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    Meta note: two stories that were fairly well upvoted (+14 and +10ish, from memory) were just merged with another into a four day old buried story that has ranged between -1 and +1 since.

    This has effectively removed them from the front page and the recent articles section. @pushcx - was this your intent?

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      yeah, @pushcx, it’s a bug that John Sullivan’s 10pm-on-a-Monday announcement that the president of the Free Software Foundation has resigned isn’t on the front page.

      Would it the results have been different if post A had been merged into post B instead?

      …ok after reviewing the comments on this page, I think they should be unmerged. Most of this page is back-and-forth about sex with minors and language. … Can we have a page on which to discuss the future of the free software movement?

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        Just like the last merge, this merged stories across days. My intent was to continue standard practice.

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          That merge prevented me from seeing this story. IMHO this is quite a relevant thing for OSS, and i would probably downvote the merge if it was possible.

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          I follow /comments and get updates even in situations like this. Even on busy days new comments rarely fill 2 pages.

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          The article is written by Thomas Bushnell who worked on hurd and worked closely with RMS. What I’m glad this point so clearly put, was that the issue with RMS was not just about that particular email chain. It brought the issue into a larger picture. It takes someone who knows the guy to see that since most people don’t have that kind of experience over such a long period of time.

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            It takes someone who knows the guy to see that

            I mean, Selam G. did a pretty comprehensive post with references and quotes from women harassed by RMS over the years without ever knowing RMS. I’d argue that the women in question didn’t know RMS either (which is part of why he should not have been propositioning them).

            When someone is being abusive we usually just need to listen to the victims and observe reality.

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              I find it very hard to trust in information provided alongside clear and obvious lies about a quote, and I am suspicious of the author’s motives for misrepresenting such a quote.

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                Did you read the article ? What part wad misrepresented ?

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                  One example out of a few from the peice, but an example with the most relevancy, a misquotation that was used by the medias (social and mainstream) to coerce Stallman out of his role.

                  What Stallman wrote:

                  We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing.

                  What Selam G. wrote in her piece:

                  …and then he says that an enslaved child could, somehow, be “entirely willing”.

                  This is, undoubtedly, intentionally malicious.

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                    The author could also just have poor reading comprehension, I guess.

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                      Why should we listen to an author with such poor reading comprehension? Both situations make her lose a lot of credibility.

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                Yes! listening to the victims is the most important part. I like Selam G.’s followup post which has quotes from victims.

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                  Today, I found out that Stallman had issued a rather weak and confusing apology to the CSAIL mailing list:
                  
                      “I want to respond to the misleading media coverage of messages I
                      posted about Marvin Minsky’s association with Jeffrey Epstein. The
                      coverage totally mischaracterised my statements.
                  
                      Headlines say that I defended Epstein. Nothing could be further from
                      the truth. I’ve called him a “serial rapist”, and said he deserved to
                      be imprisoned. But many people now believe I defended him — and
                      other inaccurate claims — and feel a real hurt because of what they
                      believe I said.
                  
                      I’m sorry for that hurt. I wish I could have prevented the
                      misunderstanding.”
                  

                  I’m not sure what is weak or confusing about that apology.

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                    I think it’s because even while apologising he manages to say (paraphrasing) “I’m hurt by what you said I said” and “you didn’t understand me”. In fact, now I read it again he doesn’t actually apologise for anything except for being hurt.

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                      From what I read:

                      He defended Marvin Minsky as potentially not a rapist because he might not have known the truth, but he said Epstein definitely was a rapist. He is sorry he couldn’t make that more clear.

                      RMS said from Marvin Minsky’s perspective it was possibly a rich guys a prostitute harem of 18 year olds. Still gross, but to RMS the injustice was calling him a willing rapist, not a creep, with total certainty.

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                    The quotes in the article you linked seem to show him as a lonely sad guy who sleeps in his office. Could you elaborate on the assaults he did?

                    To me when he allegedly said he would kill himself if he didn’t get a date, that is a sign of someone who is very lonely and needs help, not necessarily a predator. Sure it should be addressed somehow, but the author of your articles has very little empathy for other people ‘not like her’. It just sounds like a bad situation for everyone.

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                      I’m sure that Stallman was and is very lonely, but he is also, intentionally or not, trying to manipulate young women into going on dates with him and sleeping with him. That is predatory behaviour.

                      Stallman made a large number of women uncomfortable to the extent that women professors at CSAIL kept plants in their office to ward him off. This suggests to me that they felt harassed by him.

                      He should get help. He should also be removed from his positions of power while he gets it so that he cannot further harass women at MIT nor easily at FOSS conferences.

                      It would be great if he stopped saying that voluntary or consensual pedophilia is possible, too.

                      Other testaments from women: https://mobile.twitter.com/_sagesharp_/status/1173637138413318144

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                Without further context, this just looks like RMS is being insufficiently socially aware to realize that being pedantic about rape vs. statutory rape is inappropriate in this context; wrong time and place to go into that conversation.

                But there’s not actually enough context, so this doesn’t change my opinion from “RMS is extremely pedantic and principled and sometimes that’s a problem”.

