I have to say, this whole Firefox boycott is quite amusing to watch. I haven’t been participating, not because I don’t think Eich’s actions are disturbing (they are) but because I have very good reasons to use Firefox mostly around needing certain extensions in order to be able to use my computer without experiencing agonising physical pain.
Anyway, the protest isn’t one I think that will be effective (but I do think that Eich having to squirm uncomfortably because of Mozilla’s complete PR incompetence is no bad thing), but it’s interesting to watch anyway. Primarily because it’s interesting to see the backlash to such a protest.
If you listen to the libertarian wing of the technology industry—of which there are a substantial chunk—boycotts and societal shunning are an important part of how a future libertarian society would operate. If, advocates of such free market principles suggest, you just get out of the way, cut government away, then injustices will be remedied by the market, by individual players who can make the decisions as to whether or not they wish to do business with specific people and organisations. This is how libertarianism is sold to people: okay, well, we aren’t going to ban X (pornography, drinking alcohol, the current rather arbitrary set of banned narcotic drugs) but you are free to shun the people who do X.
Okay. Except when people try that, the self same people throw an absolute shit fit about how it’s terrible and intolerant to make a decision on what product to use based on the personal ethics of the person running the company that makes said product.
Witch-hunts and boycotts are bad… except when they are a key part of a libertarian ideological project that seeks to excuse the transfer of power in liberal democratic societies so that billionaires can run the world more fully than they already do.
The best thing about the Mozilla boycotts, and all the drama around Google and the NSA is that it might remind people that the technology business isn’t some radical messianic project to make the world a better place, it’s just a business. No more or less ethical than any other.