Much of the shock following the removal of Brendan Eich from the position of Mozilla CEO came from the realization that, in a manner of speaking, America was now at war. True it’s a culture war, not a physical conflict. But if you were waiting for the moment when the Cold Civil War actually begins, this might be it.
Not that anyone should have been taken aback. After all, Larry Summers was sacked as president of Harvard following his criticism of Cornell West’s rap album and as a result of a 2005 speech in which he suggested that the under-representation of women in science and engineering could be due to a “different availability of aptitude at the high end”.
Mark Steyn, National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are being sued for defamation by Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann for criticizing the theory of Global Warming. The Gannet newspapers declared open season on gun-owners by publishing a map showing the names and addresses of registered New York gun owners, as a kind of dinner bell for burglars. “Come and rob … me”.
In fact, the Wall Street Journal points out that a similar database was used to ferret out Eich. “Eich’s support for Proposition 8 became public knowledge because of a California law requiring disclosure of personal information–name, address, occupation and employer’s name — of anybody who gives $100 or more to a campaign for or against a ballot initiative. The secretary of state’s office is required to post this information online, and, as HotAir.com’s “AllahPundit” notes, the Los Angeles Times made it available on its site as an easily searchable database.”
To continue: in 2012, “American fast-food chain Chick-fil-A was the focus of controversy following a series of public comments made in June 2012 by chief operating officer Dan Cathy opposing same-sex marriage”. For those who still remember it (along with the forgotten episode of the Benghazi consulate), the 2013 IRS scandal was all about investigating people who held the wrong political views.
The obvious point to make about Eich’s resignation is that it shows how much a part of the mainstream that support for gay rights has become, particularly in the technology world. Eich’s problem wasn’t that he took a political stance: Amazon.com’s C.E.O., Jeff Bezos, has weighed in on gay marriage, too, by donating more than $2.5 million in support of it. The problem was that Eich’s stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology. At this point, a tech company having a C.E.O. who opposes gay marriage is not all that different from a company in 1973 having a C.E.O. who donated money to fight interracial marriage: even if there were plenty of Americans who felt the same way at the time, the C.E.O. would still have been on the wrong side of history. And since the role of a C.E.O. as a public face of an organization is more important than ever these days, Eich’s personal views were inevitably going to shape his ability to run the company.
Yes, the culture war has been raging for a long time, except people didn’t notice it because it seemed to take place on the edges or in fringe settings. All the Eich affair did was make it obvious.
Ironically many people, even in the homosexual community, don’t want this culture war and are dismayed by the Eich witchunt. They don’t want it not only because … but I’ll get to that in a moment … especially since the Eich affair is not about gay marriage, except incidentally, any more than the Summers affair was about racism or feminism; or that Steyn’s suit has anything to do with warmism or denialism or the gunowners map was about school safety; or still less that the 2013 IRS persecution of Tea Party groups was to do with Citizen’s United.
The removal of Eich is about fascism. It’s about one group of people forcing everyone else to bow to their hat on a pole; it s about book burning, compelling obeisance to, as Jame Surowiecki put it, “a universal ideology” in a manner so bald that even those who might gain politically in the short term from it are horrified by its crudity.
Peter Burrows at Business Week quotes Joseph Grundfest, a law professor at Stanford University who says “this is a particularly fascinating situation, because it involves an illiberal reaction from a very liberal community. It’s fair to say that this could have been handled differently and better.” But Grundfest misses the point. It was the late Gerald Ford who really put his finger on the problem, which to paraphrase Ford, is that ‘any instrument of social coercion big enough to give you everything you want is an instrument big enough to take away everything that you have.’ Build the bonfire and you too can be torched at the stake. Or as Brian equivalently put it to Max in Cabaret: “do you think you can still control them?”
One person who doubts the fire is under control is Senator Rand Paul. He along with Eich, recently made a stir in the Bay Area in a speech at Berkeley arguing that all this time we’ve been building the apparatus that will soon be turned against us. And by us, he means everyone, including gays.
Paul used an example from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 to explain how power can be retasked to any purpose and how the liberal can become illiberal. If firemen can become book-burners than anything is possible, which is the brilliance of Bradbury’s metaphor. An earlier Rand Paul editorial contains an almost identical text to his Berkeley example, and I will use to represent what he said.
In the opening pages of Ray Bradbury’s famous novel Fahrenheit 451, protagonist Guy Montag asks: Wasn’t there a time when firemen used to put out fires? They laugh at him, rebuke him and say: Everybody knows firemen start fires.
Montag knew this. Montag’s father and his grandfather had been firemen. It had been his duty for many years to start fires. He knew it was his duty to burn books, but this day would be different.
Montag arrived on the scene to do his job, but found a woman who wouldn’t leave. He complained that she had all of her books but still wouldn’t leave. Undeterred, Montag proceeds with the other firemen to douse her books-and her-with kerosene. The woman shouts out and goads them. She is indignant that they would touch her books at all and she still wouldn’t leave. She says to them: “Play the man, Master Ridley; today we will light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, that it won’t be forgotten.”
They keep dousing her with kerosene and she says it again: “Play the man, Master Ridley. Today we will light such a candle.” … The reference is to 16th century figure Hugh Latimer, who literally became a human candle. He was burned at the stake in 1555 for heresy-opposing the state religion. He wanted to promote the idea that the Bible should be translated into English, which the state forbade.
In America today, we’re not yet burning people at the stake, fortunately. Nor are we burning books. But your government is interested in what books you read. They’re interested in what you say in your phone calls. They’re interested in what you write in your emails.
As we all now know from the National Security Agency (NSA) revelations last summer, such government surveillance of citizens has been going on for a while now.
In the Summer of 2012, I asked for a report on this subject and was given a classified briefing. I wanted to know to what extent your privacy was being invaded. To what extent government was reading your emails, listening to your phone conversations without a judge’s warrant. At the time, I couldn’t tell you the answer because it was classified.
And wasn’t there a time when tolerance meant tolerant and the IRS was meant to collect taxes from everybody without favor and the NSA was meant to spy on America’s enemies? As many nightmares start with”wasn’t there a time” as fairytales begin with the phrase “once upon a time”. And the correlation is not concidental. The difference between a fairytale and a horror story is in the details.
Back in the 1960s there was successful Coca-cola ad campaign featuring hundreds of people standing on a hilltop determined to buy the world a soda. It seems like a wonderful and uplifting video. What no one stops to ask is: how did that crowd get up there? They must have been marched up the hill with a undrunk bottle of Coke and drilled for hours to sing in perfect harmony. And where are the port-a-potties?
Prince Charming’s Castle is architecturally identical to the Tower of London. And tolerance of the right sort of intolerance is of course, tolerance.
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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