                ETA: Also, not impressed with this bit:

                and then he says that an enslaved child could, somehow, be “entirely willing”

                No, the email fragment says that she may have presented as willing. Regardless of what you think of RMS, Minsky, etc. those are extremely different statements, and it’s dangerous to conflate them. That actually makes it harder to solve the problem of human trafficking.

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                  Without further context, this just looks like RMS is being insufficiently socially aware to realize that being pedantic about rape vs. statutory rape is inappropriate in this context; wrong time and place to go into that conversation.

                  I think our subculture should get over this idea that we have special privileges when it comes to social interactions. If we fuck up in code, we (usually) take the blame and move on. Why do we (some of/most of us/well, me at least sometimes and RMS apparently all the time) tend to just shrug when we fuck up socially?

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                    I guess I should be more clear: RMS being persistently socially awkward is actually plenty of reason for him not to be a figurehead. I’m mostly objecting to this article spinning that email fragment into something like “RMS is supporting pedos”.

                    Reliance on heroes tends to be problematic over time.

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                      The critical mistake that rms made, that you make here too, is a failure to employ code-switching when discussing matters that are inescapably emotional.

                      Whoops, me too! I meant to say, that issue is so hot that you can either speak against pedos or say nothing–it ain’t necessarily logical but every fool knows that you can’t post stuff like he did on his homepage and expect to remain the leader of an international organization. Like duh. Case closed. Can’t believe it didn’t happen EARLIER.

                      Seriously, if you’re* the sort of person who never lets go of precision-in-language long enough to say anything like “nope, that’s just 100% wrong and I don’t even need to explain why”, then you will inevitability get tripped up down the road by a mob of people who do. Don’t get Stallman’d, friends! Feelings MATTER.

                      * I mean you the reader, not necessarily you ‘saturn’. :)

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                        Yeah, it’s a topic I won’t actually discuss on the internet, in general. Nothing good can come of it. It’s probably dangerous to even say “hey, that guy over there has an unpopular opinion on this and I’m going to say literally anything other than a condemnation of him”, but I decided to cross that line this week.

                        (Also, for posterity: Since this article came out, I have seen 1) more context, and 2) a lot of history of how RMS has been an utter creep to women. Bear in mind that my previous comments were not made with that information available.)

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                    Here is some additional context for you about his thoughts on pedophilia. I didn’t know this until I searched on stallman.org. It’s there in plain sight.

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                        I think it’s OK for people to disagree on this. I might not agree with them, but I’m not going to call for someone’s ouster just because they have a different belief on age of consent. Because look, it sounds like he’s talking about teenagers, which is hardly a thing to bring out the pitchforks over. US states have varying laws in the 15 to 18 range.

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                          Why do you think he is talking about teenagers?

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                            The phrase “parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing” could have been lifted out of any number of discussions I’ve heard of parents who are uncomfortable with the idea that their teenager is experimenting with sex.

                            I don’t think there’s enough information there to damn him.

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                              Support for teenagers having sex with adults is damning still though… why are we debating this in 2019?

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                                19 is “teenager”, but that’s okay? 17 years and 364 days is underage, but 18 years and 1 day is age of consent. Perhaps it was different for you, but when I turned 18 there was no “magic moment” where I was somehow more wise or capable. In quite a few jurisdictions the age of consent is 17 or 16.

                                Besides, what is an “adult”? 18? 20? 25? 30?

                                The entire thing is tricky. There are no easy answers and there is an uncomfortable grey area.

                                Why do you think he is talking about teenagers?

                                Who do you think he is not talking about teenagers? The thing that disturbs me about this entire affair is that the author takes everything rms said in the most bad faith way possible, immediately assuming to all sorts of conclusions about what he meant, even though that’s not very clear from what he actually said. The claim that rms made “excuses about rape, assault, and child sex trafficking” is a very long stretch, unless you are trying to find that in his comments.

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                                  Also, I should point out this more recent entry: https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#14_September_2019_(Sex_between_an_adult_and_a_child_is_wrong)

                                  « Many years ago I posted that I could not see anything wrong about sex between an adult and a child, if the child accepted it.

                                  Through personal conversations in recent years, I’ve learned to understand how sex with a child can harm per psychologically. This changed my mind about the matter: I think adults should not do that. I am grateful for the conversations that enabled me to understand why. »

                                  Yours was 13 years ago, and this one is this past week. People can grow and learn and change.

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                                    A half-hearted “I guess I was wrong” that refutes four or five previous comments means very little to me without some type of analysis into why you were wrong or what changed your position.

                                    A half-hearted “I guess I was wrong” as you are receiving justified criticism? I don’t see growth and change and learning, I see deflection and minimization.

                                    A half-hearted “I guess I was wrong” as you are receiving justified criticism, followed up by a “I didn’t really do anything wrong but I’m going to fall on my sword (how noble)”? Suuuuuure, you’ve changed!

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                                      From all the examples of RMS’ behaviour that have led up to this moment, you think he’s finally going to “deflect and minimize” instead of vehemently defend his position?

