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    1. 39

      They tried to sneak him back into the board and so far have not done any lasting changes and only gave empty promises. FSF needs some real transparency in their decision making.

    2. 43

      My friend Jesse I think said it best in his article about this situation but I can summarize it as, this is a leadership position, and RMS is not a leader. Both this “statement” and the statement of the FSF reinforce the point that nobody involved in this situation really seem to understand what leadership is, or how it differs from any number of other attributes or skills that RMS may have in ample supply.

      1. 19

        The FSF has made it increasingly clear that they are not here for the purpose of promoting and advancing Free Software; they are here for the purpose of being a personality cult centered on Richard Stallman. At best, their goal is to lose, and then declare “Stallman told you so!”

        If the FSF truly were concerned with advancing the freedom of recipients of software, it would need to grapple with the fact that most of the modern threats to user freedom involve things like the Web that Stallman famously does not use or uses only in incredibly convoluted and minimized ways (and not because he had the foresight to predict what would happen, but out of general curmudgeonliness and a fear that someone might trick him into running non-Free JavaScript), or otherwise does not seem to particularly care about.

        1. 4

          Stallman did write The JavaScript Trap.

          1. 4

            The problem is that it misses the point entirely. The modern threat of JS on the web is adware and unnecessary fancy ads/DOM manipulation, and the license of the JS has nothing to do with that.

      2. 13

        I agree RMS is not a leader, if we define a leader as a role. But “leadership position” has another aspect besides role: it is high status position. I think RMS should not lead, but RMS should have high status. People against RMS seem to be of opinion RMS should have low status. I disagree with that.

        1. 12

          People against RMS seem to be of opinion RMS should have low status.

          People against RMS believe that he should have no power to harm people.

      3. 14

        not a leader

        Leader’s subvert successful social structures to drive subordinates to advance the leaders stature.

        Those who create social change aren’t leaders, they are too blind to usually very negative social and personal consequences of attacking powerful interests head on.

        eg. Assange strikes me as an opinionated asshole. But if you are going to tackle the most powerful military force on the planet…. you don’t need a leader. You need a madman.

        If you want to wrest software from the hands the richest men on the planet, you need madmen, not leaders.

        1. 5

          I agree, but madmen should do mad stuffs, not administrative work. I think analogy to Assange is very appropriate. If you read “Inside Wikileaks” by Domscheit-Berg, you get the impression Wikileaks would have worked better as an organization and fulfilled its mission better if Assange didn’t work on day to day operation of Wikileaks.

          1. 4

            An administrator would never offend an such a powerful organization that has a taste for murder, kidnapping and torture.

            For that you need madmen.

            The result, inevitably, looks nothing like Reuters.

            1. 4

              Administrative work is necessary to offend USA. It’s hard to offend USA without administrative support. You need both madmen and administrators. I am saying Assange should have delegated administrative work to a better administrator like Domscheit-Berg. Ditto for Stallman.

              1. 13

                These terms madman/administrator have been given augmented meanings in this conversation so you two will go in circles saying words that mean vastly different things to each other.

                Assange is a terrible leader, and drove away a lot of capable and eager talent through his abuses. He made best friends with Jake the rapist who destroyed several communities (Noisebridge, tor, djb’s crypto group at Eindoven, etc… etc…). Compare this to the far more stable and respected OSINT orgs Cryptome or bellingcat who are geared much more toward long-term sustainable org structures that will maximize their impact. WL burned hot and fast and died quickly in the grand scheme of things as a result.

    3. 39

      My take on this is that RMS recognizes that his behaviour is troubling, but doesn’t see fit to apologize for it, unless he’s doing so in private (which I assume we’d have heard about if that were the case). An acknowledgement without an apology or amends isn’t even worth the time it took to read it. I’m no less disappointed in him than I was when I first learned of his harassing behaviour towards women in his orbit, and I’m no less disappointed in the FSF today than I was when they reinstated him (and yes, I have read the FSF statement as well as Stallman’s).

      As an industry, we need to learn that nobody is so great at their job that they can be given a pass for harassing.

      1. 12

        isn’t even worth the time it took to read it.

        Which you clearly didn’t take….

        And I quote verbatim…

        I apologize to each of them.

        1. 6

          That sentence applies to the people to whom he’s been intemperate, not to the many others he’s offended or hurt or creeped out over the years. Try harder.

          1. 5


            You are taking the apology as only applying to offenses mentioned in that paragraph, I’m taking as applying to that paragraph and the preceding paragraph, indeed, the whole statement.

            I suppose by the letter of english grammar you are correct.

            My interpretation from context is still the broader apology.

            This is why written communication is hard… it goes out and feedback as to what actually was communicated is delayed or lost.

            I have read a fair bit of RMS “in his own words” and even had one or two email exchanges over the years. I’m incline to interpret his apology in the broader sense.

            1. 1

              It can be read from different viewpoints. What he wrote sounds sincere to me, but I don’t think it’ll come across as an apology when read by people he offended. In the eyes of someone who’s been offended, the piece may sound as if he started with “I’m sorry that I have offended you through no fault of mine, and even though the fault was all yours, I’ll try harder not to repeat that in the future” and then bickered with reviewers to find compromise wording.

      2. 21

        I for one am not super interested in the spread of struggle sessions.

        If you’re troubled by RMS…go fork FSF! Go fight the good fight! Give a meaningful and useful alternative to an organization that frankly has been kinda off in the weeds for a while!

        If people spent half the ink on, you know, user freedom as they did on libeling Stallman we as a community could be a lot farther ahead.

        1. 31

          I for one am not super interested in the spread of struggle sessions.

          Right. Computer programmers voicing the opinion on the internet that maybe we can do better than RMS is literally the same thing as Maoist revolutionaries physically torturing political rivals.

          If you’re troubled by RMS…go fork FSF!

          You don’t simply “fork” a social structure and get a carbon copy of it for free like you do with version control. Forming a competitive alternative to the FSF would not only be a massive undertaking, but it’s also more plainly not the only way of engaging in activism. A much more straightforward approach is to campaign for a change in leadership.

          If people spent half the ink on, you know, user freedom as they did on libeling Stallman we as a community could be a lot farther ahead.

