Brendan as CEO

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Posted by: stak
Tags: mozilla
Posted on: 2014-03-31 16:37:55

I would not vote for Brendan if he were running for president. However I fully support him as CEO of Mozilla.

Why the difference? Simply because as Mozilla's CEO, his personal views on LGBT (at least what one can infer from monetary support to Prop 8) do not have any measurable chance of making any difference in what Mozilla does or Mozilla's mission. It's not like we're going to ship Firefox OS phones to everybody... except LGBT individuals. There's a zero chance of that happening.

From what I've read so far (and I would love to be corrected) it seems like people who are asking Brendan to step down are doing so as a matter of principle rather than a matter of possible consequence. They feel very strongly about LGBT equality, and rightly so. And therefore they do not want to see any person who is at all opposed to that cause take any position of power, as a general principle. This totally makes sense, and given two CEO candidates who are identical except for their views on LGBT issues, I too would pick the pro-LGBT one.

But that's not the situation we have. I don't know who the other CEO candidates are or were, but I can say with confidence that there's nobody else in the world who can match Brendan in some areas that are very relevant to Mozilla's mission. I don't know exactly what qualities we need in a CEO right now but I'm pretty sure that dedication and commitment to Mozilla's mission, as well as technical expertise, are going to be pretty high on that list. That's why I support Brendan as CEO despite his views.

If you're reading this, you are probably a strong supporter of Mozilla's mission. If you don't want Brendan as CEO because of his views, it's because you are being forced into making a tough choice - you have to choose between the "open web" affiliation on your personal identity and the "LGBT" affiliation on your personal identity. That's a hard choice for anybody, and I don't think anybody can fault you regardless of what you choose.

If you choose to go further and boycott Mozilla and Mozilla's products because of the CEO's views, you have a right to do that too. However I would like to understand how you think this will help with either the open web or LGBT rights. I believe that switching from Firefox to Chrome will not change Brendan or anybody else's views on LGBT rights, and will actively harm the open web. The only winner there is Google's revenue stream. If you disagree with this I would love to know why. You may wish to boycott Mozilla products as a matter of principle, and I can't argue with that. But please make sure that the benefit you gain from doing so outweighs the cost.

Posted by Dave at 2014-03-31 19:21:35
We need to stop pretending this is just about rights or even politics. What Brendan did was objectively stupid. He was legally required to put down his employer's name on the financial disclosure form. When you search donations by company, his name pops up. He should have read that and realized that a large donation would be noticed, public, and heavily criticized. He dragged Mozilla into this mess. I think we should also be criticizing the other Mozilla employees that donated to the counter-campaign as well. I don't care that he's a bit of a bigot. I don't care how he voted for Prop 8. I do care that he's stupid enough to throw a shockingly large donation at a hyper-political campaign. This is not a quality that is good for a very public leader.

Even if we forgive that act, at this point he has dealt with the current situation horribly. His first act as CEO is to deal with this mess that he created and he has not really said anything substantive at all. It's not just going to go away, no matter how much personal support he gets from friends and colleagues.

This is just going to get worse until Brendan actually apologizes for this mess. We're getting the feeling that either he's unwilling to do so or enough people believe he's incapable of doing so and are telling him to shut up. (this may be wrong) One way or another, he's going to have to actually directly address the issue. I think it's entirely possible for him to keep his new promotion and be a good CEO if he does, but if he doesn't people are going to have legitimate cause to ask him to step down because he can't handle basic PR and HR issues. He's going to actually need to talk with those affected honestly or Mozilla is going to rip itself apart.
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Posted by stak at 2014-03-31 20:36:19
(a) His donation was in 2008, probably before he even wanted to be CEO
(b) It seems pretty harsh to not be able to support causes you believe in just because you might eventually become a public leader

So I don't think what he did was "objectively stupid" - it only appears that way with the benefit of 6 years of hindsight.

That being said, I agree that he should have (and still should) deal with the mess better, and that how he deals with this *is* a reflection on his qualities as a CEO and leader.
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Posted by Dave at 2014-04-01 00:54:18
He was CTO at the time, which is way too high of a position to be overtly divisive. It was bad PR for Mozilla at the time and bad PR still. It was a black mark on Mozilla in 2008 and it was never healed, just revived and made worse with this CEO promotion because he never attempted to really address it.

A common pattern I see with anti-gay people is that they genuinely don't grasp that they're a drastically shrinking portion of the population and that their views about what other people unconnected to them should be will enrage the people actually affected, as well as those that sympathize and empathize with them. I see no reason to doubt that Brendan didn't realize how mad it would make people, but that's sort of my point. He should have known better. He went out of his way to donate a large sum to a hostile campaign and should have realized that it would be public and forever taint his ability to work with the community he represents. Multiple gay Mozilla employees have said they are uncomfortable with him, though many have also said that it won't get in the way of the job. This was damage to his working relationship that should have been foreseen easily and avoided by just voting for Prop 8 or stopping at congressional campaign donations. (there was reporting elsewhere that he also donated a couple thousand to a congressperson who backed the campaign, and nobody really cares about that) It's the fact that he donated a lot of money directly to a illegal campaign that goes farther than any reasonable person should have taken it. (the fact that courts didn't stop it before-hand doesn't absolve anyone here) That's the objectively wrong part. Prop 8 was absolutely toxic and he should have known that supporting it the way he did would hurt him and by proxy hurt Mozilla. The action is in the past, but the person who did it is still here and unchanged (or at least it appears; he hasn't said anything). Even if the fear is unfounded, having someone who went above and beyond to quash existing rights with a large donation creeps people out. Nobody is mad at the donation, per se; it's the person who could make that decision that is the problem we're worried about.

Don't get me wrong; I think it's entirely reasonable that he could put out an acceptable explanation and apology that could resolve things enough to remain as CEO, even possibly without fully recanting his personal beliefs. His window for doing so, however, is rapidly closing.
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Posted by Simon at 2014-03-31 23:54:57
His last donation was 3 1/2 years ago to a politician with clear anti-LGBT views (to which he donated a total of 22 times in a 7 year period). While it is the donation to Prop 8 that is making the news, it has been clear for a lot of people that it isn't an isolated event that he may regret.

Based on his blog he doesn't seem to think there was anything wrong with that Prop8 donation and didn't need to explain himself any further. As long as he wasn't representing the company it wasn't a huge issue.

The problem is that he doesn't seem to think that he needs to deal with the issue now that he is CEO. That neither the board or himself were quite prepared for the current PR nightmare is telling.

Now if he still believes what he did back in 2008, even after the Supreme court decision, I'm not sure what can be done as saying that out loud would be a crazy move. My take on the situation is that if he had any change of heart he would have said so at some point in the past week (or even earlier).
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Posted by Richard at 2014-04-05 21:49:09
So Obama will ask to resign has he held the same point of view in 2008, and you will also as for the resignation to all people who donated Obama's campaign.

After all it is exactly the same
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