                                      You appear to be acting in bad faith.

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                                Why do you think he is talking about teenagers?

                                Because he has made other statements like:

                                1. Calling Epstein and friends “serial rapists”
                                2. He has stated in the past that if one can argue that if a child is too young to refuse or give consent, or unaware that they can refuse due to various reasons (positions of power and/or the adult/child power relationship being some of them), that one could and should view that as being non-voluntary and/or rape.
                                3. He has clarified what he means multiple times.
                                4. He dissects the group of pedophiles to narrow in on a very specific subset of classifications in which “all the stars align on a clear night with a full moon” and still does not explicitly rule out that the activities could be harmful. But you do have to hunt around and read multiple of his statements to get a clearer picture of what he might really be thinking. It simply does not fit in one post or e-mail.

                                There is pretty much only one age-group that fits the bill after processing all this information, which is the group of teenagers from 14 to 17. (By all means, correct me if I’m wrong and/or if I have missed something, but please use primary sources only).

                                In this group there exists a huge variation in how far the individuals have progressed in their development. Some teens voluntarily have their first sexual experience at the age of 14, others wait until they are 16 or 17, and yet others wait until 25 or even never have a sexual experience during their lifetime.

                                The whole point of puberty is that people experiment during that phase in their lives. Some of them might experiment with people whom are much older than they themselves are. He acknowledges that those kinds of people exist and he acknowledges that those experiments could be voluntary and he doesn’t want to take away the freedom of those who want to experiment like that. He also states that these cases “do not necessarily have to be harmful” but he also never rules out that they are not harmful. He even tends towards the default case of “yes it is harmful” in most cases by far.

                                However, when I count all the variables involved:

                                1. It has to be someone to young to consent.
                                2. It has to be someone who consciously knows what he/she is getting into.
                                3. It has to be someone who knows that he or she can say no.
                                4. It has to be someone who is confident enough to say no.
                                5. It has to be someone who is not pressured into the act.
                                6. It has to be someone who is voluntarily getting into the act.
                                7. And the list goes on and on….

                                I have to conclude that we are considering a proposition with so many variables that we are way past the point of what most individuals can mentally buffer and/or process. Cognitive psychology tells us the average person can buffer about 4 variables before the others tend to fade from memory (see Matlin or Coursera’s “learning how to learn”-course for sources on this), here we are already processing 6 and we are not even close to the required number of variables yet. This also means that the average person can probably not precisely define which cases they are discussing. Getting outraged and causing a lynch-mob is usually the easier solution. Yet Stallman does seem to buffer, process and understand all those variables which denote different shades of white, black and grey in the overall picture. He has also demonstrated in the past that he can change his opinion about controversial topics.

                                Yet this doesn’t change the fact that we are speaking about a number of cases in which “all the stars align” that is so small, can be considered a negligible number, while the number of cases in which something goes wrong is huge by comparison.

                                If you were to argue that because of this, it makes sense to create blanket legislation which essentially states “Everyone 18 years of age or older should refrain from any form of sexual activity with anyone younger than 18 years and everyone who violates this is a sex offender”, I would probably agree with you if I had never given this topic any thought before.

                                However this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this topic and therefore I know that reality is never quite cut that clearly. The world is made up of all kinds of shades of white, grey and black and just thinking in black and white is simply not going to work out well for everybody.

                                It is exactly the kind of naive and uninformed blanket legislation I mentioned two paragraphs before and the black/white thinking that is on display in the same paragraph and the one before that one, that Stallman is advocating against. The message he has been sending for his entire life can be summarized as: “We must not forget about the edge cases in society that do not fit our current systems.”

                                Ironically this is exactly what the people who threw Stallman under the bus are pretending to advocate, but they fail to see that Stallman is actually sending the same message on a much bigger variety of topics than they themselves are and that he has been doing so for a much longer time span.

                                This brings me to the core of “what I perceive is going on here”.

                                They see a white man in a position of power and therefore he has to go down. He has debated a few controversial topics which no one can ever fully debate in 180 characters. Let’s take him down on that and call him a sex offender or a defender of sex offenders!

                                Note how this nicely fits within the average of 4 variables most people can buffer… And if you scream this loud enough and often enough, many people will simply believe it and therefore develop a bias against everything that will follow after.

                                To me this looks like a dirty power play to set an example and oust one of tech’s most prominent figures.

                                This figure conveniently also happens to be the guy who runs the foundation that builds the tools many others can use stay independent of big corporations (and others in general) and helps them to stay in charge of the technology they (should) own, because they bought it with their own (often hard earned) money.

                                You also appear to be completely blind to the fact that many victims of sexual or domestic abuse or even sex-trafficing rings, quite often have to turn to GNU-software because it operates separately from everything else and because it provides them with the controls they need to get away from their abusers. Software which operates on licenses that Stallman developed, precisely to fit these types of cases.

                                I won’t say I am triggered, because I’m not and I can handle a fierce discussion without assigning any blame, or negative personality traits to the other party I’m talking to.

