UPDATE: This one is pretty depressing. I wanted to put it below the line as they say. It is still important. I just don’t know if I even want to look at it all the time in the feed.
I write this stuff for myself (greatly optimized to give myself page views for myself). That includes issues that aren’t funny, or simple. A few days ago, I made a post about how Brendan Eich would have a long tenure, and that the best thing we could do was to use the time to discuss why his views were not good views.
The opposite has happened.
In the time since then, OKCupid issued a targeted open letter which further agitated things, Brendan Eich did several damage control interviews, and then he tendered his resignation yesterday. I really did not anticipate a single one of those things.
In the wreckage of yesterday, people are upset and troubled. There is backlash about the backlash now. Recriminations about gay people. Laments for Brendan. It is a total cluster. Sadness and anger permeate everything.
We still need to talk.
- Some people wanted Brendan to resign, whether he apologized, or not.
- Some people wanted him to issue a public apology, and retain his position.
- Some people wanted him keep his position because his personal views should not matter. (Oddly enough: a lot of straight white guys. Hmm.)
- Some people just want to watch the world burn.
I can’t say anything about the people spreading hate in number four, they seem to be hurt by something else in their lives. I do want to talk about the other three.
Wanting Brendan to resign is complicated. His views are not good views, and he was terrible at empathizing with others he would need support from. He gave money to an organization that made these ads. That is not a parody account, those really played in California. I really got to see people on TV say things to stir up fear in people. The ones that hurt the most are the ones asking voters to think of the bad things that will happen to their children at school. After the passage of Prop 8, non-violent, peaceful, permitted marches were organized where people could come together and walk down closed-off streets with picket signs (I know, because I was there). Media coverage of those marches made Yes on 8 very uncomfortable, they were victims. Brendan does not regret supporting that campaign. It is very sad, to me, that he doesn’t see how hard it is to shrug it off. It is like saying you’re sorry someone got their feelings hurt.
He should not have been considered for the position unless he had changed his views of his own accord. That was a failure of Mozilla’s search for a CEO. He was asked to be CEO, he didn’t petition for it. Brendan never said who asked him, but whomever it was made a huge mistake. Chief Executive Officer is not a purely technical position, it is mostly a social one. Social on every level, from personal meetings, to keynote speaking, to interviews as a representative of the whole company. Given the social demands of the position it is difficult to recommend someone that does not regret supporting Prop 8 for the role.
Seperate calls for resignation from his resignation for a second. Anyone can call for a person to resign, literally nothing prevents a person from doing this. It is a way to express your disagreement with someone. People call for Tim Cook to resign, Howard Schulz to resign – it happens. That does not mean the person must resign. It is not the inevitable conclusion. It is important to react well to these calls for resignation. To assess if it is relevant, and if so: are there things that can be changed to quell that opposition. Brendan handled the calls for his resignation poorly. At the start, he had the company’s backing, and the backing of many employees. In a matter of days, he managed to turn more people against him. That is not how you handle a call for resignation. There were a plurality of people that would have been satisfied with an apology at the outset. He doesn’t want to apologize —this is also very un-CEO-like. It isn’t damning, in and of itself, but by the time he conducted damage control interviews with CNet, and The Guardian, he was hurting his own position. They are truly bizarre interviews with poor reasoning (the Indonesia parts, and using inclusive to mean including people that exclude) that only highlight the ways in which he was a poor choice for CEO.
Instead of rally support for the Mozilla he did the opposite.
No one made him resign. He resigned. He had power to do great things, to bring people together, and he could not execute.
This was a crisis they knew about before he had the job. As a CEO, you don’t usually get the chance to be out-in-front of something. If this was a crisis about someone else at the organization, would he have been able to communicate effectively and take appropriate action?
This angers many people that feel like he was unjustly persecuted for things outside work. That we all need to look only at what he does in the office. What someone does outside the office, and in the past, is generally not important enough to bring up because it so rarely conflicts with the job. Like I said, social. If a hypothetical Mozilla CEO had supported foundations that advertised against race, or gender, or lobbied for Jim Crow laws in his time outside the office then should that support go without comment? It was outside the office, and they promised it wouldn’t affect corporate policy. Do you feel the same? “Same-sex marriage is different.” Is it so different that a blind eye should be turned towards Brendan? I am not convinced. It is easier to think of same-sex marriage as a nice-to-have thing that some people don’t really need. It is still dehumanizing, and painful.
Where does the line get drawn for employees? Do they need to have spotless lives outside the office? There’s no answer to that. Obviously, when cries came for Eich to be removed as CTO, nothing happened. Does that mean anything? Not really. Should all Prop 8 supporters be fired, and exhiled? No, of course not. Should they be the CEO of a company that stands for equality and fair treatment? Maybe not. People can change, and they are changing. Fear is our biggest enemy; fear of “others” and what they will do.
Hampton Catlin, the head of Rarebit that pulled out of the Firefox store, even called this outcome sad. He had met, in person, with Brendan days ago over coffee to discuss, as humans, how he was hurt. How his relationship had been jeopardized because he could not marry his non-US-citizen husband. These are not two CEO-monsters slinging press releases, these were both humans interacting. Hampton was unable to persuade Brendan. Yesterday, Hampton was slammed on Twitter by people wanting to verbally abuse him for forcing Brendan to resign. A bizarre target for their ire. They bare no good will to talk about it over coffee, just to inflict pain because, from their point of view, Hampton destroyed Brendan. This is not some Obi Wan vs. Darth Vader story, no matter which role you assign to which CEO.
Brendan self-destructed in his role as CEO, but I hope he can find peace for himself. Until he can see through the eyes of others, I doubt he will. As for us, we lost the chance at a conversation about the harm anti-same-sex marriage legislation causes, and we’ve moved on to recriminations over a resignation of a poorly-selected CEO.