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  1. 50

    A thought I’ve seen from several people: if a movement is as dependent on the constant personal presence and involvement of one of its founders as the Free Software movement is alleged to be dependent on Stallman, is that really a sign that the movement is healthy and strong? If it just can’t possibly get along without him occupying high leadership positions, well, the dude’s not getting any younger. Is there even a future for the FSF and the Free Software movement when simple human mortality eventually catches up to him?

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      if a movement is as dependent on the constant personal presence and involvement of one of its founders as the Free Software movement is alleged to be dependent on Stallman

      I don’t think it is. In fact, I think Stallman’s involvement is holding the movement back, and has for many decades.

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        I wonder how much of this was nobody being willing to tell him to his fact that he’s an embarrassment and an anachronism and that he should take some time away to enjoy retirement and consider his life choices.

        This is 2021. I have a ton of empathy for social mal-adjustment. In many ways I still suffer from that myself but have had the benefit of some amazing people around me who’ve helped me grow past some of the worst of it, BUT this isn’t just his hobby project anymore.

        Free software represents the beating heart of some truly mission critical pieces of infrastructure in modern society. I maintain that if he truly cared about the cause more than feeding his own ego he’d have stayed on the sidelines.

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          As do I, but for some reason a lot of people seem to think that RMS is too important and can never be removed or retired.

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            I think that a lot of people are hung up over the reasons Stallman got removed. You can argue, quite reasonably, that he should have been removed for those particular comments about Minsky and such. Opinions will undoubtedly differ over this, and that’s okay. But … that’s not really what happened: people made those comments seem much worse than they actually were by removing the context and interpreting them as if they were made in the most bad-faith way possible, and several major newspapers ran headlines that were, quite frankly, just misleading and downright wrong.

            If we get in to an argument at the pub and I shove you out of anger then I’m clearly in the wrong, but if you go around telling people I beat you up then that’s not exactly fair.

            It would have been much better if we had a much broader discourse about whether Stallman is a good leader (he’s not) where this particular issue was just a part the discussion surrounding Stallman’s suitability. This would, I hope, have led to his forcible resignation in more or less the same way (even better would have been if he had voluntarily resigned after realizing he’s not the best person to lead the movement, but I rate the chance of that very very low).

            Some people would still have been upset, but at least it wouldn’t have triggered the “fairness” feeling and people wouldn’t still be so hung up on it. The end result would have been the same, but the road you use to get there really matters for these kind of things.

            Anyway, my point is, this isn’t really about Stallman leading the movement as such, it’s about people feeling he was treated unfairly by some internet mob, and to be honest they’re not completely wrong either. Even when someone does something wrong they deserve the proverbial “fair trail”, and Stallman was denied this. It’s about the redemption of him as a person, rather than as a leader. Some of the replies to my comment on HN are a good example of this, as are some of the comments here.

            But it is what it is, has been a year and a half, and high time to move on. Life is unfair, and Stallman is a big boy who can look out for himself. Besides, in the grand scheme of things this is a rather minor unfairness.

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              Even when someone does something wrong they deserve the proverbial “fair trail”, and Stallman was denied this.

              I don’t agree with this statement. He resigned from MIT. Universities have procedures for investigating conduct of their employees, especially research staff. He could have gone that route. It is likely that his chances were slim.

              At no point, he was denied anything. It’s also not like he was asked to take a position on the things he took positions for.

              The other angle is that the general public should conduct fair trials, which is… just not possible.

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                To be honest I’m don’t fully know with what happened at MIT and his position there; it’s not really the thing Stallman is known for or a position that was really all that important, comparatively speaking. I’m not bothered in the slightest that he had to leave that position, or any other. If anything I wish he had resigned from GNU as well and went in to actual proper retirement. It’s just some parts of the road that led up to that I find somewhat distasteful, and also harmful.

                The other angle is that the general public should conduct fair trials, which is… just not possible.

                I mean “trail” in a broad/poetic sense; not as an actual, well, trail. a fully fair public “trail” is perhaps impossible, but it sure could have been more fair. I think it was completely fair to criticise Stallman, but if you’re going to do that then do it on stuff he actually said and not based on stuff he, well, didn’t.

                Also: someone flagged my previous comment as spam; lol?

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                  Also: someone flagged my previous comment as spam; lol?

                  My $.02 - people REALLY abuse the flagging system, often for clearly spiteful reasons.

                  I don’t get it. These tools are a Big Stick.

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                    It’s not so bad – it’s just a single flag. As far as these kind of controversial topics go that seems pretty good. I just thought it was funny they chose spam of all reasons. Troll or even unkind I could understand I suppose, but spam?!


                    This message was sponsored by Coca Cola.

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                      It’s just a fact of life in these hellthreads.

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                    It was my impression that he did not have any sort of formal position at MIT. He had access to an office, but this was a courtesy only. Am I incorrect?

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                      He was a “visiting scientist”, which is a “formal position” in that the MIT has such a concept and it has reporting requirements. One could even say that him holding that position over more than 1 year is a bit of rule bending. A “courtesy” by an institution such as the MIT also has monetary value (in that Stallman did not need to pay for office space and it comes with credibility).

                      It’s a bit unclear whether Stallman still has this office, his website declares that he had it until “around 1998”, in which time he was also living there.

                      https://stallman.org/rms-lifestyle.html https://research.mit.edu/research-policies-and-procedures/visiting-and-affiliate-appointments

                      All the more a reason why I don’t get the call for a “fair process” - courtesies and hosting guests is explicitly “at will” and I don’t see where any expectation that it should be otherwise comes from?

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                        Thanks for clarifying.

                        And I agree that MIT not continuing to extend the courtesy of the “visiting scientist” position and the office is entirely uncontroversial.

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                          Happy to!

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                I have to disagree, every time Stallman isn’t around it looks like Free Software slowly becomes secondary to some kind of other social justice movement and Open Source (or some kind of malformed aberration masquerading as open-source) claws away at more and more ground.

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                  The problem is if rms is all that’s standing between OS and FS, then him and the movement aren’t doing a good job of it. Preaching to the converted can only get you so far.

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                    That’s because, arguably, the pragmatic approach gets more done.

                    You can argue that the FSF’s rigorous adherence to philosophical purity is incredibly important and that free software would never be where it is today without it, and you’d be right, but beyond a comparatively small but incredibly important set of software, a more pragmatic approach will get you broader adoption and support.

                    Kinda hard to ignore that.

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                      If we take the pragmatism path, we end up with Open Source, which is similar, but not quite the same.

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                  Bingo. Everyone’s looking at the sideshow, but no one pays attention to the fact rms is not really good at leading a movement, yet somehow has become the single factor for leadership in free software. Will it all crumble like Tito’s Yugoslavia when he goes away?

                  A movement isn’t a movement with a single leader, it’s a cult of personality.

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                    Bingo. Everyone’s looking at the sideshow, but no one pays attention to the fact rms is not really good at leading a movement, yet somehow has become the single factor for leadership in free software.

                    This is an (unintentional) strawman. While I do know some people who were very big fans of RMS, at the same time he’s always been presented as a socially-maladjusted radical. There’s no real ‘leadership’ to the free software movement. RMS never made executive decisions which software would or wouldn’t get built. He had a lot of say about the GPL and emacs (his creations), but he was never able to prevent the adoption of other licenses. Or editors, for that matter.

                    There have been multiple attempts to sideline him. The Open Source movement being one of them (although ESR turned out to be a much, much, much worse choice of figurehead than RMS ever was or will be).

                    The notion that he held a position of significant power (outside running the marginal FSF) is a bit strange. He held a position of influence.