                                But I am sick through my nose about; 1) the power-play I have seen playing out before in the last few days and 2) the hysterical and nauseating opinions that have been put on display in this thread out of a blatant lack of thought and preparation with which some, including you, Selam Jie Gano and others of the same political partition, are judging others and are willing to start a smear campaign which ultimately destroys a person and/or a whole group of people associated with them.

                                Please stop that. The other party might have something meaningful to say as well. Half of the discontent in the world can be removed if if are just willing to inform ourselves and listen to each other without assuming beforehand that the other party is wrong, ignorant, a religious zealot, a racist, a bigot, or just plain evil.

                                If this were a football match between Chelsea and Manchester United, the supporters of either side both see a totally different match than the other. Usually this ends in physical violence and riots. In Stallman’s case, the violence is more subtle, but getting someone fired over an opinion, still qualifies as violence in my opinion.

                                Lets at least try to understand each other and lets try to stay away from violence and all other vexing behaviours as much as possible so we can have a decent conversation, while understanding that the other party might be watching a totally different football match.

                                I thank you in advance for your consideration.

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                                  I was with you for much of that, but here’s what I suspect actually happened: People were sick of RMS being creepy to women in ways that the world turned a blind eye to for years, and the mischaracterization (and inflation) of his comments last week was used as a proxy for finally getting him kicked out for past sins. An abuse of process, but I can see why someone would do it, frustrated at not being listened to for years.

                                  (I hadn’t heard about him inappropriately hitting on women at conferences and at MIT before, but apparently it was A Thing.)

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                                      Phrases like “punishable offense” and “protected by the US constitution” seem to conflate the situation here with a legal matter. I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone say that rms ought to be prosecuted (and as far as I know, he hasn’t been accused of doing anything illegal), merely that he shouldn’t have very public leadership roles.

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                                          Sorry, but freedom of speech simply is protected by the US constitution. That’s just a simple fact.

                                          The Amendment states:

                                          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

                                          The relevant parts are “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” – in particular, no such law has been created. Nor has any law been violated by RMS. As glhaynes points out – no one is claiming he should be prosecuted for crimes or anything.

                                          What happened here is basically how it’s supposed to work. He’s been in a public leadership role for 40 years, he’s said some stupid shit, people don’t like that he said stupid shit, and peaceably assembled on the internet to say he maybe shouldn’t be in a leadership position if he’s said this stupid shit. The Constitution does not protect all speech from all parties at all times. It protects speech only from acts of congress. This is pretty well understood legal theory.

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                                            Ok, fair enough….

                                            Yet this still does not change the fact that his statements have been severely twisted and mischaracterized by certain media-platforms that seem to do so repeatedly, while being fully aware that the end result is nearly always an ousting or a lynch-mob. And that RMS has been ousted mostly based on these twisted statements.

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                                              Yeah, I’m not super comfortable with that aspect. There’s no shortage of straight up lies in the reporting on this, which obscured the real issues in favour of made up ones.

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                                    Selam Jie Gano and others of the same political partition,

                                    Let me guess, you think i’m a Liberal?

                                    They see a white man in a position of power and therefore he has to go down

                                    This has nothing to do with race. Why bring this up? Is it related to above?

                                    The whole point of puberty is that people experiment during that phase in their lives. Some of them might experiment with people whom are much older than they themselves are. He acknowledges that those kinds of people exist and he acknowledges that those experiments could be voluntary and he doesn’t want to take away the freedom of those who want to experiment like that.

                                    My two year old wants to drive my car, maybe I’m terrible for not letting him? A teenager wants to have sex with an older person, note it takes two to tango. You are making it sound like that older person is giving the younger one a gift. How blessed must the pedophiles be? So charitable! Certainly my two year old would be happy too if I let him drive, but only for a moment.

                                    See, I have children so I understand what it’s like to have children. I would love to hear others who also have children if they disagree with me? Because you know, while we were all teenagers once, and understand what it’s like to be teenagers, not all of us are fathers and mothers. And it turns out not all of us are adults despite our age. Let me tell you, the reason the pedophile wants to have sex with a 14-year-old is that they have a pathology. Not because they are charitable. Not because they are kind. That 14 year old can explore as they will with others of their age, it’s their time to learn together, not some “mature person” to show them the way.

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                                        This kind of demonization of persons has to stop.

                                        and before you said

                                        The entire modus operandi is basically the default modus operandi of the Social Justice Warriors (and we know what their agenda is).

                                        And then I have to wonder, is it really about “demonizing persons”? Or maybe you have a broader agenda too.

                                        Also, I didn’t make any assumption about YOU having children, I just meant that people who hold your kind of view typically don’t. Of course, you didn’t answer whether you have children or not, and I’m not going to ask.

                                        These cases are complicated and you simply have to judge them on a case-by-case basis because blanket statements simply don’t cut it.

                                        They are not complicated though. Adults shouldn’t have sex with children. They can have sex with other adults and teenagers can have sex with other teenagers. Seems pretty simple.

