To get a glimpse at the interior logic of libertarian leaders who work in the technology industry, take a look at Michael Arrington's triumphal tweet from last night: "My point is this. WE'VE WON! After eons gays can now mostly feel free to be themselves, love whoever, with no stigma."
That's how the song goes, right? "[Mostly] free to be you and me."
Arrington was not as pumped about American political life this time last year when he wrote:
America is an unsolvable problem, a nation divided and deeply in hate with itself. If it was a startup we'd understand how unfixable the situation is, most of us would leave for a fresh start and the company would fall apart.
America is MySpace.
Of course, back then, Arrington's passionate diatribe about a nation divided was inspired by the fact that Homeland Security took his boat.
This time, Arrington employed an optimistic and incorrect assessment about the current state of equal rights in the service of defending Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who resigned after public outcry over his political donation to support Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage campaign.
As cooler heads have pointed out, Eich was free to donate to whatever political cause he chooses. He was also free not to explain or directly apologize for that action. Eich has worked for Mozilla since 2003; he donated $1000 to Prop 8 in 2008.
But once he was appointed CEO of a Mozilla Corp. (a taxable subsidiary of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation), Eich's history became a negative distraction from Firefox's vital position as "a bulwark against profit-seeking companies who seek to warp the standards of the Web to their own ends."
The industry is in the midst of a serious talent crunch. Having a CEO who invested in the campaign against gay rights wasn't going to help Mozilla retain and hire employees. If you have to write a blog post promising that inclusive health benefits won't "regress" under your reign that's bad for the company.
And Eich's history had already tarnished the brand with existing and potential users. That made Eich a poor choice for chief executive. His resignation was a business decision, indicative of where his values parted with Mozilla's.
Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch turned conflicted venture capitalist, supports gay rights and opposed Prop 8. He's taking Eich's side because he supports the now ex-CEO's ability speak freely without consequences.
So Arrington tried writing his own clunky "Modest Proposal," conjuring up an alternate reality where Eich's political donation was supporting gun control and Mozilla employees were gun loving maniacs who literally did not know the meaning of tolerance. The metaphor fails to grasp the difference between being an "anti-gun bigot" and being bigoted towards human beings.
However, Arrington's true feelings came through over late night Twitter. The reason he—and by extension you!—should tolerate Eich's bigotry is because gays are "mostly" free.
What does a "mostly" free society look like for gay people? A country where 62 percent of the population lives in states that neither grant same-sex couples the freedom to marry nor honor their out-of-state marriages. A country where 19 percent of hate crimes were "motivated by a bias against sexual orientation." A tech industry where Apple's Tim Cook, the CEO of one of the most influential companies in the world, will make only the most oblique of references to his own sexuality.
Arrington is appealing to a popular set of values; as Will Oremus wrote in Slate, "The notion that your political views shouldn't affect your employment is a persuasive one." That belief is not supported by the law in the private sector. But even if it represents a deeply held folk notion about how things should be, supporters of equal rights are willing to go against it, when those political views are about denying liberty to an entire group of people.
Perhaps those who defend Eich's ability to remain CEO don't see that they're choosing sides in a collision of liberties. Just like Arrington told CNN: "I don't know a single black entrepreneur," in defense of Silicon Valley's claim of meritocracy.
Venture capitaist Tim Draper has his six Californias and Arrington has three Americas: the "deeply divided" one that took his boat, the one where everyone is "mostly" free, and the one the rest of us live in, where homophobia is still something worthy of intolerance.
To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@g
[Image via Getty]