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                      That comparison is… odd, if you just look at it for a second.

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                        I am probably biased, as I grew up in said Yugoslavia, but I’m not sure I understand the problem.

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                          I wouldn’t go as far as calling it problematic, but It’s odd if you compare scenarios that may happen if RMS “leaves” (which he kinda already did) to what happened after Tito’s death. An even (rough) match highly improbably (the GNU project actually has longrunning and collaborative teams, that will probably carry on). It’s highly likely that it will play out in ways where the above statement dilutes into “when leaders go, fundamental changes happen”. Which then makes it odd why Tito, of all people.

                          1. 1

                            Thanks, makes sense. And I’m sorry for unintentionally replacing “odd” with “problem”.

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                          I admit just waking up, so the comparison isn’t probably the best. I still stand by the remarks on what happens to a movement with a single point of failure.

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                        Is there a possibility simple mortality is the reason for his return? He’s a sixty-something programmer, those aren’t in high demand, plus no high-profile company will employ him now.

                        If he’s made a fortune as lead developer of Emacs and President of the FSF, he’s been able to hide it very well. The ‘position’ might just be a way for him to avoid homelessness.

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                          The ‘position’ might just be a way for him to avoid homelessness.

                          I’m just going to lay my own cards on the table here: RMS has nobody to blame but himself if he’s in such dire straits. Not some nebulous bogeyman of “cancel culture”. Not journalists. Not newcomers to software communities. Just simply himself.

                          Even according to people who like him (I’m not one of them – my only in-person interaction with him was not pleasant), he has more or less spent his entire adult life being told that his personal behavior (which is not the same as his philosophical stances on software or freedom) is… let’s call it “extremely antisocial” to be charitable, but others with more direct and extensive experience of him have used far stronger terms. And effectively he just ignored all that because he didn’t seem to take seriously the idea that antisocial behavior might have social consequences. And there’s no argument to be made here about “he just doesn’t understand that stuff”, because we know multiple people made attempts to explain it to him and connect the dots for him. It wasn’t that he doesn’t know or doesn’t understand. It’s that he made the conscious choice to ignore the warnings and explanations given to him, because he thought it wouldn’t ever apply to him.

                          And in one sense he was right, because for many years (decades) he was sheltered by people who had power and influence and the ability to offer him protection and patronage. However, those people now have mostly retired, passed away, and/or lost their influence, and so the piled-up consequences of decades of that behavior have caught up with him. But that’s not anyone else’s fault: he simply never seemed to believe that would happen and so never planned for that day or did anything that might change or avert it. Which is an argument for getting him access to good social services, but not an argument for giving him special sinecure positions and status and power again. He was given second, third, fourth, fifth… hundredth chances to hear the stories told by those who know him well, made use of none of them, and we are no longer obligated to keep giving him more.

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                            There’s a line in a Bojack Horseman episode which goes something like “once you become famous you stop growing up because you no longer need to, you’ll forever be the age at which you become famous. I became famous when I was 24 so I’ll always be 24”.

                            While Stallman isn’t “movie star famous”, he’s clear famous in his own way and about as famous as you can get as a programmer without being an abusive multi-billionare twat like The Zuck. Probably all his detriment in much the same way as it was to Bojack.

                            I wrote about my own struggles last year (which is a bit rambling 😅). I “grew up”, so to speak, because I had to, which wasn’t always easy and has included things like getting fired (more than once, too…) and broken long-term relationships. But now, at the age of 35 I feel like I’m a much better person than I was 10 years ago in almost every way, and I hope that in 10 years I’ll be a better person still. Not that I’m necessarily a fan of “harsh lessons”, but sometimes they need to be part of the overall package.

                            I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I had been in a similar position as Stallman; I’d rather not think about it to be honest because I find it slightly scary. I think the entire thing is a tragedy really.

                            That being said, “let the punishment fit the crime” and Stallman living on the streets is not something I desire upon him (or anyone else for that matter).

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                              I think a better analogy is what some of the really big tech companies do, where they recruit people right out of university and provide a bunch of things: they help you find an apartment near the office, they send a bus that will take you to work, they have a cafeteria where you can get food when you’re hungry… and so you get people who literally went from parents providing those things, to university providing those things, to employer providing those things. And if they ever quit or get fired, they face a huge struggle to do even very basic stuff, because they never had to before.

                              If there’s anything other people did that was a fault, it was how much they sheltered Stallman and prevented him from ever needing to become a functioning adult. He was apparently always dependent on there being someone tolerant enough of him and with enough resources to provide for his basic needs, and one day there was no such person left.

                              And again, I don’t think he needs to be thrown out on the streets – I don’t think anyone should be. But there’s a wide gulf between “he should have basic needs met” and “he should get to have positions of high status and influence”. We can do one without needing to do the other, and though I suspect our reasons are different, I think you and I agree that the latter is something we do not need to do and should not do in his case.

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                                Totally agree. As I said above, I would be very much in favor of any effort to ensure RMS doesn’t become homeless, whether it’s his fault or not.

                                I have personally made my career on Linux for easily the past 20 years and I know many others have as well, and Linux would not be the success it is without all the hard work of the GNU developers on things like gcc and coreutils. IMO we do owe him for being a big part of that.

                                However I see that as a very different thing from “RMS should be in a leadership position at the FSF”.

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                                  However I see that as a very different thing from “RMS should be in a leadership position at the FSF”.

                                  This is my feeling too in a nutshell. Thank you feoh!

                              2. 4

                                I agree.

                                I would personally support the idea of giving him a stipend to ensure he can keep a roof over his head, and I’d even personally chip in to make that happen, because I do think the free software movement literally wouldn’t exist today without him.

                                However, if that’s the case, let’s be straight about it and call it what it is, rather than putting him in a leadership position that potentially blights the organization he hopes to lead.

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                                  However, if that’s the case, let’s be straight about it and call it what it is, rather than putting him in a leadership position that potentially blights the organization he hopes to lead.

                                  Agreed 100% At the same time, you can’t expect a person to easily give up an idea that has literally defined their life. I don’t think he’ll ever gracefully retreat into the shadows, even though he should.

                                  I would personally support the idea of giving him a stipend to ensure he can keep a roof over his head, and I’d even personally chip in to make that happen, because I do think the free software movement literally wouldn’t exist today without him.

                                  Agreed again. And to people who cast this as ‘hero worship’: It’s not hero worship to acknowledge that a flawed person has accomplished something good.

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                            There’s a video that I think explains quite well why RMS was kicked out. It’s called 100% Right and 100% Fired (50min, but please don’t just judge it on the title).

                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDO24U3hMkU

                            Basically: he wasn’t wrong about the thing he was fired for, but it was just the latest thing that pissed a bunch of people off, and this was the tipping point.

                            IMO removing RMS from leading the FSF was the right thing to do, regardless of the Epstein thing - RMS makes a terrible politician (toejam, the flower nostril thing, etc), and fundamentally the FSF is at it’s core a political organisation not a technical one.

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                              Yet the point of the board is not the political talking, but the direction it is to take.

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                                Boards of such foundations are particularly political posts and directors are also meant to keep close ties and relationships and do outreach work. It may be that RMS posting is only to keep a contact to the GNU project, but it’s still a political position and posting. The post could also be filled by someone else.

                              2. 3

                                FSF is one of many organizations fighting to liberate ideas. We need FSF to be the best FSF it can be. No one not in the software world (and probably more than half IN the software world), knows who the f*ck FSF is, so FSF trying to be mainstream wouldn’t do anyone any good.

