Political Animals

Tech Celeb Makes Prop-8 Donation; Internet Goes Berserk

Mr. Eich

Mr. Eich

Last week, a shitstorm erupted in the Twittersphere (as shitstorms are wont to do).  The cause: The discovery that, in 2008, Mozilla co-founder and JavaScript inventor Brendan Eich donated $1,000 to California’s notorious anti-gay-marriage legislation Proposition 8.

This donation isn’t exactly news–the record has been available since 2008, says the LA Times. But last Tuesday the story tore through Twitter like norovirus through a college dorm, and the dust-up is available in all its enraged glory over at Storify. Negative reactions range from Arran Ross-Paterson’s relatively moderate, “Not cool @brendaneich not cool at all projects.latimes.com/prop8…@mozilla” to UX evangelist Aral Balkan’s infuriated, “So I take what I said yesterday back, there’s no way I’ll ever do anything with @mozilla as long as @brendaneich is CTO. #wontworkwithbigots.”(It should be noted that Mozilla’s name was on the record simply because California requires donors to list their employers.)

Eich responded with a blog post calling allegations of bigotry “false and unjust” and saying “the donation does not in itself constitute evidence of animosity.” Which doesn’t really answer the criticisms, but okay.

But does Eich’s gay-unfriendly donation really warrant for an immediate boycott of everything he’s ever touched professionally? Programmer Tom Morris (who identifies himself as “gay and proud” in his Twitter bio and isn’t exactly supportive of Eich’s donation) pushed back: “Brendan Eich thing is disappointing. No, you shouldn’t boycott Firefox or JavaScript, nor is he the spawn of Satan. It’s just sad.”

As for Mozilla, it’s not like everything was sunshine and pudding cups before this particular imbroglio. Best case scenario, they’ve got Chrome breathing down their necks on browser market share. Fallout from a four-year-old donation isn’t likely to make a difference on that front.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com