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  • Backlash    April 4 
Mozilla's CEO sacking will have a chilling effect on political discourse
SPENCER PLATT/Getty Images
SPENCER PLATT/Getty Images

There's a line in Ocean's Eleven that goes like this: "The last guy they caught cheating in here? [casino owner Terry] Benedict not only sent him up for 10 years, he had the bank seize his house and then he bankrupted his brother-in-law's tractor dealership."

...If you think that's bad, just imagine what they would have done to him if he had supported Proposition 8 in California!

I'm being facetious of course — but only slightly. When you consider how Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich was drummed out as the company's CEO, the consequences of holding politically incorrect views about gay marriage are becoming clearer. The message is simple: We won't just drum you out of polite society — we'll take your job, too!

Such messages aren't intended solely for one person, of course. The larger purpose is to create a chilling effect — to disincentive your future opponents from participating in politics, altogether. (If you wonder why conservatives are suddenly fighting to ensure some political donations — the so-called "dark money" — remain undisclosed, fear of retribution is at the top of the list.)

Along those lines, Andrew Sullivan is speaking out:

Will [Eich] now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me — as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today — hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else — then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

The difference, of course, is that the religious right rarely claimed to be paragons of tolerance. Liberals have, generally speaking, enjoyed the positive press associated with being perceived as open minded — which makes this incident not merely authoritarian, but hypocritical, to boot.

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