                                There’s also ACLU, EFF, InternetArchive, Wikipedia, Mozilla, Linux Foundation, and plenty more who are more widely known and can do politics better.

                                People like authenticity and courage, and I don’t think you can find a more authentic and courageous person than RMS. It is much easier to be on board the open source/fsf train today than it was in the ‘80’s. How many of you would dedicate decades of your life to such a cause and endure endless ridicule and threats b/c you believed your math was right and you were doing the right thing for the world, despite 99/100 people aligning against you?

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                                  Sure, and perhaps he was the right person for the position in the ‘80s. I don’t think that holds true today — I think he turns more people off the movement these days than on.

                                2. 1

                                  FSF is at it’s core a political organisation not a technical one.

                                  This is very true. FSF as said in many words here, used to fight the “corporate overlords” but in the world we live right now, there are many many other organizations that do this. FSF is almost knee-jerk reacting to stay relevant, and my gut tells me most/if not all of the people here see that it’s a failed miss understanding and maybe the “only thing they can do” type situation.

                                  Are you sure FSF isn’t a GNU/political organization? :P

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                                  Hm, I find myself unhappy there for many reasons and interestingly, RMS public image takes a bit of a backseat (I find him repulsive outside of his software freedom opinions). My biggest problem is though that this means that FSF (and probably the GNU project) doesn’t have someone else to bring - or that newcomers are actively blocked.

                                  I honestly think fresh people and modern minds would do the movement good. I still fundamentally believe it’s a position that needs representation in the modern FOSS world. Otherwise, we can just drop the “F”.

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                                    It was his project. Why shouldn’t he be on the board?

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                                      I don’t know, that’s sort of like me saying “it was his company, why shouldn’t he be able to run it into the ground?”

                                      In both cases, the answer is the same I think: he’s not the only one on the ship, so it’d be pretty awful of him to sink it

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                                        The argument was that he supported Epstein.

                                        Some people argued his statement was poorly worded, some argued that it reflected prior statements.

                                        Honestly, I dislike him in general for other reasons, although at least he isn’t ESR.

                                        Personally I feel the better question is:

                                        Why was he kicked out if it’s appropriate for him to return? Or the reverse, if it’s considered appropriate for him to return, why was he kicked out?

                                        e.g. did you make a real choice when he was kicked off or was it purely a political move

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                                          The argument was that he supported Epstein.

                                          I think you either misunderstood what was being said at the time, or you’re extrapolating in dangerous ways what RMS posted on the MIT mailing list. Could you please dig up some links that support your statement?

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                                            Possibly more problematic than his support for Epstein (in terms of relevance to his board membership): he’s actively transmisogynistic, anti-queer, and apparently awful to be around most of the time if you’re not a cis dude. So for anyone interested in a more forward-thinking and diverse FSF (i.e. one that is not actively hostile to possible members/supporters/contributors who belong to certain demographics), having someone like him on the panel would be a bit concerning.

                                            1. 10

                                              [..] his support for Epstein

                                              Since parent hasn’t substantiated this claim, could you please do it? I feel like it represents a gross mischaracterization of what RMS posted on the MIT mailing list. If you have evidence to the opposite I’d like to see that.

                                              1. [Comment from banned user removed]

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                                                  Accusing me of defamation (i.e. of making spurious false statements) and calling for the site owners to nuke my account or force me to dox myself 1. implies my comments were false right off the bat and 2. doesn’t really make me want to engage with you, since it comes off like you’re trying to intimidate me. Further, it makes me wonder what you’d even do with my real-life identity if you knew it, making you come off a bit creepy and hostile. So, given the main reason I maintain pseudo-anonymity is to avoid being targeted by creepy & hostile weirdos on the internet, as it concerns identifying myself: respectfully, no thanks! Although if you’re determined/creepy enough, I shouldn’t be too hard to unmask

                                                  Presumably you’re a hacker (in the original sense of the word – i.e. this is a compliment, not an accusation), and so presumably you have fairly well-honed Google-fu, so I’m honestly not sure why you and the parent are having trouble here. Fruitful search queries to get you started include “richard stallman harassment of women” and “richard stallman comments about women” and “richard stallman sexism”.

                                                  Anyway, virtually all of the results are anecdotal (except for the now-infamous comments Stallman made on the mailing list), which some may take issue with. I personally believe victims, and I think when such anecdotes multiply over the course of many decades as they have in Stallman’s case, they tend to suggest a pattern of behavior.

                                                  You used an interesting argument in another comment about how labels are dangerous because they don’t take into account who a person is now and how they’ve grown since. Rather they focus on a snapshot of the person as they were (perhaps making an offhanded and thoughtless comment). I think there is something to be said for this position, but my experience has been that people are generally willing to take growth into account if growth is shown. It really does not take much other than showing some sincerity & good faith – apologies go a long way, as do comments affirming queer/trans folks, or “my thoughtless comment wasn’t intended to dehumanize xyz, you’re right, I could have said that better”. Unfortunately we haven’t seen this at all from Stallman.

                                                  1. [Comment from banned user removed]

                                                    1. 7

                                                      If your entire premise here is that people aren’t allowed to discuss something unless they risk physically violent reprisal for their comments, and it certainly seems like that’s what you’re pushing, then:

                                                      1. No.
                                                      2. It suggests strongly that you don’t have, or don’t care if you have, facts and reason on your side, because the argument can always be “won” through violence or threat of the same. Making it a literal ad hominem, because the counterargument is against the person. A world where might makes right is not a world I particularly want to live in, and I think you probably don’t either – there’s always someone bigger/stronger/meaner who’ll be along eventually to teach you why.
                                                      3. Still no.

                                                      If you’re still here at this point: strongly suggest you take a long, long break from the internet.

                                                      1. 0

                                                        It is cowardly to attack another person from an anonymous account.

                                                        You want to attack an idea or organization, fine. But it is cowardly and dishonorable to throw stones at someone from an anonymous account. Always has been and always will be.

                                                      2. 4

                                                        Even if that could get you hurt? No, ESPECIALLY if that could get you hurt.

                                                        You would really do well to consider how radically different life is for people who aren’t cis white men.

                                                        1. 0

                                                          That’s right because I’ve never had guns pointed at my head or the shit kicked out of me by an angry mob standing up for what is right. I’m not talking about figuratively online.

                                                          Here’s a great video on courage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6XSBeMqSxM

                                                    2. 7

                                                      It’s often unsafe for queer people to use their real name online. Instituting a policy like that can simply remove whole swathes of minorities from discussions for that reason. If you think someone’s rhetoric amounts to “defamation” and don’t like that they’re anonymous, just accord it the attention you believe it deserves and move on.

                                                      1. 0

                                                        Fair enough. I just think there should be no place for lazy anonymous content. If you want to post anonymously, fine, but put a shred of effort into it before you write. There should be an extremely high bar of data backing if you post anonymous stuff. Otherwise this site is supporting defamation.

                                                  2. 9

                                                    Do you have a source on transmisogyny/anti-queer? All I could find was https://stallman.org/articles/genderless-pronouns.html, which is pretty tame (he’s just being stupid about grammar, which fits the neuroatypical M.O.)

                                                    1. 6

                                                      he’s actively transmisogynistic, anti-queer

                                                      What has he said or done that makes him anti-queer and transphobic? (genuine question and not a challenge btw, because I can’t remember seeing this ever being brought up before.)

                                                      1. 6

                                                        I am struggling to see it; I am even pleasantly surprised:

                                                        A proposed California bill would stop the state from doing business with companies that discriminate against transgender employees.

                                                        I think it is a step in the right direction.