                                        Let me make an assumption about you given our conversation. I am guessing you are a Libertarian type given your views on having sex with teenagers. You can correct me if I’m wrong and I don’t mean any disrespect. Libertarians love “rational” arguments and so let me put this argument in a different way that has nothing to do about harm or whether someone is a child or not. Some cold hard math. if an adult (most likely male) has sex with a teenager (most likely female), they are depriving another teenager of an experience. Very selfish of them. Why? Because statistically, every age group has 50/50 men/women. So if that adult has a relationship with a teenager, there is another teenager who must be left out, and be forced to find a relationship with another adult, or have no relationship at all. Unlike economics, this is a zero-sum game (unless you believe in polygomy, but most don’t).

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                                            Which assumptions are wrong in my math example? Because as I stated, if my assumptions are wrong, the whole argument is wrong.

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                                              Of course it starts with your assumptions about me, but since you asked…..

                                              if an adult (most likely male) has sex with a teenager (most likely female), they are depriving another teenager of an experience.

                                              This does not have to be the case. The fact that someone gains an experience does not guarantee that another person would gain one in it’s place.

                                              So if that adult has a relationship with a teenager, there is another teenager who must be left out, and be forced to find a relationship with another adult, or have no relationship at all.

                                              Also not true. There are many, reasonably big pockets of inequality. See New York City (sex ratio of 0,97) or China for examples. A ratio of 0,97 in a place like New York City means there are about half a million more woman than there are men.

                                              You could argue that it is close enough to 50/50, for it to be negligible, but when the difference becomes as large as half a million people, the societal consequences are huge.

                                              Unlike economics, this is a zero-sum game (unless you believe in polygamy, but most don’t).

                                              It’s also not a zero sum game, because humans tend to practice “serial-monogamy” (for lack of a better term) and, especially during their teens and twenties, humans tend to switch up partners quite often and at have a vastly different number of intimate partners as well. There is a playing field, in which a few “bigger players” tend to mate with many others.

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                            realize that being pedantic about rape vs. statutory rape is inappropriate in this context

                            Which context? The source of all this mess is a private conversation of his that was published without his consent. Can’t we share controversial opinions privately anymore?

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                              Semi-public, really; it’s a university mailing list. The problem isn’t actually public/private here, it’s the threading context and timing, as far as I can tell from the jumbled mess of emails that Vice got ahold of. (I also don’t totally trust Vice, because they’ve been flagrantly misquoting him.)

                              I actually feel bad for the guy. Minksy is a colleague of his, and people are using this phrase “sexual assault”, which means different things to different people. RMS has already denounced Minsky, but wants to clear the record; he then goes about that in a very Stallman-ish way, talking about what is and isn’t rape vs. statutory rape. That last bit is the biggest problem, I think; it might have been OK if he’d just said something like “while Minsky deserves to go to prison, let’s use the right term for what he did out of respect for the difference”. (I dunno, making stuff up on the spot here, but I think that’s an accurate description of what he meant.)

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                                Do you realize that Minsky died three years ago? It makes no sense to talk about him in the present tense.

                                I have read the part of the thread published on vice, and there is nothing wrong with Stallman’s words. The misquoting by vice and the other media is unbelievable. The only possible critique is that “it was not the right moment to talk about that”, but then again, so what?

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                                  I did not know that! Not sure how I missed it.

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                            I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations

                            I hope this means that Stallman is going to take a step back to reflect on recent events.

                            I think this is an appropriate step for Stallman to take. I also think he should step down as president of the FSF, but I would be content with him remaining in that position if he takes the time to reflect on this event, improve himself, and avoid incidents like this in the future.

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                              I also think he should step down as president of the FSF

                              He did.

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                                I would be content with him remaining in that position if he takes the time to reflect on this event, improve himself, and avoid incidents like this in the future

                                A lot of people won’t let that happen, especially after his recent revelations. The public will pressure the FSF – likely threatening boycotts – to not keep nor reinstate RMS as president.

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                                  The public will pressure the FSF – likely threatening boycotts – to not keep nor reinstate RMS as president.

                                  How can you boycott a non-profit organization dedicated to releasing software for free?

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                                    • Encourage current FSF members to drop memberships
                                    • Start a social media campaign advocating against the FSF
                                    • Dissuade others from joining the FSF and diverting donations to other organizations
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                                      The FSF, perhaps more than other non-profits, competes in the marketplace of ideas. If they feel that re-admitting RMS in some sort of executive position is worth the reputational risk, that’s on them. RMS himself would have to make that case in a convincing manner.

                                      I’m not in any way privy to internal discussions, but reading between the lines I got the feeling that RMS was seen as a liability to the FSF, just as he turned out to be to MIT. To his credit, he doesn’t seem to have encouraged a cult of personality, so I don’t feel that there’s a firm connection between the idea of free software the idea and Stallman the person.

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                                Why do we allow the jokes and the comments and everything small to just ‘slide’?

                                Instead we should fire everyone? He doesn’t seem to be defending Minsky so much as saying we can’t equate what he did to a worse crime because we don’t know the details of it. That seems reasonable to me.

