Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saletan's Modest Proposal

A friend once asked why I opposed disclosing and publicizing political donations. I replied that such disclosures make targets of people for those who would destroy them because of their political convictions. The recent resignation of Brendan Eich at Mozilla is a fine example of how this works. The LA Times published a list of people who donated money to groups fighting to keep the definition of marriage what it has always been and Eich's name turned up on the list. The employees of Mozilla and the board of directors felt that such a man could not lead their company despite his many other virtues, and they forced his resignation.

Will Saletan at Slate is evidently not satisfied. In a column he later said was supposed to be a satire he calls for similar measures against everyone who opposes gay marriage. The column may be a satire, but if so, it's a very poorly written example. Satire is obviously satirical, and Saletan's column is not at all obvious. Here's some of what he said. You decide:
Some of my colleagues are celebrating. They call Eich a bigot who got what he deserved. I agree. But let’s not stop here. If we’re serious about enforcing the new standard, thousands of other employees who donated to the same anti-gay ballot measure must be punished.

More than 35,000 people gave money to the campaign for Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that declared, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” You can download the entire list, via the Los Angeles Times, as a compressed spreadsheet. Each row lists the donor’s employer. If you organize the data by company, you can add up the total number of donors and dollars that came from people associated with that company.

The first thing you’ll notice, if you search for Eich, is that he’s the only Mozilla employee who gave to the campaign for Prop 8. His $1,000 was more than canceled out by three Mozilla employees who donated to the other side.

The next thing you’ll notice is that other companies, including other tech firms, substantially outscored Mozilla in pro-Prop 8 contributions attributed to their employees. That includes Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo, as well as Disney, DreamWorks, Gap, and Warner Bros.

Thirty-seven companies in the database are linked to more than 1,300 employees who gave nearly $1 million in combined contributions to the campaign for Prop 8. Twenty-five tech companies are linked to 435 employees who gave more than $300,000. Many of these employees gave $1,000 apiece, if not more. Some, like Eich, are probably senior executives.

Why do these bigots still have jobs? Let’s go get them.

To organize the next stage of the purge, I’ve compiled the financial data into three tables.
Saletan follows with charts which show the donations of employees of various organizations which donated to pro-prop 8 organizations. He closes with this:
If we’re serious about taking down corporate officers who supported Proposition 8, and boycotting employers who promote them, we'd better get cracking on the rest of the list. Otherwise, perhaps we should put down the pitchforks.
Whether he was serious or not, not a few of his commenters took him seriously. It reflects an inquisitorial mindset that refuses to tolerate opinions which differ from one's own. If the dissenter can be punished, he must be. That's why I think political donations should be just as secret as one's ballot. There is in our society, particularly on the left, a broad streak of fascism, people who agree with Saletan's "modest proposal" and who would seek vengeance on those who think otherwise. We need to be protected from them.