                                                        I think his opinions on pronouns are perhaps off-the-mark, but not harmful (and oddly plural-friendly).

                                                        1. 8

                                                          There was an incident a few years ago where a transgender FSF employee was being harassed by a coworker for being trans. The employee brought it up to Stallman, who responded by terminating the trans employee.

                                                          The incident is discussed in this thread https://www.reddit.com/r/transgender/comments/539x50/breaking_the_free_software_foundation_dismissed_a/

                                                          In various places on his personal website he announces that he won’t use “they/them” pronouns for individuals and ridicules usage of singular “they/them”, despite the fact that “they/them” pronouns are some people’s chosen pronouns.

                                                          So while he posts stuff stating approval/support for queer and transgender folks (and that’s great), it is clear from other writing of his and also from his treatment of transgender folks that his support isn’t rooted in actually talking to people about this stuff.

                                                          1. 5

                                                            Who knows what happened with that foring, or even how Stallman was involved. Maybe it was really bad. Maybe it wasn’t. Unless there’s a pattern of things it seems a bit much to attach these sort of descriptions like anti-queer.

                                                            And I don’t think that having a different opinion on the future evolution of the English language to be more inclusive makes one “actively transmisogynistic, anti-queer”. I read his pronoun article before; you can dislike his “language innovation” but he seems to be doing it for the right reasons. As you said, you actively supports transgender people, which fits my general impression of him as fairly progressive (some issues with personal behaviour notwithstanding) so I was surprised by your description. He basically agrees with you: language should be inclusive, there is just a disagreement on how this can best be done. If this is the best you can come up with then, to be completely honest, is not a good look for you here, because what it looks like is the casual hurling of slurs over a fairly minor disagreement. It’s kinda toxic to be honest.

                                                            As I have described at length elsewhere in this thread, I really don’t like Stallman and haven’t for a very long time. But please, let’s not turn him in to a devil he’s not.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              I’m not sure that calling Stallman “anti-trans” is correct either. To me, he seems more like your generally older, left-of-center out of touch dudes who haunt the American internet. He’s not kept up on the social changes in his sphere.

                                                              The real question is, should a person like that be in a leadership position of an advocacy group? That’s for the FSF leadership and membership to decide.

                                                              1. 3

                                                                To me, he seems more like your generally older, left-of-center out of touch dudes who haunt the American internet. He’s not kept up on the social changes in his sphere.

                                                                This sounds about right; combined with perhaps a rather large dose of stubbornness. In Dutch we have a rather nice word for this: “eigenwijs”, literally translated it’s “own wisdom”. It’s not exactly “stubbornness” but more “can only convinced by their own wisdom”. There isn’t really a word in English for this AFAIK.

                                                                A lot of people are so quick to take everything in bad faith nowadays. It’s okay to be a bit older, “out of touch”, be pedantic, and have some eclectic opinions you post on your website that 6 people read. That doesn’t make you some sort of horrible person.

                                                                The real question is, should a person like that be in a leadership position of an advocacy group?

                                                                No, of course not.

                                                                1. 2

                                                                  In Dutch we have a rather nice word for this: “eigenwijs”, literally translated it’s “own wisdom”. It’s not exactly “stubbornness” but more “can only convinced by their own wisdom”. There isn’t really a word in English for this AFAIK.

                                                                  Swedish has “envis” but it’s much more connected to being stubborn. Does Dutch have a word that’s more corresponding to “stubborn”?

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                                                                    I’d use “koppig”; which translates to “headish” and probably has the same root as the English “headstrong” (and/or “pigheaded”, since “kop” is, traditionally anyway, only used to refer to the head of an animal).

                                                                    Eigenwijs does imply some degree of stubbornness, but it’s not exactly the same.

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                                                                      OK, Swedish has “tjurskallig” (bull headed) in similar context. Almost willfully stubborn.

                                                                      Swedish has more Dutch loanwords than you might expect, and of course both are Germanic languages.

                                                                      This is getting way off-topic, but thanks for taking the time!

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                                                              In various places on his personal website he announces that he won’t use “they/them” pronouns for individuals and ridicules usage of singular “they/them”, despite the fact that “they/them” pronouns are some people’s chosen pronouns.

                                                              This qualifies as “actively transmisogynistic”? I think your definitions are different than mine, probably to a severe degree. He even says he’s totally fine with using they/them for plural people, and he says that he’ll call you whatever you like even if it makes him personally mad!

                                                              Dunno about the FSF firing thing, looking at news articles makes it look not exactly cut and dry. Rowe seems to be on good terms with Stallman now, perhaps it was a misunderstanding of some sort? Still seems absolutely unnecessary to call Stallman these horrible things. Call him out for making people uncomfortable with his “friendship cards” or whatever, sure, but come on.

                                                              1. 4

                                                                So, I interpreted his comments in that post and elsewhere as stating that he wouldn’t comply with they/them pronouns. But regardless, ridiculing someone’s choice of pronouns is actively anti-queer. Saying “I’ll respect your pronouns but I think they’re silly” (which is the most charitable interpretation of what he’s written) is actively hostile in my book.

                                                                RE: the firing, I err on the side of believing victims. And Rowe was a friend of the person who was fired, not the person who was actually fired, so it’s immaterial what her current relationship is with Stallman.

                                                                1. 3

                                                                  Yes, and Rowe was the complaintant (spelling?) in that situation, right? I couldn’t see any statement or anything from the fired employee, only Rowe’s. “I err on the side of believing victims” is all well and good, but it doesn’t look like the victim said anything? (and is also a hilarious way to imply that I don’t believe victims, nice one!).

                                                                  You can read his statements regarding pronouns however you like, I think he’s being a dickhead about it but I don’t think he’s being actively transmisogynistic. Or, to take a page from your book, maybe you’re being ableist to a clearly neurodivergent figure? Probably not, but that’s how I’m going to read what you’re saying now.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    Has Stallman ever identified himself as neurodivergent? It’s not a neutral term. I’d hesitate to apply it to someone against their express wishes.

                                                                    In the previous hellthread, @mempko states that Stallman has described himself as “borderline autistic”.

                                                                    https://lobste.rs/s/yxj6cd/remove_richard_stallman#c_j6rxy7

                                                                    Based on a comment in the previous hellthread, someone states that Stallman has described himself as “borderline autistic”.

                                                        2. 9

                                                          this is all that needed to be said. people are out here parsing his statements with a magnifying glass when he’s clearly been a mysogynist, he’s been anti-trans and anti-queer for a very long time. If we want a more inclusive community it starts at the top

                                                          1. 2

                                                            I like how you have a non-anon account. Then we can have a conversation.

                                                            You call him “anti-trans” and “anti-queer”. Can you back that up with data? Does he ever specifically give himself those labels or are you giving him those labels? If you are giving him those labels, based upon what data? What percentage of software and writings by RMS could be labelled that? Does 50% of his writing focus on those categories? 10%? 1%? .1%? 0.01%? 0.00001%?

                                                            I for one read a lot of his code and writings, and can’t remember him ever talking about those issues so I would be very surprised if those were relevant labels at all to him.

                                                            Also, growing up in Boston it was very common to use the terms “gay” and “fag” and “queer” in a derogatory sense early and often. It wasn’t until I dropped a “that’s gay” freshman year of college and a female hall mate from California (became a best friend) stormed off in disgust that I had any notion I was on the wrong side of that one. Could you have called 18 year old me “anti-gay”? Absolutely. But I just was ignorant, and eventually matured.

                                                            I think labelling people is generally a bad idea. It would be like labelling a new garden “dead” before you even gave the seedlings a chance to grow.

