April 4, 2014
“You need to distribute your columns more broadly,” my friend Phil scolded me some months ago. “You’ll never win a Pulitzer Prize if you don’t get your stuff out there.” Phil is a columnist for our Annapolis paper and a retired international business executive. He’s like that classic E.F. Hutton commercial on TV: “When Phil talks, people listen.”
I took Phil’s criticism to heart, but added: “Phil, I will do as you say. But I’m not going to win a Pulitzer Prize. They don’t give Pulitzer Prizes to pro-lifers, or writers who defend marriage. Much less do they award Pulitzer Prizes to people who write to uphold religious freedom.”
I told Phil I was perfectly content to write five to seven columns a week, mostly on these topics. And if I offend the pink panzers of political correctness, that’s fine, too.
The reason we have a First Amendment is not so we can win Pulitzer Prizes, but so we can help to keep this Great Republic free. I remember reading Ben Franklin’s sage words to the Philadelphia lady who quizzed him. Did the Constitutional Convention give Americans a republic or a monarchy? “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it,” Dr. Franklin answered.
So, I told Phil, “I won’t even win a Wurlitzer Prize for quantity of output in journalism.” Phil got the jab. Wurlitzer is the maker of organs and the fictional Wurlitzer Prize goes to those who spend their days at the proverbial keyboard, turning out volumes of work.
I had forgotten about my imaginary Wurlitzer Prize when Phil showed up at our doorstep after 9 pm one evening several weeks later. I was hoping nothing was wrong. It was most out of character for Phil to ring our doorbell at that hour. We are believers in the Ronald Reagan rule that you know you are middle-aged when you are offered two temptations and you choose the one that will get you home by nine o’clock.
Putting on my robe, I rushed to get the door. There was Phil, holding out a cylindrical mailing tube. Puzzled, I tore it open to see what he might be offering me at that unusual hour. He had an impish grin on his face. I pulled out the rolled up document.
It was a colorful poster, a blow-up of the 1995 U.S. Postage Stamp honoring the Wurlitzer Corporation. The poster—featuring a Wurlitzer-made juke box—was inscribed: “To Bob Morrison—Deserved Wurlitzer Prize for Writing that is Music to so many Ears.” It was signed by the retired CEO of Wurlitzer Corporation.
Phil had been sending this gentleman my columns and decided to surprise me with my own coveted Wurlitzer Prize.
As you read this, you may be saying to yourself: How absurd; no one has ever heard of the Wurlitzer Prize. But everyone has heard of the Pulitzer Prize.
That may be. But since things are valued as they are rare, my comeback question is this:
How many Pulitzer Prize winners have you heard of? Dozens, right?
You are now reading a column by the world’s only Wurlitzer Prize winner.
Thanks for reading.
April 4, 2014
You’d think there was rumor of treason and conspiracy when it was recently “uncovered” that Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich had donated some money to the 2008 Prop 8 campaign run in California in support of natural marriage. You’d think Mr. Eich had just been convicted of a felony when he was then subjected to protests on Twitter as employees demanded he step down for committing this crime … the “crime” of thinking differently. Three Mozilla board members quit in protest. Even dating site OKCupid was so put off by this offense against democracy that it could not resist interjecting itself from outside the situation and spending its corporate capital discouraging users attempting to access its site through Firefox, claiming: “Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.” Aside from the malice of such a response, it embodies Soviet-era government monitoring more than an America founded with civil liberties at its core. Ultimately, Mr. Eich “chose” to resign. All these parties should be ashamed of their role in a democracy valuing civil liberties such as free speech and freedom of expression. Educating Americans on the importance of free speech should not be necessary in 2014, yet it somehow seems to be.
Thankfully, there are still those, who, regardless of political views, recognize the value of free speech, free thought, and free debate in a free society. Thankfully, even folks who disagree with Mr. Eich’s position on this issue recognize the importance of protecting freedom of speech and expression for all, regardless of viewpoint. Andrew Sullivan, a gay writer and same-sex marriage supporter, writes: “The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society.” Business Insider’s Jim Edward says: “At the heart of the move is a fundamental contradiction: Eich’s foes disapproved of Eich’s intolerance for LGBT people. But in the end they could not tolerate Eich’s opinions, which for years he kept private and, by all accounts, did not bring into the workplace. The “tolerant” were not tolerant enough of a man they considered intolerant, even though he had tolerated them for about 15 years, in other words.”
Mozilla seems downright confused about these concepts of free speech rights and equality: in an online posting, the company writes: “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech.” Except when that speech takes a certain view. “Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality.” But you can’t have free speech when you censor certain views. “Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness.” Except, it would seem, when employees hold a certain view. “We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.” Actually, it would appear Mozilla does not. “We have employees with a wide diversity of views.” Yet soon, if its practices of firing those who disagree continue, Mozilla will not. “[O]our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that’s what it means to protect the open Web.” And so, by its own words and actions, Mozilla supports an open web but not an open workplace.
It is sad that employees of such an innovative company, who are doubtless intelligent, are so incapable of grasping such basis concepts of civil liberties and free speech. Ironically, despite the finger pointing at “anti-gay moralizers,” supporters of hounding those of opposing views out of their positions are making a statement about their “moral superiority” in doing so. It’s one thing to critique the merits of someone’s view. It’s another to critique the fact that they have that view, and punish them for having it. The former is American. The latter is Orwellian.