          And what makes you think that “they” don’t spend even more resources on digital rights efforts than “they” spend posting against RMS? The landscape of digital rights activism may not be as broad as we’d like but it’s certainly bigger than just the FSF and GNU.

          1. 18

            literally the same thing as Maoist revolutionaries physically torturing political rivals.

            Verbal and physical abuse–and as many seem found of asserting these days, speech is violence so I don’t really think the difference is relevant. If you don’t think there are people being harassed because they aren’t apologizing hard enough, you must have a much better version of social media than I do.

            A much more straightforward approach is to campaign for a change in leadership.

            Stealing and imperialism is a lot more straightforward than building a new, distinct thing. My approach would yield at least two different groups moving in hopefully good directions, whereas the “let’s punt RMS because reasons” approach would not. It’s also entirely possible that the success of the FSF (such as it is) is actually linked to either RMS’ quirks or the sorts of people who deal with those quirks; we don’t know this for sure, but a fork seems like a safer hedge.

            And what makes you think that “they” don’t spend even more resources on digital rights efforts than “they” spend posting against RMS?

            Which do you think gets more brownie points right now–defending free software, or signalling that “hey i’m totally in the same tribe as you all (please don’t get me fired)”? Depending who you believe online, there are people who want to step away from struggles over copyleft and licensing entirely to focus on more social aspects that may or may not actually have any strong basis in legally protecting user freedom–and that crowd requires RMS’ head before they could go into digital rights stuff (which again, they don’t care about).

            That’s my reasoning, anyways.

        2. 15

          That is totally unrelated. No one is forcing RMS into admitting something he didn’t do!

          There are already so many alternatives to FSF with many being more transparent and welcoming to all kinds of people.

        3. 17

          And just imagine how much further we could be ahead if we cultivated all of the developers, lawyers, writers, and thinkers who were driven away by RMS. And before you say “we can’t know that they exist” you might want to consider that, yes, in fact, we can; there is ample evidence of people who’ve left the FSF or the Free Software movement over him. And those are just the ones who’ve talked about it, leaving aside all the ones who looked at the landscaped and, apparently wisely, noped the fuck out.

          1. 9

            If they are sufficiently troubled by RMS for whatever reason–over behavior or slights real or imagined–I’m glad they’ve found a better place to spend their efforts. It’ll be good to have other people trying to advance free software in other ways.

            1. 11

              You assume that people put off by rms keep working on free software (or nearby). I personally know someone who didn’t. A talented person and a great gain for the organisation he switched to (which does good work for the world but has nothing to do with free software).

              Of course he could be an exception. Or not; I see that the use of the GPL continues to decline so maybe rms puts off more people than he persuades.

              1. 6

                Why assume? rms-open-letter signers include ten Debian Project Leaders. Say whatever about Debian, but Debian is a dedicated free software organization as any, perhaps more than FSF.

        4. 5

          That’s not how it works. If a situation calls for anodyne statements in public and perhaps something else behind the scenes, and one spokesperson acts wisely while rms speaks in 72pt boldface, then rms’ choice of how to react is the effective average of the two.

        5. 5

          You can’t fork FSF. That’s the exact problem.

          In my opinion, Software Freedom Conservancy is a much better software freedom organization than FSF. To me, FSF has no value at all as a software freedom organization except for one: it holds copyright of GCC. Forked FSF won’t hold copyright of GCC, and other aspects of FSF I don’t care about at all. So FSF can’t be forked.

          1. 2

            So … fork GCC too? I don’t see the problem here, unless you want to relicense.

    4. 16

      Can we talk about this from a different standpoint? What exactly has Stallman’s FSF done to advance the cause of software freedom, other than the same things that failed, only louder?

      1. 12

        Well, GNU is an FSF project, and I certainly think GNU has advanced software freedom immensely. It’s amazing that what’s arguably the best compiler toolchain on earth is free software, and GCC is part of GNU. GNU is also the reason why I have a free software libc and coreutils and a nice debugger. And GNOME is part of GNU, and GNOME is one of the most main-stream free software graphical environments.

        They’re also the publisher of the GNU licenses, which I also think has advanced software freedom.

        1. 5

          And GNOME is part of GNU, and GNOME is one of the most main-stream free software graphical environments.

          What does this mean in practice? As in, what does GNU do for GNOME?

          I tried finding GNU references on the GNOME website a while ago, and came back empty-handed. As far as I know, their entire infrastructure (from their own GitLab instance to their own foundation) is separate from GNU. As near as I could tell, GNOME is “GNU in name only”. In the past GNU probably did more for GNOME, but those days seem long gone. The same applies to GTK, where most development is now done by GNOME people and AFAIK is also “GNU in name only”.

          I feel this is kind of a general pattern with GNU, where all but a few projects have kind of stagnated. gcc, libc, coreutils, make, etc. are still important of course, but outside of that? What new and innovative projects has GNU spawned in the last 10 or even 20 years?

          I feel GNU is still trying to re-create Unix anno 1985. This isn’t necessarily bad in itself – I’m a Unix grey-beardy type myself – but the impact and appeal of this is very limited. Or let me put it like this: why isn’t systemd a GNU project? Why did we have to wait for RedHat to come along and make it? Or why isn’t GNU investing serious money in GIMP so it’s more competitive with Photoshop? It’s probably one of the better known GNU projects, but basically it’s just three or four guys working on it in their spare time when they feel like it. The results are pretty impressive, but it’s not hard to imagine how much better it could be with a year of sponsored work by two devs.

          I think the future of GNU will essentially be “the gcc and libc project”; important projects for sure and nothing to sneer at. But “a Free Software operating system” or at the forefront of bringing Free Software to people? Yeah, not really.

          They’re also the publisher of the GNU licenses, which I also think has advanced software freedom.

          They’re also kind of horrible licenses; not because of the ideas they represent, but because they’re just badly written IMHO.

          1. 2

            These are valid criticisms of the current GNU. They started GNOME, but it has largely spun off into its own separate project, so GNU isn’t influencing it anymore. Outside of its amazing compiler toolchain and good libc and C++ stdlib, and its decent coreutils, there’s not a whole lot of new development coming out of GNU. But I will still claim that all of this is stuff which GNU, and therefore the FSF, has done to advance the cause of software freedom.

            And the GPL might be a bad set of licenses, but they’re certainly the most influential copyleft licenses and have played a big part in pushing for software freedom.