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                                                        He had to leave due to a heated controversy that originated in a MIT mailing list. Details here: https://jorgemorais.gitlab.io/justice-for-rms/

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                                                          That’s not a particularly good source. The original article that led to his resignation is a better place to start reading:

                                                          https://selamjie.medium.com/remove-richard-stallman-fec6ec210794

                                                          You can also skip all that and just go read the CSAIL mailing list exchange yourself first, found at the bottom of this Vice article:

                                                          https://www.vice.com/en/article/9ke3ke/famed-computer-scientist-richard-stallman-described-epstein-victims-as-entirely-willing

                                                          Finally, just a general disclaimer: Stallman didn’t resign just because of the article by Selam, but rather because of the wide range of news coverage that documented his past behavior. Selam’s article was really just a catalyst.

                                                          1. 16

                                                            Stallman didn’t resign just because of the article by Selam, but rather because of the wide range of news coverage that documented his past behavior.

                                                            Or, rather, a bunch of slander, which is documented here.

                                                            https://sterling-archermedes.github.io/

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                                                              Truth is an absolute defense to slander, and the article you link must admit that the things it analyzes are all ultimately rooted in things that Stallman actually factually truthfully really said and did. Beyond that it’s just a matter of how the author of that article and the authors of other articles subjectively interpret the given facts, which is a matter of opinion and thus something slander explicitly cannot apply to. So you should probably stop referring to “slander” in this context.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                Reporting that someone “says that an enslaved child [implied to be in the general case] could, somehow, be “entirely willing”” when they actually say that a [particular] enslaved minor close to age of majority in one specific country (not a child) may have presented themselves as willing — i.e. acted as if they were willing, i.e. propositioned someone who would have no idea that they were a slave or a minor — is clear, unadulterated slander.

                                                                That it’s rooted in something that Stallman said doesn’t change that; twisting someone’s words in such a disgusting way is as wrong a lie as making something up entirely from scratch.

                                                                I find it sick that you can actually pretend that the claims made about what Stallman said could be characterised as “truth”. Truth is an absolute defence to slander, but there was plenty of untruth propagated about what Stallman actually said.

                                                                So I will not stop referring to slander in this context (though I am not @ethoh).

                                                            2. 7

                                                              Just reading some of that first link. The best word used was harem - I mean how does somebody use that word in a serious way in a non-historical context? I always knew the guy was eccentric, but he really comes off as a piece of garbage.

                                                              I hadn’t even heard about any of this (don’t really pay attention on that side of the fence), boy oh boy. Thanks for those links.

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                                                                I see the word harem used all the time (and sometimes use it myself) and don’t at all see how it’s usage would make somebody “a piece of garbage”, can you elaborate?

                                                                1. 10

                                                                  Have you used it to suggest that economically disadvantaged women and children being actively trafficked by a convicted sex offender constitute a harem*? Because that’s the usage that (among other things) makes Stallman “come off as a piece of garbage.” Which, if we’re going to keep trying to rules-lawyer, is not the same thing as ‘making [him] a “piece of garbage”’.

                                                                  * If we’re being at all technical a harem is an architectural feature; we probably should retire the word when applied to anything else.

                                                          2. 11

                                                            You work on Void Linux, right? Can’t we say the same thing about Juan and Void? Clearly things aren’t always as simple as “it’s his project”.

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                                                              Touche. I’ll not be responding, but I appreciate the chuckle.

                                                            2. 8

                                                              Please read the Wikipedia article about him.

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                                                                None of which are criticisms of his work or even his working persona, but his personal persona.

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                                                                  You can’t be a leader with half of your personality. While I agree that some things are in the realm of private, your personal blog and your public speeches aren’t. You can’t go and have spicy opinions on your personal blog all the time and then pretend that they do not matter when running your projects and finding your peers in your projects.

                                                                  People are particularly questioning his ability to lead GNU and the FSF in a new era.

                                                                  I also don’t know how 33 GNU developers signing a letter that Stallman can’t remain the head of the GNU project can be anything but criticism of his working persona. https://guix.gnu.org/blog/2019/joint-statement-on-the-gnu-project/

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                                                                I guess that depends whether the project wants to be judged by the things RMS says about.. you know … fucking kids.. fucking corpses.. etc.

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                                                                Back when they ousted RMS I felt lost. Here was one of the most morally consistent people I knew of, with all that that implies, having to step down as the head of a movement he embodies. While I found the mob justice extremely dishonest and opportunistic, it was uncomfortable to realize that so many around me were OK – or even in favour of it.

                                                                I actually feared for the FSF and their integrity, as such a forced resignation could never ensure a proper transition. They could have easily devolved into something like the Mozilla, which would be a terrible loss. Even if he is not the president of the FSF, I feel better if he continues to play a part in the organisation.

                                                                That being said, and as others have pointed out, he won’t be here forever. It doesn’t have to be death, just age that makes it difficult for him to do his job. While he is back, I think an effort should be made to future-proof the FSF and make sure it stays the FSF. I was hesitant to join the FSF(e) after what had happened, but I’m considering it again now.

                                                                1. 30

                                                                  While I found the mob justice extremely dishonest and opportunistic, it was uncomfortable to realize that so many around me were OK – or even in favour of it.

                                                                  As someone who follows many communities in the FOSS space, I have a problem with the characterisation of this as mob justice (or maybe we’re disagreeing on a fuzzy term). RMS has been criticised for his opinion pieces on just about everything for a long time and in RMS case, particularly on things he directly wrote on his blog. We’re not even talking about heresay! Those were things like support for necrophilia (on previous consent by the dead), supporting the abortion of people with trisomy 21 (and in passing saying that people should get a pet instead, a statement he later apologised for, to be fair) and other stuff.

                                                                  But for a long time, that was rather niche (which also speaks to how many people actually read is blog or just put those statements off). So, to get to my point: if you were not following these things along, it’s easy to say that the people dropping by and making statements are a random and quick mob. But that is not the case: it’s more like the water level has been rising for a long time and suddenly, this criticism breaks into main stream. But of course, year long critics won’t be silent there - for what reason should they? So suddenly, you see a hundred angry voices. But we tend to forget that the day before, we had 99 critics who were ignored for years.

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                                                                    I don’t think we disagree on what happened, just on our sentiments. Yes , “mob” is a fuzzy term, but I’m specifically referring to the tactics used by Twitter to quickly popularize one side of a story, and force organisations to respond as fast as possible. From my perspective, it felt like a Coup d’état, without any room for debate or compromise.

                                                                    Of course a lot of these people were not neutral, but managed to channel their distaste for RMS at the strategically right time, in the right way. Hence “opportunistic”

                                                                    Personally, I don’t think that RMS and his position were the best combination. He is a very particular person, that a lot of people are not used to. The paedophilia controversy demonstrates this: While most people accept it to be immoral in principle, he wanted to know why. After all, accusations of paedophilia were used in the same way as accusations of terrorism to infringe on civil rights. I would add that as a culture we have a weird fixation on just-over-18-year-olds that is suspiciously contradictory.

                                                                    Any meaningful criticism must start from the actual situation. Simply “banning” him is a one-sided approach that has necessarily lead to disagreement, as one side says it was long overdue, while the others view the action as illegitimate. The fact that those opposed to him did not care about this fact is something I find very disturbing. Hence “disturbing”.

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                                                                      I think you missed an important part of the comment you replied to. It wasn’t “quick” or “as fast as possible” or a sudden “coup d’état” – the pressure had been there for years, from many many people. It had been building and building and building. If someone has been unaware of that or not taking it seriously, it can seem sudden, but the only thing that was sudden was the collapse of the network that had supported and protected him from criticism and consequences during all those years (largely due to the Epstein scandal finally breaking into wide public knowledge, which was another case of something building for years and only seeming “sudden” to people who didn’t previously know about it), not the criticism itself.

