Reset The Net is a movement for developers to add wiretap-resistant feature to their apps and announce them on June 5th.

If you’re a developer, you should join. Studies uses iCloud sync, so I’m not sure there’s that much I can do on that front, but my new app uses a web service I’ve written, and I’ve written it with wiretap-proofing in mind the whole time.

At this point I do think that it would make sense to impart some of the wisdom I’ve gained from months of Instagram commenting (formerly on Taylor Swift photos, currently on Beyoncé photos, as you know). You’ve got to find a balance between bold and lighthearted. Let her know that you think she looks good, but add an “lol” so she knows both that you have a sense of humor and that you understand the slight absurdity found in such a forward comment. Point out something specific. Is it a screenshot, and can you tell by the screenshot that her cell phone’s battery is running low? Hit her with, “looks like sOOomebodys gotta charge her phone lol.”

I’ve made this case for years, and I’m glad to see someone else pick it up.

Why Marco Arment Is Completely Wrong On Brendan Eich

Marco Arment wrote an article on this whole Brendan Eich affair in which he makes the argument for Eich’s firing. He’s wrong. Let me explain why.

His right to free speech entitles him to express any opinion he pleases.1 But it does not shield him from the personal and professional repercussions of what he says.

Our right to free speech entitles us to be vocally outraged, to encourage others to boycott Firefox, or to call for his firing. What Mozilla pressures or forces him to do as a result is solely their decision and their problem, and has nothing to do with anyone’s free speech — it’s a business decision.

All of that is certainly true, and like Andrew Sullivan, I think Mozilla has a right to do what they did and that Eich wasn’t stripped of his First Amendment rights, and I’d fight till my last breath for Mozilla to retain that right.

Normally, I’d agree with you—and in a way, I do—about Mozilla’s “business decision”. But the trouble is that Mozilla has always tried to take a stand for openness and freedom. Mozilla claims to try to stand up for free speech. How can we trust them to do so when they can’t even stand up to some people yelling on the internet?

That isn’t the bulk of my issue, though:

Suppose, rather than fund an anti-gay-marriage bill, Eich had instead funded a fringe bill that prohibited black people from getting married. Or suppose he said during a press conference that he believed women shouldn’t have the right to vote.

Would it be reasonable for the public to be outraged and call for his firing then?

Assuming your answer is yes (I don’t think I can really help you if it’s not), why is that different from funding an anti-gay-marriage bill?

The answer to the first question is no, and if you think about it, you’ll see why. (The second is yes.)

If Eich had funded a bill prohibiting black people from marrying with his own money, but did not actively discriminate black people at any point, then yes, I think it would be unreasonable for people to call for his firing. Criticism would be fair. When you put your voice into a public arena, criticism is fair. But going after someone’s livelihood is unconscionable. When did Martin Luther King Jr. call for the firing of all racists? When did Ghandi call for the firing of anyone who believed in British rule? When did Nelson Mandela pass a law requiring “racism tests” for all employers?

If he said during a press conference that he thought women shouldn’t have the right to vote, he should be fired, because when he’s speaking at a press conference, he’s speaking on behalf of the company. He’s not disgracing himself, he’s disgracing Mozilla. That’s a firing offense. If he had donated to Proposition 8 on Mozilla’s behalf, it would be an entirely different story. But he didn’t.

And let me turn this around a little bit. What if, instead of donating to Proposition 8, Eich had donated $1000 to a climate change denial fund? Would it be reasonable to call for his firing then? Indeed, couldn’t that be more reasonable? Regardless of the denials of rights, nobody dies because gay marriage isn’t legal. Climate change is already responsible for thousands of deaths. Mozilla is surely a company that supports increased scientific literacy, one of the major benefits of the internet. Why should they be represented by someone who supports scientific illiteracy?

If you think that’s reasonable, let me try another action: What if he had donated $1000 to an anti-abortion group? I’ll avoid poking the beehive any more and avoid a particular stance here, but abortion has very real effects, one way or the other.

So let’s knock that argument right out. This is not a free speech issue, period, and it’s incorrect, misleading, and naive to attempt to make it one. Such distortions are the fastest way to pervert and derail an argument, as we often see from our politicians, and I expect better from intelligent people like Andrew Sullivan.

This is hilarious, given that Andrew Sullivan is probably more entitled to an opinion on this than anyone else, since he arguably invented gay marriage in his 1989 The New Republic article, “Here Comes The Groom”. He certainly argued for gay marriage before anybody else did.2 The president “evolved” to support gay marriage only 2 years ago. Proposition 8 passed—in California!—only 6 years ago. This is not nearly as clear cut as Marco seems to think it is (yet). There is room for debate outside of simple bigotry on this issue, still. If this issue is truly analogous to voting rights for women, we’re still in the “political views” stage, and shutting your enemies up is a great way to look desperate.