            The statement that “outside of the compiler toolchain and coreutils, GNU is largely irrelevant these days” is probably fairly true. What I reject is the idea that GNU (and therefore the FSF) hasn’t played a big part in advancing software freedom.

            I think it’s a very apt observation that GNU’s scope is limited to things which you would expect from an 80’s style UNIX. The idea behind the name “GNU/Linux” is of course that GNU is the operating system and Linux is the kernel, but the GNU operating system is actually pretty bad; all the modern parts are from Red Hat, Canonical, the GNOME and KDE projects, and, to some degree, the freedesktop project. These criticisms are entirely valid.

        2. 5

          I guess my point is that there has been no FSF response to the world that we actually live in; Linux has won, in that there are no commercial Unices. But, we live in a world of AWS/GCP &c.,and that’s a world that FSF has yet to acknowledge.

          1. 1


            Umm, isn’t that what https://openinfra.dev/ is addressing?

          2. 1

            Do we need a GPL4 that does for SaaS what GPL3 did for Tivoization?

            1. 6

              That’s kind of what the AGPL is about.

            2. 4

              Yes, I think we need GPL4 for SaaS.

            3. 4

              I think the problem is that you can’t attack a structural problem with narrow technocratic hacks. The incentives of the money mean that anything licensed under a GPL4 would be cloned immediately under a more permissive license, and we’d be right back where we are now, only with another copyleft license that nobody uses.

              1. 3

                Sure, if you’re releasing a project that needs zero work, it will be cloned immediately. If you’re releasing a project that you actually put work in, other people will need to also put work in to clone it, and in the meantime, open source will have an advantage. And also, attacking a structural problems with narrow technocratic hacks is the entire point of the GPL?

      2. 7

        Thing is, people love to talk really loudly about the things that have failed — drowning out the positives.

        1. 2

          I mean, as mort says above, there were clear victories, and software is in some ways freer today than it was when my career started (in 1993). That change is due to the FSF (and by extension, RMS), and it is good. However! The GPL has driven a lot of the development of the current adware software economy, which is to my way of thinking deeply ungood. I think the FSF needs to think about how the GPL has changed the world, for better and more importantly for worse. The genie is out of the bottle, and we’re not ever going to go back to the way things were.

          Doubling down on RMS isn’t a very encouraging sign that there’s a lot of thinking going on over there, sad to say.

          1. 3

            The GPL has driven a lot of the development of the current adware software economy, which is to my way of thinking deeply ungood. I think the FSF needs to think about how the GPL has changed the world, for better and more importantly for worse. The genie is out of the bottle, and we’re not ever going to go back to the way things were.

            I don’t see how the GPL existing has contributed to the rise of the current adware software economy, or otherwise changed the world for the worse in any way. Maybe there’s an argument that it has done this, but this is not at all obvious.

    5. 7

      I’ve learned something from this about how to be kind to people who have been hurt. In the future, that will help me be kind to people in other situations, which is what I hope to do.

      I mean if that’s true, he’s is trying to grow right? Part of acceptance is to give the benefit of the doubt. I know he’s nowhere near the influence he used to be, and probably never will be again.

      I don’t salute this, if anything it’s the expected bare minimum, but I applaud that he’s at least making the effort to explain and at least saying he’s trying to grow.

      1. 18

        I don’t salute this, if anything it’s the expected bare minimum, but I applaud that he’s at least making the effort to explain and at least saying he’s trying to grow.

        I agree that there are aspects of this statement that are laudable, but from my perspective this statement doesn’t move the needle around the core issue that someone with his self admitted problems probably shouldn’t be in tech leadership in 2021.

        1. 7

          There’s a lot of people who are viewed as tech leaders who I think are bad people with bad values around technology, and whose political goals I personally would like to see undermined. Stallman is not one of those people (at least with respect to software, I don’t claim to agree with every position the man has ever held).

          1. 20

            Read his personal response statement. The problems in question have nothing to do with software.

            They have to do with women around him consistently reporting that he has no respect for their boundaries over the course of the last 30 years.

    6. 18

      Is this his first public apology since resigning? If so, it’s kind of shocking that this comes a year and a half later, and after he has re-joined the FSF. My sense is the message here is supposed to “I’ve learned from this”, but the timing belies that for me. And that’s without even touching the substance of the letter…

      1. 24

        based on the timing it’s clear that the idea behind this apology is transactional.

        in exchange for him writing out the correct key words he expects to be entited to his position again.

      2. 20

        It saddens me that you need to deride what seems an honest attempt at introspection. Sometimes we don’t learn our lessons fast, especially when our brains keep getting in the way.

        1. 8

          Sometimes we don’t learn our lessons fast

          Not like he had years to do so.

          1. 3

            He had the years but he didn’t have the motivation. From this latest development, I would say that the only good thing that came out of this bullying attempt by the internet, is that rms stopped to introspect the way his behaviour affected others.

            1. 5

              A few things:

              • Empathy, not shame or transaction, is the natural “motivation” for reflection. Once a person is made aware of their action’s adverse effect on others, the reflection has to come from within.
              • Even if it were motivated by “bullying” — and I don’t agree with your characterization — but even if public pressure were the root cause of this statement, again, that all happened 1.5yrs ago, and so if that were the true motivation, as you claim, this statement would have been released a long time ago
              • RMS’s post was made on the FSF website around the same time he was placed back on the board, again 1.5yrs after the drama unfolded

              Believe me, I’m not interested in the culture war or cancelling or being unkind on the internet. It’s just really hard to see this post as anything other than a condition for RMSs return. And I think it’s important to make these distinctions and hold public figures to account when considering the virtue of their actions, especially in the case of RMS, when his whole public persona is about virtue and principle.

              1. 1

                I disagree strongly with all of your points. However everything I’m saying has no real basis, it’s all conjecture, so please feel free to call me a naive idiot. Still even if RMS is full of shit, dismissing his words as untruthful or politically motivated, in my opinion, goes against everything that his existing persona has lead us (at least me) to believe.

                If we take RMS’ “I was always different” statement to mean that he has some sort of Asperger’s, I believe that one of the main characteristics is a de-prioritization of “empathy” vs “being right”. So it’s not empathy towards the people he wronged that makes him to want to change, but an intellectual decision that sometimes being nice is more important than being right.

