Same-sex marriage McCarthyism
“Are you now, or have you even been, an opponent of same-sex marriage?”
After only eleven days in office, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned his position due to pressure from gay marriage supporters. Half a decade ago, Brendan Eich donated to a campaign against gay marriage, a very unpopular position in Silicon Valley. Following his promotion to CEO, three Mozilla board members quit, and OKcupid refused to allow Firefox users to access their website. Under intense pressure, Eich resigned on Thursday.
Those inclined to cheer such decisions ought to consider some facts. For one, roughly 40% of the public still opposes gay marriage, including many employers, and many feel just as strongly about the issue as supporters of gay marriage. If you think it’s okay to fire Brendan Eich for opposing gay marriage, on what grounds can you object to an employer firing employees who support gay marriage? Respect for free speech rests on a fragile compromise, where both sides agree not to impose their beliefs by force. When you fail to uphold your end of the bargain, the other side has a lot less reason to uphold theirs.
We don’t only uphold free speech to protect ourselves from potential censors, but because dissidents are sometimes right; southerners attempted to suppress abolitionist speech, the Catholic Church tried to suppress heliocentric astronomy, etc. With the benefit of hindsight we can recognize that the dissidents were correct. If the censors had succeeded we would be far worse off today.
Some will be inclined to respond that free speech is solely a matter of government censorship. While government censorship is the most effective means to suppress opinions, it is not the only one. Social ostracism, firing, and other non-legal means can also deter people from expressing opinions. Faced with a choice between voicing one’s beliefs and keeping one’s job, most would probably choose the latter. You can’t have open discourse in an environment where the expression of opinions frequently leads to punishment.
At this point, leftwing readers will be asking, “what about David Duke? Surely there are some people so vile that they ought to be ostracized?” Nobody should feel compelled to associate with a creep like Duke, but the existence of a few exceptions doesn’t disprove the general rule. David Duke finds himself ostracized because he holds Nazi-like attitudes towards Jews, African Americans, and others. One can wish to avoid the company of hate addled bigots, without wishing to censor them. By no stretch of the imagination can opponents of gay marriage be placed in the same category as people like Duke.
The online campaign to remove Bernard Eich exemplifies left-wingers succumbing to their worst impulses. It reveals a thuggish anti-intellectual attitude and a preference for winning arguments by force instead of reason. Sadly this behavior has become all too common on the left, and is gradually driving people out of the Democratic Party.