Grassroots Commentary

Cyber Mobbing

Noel S. Williams · Apr. 21, 2014

Did you know that in 2008 President Obama was homophobic?

I bet you didn’t realize that Hillary Clinton was riddled with bigotry.

Both were opposed to gay marriage during the 2008 presidential campaign. So was Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who gave a modest $1,000 to support Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment to restrict rights for same-sex couples to marry. His contribution was recently exposed amidst the unfettered rudeness of social media bullies accusing Eich of homophobia and bigotry.

Apparently, Eich’s exercise of free speech years earlier suddenly hurt the intolerant bullies’ feelings, and, by golly, the nonconformist’s views must be squelched. The resulting uproar by the thought police in the twittersphere degenerated into insidious bullying which undermined Eich’s right to dignity at work. To facilitate his departure, gay rights activists resorted to the cunning tactic of threatening imposition of a boycott. The potential disruption to Mozilla’s daily operations was drastic, and Eich’s position became untenable.

In defending her company’s ousting of Eich, Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said, “Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness.” That seems a bit contorted, as Eich was excluded, but I guess inclusiveness is inconclusive about the value of diversity of thought. Wouldn’t Eich’s personal views, reflective of majority opinion amongst the California electorate just six years before, represent the diversity Mozilla aspires to?

Mozilla maintains that Eich’s personal views – which were in the mainstream in 2008 when 7 million Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8 – hurt some employee’s feelings. Well, golly gee, it’s a bit narcissistic to expect everyone to sympathize with your beliefs, especially if they’re still a bit controversial. Some of us are just a bit slow to catch on to the trending cultural zeitgeist, but that doesn’t justify mean-spirited cyber bullying aimed at someone’s livelihood.   Curiously, I don’t see the bullying hypocrites calling for a boycott of Clinton’s website.

Importantly, Eich’s behavior in the workplace was beyond reproach; no one alleges his actions at work were untoward. He may have temporarily been Mozilla’s CEO, but it was he who was subjected to abuse by those who misused their power in a form of cyber mobbing that socially isolated him.

Andrew Sullivan, a prominent gay rights activist and blogger who understands bullying, promulgated gay marriage long before it was the cause célèbre. He is critical over how Mozilla caved to pressure from the bullies, writing, “If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”

Noted gay rights activist Tammy Bruce took the criticism it a bit further, tweeting, “Hi @Mozilla, I’m a gay woman who is appalled that you caved to the gay Gestapo.”

That comparison may be a bit severe, but GLAAD, an advocacy group for the LGBT community, took a different tact. Their president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said, “Mozilla’s strong statement in favor of equality today reflects where Corporate America is: inclusive, safe and welcoming to all.”

That’s an interesting application of “all.” Apparently, it’s not enough that a corporate leader’s behavior is exemplary, but their innermost personal thoughts must also comply with prevailing sensibilities. This is closer to totalitarian-style “re-education” camps than a culture that promotes tolerance of opinions and intolerance of bullying.

As the darker episodes in human history reveal, fanaticism thrives in an ethos of moral certainty. Nowadays, certainty is what envelops those who espouse the propriety of gay marriage or that global warming is accepted science. Those who conscientiously dissent are ridiculed and bullied to quell further dissent from liberal orthodoxy.

Ultimately, this persecution will eviscerate vibrant participation in the marketplace of ideas. We already see this developing. Following their success in ousting Eich, bullying trolls in cyberspace are now mobbing Condoleezza Rice, a recent appointment to cloud storage firm Dropbox’s board of directors. Protesters, who are concerned about her views on surveillance and her stance on the Iraq war, even set up a “Drop Dropbox” website.

Again, their bullying seems hypocritical, as public figures with otherwise diverse agendas once supported the Iraq war and favor expanded NSA surveillance. The merits of those issues aside, surely, Dr. Rice’s race, gender and political views bring some needed diversity to Silicon Valley.

Our Founders were as aghast at the prospects of mob rule as they were the tyranny of the monarchy.  As worthy beneficiaries of their heroic beneficence in the cause of freedom, we must countervail this insidious cyber mobbing.

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