                Bullying is exactly what it is when media and people on the internet call for your resignation because they are taking things out of context, exacerbate disagreements based on lack of empathy towards his condition, and falsehoods plain and simple. Even if he would be all the things that have been said against him, the amount of vitriol that has been directed his way makes me despair at the lack of understanding for one another. Honestly I hate to be a part of the same internet where these things happen on a regular basis.

                The “drama”, as you say, unfolded 1.5 years ago, but also in the past weeks when the FSF decision to reinstate him was made public. I suspect that it was the mass of people and companies took position against him again what triggered this. Having indeed one and a half years to percolate the idea that even if he would be technically right about the things that people raised against him, maybe they were right too.

                I don’t know. I give the benefit of the doubt. I try to empathize with the people whose actions I don’t fully understand. I would like that more people did that.

                PS Sorry for the rambling, and I believe I’ll stop here. I don’t think I have more to say on this.

            2. 3

              If he truly changed he should have the motivation by himself and not after a controversy.

        2. 3

          As I mentioned I’m not poking primarily at the content of the letter, but the context in which it was made. In fact, to the degree that RMS is learning, and to the degree that his comments repair relations with anyone who was alienated by his previous actions, I’m genuinely glad. My point was: while late is better than never, “late” in this instance does materially impact the weight of the statement, especially since he got his position back right before its released, which isn’t great for appearances to put it lightly.

          1. 4

            To me, that’s better for appearances. If he’d gotten his position back after it’s released, it would seem like a term of surrender rather than actual introspection. I don’t see how anyone could take it seriously in that case.

            1. 2

              I don’t really distinguish between a few weeks before or a few weeks after. The letter was posted directly to the FSF website at roughly the same time he was reinstated. To me, it gives the same appearance either way.

    7. 6

      Apparently it is easy to end up championing the gentle treatment of a sexual minority while thinking it is funny to be gratuitously offensive to other minorities.

      Who is this other minority? The minority in the Christian majority that get offended by swearing with religious connotations? The OP?

      Even then, I find comparing what mjg59 says with rms a bit difficult - one of them is a public leader, the other is, while a rather prominent person in the FOSS community, not the leader of any political organization.

    8. 17

      All that aside - I see no way to argue for excluding RMS on the basis of his beliefs (ie. he is not progressive-orthodox enough) without also loosing a big chunk of the rest of the world as well.

      I don’t think the author seems to be aware that the people fighting do not care about losing the rest of the world.

      They do not care about driving out engineers that don’t share their politics, they do not care about driving out engineers that just want to ignore politics, and they certainly do not care that by picking their sides as they have they’ve grouped a lot of good people in with genuine bigots and assholes of the highest caliber.

      They will burn down free software to save it from itself, willfully ignorant of the stripmining of the ecosystem by small and large companies alike as long as they pay the correct lip-service.

      To me it is curious that someone can champion excluding people over their heterodox beliefs, while simultaneously shouting things like the below; perhaps some irony overload here:

      Again, the author is trying to apply logic to actions and a rabid progressivism that have, at best, a distant relationship with rationality. They don’t even care about obvious fact-checking and games-of-telephone, because it doesn’t matter once they’ve whipped themselves into a frenzy. They cannot be reasoned with and the attempt isn’t worth the effort or risk; the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

      We used to be focused on liberty & freedom - I miss that.

      That boat sailed for a number of reasons. I miss it too, buddy. :(

      And yet, a big talking point is “hey, there were never any good old days”–because people have to rewrite the past to support the actions in the present to get to a desired future. Old as time.

      If this statement was focused on leaders, it could be characterized as installing a new glass-ceiling for any who are not progressive-orthodox.

      Ding ding ding, we have a winner. A huge dimension of all of this is a power grab–as long as people like RMS are around, you can’t be the new RMS, so he must be destroyed. As long as there is an FSF, you can’t be the new FSF, so you must seek to destroy the FSF. As long as there are people in power, you can’t be in power, so you must destroy those people in power–and right now, politically, what are the best tools for that? What rhetoric is in vogue?

      This is obvious to any student of history or revolution.

      (a cynical/troll-ey point would be to make the same observation about systemd/linux, but that’s neither here nor there.)


      I feel bad for this author, and I feel worse that I think he and I are probably sharing the same lot. To anybody else who feels similarly: just go away. Walk away from this culture war stuff, give wide berth to both heretic and inquisitors, and don’t try to understand the madness–just treat it as such. Go write code, go make things, and let the passions of the time deaden and pass. There’s nothing here for you but argument and suffering. Don’t risk your job, your livelihood, or your friendships.

      Return after the storm and build anew.

      1. 25

        Sock, remember when you found out that I was disappointed in your conduct on lobste.rs and you took that seriously?

        I’ve been reading your comments for something like seven years now and I remain consistently disheartened. Engaging with you is the missing stair of this community, and I’m not going to follow up on this thread, but I want you to know that your oh-so-civil, “trying to do better”, “just raising questions”, “why won’t you be rational”, socially regressive trolling is a big part of why I don’t spend more time here, and why I caution people who ask me for invites to lobste.rs.

        You’re still doing it, and I sincerely wish you’d stop.

        1. 4

          Nice link. I don’t know if you meant to highlight them, but there are some gems, like:

          Pandering to injustice and impotent outrage evokes strong reactions and such posts can be easily tailored to match the overall views of the hivemind. None of these posts actually tend to elevate the discussion or reveal new truths, but people will almost always upvote them more than they downvote them. And that’s the source of their toxicity: shitposts do at least as well as quality posts, they don’t increase the signal of the community’s nominal area of discussion, and they are very easy to crank out even by idiots.

        2. 2

          Engaging with you is the missing stair of this community, and I’m not going to follow up on this thread, but I want you to know that your oh-so-civil, “trying to do better”, “just raising questions”, “why won’t you be rational”, socially regressive trolling is a big part of why I don’t spend more time here, and why I caution people who ask me for invites to lobste.rs.

          @friendlysock “Missing stair” is a political shibboleth of the same political faction that finds RMS unacceptable. It’s a metaphorical way of calling you an abuser, just like how they call RMS an abuser. The same goes for mocking your civility when commenting, or labeling your words as trolling. These are political attacks, and I would encourage you to view them as such, rather than doubting yourself and worrying that you should change your behavior.

