Agree to Disagree


... the question of whether a CEO can leave his beliefs at the door when he walks into work seems to have been answered firmly in the negative. When a CEO’s values clash with the values of the company he leads, expect the company to win. - Casey Newton, The Verge

This was the conclusion of one reporter.  The situation involved the now former CEO of the Mozilla Foundation.  If you are not familiar with the name Mozilla, you may be more familiar with their most popular product, the internet browser Firefox.  What has to be ironic is that the gentleman in question was actually a co-founder of the Mozilla Foundation.

His name is Brendan Eich.  He was the former CTO of the company and invented the programming language of JavaScript.  The reason he is no longer the CEO of the company had nothing to do with financial maleficence.  It wasn't gross incompetence.  It wasn't a sexual affair.  It wasn't political scandal.  In the end it was all of these and none of these as the same time.

Mr. Eich had contributed $1000 to oppose Proposition 8 in the state of California in 2008.  In fact, 52% of the voters in the state of California agreed with him and Proposition 8 passed.  Now, if you are not conversent in California politics, you may not know what I am writing about.  Prop 8 was written to deny same sex marriages in the state of California.  The law was eventually challenged in the US Supreme Court and by a 5-4 ruling determined to be unconstitutional, effectively allowing same-sex marriage in California.  

This post isn't about anyone's particular feelings on same-sex marriage.  Regardless of your feelings on the topic, this is about the chilling effect of believing in something that your employer does not.  The Mozilla Foundation believes in the right to marry for all.  Mr. Eith does not.  Somehow, even though he was a co-founder of the company he was not permitted to disagree with the majority of its US employees.  Notice I say US employees, the employees in other parts of the world aren't necessarily in agreement with the companies values.

Think about that for a minute.  Six years ago he made a donation to a political organization in support of a position he wanted to endorse.  Six years later, after ascending to the top job at a company he co-founded and built he was forced out after 11 days in office.  Eleven days.  

A key developer (who by the way is in a same sex relationship) sat down with Mr. Eich and demanded an apology for what he had done.  He threatened to stop developing for Firefox OS if he didn't get satisfaction.  Mr. Eich did not apologize and instead resigned from office when he realized that the company he had helped build would not survive if he remained at the helm.

Now, if the reverse was true, would Mr. Eich have been forced to resign.  Suppose Mr. Eich had opposed Prop 8.  The developer in question demands an apology (in this scenario, the developer is not a same-sex proponent).  Mr. Eich declines to apologize.  In this scenario, I am quite certain he would have been lauded for standing up to a bully and not backing down from his beliefs.

In our political drama today, the only way you will be accepted by the general population or the general media is if you agree with them.  If you happen to hold a position that is opposite, you will be ridiculed, threatened, publicly mocked and ultimately expected to slink away in shame.  It is a shame that having an opinion is only an option if it is the majority opinion.  That isn't an opinion, at least not in the correct sense.  Everyone has an opinion on a vast number of topics. It doesn't mean that the majority opinion is correct, it simply means that this opinion is held by a larger number of people.  This is what passes for insightful journalism today.

When confronted by a someone who tells you they are open-minded, respond with an opinion that you know they will disagree with you about.  Suddenly, that open-minded person shows their true colors when they tell you why you are wrong for your opinion.  Open-minded should mean what is says, open to all options.  Try it sometime and you will find that the open-minded individual is just a closed-minded bigot with a smile.  Bigoted behavior with a smile is still bigoted behavior no matter how you dress it up.