                                And what does this even have to do with “men in tech”? It’s one guy.

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                                  Knee-jerk reactions and misguided moral outrage seems to be the internet’s #1 hobby these days. Fact checking, skepticism, and independent thinking be damned. (And it’s the reason the U.S. is a slave to the two-party political system.)

                                  I’m not a member of the RMS fan club but I’ve been following his writings and positions for a long time now. He’s as crazy as the sky is blue but one thing he is not is careless or immoral. He can pick apart a poorly reasoned argument with surgical, dispassionate precision and this really gets under the skin of those who would rather try to rely on raw emotion alone to further their cause, noble or not.

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                                    (And it’s the reason the U.S. is a slave to the two-party political system.)

                                    No it’s not, the US has been a two-party country since its founding (when presumably there was more “[f]act checking, skepticism, and independent thinking” according to your analysis).

                                    The reason the US has a two-party system is because congressional seats and electoral college seats are awarded by a first-past-the-post electoral system.

                                    1. 2

                                      (And it’s the reason the U.S. is a slave to the two-party political system.)

                                      That should probably be blamed on the spoiler effect, which is present in most voting systems but is extremely bad in first-past-the-post.

                                      1. 2

                                        Knee-jerk reactions and misguided moral outrage seems to be the internet’s #1 hobby these days.

                                        This is what I say whenever I read anyone saying anything negative on the internet

                                      2. 7

                                        I don’t want to live in a world where we have to constantly debate “but can children consent to sex?”. It should be simply that if anyone, even joking, asks something like that, they automatically disqualify themselves as an idiot. This includes RMS here, he is an idiot.

                                        1. 6

                                          This depends on your jurisdiction as to what a “child” is as far as consent goes, though. 17 isn’t considered a “child” as far as consent goes in many areas.

                                          Regardless, Stallman’s job has literally nothing to do with this as far as I can tell, so he shouldn’t be losing his job over what many would consider a bad opinion.

                                          1. 4

                                            It’s not about what I think is a child, it’s that Stallman thinks that children can consent. Stallman isn’t thinking ‘mempko thinks children are 17 and I think therefore that children can consent because 17 is a lot like 18’. He is thinking ‘children, whatever age, can consent’.

                                            1. 5

                                              It’s not about what I think is a child, it’s that Stallman thinks that children can consent. Stallman isn’t thinking ‘mempko thinks children are 17 and I think therefore that children can consent because 17 is a lot like 18’. He is thinking ‘children, whatever age, can consent’.

                                              Actually, no, that is not what he said about the issue. Please read his original message again.

                                              He states that there are cases where a child can consent. For example a 17 year old and an 18 year old in a relationship, where the age of consent is 18. In practice, we mostly allow such relationships to exist just about everywhere in the world, but if you apply the rules radically, like an algorithm would do, then the 18 year old would be a pedophile by definition.

                                              Stallman wrote his statements with the use of an existential quantifier as opposed to a for-all quantifier, and argues that whether or not there is consent, should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

                                              I will admit that Stallman is a terrible writer for not realizing that these details will be glossed over and not picked up by many. However that does not change his fundamental message that we as humans, do not always fit within the clearly defined borders.

                                              He has been searching and (deliberately) constructing edge-cases for his entire life, this is just another one. It’s too bad the blind masses can’t see this in a time where his message is more relevant than ever.

                                              1. 4

                                                No one knows what Stallman thinks but him. If you want to get outraged, feel free, but I don’t see the warrant for it.

                                                1. 4

                                                  He literally spells it out on his own website and you are still in denial. Also supports necrophilia and bestiality as long as it’s consensual. Think of that next time you look into your dogs eyes.

                                                  1. 4

                                                    Let me preface this by saying that I really could not care less about Stallman as a person. I don’t know him, have no interest in meeting him, and certainly don’t hold him up as some sort of standard of being.

                                                    I have not read his website and I have no interest in doing so. I honestly don’t care about his opinions as they’re irrelevant to his (and my) job. I would like to see a citation for the necrophilia and bestiality because it sounds so absurd, though. All of this comes back to the fact that I really don’t care what he thinks and his opinions, bizarre as they may be, should not get him fired for his work in software.

                                                    1. 4

                                                      should not get him fired for his work in software.

                                                      This isn’t about his work in software (he’s a tenured professor) - this is about whether he’s the right leader for the FSF.

                                                      The head of the FSF has many responsibilities, none of which are to produce software.

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                                                        I fail to see what this has to do with the FSF either.

                                                        1. 7

                                                          Richard Stallman is the president of the Free Software Foundation. He not only represents the foundation, but the free software movement as well.

                                                          His behavior reflects on those two things.

                                                          1. 4

                                                            As far as I can tell, he hasn’t done anything. He is still free to voice his opinions, and he has been doing so forever. Everyone knows he’s a quirky (at best) character. The FSF is the foundation he started and remains president of. You are free to start your own foundation if you disagree with his personal opinions that have nothing to do with the FSF.

                                                            1. 5

                                                              He is still free to voice his opinions

                                                              He is free to promote paedophilia, and hungariantoast is free to call for him to be censured for doing so.

