Brendan Eich and censorship

Brendan Eich, the genius who designed JavaScript exercised his rights some years ago; his right to an opinion and right to vote and lobby for a legislation outlawing same-sex marriage. Eich donated $1000 in support of proposition 8, California’s open ballot legislation that would outlaw same-sex marriage.

Eich took advantage of the democratic privileges to which he is entitled, as he should.

Now the democratic shoe is on the other foot. The mob, disgusted by his opposition to same-sex marriage, demanded either he resign as CEO of Mozilla or a boycott of its principal product: the Firefox browser.

The subsequent outcry has been spirited though a tad disingenuous. Some observers on the Right liken this to totalitarianism. What’s the term again? Liberal fascism.

Fascism? Show me the state involvement.

This is democracy, intermixed with raw capitalism, the market if you will. No state apparatus coerced Mr. Eich into resigning.

I’m a First Amendment absolutist. I see no violation. All parties exercised their rights to free speech.

It’s easy to forget that whilst you’re entitled to your opinion, others are entitled to opine about your entitled opinion. It would be nice if they treated your opinion with polite disagreement “I beg to disagree with your stance on same-sex marriage, sir, but you’re fundamentally a nice person, perhaps a little misguided, occasionally."

Sorry, you’re not entitled to that deference. One is entitled to treat your entitled opinion with a level of disgust that might seem disproportionate to you. One has a right to attempt mass demonization of your opinion. This is the age of Twitter, remember.


One is also entitled to think like a sheep and join the mob. Mobs, too, are entitled to opine on your entitled opinion. Mobs have every right to boycott goods and ask others to do so. They can’t make the boycott state policy, but they need not to achieve the same ends. They have the free market on their side.

Eich apologized and then resigned. Eich and Mozilla could have ignored the mob, but chose not to.  Whatever the rationale behind their decision, it was voluntary in so far as it was not mandated of them by the state.

They had no choice, you say. The company would have faltered. Eich had to resign.

The reputation and financial security of Mozilla were chosen over a principled stance on free speech. Reputation was chosen over principle. Principle could have been chosen over security. But wasn’t. Free will is best tested and demonstrated when one makes a tough choice. Show me a better example.

Democracy and capitalism don’t mean you’re entitled to profits. Freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, financial success and reputation are not. These depend on the market, the mob. It’s neither undemocratic nor fascist for the mob to dictate that its engagement in business with you is conditional on a shared world view. This arises from a core principle of the market – freedom.

The mob is willing to put their money where their mouth is, i.e. forego a cheaper, higher quality product if the company doesn’t share their weltanschauung. This is their democratic right.

 You might believe it’s misplaced, and you’re entitled to believe so. You can bang your head on the brick wall. You can call this liberal fascism.

Heck, you can call this National Socialism. Call this whatever you like. But deep down you know as well as I this is democracy in its manifold phenotype. This is capitalism working its censorious magic.

Remember capitalism, that system we love because it gave us affordable computers, choice of fine cuisine and Firefox. Yes, that’s the one.

Capitalism giveth. Capitalism taketh. Because the mass man knows that it can make you sway to its tune like a snake charmer controls a cobra.

How so? By threatening profits, bottom line, financial security and reputation.

The mob needs no state, no police, no bureaucrat, no Gulag, no IRS to censor. Just a voluntary transaction between you and the mob. The mob knows your Achilles’ heel.

Do you have the courage to stick up for your convictions? Then put your money where your mouth is and be prepared to sustain the financial and reputational losses the mob might inflict.

If not, that’s fine. Join the mob. Or mop around. But please stop calling this fascism or totalitarianism. Yes, I know you’re entitled to your opinion, but so am I, and I think it is silly to do so.