Politics to go: Jeff Dunetz

Koch Brothers and Brendan Eich: Sad time for freedom of speech


Last week there were two widely covered attacks on free speech, one in private industry the other in the world of public service.

The one in private industry happened to Brendan Eich, co-founder of the Mozilla project, Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation, who served as the Mozilla Corporation’s chief technical officer and had just been named its CEO.

In 2008, Eich had donated $1,000 to the campaign for California Proposition 8, which legally defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Thanks to donor identification laws, his donation became public in 2012.

The moment Eich became CEO on March 24 protests were heard from the LGBT community and others despite the fact that he always kept his political views private. Dating service OKCupid led the charge, blocking anyone accessing its website using Firefox, the Web browser that is Mozilla’s main product. More than 70,000 people signed a petition asking for Eich to resign if he can’t unequivocally say he supports gay marriage.

A few days after he took office, Eich told CNET.com that for the entirety of his 16-year, massively successful career with the company, he had been committed to keeping his personal beliefs out of Mozilla.

“I’ve always treated people as they come, I’ve worked with them, tried to get them into the project, I’ve been as fair and inclusive as anyone — I think more. I intend to be even more so as CEO because I agree there’s an obligation to reach out to people who for whatever reason are marginalized.”

“Mozilla has always worked according to principles of inclusiveness. It may be challenging for a CEO, but everyone in our community can have different beliefs about all sorts of things that may be in conflict. They leave them at the door when they come to work on the Mozilla mission.

“We are a broad, big, mission-based organization. It’s not to say some of those other beliefs aren’t as contributing to the open Web, but we will not succeed globally without being maximally inclusive by leaving exclusionary beliefs at the door. I’ve done that for 16 years. I’ve done open source for 20 years. I think my reputation is well known. Mozilla.org was founded 16 years ago today.”

Indeed, there are no reports suggesting Eich had exhibited any personal bias in the workplace. And he affirmed that he would not change Mozilla’s policy of providing the same health benefits to same-sex couples as to married heterosexuals.

In that same CNET interview mentioned above, he apologized to anyone who was hurt by his personal beliefs, but declined to renounce them.

On April 4, less than two weeks before he took office, Eich was forced to resign not because of anything he did as a corporate manager, not for acting prejudicially toward the Gay community, but in an Orwellian uprising of the thought police.

In the 1950s, Republican Joe McCarthy stood on the Senate floor accusing people of somehow being un-American. He was famous for his attacks on the State Department:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

McCarthy also ruined the lives of his other targets, in show business and homosexuals. Sixty years later another senator, this time the Democratic Majority Leader, stood on the Senate floor and spoke about the Koch brothers:

“It’s too bad that they’re trying to buy America, and it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone I can imagine.”

The crime of the Koch brothers is they legally donate a lot of money to conservative political causes, the same way George Soros donates to progressive causes and something the U.S. Supreme Court has called a legal expression of freedom of speech.

The Koch brothers also donate to non-political causes, almost $300 million dollars to hospitals across the country, at least $80 million to educational charities, and at least $165 million to the arts.

Majority Leader Harry Reid nevertheless continues to pound these brothers. Against the Senate’s own rules, he dedicated an entire webpage on his Senate.gov site to his partisan campaign against the Koch Brothers, featuring a list of political articles representing misleading political attacks such as, “The Kochs want to put insurance companies back in charge of your health care” (they want to repeal Obamacare), “The Kochs are trying to dismantle our public education system” (they support school vouchers), and “The Kochs spent $400 million on misleading attack ads in the last election cycle” (because Senator Reid believes any conservative political ad is misleading).

Joe Scarborough, host of “Morning Joem” said this about Reid’s strategy:

“Yeah, yeah, I understand the strategy. It’s the stupidest strategy I’ve ever heard. … If somebody thinks that a voter in Raleigh, North Carolina, that’s out of work gives a damn about who is financing 30-second ads, they are too stupid to be in politics. In fact, I would say they are too stupid to be even trusted with common household appliances, say, a blender, because they might accidentally stick their face in there and get it chopped off.”

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This week there were two widely covered attacks on freedom of speech; the specific politics of either case do not matter. What should matter to all Americans of any political philosophy is the attack on speech. Today the attacks were on a guy who made a political donation against Gay Marriage but lived his life treating everyone fairly, and brothers who donate to conservative political causes, but donate much more toward curing cancer; tomorrow it can be people who support progressive causes.

Stopping speech from either side of the political aisle makes America less free and sends this great country toward the slippery slope of losing even more freedoms.