Andrew Sullivan on Eich and Liberal Toleration

Andrew Sullivan appeared last night on the Colbert Report to discuss the forced resignation of Brendan Eich at Mozilla.

Andrew Sullivan has been one of my favorites since his days at The New Republic. Of course, as an aspiring blogger, he is interesting to me in a number of ways. More on that another time…it is a complicated narrative.

I highly recommend Sullivan’s post about this incident titled “The Quality of Mercy.” This paragraph particularly stood out to me:

The ability to work alongside or for people with whom we have a deep political disagreement is not a minor issue in a liberal society. It is a core foundation of toleration. We either develop the ability to tolerate those with whom we deeply disagree, or liberal society is basically impossible. Civil conversation becomes culture war; arguments and reason cede to emotion and anger. And let me reiterate: this principle of toleration has recently been attacked by many more on the far right than on the far left. I’m appalled, for example, at how great gay teachers have been fired by Catholic schools, even though it is within the right of the schools to do so. It’s awful that individuals are fired for being gay with no legal recourse all over the country. But if we rightly feel this way about gays in the workplace, why do we not feel the same about our opponents? And on what grounds can we celebrate the resignation of someone for his off-workplace political beliefs? Payback? Revenge? Some liberal principles, in my view, are worth defending whether they are assailed by left or right.

Read the entire post here.

3 replies »

  1. It is not clear to me exactly how Mr. Eich came to leave Mozilla. Did the company treat him fairly? Did he resign completely on his own? I don’t know. But I do know this is not a free speech issue. Mr. Eich was free to say what he wanted and believed and he is still free to say those things. He has never been not free to speak his mind. The fact that there are sometimes consequences for what we say is another question entirely and should not be confused with the free speech issue.

    • Does the post refer to it as a freedom of speech issue? By your definition, freedom of speech is pretty useless. In Iran, people are free to say whatever they want…they just might go to jail for it. Consequences and all.

  2. Replace “homophobic” with “racist” in this narrative, and ask whether Sullivan’s points would still be cogent. I’m not sure they would; I think the “liberal tolerance” crowd would be more comfortable with public pressure for a racist to resign than with a homophobe to resign. And I think we ought to ask ourselves why that is.

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