      2. 14

        They will burn down free software to save it from itself, willfully ignorant of the stripmining of the ecosystem by small and large companies alike as long as they pay the correct lip-service.

        You are a dramatic individual. I’ve really tried to give you a chance, but I just can’t take any more of your whining. Seriously, you’re doing the same thing you accuse others of doing. The world isn’t ending, moral panics have existed for thousands of years.

        Walk away from this culture war stuff, give wide berth to both heretic and inquisitors, and don’t try to understand the madness–just treat it as such.

        Please follow your own advice. Seriously.

        1. 7

          The world isn’t ending, moral panics have existed for thousands of years.

          Well, yes; and they have also caused great amounts of harm and hurt to innocent individuals. Shrugging it off as “oh, these kind of moral panics have happened before” doesn’t strike me as a very strong rebuke. We could substitute “moral panics” in your quote with all sorts of things (theft, murder, war, rape) and have exactly the same argument.

          (I don’t disagree that ’sock is perhaps a bit overly dramatic though).

        2. 5

          You are a dramatic individual. I’ve really tried to give you a chance, but I just can’t take any more of your whining. Seriously, you’re doing the same thing you accuse others of doing. The world isn’t ending, moral panics have existed for thousands of years.

          That doesn’t make moral panics good, or unworthy of political opposition. I’m not sure if @friendlysock’s dramatic rhetoric is maximally politically-effective, but he’s not wrong to express the thought.

      3. 2

        What exactly do you think “culture war” means in our society? What do you think that you’re defending?

        To be the child who points out that the emperor is naked: Christianity and the entire family of Abrahamic religions rest upon mistruths, propaganda, ahistorical claims, and a large amount of what we’d now call human-rights violations and war crimes. What do you actually think you mean when you say that you’re “sharing the same lot” as the author?

        They will burn down free software to save it from itself

        Sorry, but to be blunt: Do you actually produce Free Software? It’s cool if you don’t, but you shouldn’t expect pigs to take chickens seriously.

        1. 6

          Do you actually produce Free Software?

          I do, and I keep those activities quite divorced from Lobsters.

        2. 5

          Look, I’m about as atheist as they come but going on about historial war crimes when a religious person wants to starts a broader conversation about inclusivity is extremely inappropriate. This isn’t /r/atheism.

    9. 8

      I belive that this article will interest more people: https://www.fsf.org/news/statement-of-fsf-board-on-election-of-richard-stallman

      The thing with a statement like this is that I’m afraid it won’t change anyone. I see it as a reafirmatiom of RMS honesty, others won’t. I wish the conversations around these topic would become more “civilised” (for lack of a better word), so that some concensus can be reached.

      That being said, I wonder what influence the open letter and the support letter had on all of this. It seems the letter of support has currently twice as many signatures as the one criticising RMS, which is supprising. Then again, I was also amused to be reminded of how small the actual community of people who actually care about these things (pro or contra) are.

      1. 37

        It seems the letter of support has currently twice as many signatures as the one criticising RMS, which is surprising.

        As a signer of the original letter, the signatures in the original letter matter a lot more than the counterletter.

        The counterletter was drafted in 4chan /g/ (I saw the thread where people were drafting it) and heavily promoted in the Eastern Bloc at first. It was posted in several Russian-speaking link aggregation sites as well as 4chan itself. Sure, it has more numbers… by a bunch of people who are not writing the free software we are using. In the original letter I see people who wrote the software I’m using, people I have collaborated in bugs with, people I have met at Debconf and Pycon. I see organisations that make free software. In the counterletter I see some personalities like esr and a lot of angry Russians who are upset that someone is telling them that women are having a bad time in free software.

        A few of the signers of the counterletter managed to get some troll signatures, in Russian and 4chan references, into the original letter. They were trying to prove that this meant that there were no safeguards in the original letter and were arguing that by forcing github usernames, their signatures were more valid. Whenever I discovered these troll signatures using my limited Russian, I pointed them out and they were removed. So there were some quality checks.

        Number of signatories doesn’t mean anything. The original letter even stopped accepting signatures while the counterletter kept accepting them. It’s quite easy to get a lot of people in favour of any cause if you frame that cause as being some version of “free speech”, regardless of the speech being said and regardless of all of the people RMS has alienated from free software, especially women.

        1. 16

          heavily promoted in the Eastern Bloc at first

          I am very troubled by this. Why are opinions of free software developers in the Eastern Bloc (or Asia, for that matter) any less valid? Blend2D (a random example) is a great free software, isn’t it? Speaking as an Asian. Thanks.

          1. 7

            I’ve explained this elsewhere, but judging from comments they have made in Habr and presumably 4chan, their motivations are linked to anti-women, anti-LGBT initiatives common in Russia and other Slavic countries. They tend to frame kindness initiatives that do not directly benefit men as some sort of Western degeneracy. This is why their opinions on why Stallman should be head of the FSF matter less.

            Also, Stallman just hasn’t toured Russia that much; most of them have probably never had to deal with him much or work with him. They don’t know him like we do.

        2. 9

          The way I see it, both the people around the open letter and the support letter can be divided into two respective groups. The open letter have those honestly concerned about the negative influence of Stallman on the perception of the FSF/Free Software in general, just like there are those who are honestly concerned about the integrity of the FSF/Free Software when it comes to preserving user freedoms. The second groups are respectively those who are interested in undermining Free Software and those invested in Culture-War issues issues regarding Free Speech, as you mention. The interesting thing is that both “sincere” sides will probably overestimate and focus on the latter groups. An issue structured like this will naturally lead to a cultural deadlock.

          What I wonder is why you think that the open letter is in itself more legitimate than the support letter, because you recognize more developers you know. To some degree it should be expected that people you agree with will more likely be on the same side of the issue. Ultimately it would seem to me that considering that Free Software and user freedom isn’t something that should just interest developers, but users too, even if they don’t have great reputations or have met friends at conferences.

          Either way, because of the deadlock and the arguing about “numbers vs. legitimateness”, I don’t think that these two sides will agree on anything. It is but another trench in this virtual conflict. All I can do is wonder if this influenced the FSF in any meaningful way.

