Open when it matters: please help Mozilla

Best tweet I saw yesterday

Mozilla needs your love and help right now. More than just a debate about our CEO, this threatens to divide us in other ways if we let it. We need dialogue, and to bring open hearts and minds around the two crucial issues here — both of which are meaty and substantive and vitally important to Mozilla:

  • (1) We don’t need to agree on everything — or force ideological consensus — in order to work with others. That’s a vital part of Mozilla’s open culture and mission. A lot of people have fought for this principle. It’s at the heart of what makes open source vibrant, diverse and practical. And it’s a fragile thing worth protecting.
  • (2) But there are limits to that openness — and those limits center around basic rights. The world has changed. For many (including me), marriage equality is now a rights issue — and no longer just a speech or “personal opinion” issue. So when colleagues frame this purely as a matter of personal opinion, they signal to others that they don’t understand or haven’t considered this difference. That’s why simply doubling down on “freedom of speech” or personal opinion arguments will not work as a way to work past this. The situation requires more.

This is hard. It deserves to be treated that way. Many of us feel very strongly about either or both of these issues — and so it requires nuanced, Mozilla-style reasoning that weighs both sides to find a solution.

That’s why I’m so proud of thoughtful, emotionally complex posts from colleagues working this through in the open. Like this, or this. And disappointed by stories like this one.

If you believe in (2), as I do, I think we’re served by demonstrating patience and compassion here. The difference between marriage equality as a right versus a matter of political or personal opinion is nuanced, historically recent, and culturally complex for a global community like Mozilla’s. And it’s on us to demonstrate that we understand and show respect for (1) as well, and not skip it over casually. For a lot of people, it’s at the heart of the Mozilla project.

Our ability to work this through — together in the open, with open hearts and minds — is even more important than any decision about our CEO. It will determine our strength once all this is done.


  • Other posts on this topic:

    On Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla (Christie Koehler)

    On Including the Uninclusive (@tofumatt)

    Qualifications for Leadership (mykzilla)

    Building a Global, Diverse, Inclusive Mozilla Project: Addressing Controversy (Mitchell Baker)

    Inclusiveness at Mozilla (Brendan Eich)

  • It’s really sad to think that the reach of political correctness knows no bounds. Corporations and foundations should not appease political activists regardless of which agenda they’re pushing. Board members and corporate officers should not be forced to apologize for legally permissible actions they may take as private citizens.

    • Your actions are not private when your actions affect other people’s lives.

  • I was very sorry to see this disclosure about a donation. Been one to consider that people are only what they did and do. To actually donate money to that particular ‘crusade’ knowing that it would negatively impact fellow citizens struck me as a moral issue. The idea of ‘marriage’ being a special class deserving preservation (given the actual nature of it over the eons), or just us, not you ‘people’ seemed thoughtless. Again it was the donation and not the thoughts. The donation makes one who funded it more of a part of that nasty crusade than even those who voted yes. To conclude: Was both a sign of prejudice and for an educated person, it was for spite, fear and loathing. I think it’s fair to say this as no retraction or explanation.

  • We all live a variation of hypocracy. Because he feels a particular way personally on a issue is his own business. As long as it does not effect the direction Mozilla is trying to go in a whole, I don’t see it as a problem. This is a teachable moment that may or may not change his view. When it gets to the point that his personal view is effecting the direction he is leading Mozilla, that is when we should be up in arms! Either wise let’s keep focusing on a tool that continues to help educate the misinformed and unexposed.

  • thank you matt, this is the first thoughtful comment on this topic that i can understand. i don’t understand those who say “it’s a matter of free speech, whatever he says/does outside of mozilla is his own thing”.

    that’s insensitive at best (and downright insulting at worst). would anyone be ok if the new CEO was someone who donated to a bill to ban interracial marriages?

    i get that not everyone has such strong feelings about Prop 8, but please, how about some perspective?

  • This isn’t a matter of political correctness, it’s a matter of people using their own freedom to decide they don’t want to support a business that is run by a person who has values that are so patently, absurdly offensive to them as it calls into question the values of the board.

    We live in a free country. You can have any opinion you want. You can financially support any political position you want. But being an adult means accepting that there are consequences and ramifications for everything you do, especially when a large percentage of society finds your actions repugnant.

    I run a mid-sized company with a large tech component in the Midwest – smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. I am married, Christian, male, and white; a veritable bastion of every conceivable social and economic privilege. Yet, we just un-installed Firefox on all of our systems because what this man did was no less offensive than if he gave money to the KKK or voted to strip women of their right to vote. It’s shocking to me that some of the older folks (and it is mostly older folks – take a look at the polling data by date of birth) don’t understand this. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if he had advocated to take away marriage rights from Asians, yet a small contingent still seems to be unable to get this isn’t a matter of conscience. You don’t get to decide whether your fellow citizen can avail himself or herself of basic inheritance rights, property rights, tax filings rights, child guardianship rights, pension rights, water and mineral rights, and a host of 1,000+ other benefits tied to the legal marriage contract. Period. There is no room for negotiation. There is no other acceptable response, just as there is no legitimate compromise between allowing whites and blacks to marry. The government has no role or authority to deny these rights.

