In discussing the recent departure of Brendan Eich from Mozilla, John Carmack of Oculus VR, previously of Id Software has been the most wrong that anyone has ever been inside of four tweets.
In case you’re unaware, Brendan Eich was very briefly the CEO of Mozilla. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/brendan-eich-has-the-right-to-fight-gay-rights-but-not-to-be-mozillas-ceo.
Brendan Eich is a reprehensible homophobe. People made it clear they did not wish to support an organisation with a massive fucking homophobe at the helm, then Mozilla apparently decided they wanted those people to continue supporting them more than they wished to have Eich as their CEO.
I’m delighted that he was forced to step down from the position. He has made donations to anti-gay organisations, and has expressed no remorse about this.
Before we move on to why John Carmack is a cock, here, very briefly, in order to pre-empt the inevitable accusations of “heterophobia”, is why this is different to firing someone for being gay:
1) The objections were certainly not that Eich is Straight. The objections were not even really that he’s a massive fucking homophobe. Eich has very specifically caused harm to people wishing to have same-sex marriages by donating to a campaign against it. This isn’t just a matter of speech or opinion, this is deliberate harmful action.
2) Heterophobia isn’t a thing. Heterophobia isn’t a thing. Heterophobia isn’t a thing. We do not live in a society where straight people are systematically discriminated against. Eich is going to get another job. Being very loudly and publicly a bigot is not going to affect his ability to be a happy, wealthy man.
2b) On the other hand, those of us who are loudly and publicly queer will most certainly be systematically discriminated against. In this case I am specifically addressing one aspect of systemic discrimination ,that of earning power, but this is by no means the only or even the most serious form of discrimination (The prison-industrial complex and violence against trans women of colour, for example).
2c) In my case, as a cis white queer woman, I’m likely to earn more than almost everyone except cis straight white men. Other people’s careers will be much more severely affected. Black people earn less than white people (http://freakonomics.com/2011/10/06/explaining-the-black-white-wage-gap/). Black women, specifically, earn less than white men, black men, or white women (http://thefeministanthropologist.com/2012/08/12/gender-race-and-the-wage-gap-why-intersectionality-matters/). Gay men earn less than straight men (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2006/jul/28/gayrights.money). Transgender women earn less than cis women (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2012/04/16/11494/the-gay-and-transgender-wage-gap/) The more of these groups you’re a part of, the less you’re likely to earn.
What I’m saying here is that nobody should be wasting their energy feeling sorry for this cis straight white man who is probably going to continue to be very rich and happy, with or without his fancy CEO position at Mozilla.
In fact, new rule: you only get to be upset about this if you also get equally publically outraged about everyone who’s ever been fired for discriminatory reasons. Otherwise, it becomes rather clear that what you actually care about is privileged people being held accountable for their actions rather than some nebulous idea about how freedom of expression should be entirely divorced from your job.
The last few paragraphs have been fairly restrained.. If you’ve been finding this controversial, you should probably just leave now. You’ll hate the next bit. Spoiler warning: I call John Carmack a cock.
Lets go through these tweets one by one, and dissect why John Carmack is the most wrong about anything that anyone has ever been in four tweets.
“I respect @BrendanEich for not doing the craven belly crawl of apology when he was set upon
by the mob”
Firstly, he states that he “respects” Eich. Proclaiming your respect for a virulent homophobe like Eich is not something that one should really do if one is not also a homophobic pustule. Specifically, I am saying that having respect for homophobes means that you value them more highly than you value all the other humans on this planet that they’ve hurt with their views (and large donations to homophobic causes).
Secondly, he refers to an apology as a “craven belly crawl”. I find it difficult to come to terms with a worldview where admitting fault in donating money to further the ignoble cause of homophobia is “craven”, but there we go.
Thirdly, the turn of phrase “set upon by the mob” is telling. By referring to those who voiced their very legitimate concerns about the appointment of Eich to the position of CEO as a “mob”, he dehumanizes them; he sets aside their humanity, their hurt, their feelings, their lives, and reduces them to a faceless amorphous blob which is simply hounding Eich for the fun of it. When the people who were hurt by Eich are reduced to a mob, it is easier to side with Eich. After all, he is a human, and they are a mob. And when a group of wronged people is a mob it is much easier to see their individual vocalisations of their upset, their individual hurt and criticisms, as “setting upon” Eich.