There’s a bigger point here, though. As a society, we seem to have forgotten that people who are wrong have rights. It’s something of a strange concept that discrimination of any sort should be legal, but in principle, people can hire who they want to. Here’s Julian Sanchez, writing on the Arizona religious liberty bill:

Unlike most of my friends, I do not find it self evident that the “liberty interest” invoked by religious bigots is some kind of absurd sham worthy of mention only in derisive scare quotes. And I find it a bit disturbing that many of them seem to assume that if any anti-discrimination laws protecting any class of Americans have ever been justified, the weight of that interest has effectively been reduced to zero, and may be ignored for all future purposes…

As I argued in Newsweek a few years back, the “purist” libertarian position that condemns all anti-discrimination laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as a priori unjust violations of sacrosanct property rights is profoundly misguided and historically blinkered. We were… dealing with the aftermath of centuries of government-enforced slavery and segregation—which had not only hopelessly tainted property distributions but created deficits in economic and social capital transmitted across generations to the descendants of slaves.

…The interest in restoring civic equality was so compelling that it trumped the interest in associational choice within that sphere. But we didn’t deny the existence of that interest—appalling as the racist’s exercise of it might be—and continue to recognize it in other domains. A racist can still invite only neighbors of certain races to dinner parties, or form exclusive private associations, or as a prospective employee choose to consider only job offers from firms run or staffed primarily by members of their own race. Partly, of course, this is because regulations in these domains would be difficult or impossible to enforce—but partly it’s because the burden on associational freedom involved in requiring nondiscrimination in these realms would be unacceptably high.

Some of the considerations supporting our limited prohibition of racial discrimination apply to discrimination against gay Americans. But some don’t. Sexual orientation, unlike race, is not transmitted across generations, which means a gay person born in 1980 is not starting from a position of disadvantage that can be traced to a legacy of homophobic laws in the same way that a black person born in 1980 is likely to be disadvantaged by centuries of government-enforced racism. We don’t see the same profound and persistent socioeconomic disparities.

This is the point. If Eich had been a blatant homophobe, systematically discriminating against LGBT individuals and keeping them out of the workforce, he would be a terrible choice of CEO—if for no other reason than that there are surely great LGBT programmers—and he should have been forced out. But the evidence is that he wasn’t. He promised to maintain Mozilla’s inclusive benefits. Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s chairwoman, who announced Eich’s firing resignation, said that she was surpised that he had donated to Proposition 8 because in his work with her, he had always seemed dedicated to inclusiveness. And that’s the reason that this is ultimately unjustifiable. This is not a question of removing a cruel homophobe, this is a question of a man’s right to hold a political position. His lack of discriminatory history is the reason that this is just a “political view”.

Moving on:

“Beliefs” and “views” deserve no inherent protection, validity, or value to the rest of society simply because they’re political or religious. They’re just opinions, and just as many opinions are worth considering and discussing, many others are offensive, crazy, ignorant, or bigoted.

This is certainly true, with one qualification: society has an obligation to protect every view. It’s not because the view is “religious” or “political” or “secular” or anything else—it’s because it’s a view and people have a right to their opinions. Eich’s views does not deserve any more protection than the view that gay marriage should be legal—but they deserve just as much protection, even if the view is completely wrong.

A hundred years ago, saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote was a “political view”. Now, that would be a ridiculous and highly offensive opinion regardless of what any religion or political party said on the topic. Most discriminating “political views” of this sort eventually become widely recognized as unacceptable, barbaric bigotry with no place in civilized society — it’s just a matter of time.

The position that gay marriage shouldn’t be legal may well be “ridiculous and highly offensive”. That doesn’t mean it should be impossible for someone to hold that position and continue to live in a civilized society.

Moreover, I think that it’s obvious that oppressing these views—forcing them into the closet—does not have a positive outcome. Nelson Mandela famously broke down a lot of barriers in South Africa by refusing to overthrow and condemn the racists, and instead trying to cooperate and persuade. When people saw that he was intelligent and reasonable, their resistance melted.

The same is true of any rights movement. Surely we would be doing better at eliminating any remaining racism if racists were more, not less, open about their racism, because we could talk with them and persuade them. Instead, they hide in darkness, coming out only in horrible displays online and quietly teaching their children that it’s OK to hate people of a different skin color. They do this because society has made it impossible for them to express their views, and the result is that those people can never be eliminated, because they must hide themselves.

Wouldn’t it be better if we could persaude them? Wouldn’t it be better if we sat and discussed?

