Voicing an Opinion

Mozilla is a fascinating place to work. I am surrounded by brilliant people who inspire me on a daily basis.

One of the great bits about brilliant people is that they usually have a some very well thought out opinions or beliefs, and most people tend to be very vocal about them. Because we are an open community at Mozilla, we also have many ways to share information, including Mozilla-hosted and personal blogs, social networking tools, etc, etc, etc, and we also host an aggregator for this content at planet.mozilla.org.

Yesterday a prominent member of the Mozilla community posted a call to action for his particular set of beliefs that was picked up by planet and shared with the entire Mozilla community, and a huge “discussion”[1] ensued.

“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

So let me be 100% clear. Gerv’s comments were his own. The are based on his world-view, and to many people, they are patently offensive and discriminatory. That said, Gerv has every right to voice his opinion. His opinion is offensive to liberal minded people, but suppressing offensive speech or writing is a dangerous first step to oppression. Consider this: if the gay rights movement, or the black civil rights movement, or the women’s rights movement didn’t have the advantage of freedom of speech, those nascent movements would have been killed before they accomplished the laudable goals they achieved.

Because the people who launched these movements in the west had (for the most part) the luxury of freedom of speech, the voices of the individuals who opposed the advancement of human rights were drowned out by the voices of those pushing for freedom and equality.

“A great many people mistake opinions for thought.” – Herbert Prochnow

Suppression of offensive opinions or beliefs (I hesitate to call them ideas, because it implies there is something innovative, new or original about the opinion) is not the correct approach. Keeping things in the dark is a great way to allow a subculture of hate and fear to grow, and silencing a hateful voice pushes it into hiding.

Do not silence someones opinion through censorship, instead, drown out the voices of hate and discrimination with shouts of support, and calls for equality and freedom.

And on an additional note, it is important to note that throughout the history of humanity, anyone who stands opposed to equality and human rights is on the wrong side of history.

[1] and by discussion, I mean shitstorm.

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