          1. 26

            The original letter are people writing free software. I don’t know what the counterletter people are doing, but they’re not, for the most part, working on GNU, Debian, openSUSE, gcc, nor are they FSF members or employees or hardly anything of the sort.

            This matters.

            Btw: I don’t think anyone is interested in undermining free software. This is a conspiracy theory promoted by the counterletter authors and supporters, that somehow if we don’t want Stallman it must mean that we want to be serfs to FAMANG.

            I support free software. I don’t have to support Stallman to do so.

            1. 14

              Setting aside that there are Free Software contributors that sign the support letter,

              • Andrea Corallo (GCC developer, Emacs developer)
              • Eli Zaretskii (GNU Emacs maintainer)
              • Leah Rowe (Libreboot Project Leader)

              to name a few I recognize, next to members of the same projects you mention – I repeat my question: Why does it matter?

              1. 9

                Yes, there are some. If we go by “voting members” of the free software world, so to speak, there are way more in the original letter than the counterletter.

                No orgs have signed the counterletter either.

                1. 7

                  Again, why does this matter?

                  1. 26

                    Demonstrably it didn’t. Neither letter mattered. The FSF did whatever it wanted.

                    But for me it mattered. It showed that there is a clear consensus of people I want to work with. We agree on who we no longer want to be in charge or be a philosophical beacon for us.

                    1. 11

                      I think the open letter mattered a lot by starting the discussion and making it clear that a lot of people have a problem that he rejoined the board.

                      The support letter shows that a lot of his followers have no problem about any of his opinions or thoughts as long as he did a lot of great work.

                    2. 5

                      Demonstrably it didn’t. Neither letter mattered. The FSF did whatever it wanted.

                      That is what I was wondering. Did the surprising outcome of the support letter help the FSF make their decision? The reason I use the word “surprising” is that in most cases, the “right” and “wrong” sides of these discussions are quickly established, the insinuation of a majority is made on various social media platforms and the change is pushed through (such as with Stallman in 2019 or with the Linux Kernel before). I actually expected the support letter to have far less traction, whether because the position is less popular of because it is more risky to voice support for that side. The previous chapter of the controversy had the “Joint Statement” to state opposition to Stallman. The other side didn’t have anything of that sort.

                      Ultimately this is all speculate and doesn’t amount to anything, but it is an interesting shift (or problematic tendency, depending on your interpretations).

                      1. 17

                        it is more risky to voice support for that side

                        There is no greater risk to signing the counterletter. This is another conspiracy theory pushed by the counterletter, that there is a great cabal of worldwide cancellists who will harm you if you publicly support Stallman. That you need to have great bravery to sign the counterletter.

                        I have no hard numbers, but I believe in actuality the signers of the original letter have received more abusive emails. I got a lot when I signed the GNU joint statement asking for RMS to be removed from leadership in 2019. I’m actually really afraid about having signed the original letter. I am afraid someone will get very angry and try to track me down to my home or something like that. Well, I am not sure how likely this could be, but there’s a lot more undirected anger in the counterletter than the original letter, aimed at a vague and nebulous “cancel culture”. The original letter’s anger is more focussed on a single individual who has been holding back free software for decades.

                        1. 14

                          Not a conspiracy theory at all. I may not be hired for choosing to sign the pro-RMS letter:


                          A tool to “block” signers of the pro-RMS letter: https://github.com/travisbrown/octocrabby

                          There’s even a browser extension to highlight signers, anywhere we show up.

                          But sure, go on. “Cancel culture” doesn’t exist!

                          1. 13

                            You’re afraid of not being hired by… some dude. I’m afraid of someone showing up in my home and trying to harm me. How many angry and threatening emails have you gotten? I got about about five in 2019.

                            I’m also a little afraid of not being hired by some people for having signed the letter; similar compilations exist for those who signed the original letter.

                          2. 4

                            Yes, cancel culture does exist.

                            However most tech companies are not bigoted enough to respect these “cancel” lists, and I’ve never seen sufficient evidence to the contrary. As to the ones who are, you would not want to work with them anyway.

                            Also, I predict that the future will be less woke.

                            1. 9

                              “Cancel culture” always existed, in the sense that there were entities with the power to arbitrarily take away your reputation, your livelihood, even your basic rights. Historically those entities have been major institutions such as governments and large corporations, and they have done so as a reaction against increasing liberalism.

                              Unsurprisingly, most of the people who now loathe and decry and bemoan “cancel culture” come down on the conservative/reactionary side and are primarily reacting to the democratization (or threat thereof) of the ability to inflict consequences based on someone’s speech, actions, associations, etc. which has been brought about by technology. When I was young, you needed a major media organization (or two or three) behind you to really “cancel” someone effectively. Now you just need a Twitter account and for what you say to catch on with enough other people. To people who were used to being the only ones wielding this power, it likely feels terrifying and so they want to treat it as a new thing. But it is simply the thing they always did, now made available to many others via technology’s ability to amplify voices, improve coordination, etc.

                              As to your last point, it’s worth noting that while the traditional predictor of someone’s politics (on a generic liberal <-> conservative spectrum) has been their age, it appears that is now changing and the most reliable predictors are becoming things like education level (higher education -> overwhelming more liberal tendency) and race/ethnicity (“white”/European-descended -> overwhelming more conservative tendency). So you might want to recalibrate the confidence of your prediction, especially based on a claim that measures within a young and still-developing generational cohort many of whom have not yet attended university.

                            2. 4

                              The preference of one or more organizations to avoid associating with people who publicly support someone with a behavioral track record like Stallman’s is not bigoted.

                              To describe it as such feels dishonest, and ignores the fact that people have legitimate concerns over how likely it is for someone who explicitly supports Stallman’s viewpoints to work in the kinds of inclusive and diverse environments that modern companies and communities seek to cultivate.

                              As for your prediction, I don’t think it’s very likely that the future will be less “woke”; the tweet you reference appears to be from a group that’s quite politically conservative if you go by the recent content on their timeline, so there’s quite a bit of potential for bias there.

                              In my experience, the tech communities that seem to be growing the most rapidly seem to focus heavily on the mind of inclusivity that I associate with “woke culture” (e.g, JavaScript and Rust).