There is nothing to be gained—for anyone—by shutting up those who disagree with you. All that accomplishes is generations of hatred and bigotry.

And if being against the closet isn’t pro-gay, I’m not quite sure what is.


  1. Let me address Marco’s footnote here, too. “Unless they caused him to do something that is illegal, such as hiring discrimination.” This is not an exception at all. Refusing to hire someone is not the same as criticizing them. Action does not equal speech

  2. And by the way, lots of gay activists opposed him. They argued that he was trying to assimilate gays into “straight culture”. For all we know, Eich believes that

Are you now or have you ever been against gay marriage?

“Hey Brendan,” Swisher writes, “does that mean we need to just say bygones about some of the virulent anti-women sentiments and laws in some countries, since it’s a Firefox world after all?” Though I could be misinterpreting Swisher, my impression is that she sees holding the position on same-sex civil marriage held by President Barack Obama as recently as May of 2012 as indistinguishable from, say, endorsing Saudi Arabia’s proscription against female drivers, or the widespread toleration of female genital mutilation we see in parts of East and West Africa.

I was a supporter of same-sex civil marriage long before our incumbent president — at least a decade before, if memory serves. I continue to support of [sic] same-sex civil marriage. But I find the campaign against Brendan Eich instructive. Towards the end of the piece, Swisher notes that in reading various interviews with Eich, “it was not hard to get the sense that Eich really wanted to stick strongly by his views about gay marriage, which run counter to much of the tech industry and, increasingly, the general population in the U.S.” Let me restate Swisher’s observation: had Brendan Eich decided to apologize — had he decided to say that he had come around on the issue, and had he added that his donation to the Proposition 8 campaign was a profound mistake that he would regret for the rest of his life, and which he will atone for by making a large donation to one of the organizations pressing the case for same-sex civil marriage — he could have spared himself all of this trouble. So while Mitchell Baker talks about protecting the integrity of Mozilla, she might spare a word or two for the integrity of Brendan Eich, or rather she and her colleagues might reflect on it. Agree with him or disagree with him, Brendan Eich was willing to pay a price for his beliefs. In the grand scheme of things, the price certainly wasn’t as high as that facing, say, Galileo. But would you do the same thing?

This is a sad, sad day. Eich may well be wrong, but he has a right to his views. You certainly have a right to disagree with—and condemn!—his views, but firing him because he refused to comply?

Screw you, Mozilla. I thought you would stand for something, but you caved like everyone else.

Update: Oh, and if you use Firefox or Thunderbird (or anything else made by Mozilla [?]) I urge you to uninstall.

This is fantastic. A sample:

Exquisite, riveting, awesome. A masterpiece. An author of such monumental storytelling prowess, the only meaningful comparison we can draw is one with Joyce. Both authors bring to the page a rare, lucid, gracious wisdom and a sharpness of textual exploration that enable them to a unique degree to weave a seamless texture of images that engage the reader’s emotions to an almost supernatural degree, spinning a wistful, consistent parable with astounding turns of phrase that will inevitably resonate with the reader like infinitely precious verbal dreamscapes. This is one of contemporary literature’s most dazzling works of genius, staggering in its relentless focus on the postmodern Zeitgeist, yet intensely readable.

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

“I don’t know,” Gregor told the faceless interrogator for the fiftieth time.

“We can’t help you if you won’t work with us. Perhaps another day in the machine will convince you to cooperate.”

The title that Cult of Mac gave this was “How an Under-Appreciated iOS 7 Feature Will Change the World”, but I think that’s a little bit link-baity, so I’ve changed it.

But it is a cool feature.

I’ll remind you: it’s an FBI agent claiming on CNN shortly after the Boston bombing that even if Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife wouldn’t tell them the details of a conversation she had with her husband, the FBI could find out what was said. That was on May 14th of last year.

Meanwhile, here’s a (surely unrelated) Snowden leak, reported by The Washington Post:

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

There is but one thing I’d like to point out about this incident, which is the following quote from NCPPR’s press release:

The National Center for Public Policy Research is an Apple shareholder, as are National Center executives.

Marco Arment:

What’s most damning to their argument is that they’ve all acted within common-carrier boundaries anyway for most of broadband’s existence, with very few exceptions, and they continue to make record profits, expand service (mostly), and increase speeds. Common-carrier regulation would simply prevent some very harmful “innovations” that the ISPs have, to date, never needed to remain profitable and keep expanding.

Don’t believe their bullshit. They’d be perfectly fine as common carriers. Almost nothing would change from the way they’ve always operated.

I don’t trust regulation nearly as much as Marco does, but in this particular case, I agree 100%. I don’t understand why people don’t seem to get net neutrality.