I’ve been struggling some time about this issue, about whether or not to write about it in a technology blog. Somehow Microsoft flip-flopping on the anti-discrimination bill that was supposed to protect gay people – doesn’t seem to be that geeky of an issue. Nevertheless, this has made the news, and Steve Ballmer himself has explained the move with about the same reasoning that everyone anticipated. I’m strongly with Robert Scoble, who is unhappy about the situation and gets some PR-smoothed flak from his boss for it. Whew, where do we go from here?
First, Steve Ballmer: you’re right, a company has no place involving itself in lawmaking, especially regarding social laws. BUT we all know you’re using this reasoning very selectively, and only if it suits to explain your current actions. Just like any other gigantic company, Microsoft is vigorously lobbying a huge amount of specific and not-so-specific legislation. In doing that, Microsoft is a big part of the process that slowly turns a lot of democratic countries into corporate-sponsored theocracies, with America as the front runner. So yeah, you shouldn’t do that, but quitting support for this specific bill, and for this bill only, is not a good place to start doing the “right thing” all of a sudden.
Second, Robert: I share your concern over Microsoft apparently budging to pressure from the religious lobby – who, instead of trying to make people’s lives better, think it’s a good idea to let gay people know that not only are they going to hell, they’re not exactly welcome here on earth, either. Let me take this one step further by asking “why are you catering to these of all groups?” and “isn’t Microsoft supposed to be propagating a fabulous future where everyone lives in peace and harmony and uses Windows or something?” On a more personal note, Robert, I sincerely hope that when you get fired for bloging one day, it’s not going to be about this issue!
Third: as many others pointed out, the bill’s purpose is to illegalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a protection which most modern democracies recognize to be self-evident. By pulling support for this, Microsoft practically admits that they are unsure whether they should discriminate gay people or not. It’s like being asked “Should gay people be fired and otherwise discouraged?” and then answer “Boy, I dunno, maybe they should.”
Lastly: If you look at the stock art of Microsoft’s website, you’ll find black people and lots of other ethnic groups en masse. I cannot help but wonder what the site would have looked like 50 or 100 years ago? Would Microsoft indirectly support discrimination against black people or Jews like they do today with gays? I bet the KKK would have been grossly offended by MS supporting an african american anti-discrimination bill, too. Did anyone realize that the religious and other right wing lobbyists are basically the same kind of person as the old Nazis or Clan knights? The difference is just that today they shape the country by modelling the law itself, instead of just loading the old double action shotgun and pump some hot lead into those pesky minority people who have the audacity to exist in plain sight. How did those murky individuals get to be our moral compasses again? Just because they wear an emblem with something crossy on it and exude and air of superiority?
Let me close this with a big WTF?!? and be done with it.
Update: hey, even serious bigshot websites agree here, huh.
Update 2005-05-06: and once again with the flipflop, only this time, in the right direction. But wait, isn’t the legislative period over now? Looks like they just sat this one out, and when it didn’t matter anymore, they switched back to a reasonable position. Nice maneuver.
Update: for once I’m not the only one thinking this, thanks smp!