than ever that it wants to wield the former to impose the latter. Brendan Eich is probably not a culmination so much as a sign of things to come.”
What can we do to fight back? Mollie Hemingway suggests beginning with introspection:
“Regardless of our previous views on marriage, we saw in Eich a dissident who forced us to think about totalitarianism and our role in making society unfree. Did we mindlessly put up red equal signs when we hadn’t even thought about what marriage is? Did we rush to fit in by telling others we supported same-sex marriage? Did we even go so far as to characterize as “bigots” or as “Hitlers” those who held views about the importance of natural marriage?”
I strongly urge you to read her whole column. In it she points out the subtle ways that we all give in to tyranny when we refuse to speak up for the truth or to come to the aid of those who are being martyred for standing up for the truth.
In other words, we’re responsible too, by our silence, complicity, and lack of action.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Remember, Eich may have forced out, but he refused to recant his views.
And that’s important. Because that can give us hope.