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                                                                        Considering the section “A short overview of references in chronological order” from this article, the first event in this specific issue happened on September 12., when “Remove Richard Stallman” was published. On September 16. RMS had to resign. That is quick if you ask me.

                                                                        Of course: RMS wasn’t born on September 12., 2019, things happened before, but a coup d’état is not a spontaneous uprising either, but a well thought through, swift plan to change some state of affairs. Hence why it felt like one (to me).

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                                                                          A dam that bursts also tends to fail “suddenly”. Nothing about this surprised me - apart from the fact that RMS didn’t weather this particular storm.

                                                                          In fact, I was vaguely aware of how RMS was viewed by many, many people for years before this. But it took reading the examples in your linked article to really bring it home how weird many of his stated views were.

                                                                          Although to be fair, it’s to his credit that he has not gone back and removed them retroactively.

                                                                          1. 5

                                                                            A dam that bursts also tends to fail “suddenly”.

                                                                            Yes, but a social order inspired on the physics of dams doesn’t seem attractive. Nobody can take all the blame, RMS and the FSF had to see something like this was coming. But if nobody is interested in resolving a conflict, the result will almost always be unsatisfactory.

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                                                                              The testimonies after RMS left were full of examples of people trying to talk to him, trying to reason with him, trying to make him understand that his actions were on the scale from making people very uncomfortable to actively harming people. He didn’t listen - or at least, he did not modify his behavior.

                                                                              That’s what I meant by a dam bursting. It was only surprising to those that saw the edifice as strong and unyielding, but the engineers had been warning about cracks and subsidence for years.

                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                I’d be curious to read these, do you have any links or archives?

                                                                                As I’ve said, my impression has always been that RMS is open to reasoned arguments, but I might be wrong.

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                                                                                  Here is a link that’s included in the discussion last year.

                                                                                  https://medium.com/@thomas.bushnell/a-reflection-on-the-departure-of-rms-18e6a835fd84

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                                                                                    And finally, this post which I remember reading but not bookmarking, but has shown up again now

                                                                                    http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2019/10/15/fsf-rms.html

                                                                                    Firstly, all these events — from RMS’ public comments on the MIT mailing list, to RMS’ resignation from the FSF to RMS’ discussions about the next steps for the GNU project — seem to many to have happened ridiculously quickly. But it wasn’t actually fast at all. In fact, these events were culmination of issues that were slowly growing in concern to many people, including me.

                                                                        2. 19

                                                                          Of course a lot of these people were not neutral, but managed to channel their distaste for RMS at the strategically right time, in the right way. Hence “opportunistic”

                                                                          What do you expect of people who have been heavy critics for a long time? Wait until the news cycle is somewhere else again? Sure, this can be seen “opportunistic”, but to be opportunistic, you need to have something ready for the opportunity and that group was on very solid footing. Politics is all about seizing opportunities. And RMS could have addressed all those things over years, or at least not have given people more ammunition.

                                                                          I think it’s illegitimate to ask for enemies with a serious and documented concern (again, the primary source is stallmans website itself), to not follow through on opportunity.

                                                                          I think it’s easy to blame it all on Twitter: 20 years ago, RMS was the only loud voice in the room. What he missed is that he is not the only loud voice in the room anymore and a lot of those voices are not on his side anymore.

                                                                          RMS is not accused of pedophilia. He is accused of questioning the harm caused by it: https://www.stallman.org/archives/2006-may-aug.html#05%20June%202006%20%28Dutch%20paedophiles%20form%20political%20party%29 (EDIT: I don’t pull the quote in here, follow if you want)

                                                                          He does not give reason how consent with a small child is even possible. He’s basically concern-trolling.

                                                                          After all, accusations of paedophilia were used in the same way as accusations of terrorism to infringe on civil rights.

                                                                          Ignoring the stuff around this sentence (tons to unwrap there), I disagree with this fully. People were taking offense with statements such as the above. This has nothing to do with terrorism. This is a false equivalence.

                                                                          No one has “banned” him. But people have been seriously questioning over the years whether he is the right person to take this seat, especially when there’s better ones available. It’s not like that’s a zero sum game: a seat as a director of the FSF is also a seat taken for someone else.

                                                                          1. 5

                                                                            What do you expect of people who have been heavy critics for a long time?

                                                                            I don’t imply I it is surprising. It would be stupid for them to not go through with it, given their goals.

                                                                            And RMS could have addressed all those things over years, or at least not have given people more ammunition.

                                                                            I’m sceptical of this, as many people have already made up their minds about him, either because they do not like his ideas of free software or his other view. After all, he does change his mind, but that was not important. No matter what he does, you can always come up with an accusation that it was too little, too late.

                                                                            He does not give reason how consent with a small child is even possible. He’s basically concern-trolling.

                                                                            I don’t care much for neologisms like “concern-trolling”, and we will probably disagree here, but I think that a virtue of his is honesty. He isn’t hiding any position, he isn’t preparing a different argument. He just says that he doesn’t understand something, and doesn’t insist on it as a dogmatic point. All he wants to here is a reasoned argument, which should always be possible, but instead all people throw back at him are insults and accusations.

                                                                            People were taking offense with statements such as the above. This has nothing to do with terrorism. This is a false equivalence.

                                                                            I am elaborating an argument, I would be very grateful if you stopped reading me in bad faith. If something I wrote is confusing or hard to understand, ask, don’t guess.

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                                                                              I’m sceptical of this, as many people have already made up their minds about him, either because they do not like his ideas of free software or his other view.

                                                                              Occam’s Razor. What is the simpler explanation: personal vendetta against the guy, or honest disapproval of his stated positions?

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                                                                                Of yes, most will probably not have cared or just dislike him. Without any further evidence, claims like a Vendetta shouldn’t be made. But I know of people like that who do exist. Sahra Mei, a Twitter complains about RMS all the time, and she absolutely loathes RMS and the FSF:

                                                                                I’ve been a diehard free & open source software user, contributor, and backer since college in the 90s. But at this point, I would rather run proprietary software that I can NEVER see or change if the alternative is to run software licensed by the FSF.

                                                                                I am not sure, but I believe that Coraline Ada Ehmke (the author of the Hippocratic License) also has a history with RMS, but I couldn’t find anything on that right now.

                                                                                These kinds of people have made up their mind, and have classified RMS as unsalvageable.

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                                                                                  These kinds of people have made up their mind, and have classified RMS as unsalvageable.

                                                                                  Everyone who looks into this finds stories of people close to Stallman telling him that his personal behavior is a large problem. Over and over. For years. And always the story ends with Stallman not changing at all, because he believes it won’t ever matter – nobody ever held him accountable or made him face consequences before, and so he doesn’t expect anyone ever will in the future.

                                                                                  At what point is it OK to just say “yeah, people have tried for years to ‘salvage’ here, given second chances, third chances, hundredth chances, and nothing changed, so let’s move on”? At what point, in your view, is it acceptable for everyone else to decide to be done with trying to explain and get him to change when he has made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of ever being receptive to that? Do we have to give him a thousand chances? Ten thousand? A million? Does everybody get that many chances, or just him? Do we ever stop to weigh against the cost of people who might be driven away from the movement by this one dude? And why is it literally every other living human’s job (seemingly) to be endlessly willing to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-explain to him and give him the two hundred quintillionth chance, rather than his job to either figure out how to behave like a decent person, or else face people not wanting anything to do with him?