                              By comparison, communities that try to stay “apolitical” (in their own words, not mine) seem to attract more abrasive and disruptive contributors who do nothing to help their relevance.

                              1. 11

                                Painting over 6000 people as being automatically opposed in some form to inclusivity, just because they stand against the witch hunt of RMS, and then seeking to “cancel” them is the very definition of bigotry (”intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself”). It is also disingenuous to suggest that any organizations doing the cancellation is doing it only as a “preference”, as if there is no political / mob pressure behind the scenes.

                                As for your allusion to a group being (according to you) politically conservative, that only seems to be a discrediting tactic used so as to avoid having to address the central point (the statistics quoted in the tweet).

                                1. 9

                                  It is not a witch hunt. He’s not a witch. He’s a guy who has demonstrably harmed free software in many ways. He was a terrible boss at the FSF (for example, refused to give raises because his logic is that wages would then increase without bound, bankrupting the FSF), he has creeped out many women, he has yelled and lost his temper at the very people who are trying to support his cause, he has defended zoophilia, pedophilia, and necrophilia, his main activism is ineffective language nitpicking and advocating technological abnegation.

                                  Not wanting him in charge is not the same as wanting him burned at the stake.

                                  And please don’t make me come up with links for all of these things. It’s really tiring to have to be an archivist for all of these things. Look them up yourself and if you can’t find them, then I’ll try to help.

                        2. 2

                          I thought about what happens if I would sign the open letter a bit and since a few days I get spam about GNU and Linux related topics which are oddly or very close related to RMS. One mail even had the fake sender address of Adolf H. (Yes, the one you think)

                          1. 5

                            Daniel Pocock has been spamming people on both lists lately. The guy is a figure.

                          2. 3

                            FWIW I have been receiving the same messages.

                            1. 2

                              Oh? Are people mass-emailing the counterletter signers with angry notes? What have you gotten?

                              I seem to be flying under the radar this time, but I attracted a lot of anger in 2019.

                              1. 1

                                The RMS open letter, not the support one AFAIK.

                    3. 4

                      It took me a good night’s sleep to realize that you’re still evading my question. So I’ll rephrase it one more: Why should it matter? Why do the voices of software users who see Stallman as someone who defends their Freedoms matter less than those of (some) developers.

                      1. 13

                        Oh, that’s what you were asking:

                        They matter less because they haven’t actually directly dealt with him. They haven’t worked on software he has tried to have a voice in, they haven’t seen him at conferences, they haven’t had him directly yell at them.

                        They don’t know him. So their opinions of him are less well-founded.

              2. 7

                More names here:


                I count 20 people seconding one of “Support Stallman’s reinstatement, as in rms-support-letter.github.io” and “Denounce the witch-hunt against RMS and the FSF” proposals,

                1. Adrian Bunk [bunk@debian.org] [mail]
                2. Norbert Preining [preining@debian.org] [mail]
                3. Jonas Smedegaard [js@debian.org] [mail]
                4. Ying-Chun Liu [paulliu@debian.org] [mail]
                5. Barak A. Pearlmutter [bap@debian.org] [mail]
                6. Adam Borowski [kilobyte@debian.org] [mail]
                7. Micha Lenk [micha@debian.org] [mail]
                8. Michael Biebl [biebl@debian.org] [mail]
                9. Bart Martens [bartm@debian.org] [mail] [confirm]
                10. Jonas Smedegaard [js@debian.org] [mail] [confirm] [confirm] [confirm]
                11. Pierre-Elliott Bécue [peb@debian.org] [mail]
                12. Daniel Lenharo [lenharo@debian.org] [mail]
                13. Milan Kupcevic [milan@debian.org] [mail] [confirm]
                14. Michael Biebl [biebl@debian.org] [mail] [confirm]
                15. Axel Beckert [abe@debian.org] [mail]
                16. Gilles Filippini [pini@debian.org] [mail] [confirm]
                17. Filippo Rusconi [lopippo@debian.org] [mail]
                18. Shengjing Zhu [zhsj@debian.org] [mail]
                19. Matteo F. Vescovi [mfv@debian.org] [mail] [confirm]
                20. Mathias Behrle [mbehrle@debian.org] [mail]
                1. 12

                  These aren’t votes yet. These are seconds, for various of the proposals, both for and against and various shades in between. This is how Debian does resolutions. The votes will be finalised by Saturday.

                  1. 8

                    both for and against and various shades in between.

                    The 20 Debian folks I included however were all for (not against) supporting Stallman. I only included it (and this is only from Debian) because you wrote “the counterletter people are [….] not, for the most part, working on GNU, Debian, openSUSE, gcc,”.

                    1. 11

                      That’s not entirely how that works; they’ve seconded the resolutions to appear on the ballot, not voted for them specifically. Seconding it just means they think it should appear as an option, not that they agree with it.

      2. 8

        It seems the letter of support has currently twice as many signatures as the one criticising RMS, which is supprising.

        RMS has a very religious almost cult following. So no surprise there. Also the RMS open letter GitHub repo stopped accepting signatures on April 1st. The support one still accepts signatures to this date.

        I did a very quick look at the signers of the RMS support letter, looked at a very small amount of accounts closer and there where a couple of things that stood out and seemed fishy:

        • lots of Russian sounding names
        • some of them where newly created (for example 31. March), had their first PR against the repository or had very little activity the last year

        This could be coincidence or people created their account because of this letter but it could also mean that people created new account or used other means to inflate the numbers.

        1. 22

          lots of Russian sounding names

          As someone of Slavic descent, I would be very interested in what you mean to imply by this point.

          1. 16

            Russia has a well-documented state-sponsored homophobia. The recent Russian bill to ban gay marriage, even foreign-made gay marriage, had over 70% support in the polls. These attitudes trickle down and they’re popular with the general Russophone population, not just with the governments. A widespread belief in Slavic countries is that gay acceptance is some Western-induced degeneracy that didn’t really exist in Soviet times, along with some kind of desire to go back to the good ol’ days when LGBT people didn’t “exist”.

            Thus, a letter that is perceived to defend someone (RMS) who has been attacked by the LGBT community will be popular in Russia and surrounding countries. The discourse in 4chan framed the counterletter as being explicitly drafted to give trans people a kick in the head. They consistently used transphobic slurs to refer to me and other signatories of the original letter.