                                                              I’d ask you to examine why you have a problem with the latter but not the former.

                                                              1. 4

                                                                I don’t see him “promote paedophilia” anywhere and I have no problem with hungariantoast saying he disagrees. I do have a problem with people trying to get him ousted from his various positions over his opinions that are completely unrelated.

                                                                1. 3

                                                                  Are those opinions “completely unrelated” to his job, though? At the surface-level, sure, his odd sexual libertarianism generally exists in a separate domain from software.

                                                                  But the FSF and MIT are communities made up of people with values. When someone like RMS espouses at-best-alienating views, that fundamentally drives wedges in these communities. When your organization has a political agenda, as does the FSF, people note value-level contradictions from leadership. When these people stick around, the community decomposes to those that either don’t know or agree/don’t care.

                                                                  Given the content of RMS’s recent emails (I used to be on csail-related, and his performances aren’t a new thing) - victim blaming, referring to Epstein’s victims as his “harem” - I’d guess that there are at least as many people in the community that are sick of his shit than think he should remain because his trolling is “completely unrelated” to software.

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    But the FSF and MIT are communities made up of people with values. When someone like RMS espouses at-best-alienating views, that fundamentally drives wedges in these communities. When your organization has a political agenda, as does the FSF, people note value-level contradictions from leadership. When these people stick around, the community decomposes to those that either don’t know or agree/don’t care.

                                                                    Please read what I wrote above. Stallman’s views and the political agenda of the FSF do not necessarily have to contradict each other. In fact: The freedom to express your opinion against all censorship is one of their core principles. Deviating from it because of what Stallman says, would really be driving a wedge inside that community.

                                                                    In fact, I’m concerned much more by the fact it has become impossible to have a civilized discussion about these controversial topics anymore like sensible adults, without getting triggered and forming a rage-mob which goes after people’s jobs and/or blacklisting them…

                                                                    Which ironically is a message that Stallman has been sending for decades.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      The problem I see here is that almost everything “drives wedges” in a community. This can be related to a project (like a tabs vs spaces argument) or unrelated (like someone’s opinion on Crimea). Instead of discussion, the reaction is to demand resignation, send threats, try to shush people.

                                                                      I also don’t consider his statements as “trolling.” They’re his opinions. Just because you disagree with them doesn’t make them trolling.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        I hear you, but IMO you’re overgeneralizing and equating things that are fundamentally different; whether it’s an example or not, “tabs vs spaces” are nowhere near as fundamental to the functioning of a community as are views on sexual assault.

                                                                        And FWIW, we are literally part of a massive discussion right now which is continuing despite not being on the front page of the site. There was also a long discussion on csail-related. Many more discussions on all sorts of online and meatspace communities. Stallman resigned. I’m not aware of attempts to “shush” him. The thing about free speech is it comes along with accountability.

                                                                        Also, if I don’t respond it’s probably because I’ve quit this website lol.

                                                                        1. 0

                                                                          The immediate response of firing people is the “shushing” – what he said is not an endorsement of sexual assault. His statement states he has been mischaracterized and I would 100% agree with that.

                                                                2. 1

                                                                  He hasn’t done anything? Did you read the article? It’s pretty clear that Stallman, once again, said something outrageous, inappropriate, and insensitive.

                                                                  His shitty behavior reflects poorly on the FSF and that’s why him doing things like this is such an issue.

                                                                  There is a plethora of testimonies and evidence over the past few decades of Stallman’s shitty behavior. There is another plethora of testimonies and evidence showing that his behavior has alienated far more contributors from the FSF and free software than Stallman himself will ever be worth.

                                                                  Stallman is, especially today, a net negative for the Free Software Foundation, because he just won’t stop saying and doing stupid things.

                                                                  That is why he should be removed.


                                                                  Oh, and also, saying “You are free to start your own foundation if you disagree” is no better than saying “Oh yeah? Well just fork the project if you don’t like it.”

                                                                  At best, it’s a tone deaf, bottom feeding argument. At worst, it’s bad faith trolling.

                                                                  1. 0

                                                                    He started the foundation and has remained the head of it forever. You clearly have a problem with Stallman that goes well beyond this instance, so why do you support the FSF at all? If you see them as one and the same, then you shouldn’t support it. And if you don’t support it but want to support free software, the next logical step is to either find a different foundation or start your own.

                                                                    I’m not trolling. I’m keeping reason and objectiveness as paramount instead of emotion and knee-jerk reactions.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      You clearly have a problem with Stallman that goes well beyond this instance

                                                                      You’re right, I have a problem with Stallman not just because of this incident, but also the other incidents he has created over the past few decades. I have already acknowledged that I believed Stallman should resign from the FSF because of these problematic, recurring incidents.

                                                                      So yes, my opinion on Stallman and why I think/thought he should resign from the FSF goes beyond just this incident and is influenced by his past behavior as well.

                                                                      If you’re trying to insinuate that I have some other kind of motive behind wanting Stallman to resign, then please just say what other possible motives you think I could have.

