Mozilla, mo problems

Well, that’s it for Mozilla’s momentary CEO, Brendan Eich.

Eich submitted his resignation, days after the dating site OKCupid suggested boycotting Mozilla with full-page ads shown to visitors using the Firefox browser.  This came along with several of Mozilla’s own employees tweeting that Eich was not fit to lead the company.

Was Eich a terrible coder? Did he embezzle? Trash a nightclub? Kick puppies for fun? Not that anyone can tell. What he did do, however, was donate $1000 in support of California’s Proposition 8 campaign, seeking to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

A lot of people thought that this was not in keeping with Mozilla’s commitment to diversity and free speech. In the end they celebrated these things by denying them to their own CEO.

I’m not going to open debate on whether or not his donation is de facto proof of being hateful or divisive. It may well be. It’s also beside the point. Eich helped found this company, he created JavaScript (which is kind of everywhere in computing and on the Internet), he obviously knew his stuff… and none of it mattered.

It’s not that hard a concept, and Shamus is on point about this – this is the sort of thing that, once loosed, lays waste everywhere. It is indiscriminate about its targets. I may as well quote a convo I was having on the Twitter:

When one works with a concrete goal in mind, one’s actions can be evaluated on whether they move the goal closer or further. Once the goal is reached, one can move to the next. But there is no goal in mind with something like this. Try having a conversation about what that goal is, whether we’re closer or further from it, and you won’t get a clear answer – except that if you even ask that sort of a question you’re a bad person, and that’s proof about how much farther we still have to go to get to the goal nobody can bear to have defined.

This is all by design. So long as one can be the one doing the deciding, it’s good times. Ever-wider areas come under this area where “The debate is over.” This is also the flaw, of course, because at any time one’s prior beliefs – even something that was innocent, something one never thought to be on guard about (because who could ever object?) – can suddenly fall outside of the boundary. Share a carefree joke with friends and, five years hence, that humor is a proof that you have secretly harbored wrongthinking the whole time, and those who shared the laughter are your new persecutors.

That’s the thing the deciders never realize: in the end the machine, once built, must run. If that machine is not designed to accomplish a particular thing, and upon completion stop, then by definition it will never stop running, and will always need fuel to consume.  At this point, those who fought hardest against its construction have already been dealt with – the machine’s very existence is proof that they’ve lost the fight. The first victims are always those who labored for the finishing touches, and who are always shocked and stunned at being tossed into the hopper. Surely they proved they were on the right side!

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