                                                                                  The Free Software movement is actively held back by Richard Stallman and by the the need of some people to focus the movement on him personally rather than on a philosophy. Stallman at this point is effectively only able to preach to the already-converted, and even struggles with that – plenty of people will say things like what you quoted above, about agreeing with the ideals but being turned off by the person. And he has made it abundantly clear that he will never voluntarily change or step back. So the only way forward for Free Software is to leave Stallman behind.

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                                                                                    The Free Software movement is actively held back by Richard Stallman…So the only way forward for Free Software is to leave Stallman behind.

                                                                                    Not one of my non programmer friends knows who RMS is. The Civil Rights movements had thousands of leaders. There are many organizations fighting the #imaginaryProperty system. We don’t need RMS or FSF to lead anything. We need them to be the best versions of RMS and FSF they can be.

                                                                                    I can tell you there is a ton of money that has been actively trying to turn people against RMS for decades. If I was him it would be very hard to tell which people to trust, and perhaps I wouldn’t have changed potentially bad habits either. Sometimes being an early leader is very lonely.

                                                                                    One of my great regrets in life was not doing more to support aarsonsw when he was being attacked. I should have done more but I didn’t. As the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. It takes people of courage like RMS and aarsonsw and AE who stand up to a great evil that 90% of people don’t think about it and 9% of people actively are paid to promote. That’s gotta be a lonely place to me, especially in the early days.

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                                                                                I just want to say I found your comments really well put! Some good conversation in this thread.

                                                                                I’ve read RMS’ writings and software for years. As far as I remember it is 99% about free software, and 1% about random stuff. To judge him on a fraction of the random stuff is not fair, IMO. I want to see any critic of his on these issues do an honest text data analysis to figure out how much of his writing is truly about the things they accuse him of. My guess is it will round to zero (but I could be wrong and would give an honest read if anyone truly cared about this as evidenced by actually doing any hard work).

                                                                                The one point that does concern me is if women who have worked around him have not felt it to be a comfortable work environment. That is something I’ve found to be true at nearly every tech organization, and I would be surprised if FSF was different, and I hope they can do an audit and serious investigation on how to make huge improvements on that front, if that is the case. I read a relevant article recently with some tips: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kendalltucker/2019/04/26/startup-accelerators-contributing-to-or-working-against-tech-diversity/ (and I’m always looking to read more if people have suggestions!)

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                                                                                  Stallman writes about politics every single day on his personal website. He probably writes more about non-free-software politics than anything else these days.

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                                                                                    Thank you. I was wrong, he certainly does write a lot about non software stuff. I guess I was viewing a biased sample (I was always reading his content about software). Appreciate you pointing that out.

                                                                                  2. 2

                                                                                    As @hungariantoast says, a lot of his day-to-day writing is regular politics. But I think that you are right that only an extreme minority of his posts are the controversial ones. For the most part, he appears to be a regular social democrat, advocating for healthcare, climate protection, women’s rights, etc.

                                                                                    I have never met RMS in person, though we have communicated, and I understand what people mean. The crux of my problem is the matter in which he was treated and the issues that raises for the free software movement and their legitimacy as a whole.

                                                                                    Edit: And thank your for your compliment, I was worried my comments were badly written.

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                                                                            Back when they ousted RMS I felt lost. Here was one of the most morally consistent people I knew of

                                                                            RMS is really the only reason I began to care about Free Software. His personality, consistency, and unwavering resiliency in the face of everything that opposes the movement is impressive and, to a teenager interested in software, enthralling; Free Software really set a foundation for some of my later views on ethics, justice and philosophy, and I feel for many other people he did just the same.

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                                                                              And yet when others take a stance of unwavering resiliency on what they see as justice, you seem to think (based on your comments here) it is unfair. Which is logically inconsistent – if it is acceptable for one person to be so unforgivingly harsh in the pursuit of their moral system, it is acceptable for another person to do the same.

                                                                              In ethics, this is usually when we break out Kant and the categorical imperative, and ask someone to consider “how would the world look if everybody – including people with different ideas of what’s right/just/etc. – were to adopt this way of acting”. If you do not like what you see, then it’s an argument against that way of acting.

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                                                                                I don’t think it’s unfair they take a stance on something (that’s their right imbued unto them by nature’s creator), I simply don’t believe they are fighting for anything just.

                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                  You’re going to have to be a bit more specific about who “they” are and “what” they are fighting for that you believe is unjust while free software is just.

                                                                                  I find it really dissonant, the fact that people get amped up on the social justice movement that is free software, which nominally represents equal opportunity / autonomy / freedom of expression, and then turn around and fight against longer lived social movements that advocate for the exact same set of core values, and that have paved the way for free software.

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                                                                                    I’m not sure what you think I believe, nor is lobste.rs the place to have a discussion about politics tangential to the discussion at hand.

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                                                                            Really wish he wouldn’t. A few months back he resigned because of press attention to his long history of being a creep (v weird and unwelcoming behaviour with women on the MIT campus and at FSF events, support for pedophilia, support for Epstein, etc).

                                                                            MIT and the FSF board shouldn’t have kept him as long as they did and the FSF shouldn’t be bringing him back.

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                                                                              I misremembered. Stallman was defending Marvin Minsky, not Epstein. The other stuff is enough on its own even if that whole email chain was ignored, though.

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                                                                              I am very worried of the cancel culture taking root in EU and this particular instance of it almost made me give up on people, because it has hit rather close to the home.

                                                                              Unlike others (who usually program on their macs and sneer when someone complains about lack of free drivers), I would love to take part of a movement that one day gave the grumpy old man a practical laptop and a phone he is happy to use.

                                                                              THAT would be a story worth telling at the campfire.

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                                                                                I remember 20 years ago people talked with optimism about how the web, and the rise of web-based technologies, would democratize speech and allow anyone to build an audience, not just a handful of elite pundits blessed by major media companies. Even though it wasn’t completely censorship-resistant, the web would enable voices to be heard that hadn’t been previously. It would allow information to be made public that would have stayed hidden. It would allow powerful entities and individuals to be held accountable by the general public. It would be a new golden age!

                                                                                Today that same phenomenon is derided and attacked, largely because the same pundit class were always only paying lip service to the basic ideas. They never wanted the general public to actually have mechanisms for holding powerful people accountable – after all, that might mean they get held accountable!

                                                                                And really this is probably 95% or more of what people actually mean when they yell “cancel culture!” Powerful people and institutions have inflicted consequences (derision, lack of popularity, loss of job/livelihood, even loss of liberty and life) on others for centuries, and they were fine with that because it was under their control and directed at who they wanted to target. Now through technology we have democratized the ability to inflict consequences, and they are suddenly extremely unhappy and perceive it as a massive threat. Which in one way it is – it threatens their power. But they portray it as somehow threatening our society and everyone in it, because they think they are or should be representative of society.

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                                                                                  Today that same phenomenon is derided and attacked, largely because the same pundit class were always only paying lip service to the basic ideas. They never wanted the general public to actually have mechanisms for holding powerful people accountable – after all, that might mean they get held accountable!

                                                                                  Except they don’t. Andy Rubin got a big payout and is now a very rich “Angel Investor”. JK Rowling is stlil rich, famous and publishable. I don’t even have to mention certain politicians. It’s very rare for a rich and powerful person to suffer unless their behaviour is an actual criminal offense. And even then it can take months of vigorous campaigning.

                                                                                  If you’re Adria Richards, a bro-ey Python Programmer, or Justine Sacco, someone who is actually dependent on a paycheck, you’re cut loose in minutes. Stallman, famous but mostly reliant on MIT’s goodwill? He lasted a little bit longer, about four days. It doesn’t matter if you’re woke or conservative, it only matters that you’re vulnerable in some way.