            1. 16

              This is such a wild take. Heck, you could’ve said something like “they’re Russian bots” and that would be somewhat acceptable. You didn’t stop to consider that they could’ve had other motivations (so many better ones!) for having signed it? This is a very bad generalization of the Russian populace, akin to calling all Americans gun-touting redneck hillbillies.

              The real reason for most of the Russian signatures was the letter being shared on some Russian link-aggregator site(s).

              1. 8

                No, they’re not bots, they’re real. And talking to them in the github issues of the counterletter, they are very angry about women and minorities being promoted. This seems to be a strong implicit reason for their alignment with the defense of Stallman. They want to defend their freedom of speech to be awful to women and minorities because being nice is censorship.

                Of course I generalised, because we have voting numbers. At least 70% of the Russian population is homophobic.

                1. 5

                  At least 70% of the Russian population is homophobic.

                  I’d really like to see what are your sources for this claim.

                  1. 15

                    I gave you the source: the voting numbers of the Russian bill passed yesterday to ban gay marriage. It had widespread support. These are not deeply-hidden facts that are difficult to find.

                    But here, there’s plenty more sources:


                    If anything, I was giving Russians the benefit of the doubt with 70% It seems closer to 80%.

            2. 7

              Flagged as troll for being racist against Russians.

              1. 10

                Russian homophobia is well-documented and is a very harmful problem that is killing people in Russia. Recognising problems in Russian society is uncomfortable, but I don’t think it’s racist.

                1. 7

                  Here’s how I understand your reasoning:

                  • Russian government is homophobic and polls show that many russian citizens also are (that is true)
                  • Many people who supported the counter-letter are from Russia (also true)
                  • Therefore they support RMS because they are homophobic.

                  You can tell me to go find it myself. But, it’s you making claims. When I’m making a claim, I’m ready to bear the burden of proof, or I say that it’s just my opinion that may be too far-fetched or entirely untrue. You present your statements as facts but are unwilling to present any proofs, and I don’t think it makes you look more trustworthy, even if your statements are true.

                  1. 5

                    The last claim comes as an inference and from statements I have seen in 4chan and Habr, in English and Russian. 4chan quite openly frames support for the counterletter as a homophobic and transphobic cause. It’s more subtle in the Habr comments, but it does happen there too.

                    It’s more difficult to find it in Habr because my Russian is rudimentary but if you’d like, I can do that too, in case your own Russian isn’t good enough.

          2. 2

            Just something I have noticed. I don’t know if FSF normally reaches those countries and if it is suspicious or not.

        2. 4

          lots of Russian sounding names

          From what I heard, the support letter was shared around Russian HN-likes, which explains that aspect.

          1. 2

            Do you know if those sites tried to push people to sign the letter?

            1. 9

              Yes, it was posted to Habr:


              I can’t find the original post, but they coordinated attacks on the original letter from Habr, for example:


              1. 9

                Are you implying that anti-RMS people “sign open letters”, while pro-RMS people “coordinate attacks” when they do exactly the same thing? ;)

                1. 5

                  These are the same sort of people who are trying to directly harm Molly de Blanc, getting her arrested or swatted. I won’t link to that attack, but there is a lot of anger and implied violence against the original letter. This thing posted to Habr is the same sort of angry violence, trying to get legal authorities involved.

                  It’s not exactly the same thing, it’s not both sides. I am not calling for Stallman to be arrested or harmed. I just don’t want him leading the FSF or GNU.

                  1. 7

                    You are accusing people of coordinating an attack and giving a link to something that clearly isn’t that (not a thread where an attack coordination took place). Then you say you won’t give a real link. Why should I believe you?

                    The post you linked to doesn’t call for violence towards anyone, either. Also, “calls for violence” and “calls for authorities to get involved” are kinda mutually exclusive things.

                    1. 7

                      It’s not hard to find the Molly de Blanc attack page. Look for it yourself.

                      Also, “calls for violence” and “calls for authorities to get involved” are kinda mutually exclusive things.

                      Not in the US. Swatting has gotten people killed. Swatters hope people will get killed. This is an unfortunate by-product of militarisation of the US police force: calling cops on someone can be a death sentence.

                      1. 4

                        All respect due, that post isn’t calling for swatting. It’s calling for the removal of the issue from GitHub!

                        1. 3

                          I’m talking about the attack site on Molly de Blanc that I don’t want to link.

                          But incorrectly citing laws on Github is a similar sort of aggression, driven by similar rage. You’re right it won’t lead to a swatting but I have seen the same group endorse both kinds of actions.

                2. 3

                  I mean, they are literally trying to coordinate to have the original letter removed. That’s different to signing an open letter, isn’t it?

                  1. 6

                    It’s a copy of the deleted issue that someone posted there after the fact, and it received a whole three comments (all general remarks about the situation, no specific action proposals). Since that post clearly is not about coordinating an attack, I assumed JordiGH is referring to something else—most likely the rms-support-letter itself.

              2. 1

                The issue reads like some spam I get daily 😀

        3. 4

          Who cares where they’re from? What matters is whether they’re just random names, or if they’re actively involved in the business of the FSF (and, therefore, are more likely to know what they’re talking about).

      3. 2

        It seems the letter of support has currently twice as many signatures as the one criticising RMS, which is supprising.

        I don’t know. It seems to me that pretty much nobody knows who RMS is, and a significant portion of those who do don’t care about him. So it makes sense that the ones who bother to do something about it are the ones who support him.

    10. 5

      I mean, I think RMS should be removed. Fighting with FSF union and not believing in raises is just crazy. Signing rms-support-letter is right out. But I can’t sign rms-open-letter either, because I mostly agree with RMS in matter of social stuffs. Statutory rape is not really rape. I mean, isn’t the statement, at the very least, debatable? Why focus on mostly irrelevant opinions, when RMS’s incompetence is actively harmful? rms-open-letter has entirely wrong focus.

    11. 3

      Once again, pragmatism is useful. It doesn’t matter what people believe; it only matters what people choose to do.

      On the other hand, it is rich as always to hear Christians complaining about social dynamics while claiming that their hateful violent creed is innocuous. The author is no better off than the folks they complain about: The folks are using their Lord’s name in vain, while the author uses the Lord’s existence and import in vain.