    It’s a free country and we are all free to refuse to support Mozilla, just as its CEO is free to be an idiot. As long as it’s run by a bigot, my company has no interest in using the products.

  • Moderator, please correct “their” to “there” as I changed that sentence and didn’t see the typo in my last comment. Thank you.

  • the “we’ll figure this out” attitude cited at the beginning of this article is really just a sugar-coated “screw you” to the gay and lesbian community. This isn’t something that needs “figuring out” — the options aren’t complex, and the issues are obvious. The issue is bigotry at the very top of Mozilla (regardless of how many time Eich mouths ‘inclusiveness’ platitudes, he remains someone who thinks gay people deserve to be afforded an inferior set of rights), and the options are “keep him” or “get rid of him”.

  • Mozilla’s mission is to increase openness, innovation, and opportunity on the web. For many who are involved in or support Mozilla, this mission is itself only a means to a higher goal, which is to enable human rights and human empowerment. However, not everybody has the same vision of what that higher goal looks like. It can be disturbing and upsetting to find out that someone else has a very different view of the higher goal, or perhaps has a different motivation entirely. It’s especially upsetting when that person has been instrumental to the Mozilla mission and has been given a high position of leadership. So then question is: can you accept leadership on the mission (the means) from someone who doesn’t share your vision of the goal (human rights & empowerment)?

  • “Corporations and foundations should not appease political activists regardless of which agenda they’re pushing. Board members and corporate officers should not be forced to apologize for legally permissible actions they may take as private citizens.”

    I’m not asking for anyone to apologize. I’m no more a political activist as you are for lobbying for Corporations and their rights to not apologize or whatever. But why does that make you think I should blindly support a Corporation run by a person who is advocating hate? It’s not like he’s saying, no thank you, I don’t get the gay thing it’s not for me, I won’t do it and those people can do their own thing but it certainly won’t include me. He literally spent money so other people could not have that choice. That’s like buying cookies from the women who screams at you. Why would any normal person do that when there are other products just as good or better than the one being run by this man. Seems obvious to me. And fine, Mozilla can keep Eich and not change a thing. It simply means they won’t have my support. No one is forcing them to do anything but they’re a business so that creates a problem doesn’t it. You can be the company that clubs seals and expect to be the best competitor out there can you?

  • Matt, one thing you’ve forgotten is a very simple moral calculus that I’ll express here:

    Try to limit the rights of others, make an enemy of me.

    I don’t care what Eich preaches, only what he does. He can frame the issue however he wants.

    All I know is that he took part in an unconstitutional attempt to restrict the rights of marriage to be given to only heterosexual couples.

    That means he knowingly attempted to restrict the rights of others.

    Back him up whatever you want.

    I haven’t thought highly of Mozilla for a while. All this does is confirm what I’ve suspected for a while — Mozilla doesn’t give a shit about the little things, only it’s own image.

  • couldn’t have said it better myself. Eich should step down immediately. afterwards you can start “figuring it out”.

  • Hey OpenMatt,

    Above you write: “This is hard. It deserves to be treated that way.”

    No its not, and no it doesn’t.

    That fact that you could assert that “this is hard” shows how far you have to go in truly understanding the issue, since you think a debate is still in order.

    Is it “hard” for you to understand that its wrong to legally require certain people to sit at the back of a city bus? Or, drink from a separate water fountain? Want to have a corporate culture debate about that too?

    Marriage Equality boils down to the exact same issue as segregation.
    Gays are EQUAL to everyone. No better, no worse.

    OpenMatt, you also write: “I think we’re served by demonstrating patience and compassion here. ”

    Bite me. Gays have been patient long enough. Would you have written “Mozilla needs your love and help right now”, say , if Mr. MacDougall had sent a $1000.00 donation to the Arian Brotherhood? I doubt it. I’m a 51 year old gay man and I’ve put up this kind of crap since I was on the playground.

    Just differing beliefs, right? “Ideological consensus”? Those are big words. But are big words really necessary, since any 2nd grader understands what “fair” is.

    Obviously if you can write a post like the one above, gays should continue to reserve compassion for themselves, not your former CEO Mr. MacDougall, or Mozilla.

    After reading your post, clearly we gays still have a looong way to go. “Work this through”, you write. Wow?! Theres no need to “work through” basic human dignity. Besides the debate is over. Dignity won. Here comes the brides! Watch them take their loving vows, (if your fortunate enough to get an invitation) and you’ll see what freedom looks like.

    I lived and worked for years in San Francisco, in technology, at a as a developer and project manager, so I am well aware of the corporate and city culture there.

    Mozilla needs my love right now?
    I don’t need your browser.

    Thanks anyway.

    Will Capps

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