                                                                                  This is not a democratic power wielded by the masses, it’s a a phenomenon dependent on the hierarchical power structure of large corporations.

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                                                                                    I would argue that the practical side has been stifled significantly by slapping labels like “cancel culture” and “woke” and “SJW” on it and turning it into a tribalism/culture-war issue. So it’s not surprising that we stil don’t see powerful people really face consequences, but it is surprising to see the about-face from the not-so-distant past when we looked forward to the thing so many people now profess to hate, simply because it was re-branded as being a thing The Bad Tribe™ does.

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                                                                                      You’re wrong. Tribalism and culture wars have been on the rise for a while, and “woke” and “sjw” are descriptions of specific tribes within this conflict. The problem isn’t that people are trying to “cancel” J.K. Rowling (although the reason for the outrage against her is pretty ridiculous imho), but that it is aimed at unknown and powerless individuals who speak out against ideas that they don’t like. And it so happens that it is almost always when they speak out against woke ideas. The problem is that Amazon pulled hosting from a website, without warning, simply because of its political leanings (whatever excuse they used doesn’t hold up to scrutiny). And instead of being aghast, many otherwise intelligent people cheered it on. People are losing jobs. Senators are being blocked from social networks. There are no well-known rules that are being applied to everyone. The best predictor of whether someone is going to get cancelled or not, is partisanship. It’s mob justice, and once you pull your gun in a fight, the likelihood of someone else pulling theirs increases dramatically.

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                                                                                        Tribalism has always been around, but generally the people who had to fear arbitrary reprisal for having the “wrong” opinions/thoughts (or being the “wrong” race or gender, etc.) had to fear institutions, and generally it was pretty one-sided in partisan terms simply because institutions tend conservative and reactionary. So there’s nothing new there that needs a new label.

                                                                                        The thing that is new is, again, the way technology democratized speech and made it possible for large groups to coordinate and amplify their voices/messages in ways not previously available, and which generally defied the traditional mechanisms of institutional control. And you can see that in the discourse – while people always did and still do get upset at, say, an op-ed in a major newspaper that criticizes someone/something they like, they get far more upset now, and use different language and labels, to describe criticism coming from “ordinary” people on social media whose voices and messages are being amplified by the nature of the technology. That is what people basically always mean when they talk about “cancel culture”. And that – the technology, and its impact – is the thing that is new and perceived as scary.

                                                                                        So, again, it is simply the democratization, via technology, of the ability to coordinate criticism and to wield at least the perceived threat of consequences, that people generally mean by “cancel culture”, whether they like to admit it or not. And again, this is a significant about-face from not so long ago when people generally looked forward to the new mechanisms of critique and accountability technology would enable.

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                                                                                  Isn’t cancel culture more of a US phenomenon?

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                                                                                    It seems to have originated in the U.S., but like all U.S. cultural trends and fashions, it’s spreading around the world. (hopefully not too quickly)

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                                                                                      Cancel culture is nothing more than people deciding how they want to spend their own money and with whom they want to spend their time. For example, I have decided not to spend money on companies that take the revenue I provide them and use it against me and my values. When their revenues or popularity drop, in their entitled minds they scream cancel culture, but it’s simply consequences. On the other hand, the world and each thing in it is so complicated that it’s really hard to cancel everything that is even a little bit problematic, so you inevitably end up internally justifying giving this or that person or company a pass, for the time being anyway. One of my friends has mildly objectionable opinions from time to time such that, if I just met him we would probably not become friends, but as it is, we go way back and I don’t have that many friends, so I choose to let some things pass and others I push back on gently. I choose to give rms a pass, but that’s my own decision and I don’t blame anyone for deciding otherwise.

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                                                                                        Cancel culture is nothing more than people deciding how they want to spend their own money and with whom they want to spend their time

                                                                                        You clearly don’t understand the phenomenon. Spend some time reading https://reclaimthenet.org/

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                                                                                          Not impressed. Just more entitlement, and weak at that.

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                                                                                            Physician, heal thyself.

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                                                                                              What is that supposed to mean?

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                                                                                          In continental Europe, employment typically isn’t ‘at will’. Which means employers have to show cause, and if this cause is something offensive they said while not on the clock, a judge might not agree with it.

                                                                                          That makes it less attractive for a twitter mob to bombard a company with complaints until someone is fired a few hours later.

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                                                                                            However, in continental Europe it is easy and common to try to “cancel” entire groups of people despite allegedly having charters and rights and declarations to prevent that. Look no further than the ever-escalating series of targeted bans on being publicly/visibly Muslim (ban on masks/veils, ban on minarets, now I hear there’s a movement to ban halal butchering…). The details of the mechanisms of “cancellation” vary, but that should be irrelevant.

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                                                                                            It’s simply Freedom of Association, which is the law under the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, but isn’t a right that’s exclusive to Americans.

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                                                                                          Literally two hours ago I finished writing a formal outline for a speech about Richard Stallman. The outline covers a lot of Stallman’s past, including the bad stuff, so it’s all fresh on my mind, and then I get to learn about this.

                                                                                          I don’t really know what there is to say at this point. You’re either for this or you’re not I guess.

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                                                                                            That’s good to see him back. I have a feeling that history will look kindly upon RMS.

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                                                                                              Kind of a tangent but I’m a bit shocked to see him using video technology of any kind.

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                                                                                                Surely it’s Free from end-to-end?

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                                                                                                The original Stallman hellball a year or two ago was when I realized just how deeply the rot had set in here, and it’s only gotten worse.

                                                                                                For the folks wondering why FSF hasn’t found a better replacement, consider that the quantity of folks willing to hold and articulate and argue truly diverse opinions in public, without going after people personally, seems to have dropped hard. Also, consider how much mob outrage has replaced logic and, you know, facts in all things tech.

                                                                                                If this bothers you, I suggest you go beyond the rim and wait it out until sanity restores itself.

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                                                                                                  Why is this tagged linux? emacs would make more sense. We don’t have a GNU/linux tag.

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                                                                                                    I’ve flagged this as “already posted” as there’s already a thread about this: https://lobste.rs/s/cv4oni/richard_stallman_announcing_his_return – it should probably be merged in to that one.

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                                                                                                      I considered this a separate piece of news but maybe you have a point. I also was slightly unsure if this is off-topic, but then because that earlier post was on-topic (I guess?) I thought this would also be. I was probably wrong about both.

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                                                                                                        Whether or not this is on-topic is a bit of a controversial point; the other thread is at “+57, -20 off-topic” and the original “remove Richard Stallman” is at “+52, -34 off-topic”, in spite of being the most-commented on story on Lobsters.

                                                                                                        At any rate, it is indeed a separate piece of news, but I think it’s better to group them in one thread. Any conversation will largely just rehash the conversation in the other thread, and I don’t think there’s a lot of value in that. This is done commonly on Lobsters, for example when someone posts a “Why X is bad” story and then someone else writes a “Why that previously article is wrong” a day later. Not the same story: but the topic is the same, and it’s better grouped in one thread.

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                                                                                                        Nice. I read the whole thing. Will share.

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                                                                                                          I’m curious, how does this discussion stay up here when the same topic was pretty consistently removed back in 2019 when RMS stepped down? Has the moderation policy changed?

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                                                                                                            The cluster of posts around Stallman’s resignation was the most commented since I started keeping track in Jul 2019:

                                                                                                            https://lobste.rs/s/yxj6cd/remove_richard_stallman