Far too much of my teenage years was spent promoting a series of opinions that I now regard with embarrassment and distaste. In a phase of far leftist flirtation, during Israel’s 2008/9 attack in Gaza, attended a demonstration in my hometown. At one point, we found ourselves standing outside the local branch of Starbucks. I think I had to ask someone why the heck we had stopped there but it turned out that it was because of the pro-Israel activism of its CEO. Well, whatever. There was no embassy around so it was as if it had to do. We stood in the drizzle and offered mild amusement to pedestrians.
This was stupid. Even if the man himself had been serving the coffee rather than some poor student it would have been stupid. Still, I do not think it is evasive to suggest that the campaign against the CEO of Mozilla Firefox is even more ridiculous. Our emotions and egos were under the spell of a war. The conflict that spawned this affair is purely cultural.
There is a dating website called OkCupid. It is known for hosting the profiles of weirdos but it appears that the strangest people work for the company. If one visits their homepage from Mozilla Firefox one is greeted with this message…
Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.
Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.
Six years ago, you see, Mr Eich donated a thousand dollars of his own savings to a campaign to ban gay marriage in California. The campaign has since failed after the amendment that it spawned was ruled unconstitutional. We are being asked, then, not to use a company’s products because of its chief executive’s private, insignificant endorsement of a lost cause.
There is no actual harm to be avoided. It would make more sense to campaign against Central American drug gangs by boycotting films that feature Charlie Sheen. This campaign, though, is symbolic: seeking to demonstrate that certain opinions are unwelcome in the public sphere and that their advocates will face exclusion. When the advocacy is so trivial; that exclusion entails attempts deprive one of one’s livelihood and the opinion can be one that nobody would have thought controversial a decade ago it is obvious that a strange and passionate wave of feeling is upon us. Joseph Bottum may or may not be correct about the roots of progressive thought in Mainline Protestantism but it is undeniable that it is imbued with a religious ardour – and an intolerance of heretics.
Still, I am not going to boycott OkCupid over this. I will continue to avoid it for a more pragmatic reason. It is full of weirdos.