We Cater to Cowards

Matt Mullenweg Tried to Get Me Fired

by Ben Cook on January 6, 2011

While WordPress creator, Matt Mullenweg, frequently preaches speaks about the freedoms open source platforms provide users, it seems he’s not a fan of that freedom extending to those who dare to criticize him.

You don’t exactly have to dig deep in the archives of this site to realize I’ve been fairly critical of Mr. Mullenweg. Call me a stickler but I expect someone who claims to put user freedom at the top of his priorities to actually live up to those standards. Instead, Mullenweg has consistently opted to feed his ego and further personal vendettas at the cost of the very user freedoms he claims to champion.

And while I certainly didn’t expect my call for his resignation to earn me an invitation to the Mullenweg Christmas dinner, I was honestly shocked at the cowardly reaction it apparently elicited.

At the time, I was the SEO Manager for Network Solutions, a company who, among other things offers domain name registration and WordPress hosting packages. Like many other companies, Network Solutions has a social media policy in which employees must clearly disclose their employment and state that their opinions are their own and do not reflect the company. Since I’m so active in social media, I went out of my way to make it abundantly clear at every turn that this site, as well as my Twitter account, were my own.

Matt Mullenweg doesn't care about any stinking disclaimers!

For the most part, those disclaimers were effective. People realized that my views on anything from politics, to sports, to WordPress were not indicative of Network Solutions’ stance on the matter. (Despite my best efforts to make the St. Louis Cardinals the official sports interest of the company, I failed.)

But, when Matt Mullenweg decided he’d had enough of my criticism, he didn’t come to me personally. Instead, as any true freedom loving person would do, he decided to go over my head and raise the issue with my employer. Matt, by his own admission, claimed that my writings here and on Twitter “borders on hate speech and reflects badly on any organization you’re associated with, regardless of any disclaimers you may have.”

Matt admits he's a coward.

(click for full sized image)

Update: While I initially didn’t think this follow up exchange added much to the post, a commenter below prompted me to post the rest of the exchange.

(click for full sized image)

Now, I wasn’t privy to the conversation that took place, but I have a healthy imagination and can think of a few topics that might have come up.

Whatever was discussed, a brief investigation was launched. But, thanks to those lovely disclaimers it was determined that I was abiding with company policy, and my employment (thankfully) continued.

On a more personal level, the accusation that my criticisms even remotely resemble hate speech is ludicrous, and that sort of accusation is not only irresponsible, but offensive in its own right.

As with any good story, there are several lessons to take away from this episode. First and foremost, please make sure you’re abiding with your company’s social media policy. You never know when it will save your job from a passive-aggressive egomaniac leveling unfounded accusations to your employer behind your back.

Secondly, this event continues the disturbing pattern of behavior by Automattic & WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. Many within the WordPress community refer to Matt as their “benevolent dictator” because he controls pretty much every aspect of the WordPress project (from WordPress.com, to WordPress.org to the WordPress Foundation). However, the kind of bullying, threats, and intimidation displayed in this episode as well as here, here, and here, are lacking any hint of benevolence.

The final, and most unfortunate, lesson of this sad but true story is that unless you’re prepared to be attacked by Matt Mullenweg and the almost cult-like following he’s incubated, don’t criticize Mullenweg, Automattic, or WordPress in any way.

All hail King Matt.

Coward image source: Miriella

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