Lets translate “I respect @BrendanEich for not doing the craven belly crawl of apology when he was set upon by the mob” into what it actually means: “I value this homophobe, I am pleased that he did not apologise for the upset and hurt he has caused, and I am upset that the people he has hurt (who I refuse to acknowledge as real people, or as really hurt) dared to voice their opinions in the first place, as the only person whose voice I value in this is his.”
Hmmm. It seems less defensible when it’s put like that. How unfortunate.
“Integrity is completely orthogonal to the positions held. Integrity may not outweigh resulting negatives, but it does have intrinsic value.”
Mostly, I find this opinion to be worthless. That is, it has no worth. It is pointless. It is a mere collection of words masquerading as an actual valuable opinion.
I believe that integrity is generally understood to mean someone who is truthful and moral, so I will unpack this statement by first replacing the word integrity with the word “truthfulness” and then with the word “morality”.
“Truthfulness is completely orthogonal to the positions held. Truthfulness may not outweigh resulting negatives, but it does have intrinsic value.”
If someone is a rampant homophobe, but honest about it, then they are indeed displaying truthfulness, but I would argue that being truthful about your harmful opinions has absolutely no inherent value and that there would in fact be more value in staying quiet and doing the thing that harms the least people. Thus I would argue that truthfulness can indeed be completely orthogonal to the positions held but that being truthful about terrible positions robs that truthfulness of any value.
“Morality is completely orthogonal to the positions held. Morality may not outweigh resulting negatives, but it does have intrinsic value.”
It seems clear to me that morality is absolutely not orthogonal to positions held. Holding the position “gay people should be denied basic human rights (the right to a family life)” is absolutely not a moral position and to me, anyone holding that opinion is not a moral person. Morality does however have intrinsic value, if we take morality to mean a philosophy of trying to help or at the very least not cause harm to other humans.
So, I agree that truthfulness can be orthogonal to positions held, and that morality has intrinsic value. I don’t agree that a homophobe is a moral person, or that truthfulness about terrible opinions has inherent value. Of course, people can be moral in some aspects of their life and terrible in others, as Carmack points out in a bonus horrifyingly insensitive tweet:
I’m sure some slave owners were absolutely delightful to people that they valued, but then so are most people. It’s the part where they FUCKING KEPT OTHER PEOPLE AS SLAVES that we have a problem. I’m sure there were some very truthful people who thought slavery was fine, there were certainly no moral people who thought slavery was fine. If you want to argue that you could consider someone who was a-ok with slavery was in any sense of the word a good person, then please turn off your computer, tablet and/or smartphone, place them gently on the floor and jump on them a hundred times so that nobody on the internet ever has to hear your shitty opinions ever again and then lock yourself in your room and think very hard about exactly which people it is you value in society.
And if we’re having a sense of history all of a sudden, how about we (white people) start paying compensation for all the atrocities we’ve perpetrated against people of colour and very specifically black people. And stop comparing slavery to things that aren’t slavery.
“The idea that someone can’t have any integrity if they hold a position you disagree with is very, very damaging to discourse.”
Lets talk about discourse. That’s a very neutral word and it’s hiding a lot of very un-neutral positions. Or specifically, it’s implying neutrality where there is none. It’s implying that the basic humanity of marginalised people is up for debate. It’s implying that “I am a human who would like to live their life on an equal footing with those more privileged than me” and “I think that these people are lesser than me and I will go out of my way to deny them their rights” are two equally valid positions worth debating. I absolutely think that someone who “holds the position” that gay people deserve less rights is a bad person. (I’m ignoring the word integrity deliberately as I find it to be useless in this context. Clearly someone can be truthful about their bigotry, but what we apparently need to establish is whether or not that makes them immoral.) And what I value is not “discourse” which is used to wear down marginalised people who must continually argue for their right to be seen as real human people but those people themselves. “Discourse” implies a discussion that goes both ways, that the opinions of homophobes on homophobia are equal to the rights of the people whose humanity they deny to exist as equals in society, an implication that I categorically reject.
“I’m an atheist, but I esteem many Christians for their integrity. I still think they are wrong.”
Here, we can see that Carmack is apparently equating religious belief with bigoted opinions. Amusingly, religious beliefs are actually orthogonal to someone’s morality as a person. To compare Christianity with homophobia is ridiculous and frankly if I were a Christian I’d feel rather affronted by the implication that my religion is a personal failing on the level of homophobia that must be overlooked due to my other wonderful personal qualities to gain the valuable esteem of John Carmack.
In summary, John Carmack is a fucking cock.
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