Conversations and Consequences


New Post: Conversations and Consequences

This all started, as many things do, with a tweet.

Oh no! Someone has a different opinion than me! He ought not have a job for that!— J.D. Bentley (@jdbentley) March 31, 2014

It’s something I’ve thought a lot about but neglected to dip my toe into the pond on, partly because my own thoughts were still half-baked. I wanted to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.

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Thoughtful post from Carl about why people get so riled-up about CEO’s, and their opinions. (I’m treating his reply to J.D.’s post separately from J.D.’s post.) People do reflect on the company, but a company needs to be very careful about selectively enforcing what does and does not reflect well on the company. This is why most companies don’t want employees to have personal blogs, or use social networking sites. You may, or may not, offend someone, and that offended person may speak against the company. Also, they could get in to a sweet flame war on Reddit, or whatever, and that would go well for EVERYONE.

I most certainly do not agree with Brendan Eich’s views. (That goes for gay marriage, and for JavaScript.) I honestly did not know who he was until his Prop 8 donation was first made public. (For historical reference, B.E. never said anything about same-sex marriage until his donation was outed in the published donations that followed Prop 8’s passage.)

Brendan’s views are damaging in a way that is different from from a very vocal opponent. He’s quiet about them, he doesn’t bring them up in public, and he’s very unapologetic about them. He, like many with anti-same-sex marriage views, doesn’t want to debate the issue, instead he wants to defend himself by saying he is allowed to have this opinion. He is one of the people that divorces (heh) marriage from acceptance. That is hardly extreme, profanity-laiden rhetoric. That gets it a pass by most people because, Some might say, “Hey, he’s just against the marriage part. He can think that.” That’s what makes it insidious. It’s very subtle, on the surface, but its consequences are extensive.

Unfortunately, Mozilla defended him, and kept him on, and he stayed CTO. Most people forgot about him, and his views, until his promotion to CEO. Then people were resigning, petitioning for the CEO to resign, etc. Where was this hubbub when he was CTO? Oh right, it died down about a month after everyone saw his donation. He was CTO at a technology company, that’s hardly a first tier employee, and promotion was always a possibility. Bren-bren’s promotion to CEO is unacceptable, but leaving him as CEO was totes acceptable?

Obviously, like Carl said, there are shades of gray here. Very uncomfortable shades of gray. What earns someone ire? We’re definitely not all in agreement so we do need to discuss it.

Unfortunately, just as before, this conversation will soon fizzle and he’ll keep being exactly how he is, and probably maintain his position as CEO for a decent chunk of time.

That might sound incredibly cynical (Cynicism, from little ol’ me? No!) but I consider it to be optimistic. These seismic spikes in conversation slowly move public perception of these issues. Much like tectonic plates creep along, and then shudder, violently. Something changes, people react with big, bombastic conversations about it, and then it dies back down. Sure, Eich will be CEO for however long he will be CEO, but think of the impact something like this can have on people that generally don’t put much thought in to same-sex marriage. It’s not a sustained reaction, but very recent history has shown that things are changing.

2014-03-31 14:20:33

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