                                                                      so why do you support the FSF at all? If you see them as one and the same, then you shouldn’t support it.

                                                                      I don’t see the FSF and Richard Stallman “as one and the same”. I never said that. I said that Stallman’s relationship, history, and influence over the FSF and the free software movement makes him a representative of both of those things. That doesn’t mean I think FSF == Stallman.

                                                                      And if you don’t support it but want to support free software, the next logical step is to either find a different foundation or start your own.

                                                                      Well, no, that doesn’t make any sense. First, like I just said, I don’t think Richard Stallman and the FSF are the same thing. I think the FSF is so much bigger, so much more important than Richard Stallman.

                                                                      Even if I didn’t think that though, even if I did think that the FSF and Stallman were the same thing, that still wouldn’t prevent me from understanding that they could be separated, for the better, by Stallman’s resignation and distancing from the foundation. Which is clearly a much more reasonable, actionable, and positive goal than “rolling my own” foundation from scratch.

                                                                      1. -1

                                                                        If you’re trying to insinuate that I have some other kind of motive behind wanting Stallman to resign, then please just say what other possible motives you think I could have.

                                                                        I am not insinuating anything. This whole thread has gone completely off the rails of the original post and has little to nothing to do with the incident that was brought up here. None of it matters, either, because he has resigned from both the FSF and whatever he was doing with MIT. Chalk up another one for mob justice.

                                            2. 7

                                              I can understand if this topic is bumped but I do feel this is a very well written article and deserving of a read.

                                              Regardless of personal feelings about the event I think we can all acknowledge it is at least notable in the history of open source. Accounts like these, from people with intimate knowledge of the whole context, are invaluable and can sometimes have a big impact over the years.

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                                                of open source.

                                                I’d just like to interject for a moment…

                                                1. 9

                                                  It’d be nice if it’s notable in the sense of “this is when the FSF was able to get a new leader and begin more effective campaigning for libre software.”

                                                  I suspect it’ll more likely be remembered for quite some time as “this is when call-out culture demonstrated that no history of productivity will save somebody and that having any history of opinions or nuanced rational independent thought in non-tech realms–regardless of how respected or consistent you are–online is a strict liability if you are in tech.”

                                                  Edit: Whoever flagged this as troll or incorrect…you really need to explain your reasoning instead of abusing the flagging system–otherwise, it loses its effectiveness. Are you saying that my stated suspicions are not in fact my actual suspicions? If so, how would you know? If I’m trolling, who am I trolling and how? I didn’t post anything uncivil here.

                                                  1. 5

                                                    And this is where we’re going to. In the past, everything was archived, in libraries and elsewhere, and now pretty much everything has to be ethereal, removable in a minute’s notice, without a trace to the author.

                                                    I think this is a problem for the actual times we’d need to look back and see what we did in the last 25 years… When so much of the information purposefully has to be removed in order to not subject oneself to a cancellation.

                                                    1. 4

                                                      “President of the Free Software Foundation” is not a technical role, it is a leadership role. It doesn’t matter how skilled or productive RMS is in the technical arena, or the manifesto-writing arena, or the underwater-basket-weaving arena, if he does not have the leadership and people skills to effectively lead, and to represent the organisation to outsiders.

                                                      1. 4

                                                        The issue here is that he’s one of the most hardcore Free Software advocates. He’s probably the only one capable of saying that he doesn’t use any non-free software; consistently taking the time to patiently teach people about the drawbacks of proprietary software, even so much as the “non-free” JavaScript (Obfuscript) of the websites. Everyone else just complains on Twitter to @Uber that their UX isn’t good enough; or claims to be a free software developer on GitHub, all whilst enjoying the proprietary platform to further benefit from the non-free software ecosystems. Why do people join FSF? What’s FSF without Stallman?

                                                        FSF is not about OSS. Without Stallman, the guy who used to live in his office at MIT more than most, it loses its whole identity in the FLOSS world. I don’t understand why anyone would want to be associated specifically with Free Software whilst hating on the only person who truly lives by it — Dr Richard Stallman.

                                                        I think this is all a setup. All those people who tried so hard to cancel Stallman don’t really care about neither Free Software nor OSS — heck, it was all done on Medium and Twitter, after all. I cannot see FSF remaining relevant when their leadership wouldn’t be practising what Stallman preached. Let’s be real here — all of us use proprietary software on a daily basis; many of us have no idea what it’d be like to live in a world that Stallman lives in.

                                                        1. 3

                                                          Pointing out that he was the only person living up to the standards is… not the strongest counterargument to the claim that his behavior discouraged others from getting involved.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            This is not about his behaviour, this is about the standard of Free Software. If you can’t meet the standard, leadership at FSF probably isn’t for you (and that’s OK — that’s what we have Open Source and all the other communities for — doesn’t mean you have to dismantle FSF just because it doesn’t fit your immediate needs).

                                                            1. 2

                                                              doesn’t mean you have to dismantle FSF

                                                              The FSF, as far as I can tell, continues to exist. From what I’ve seen, it’s got quite a bit more funding this week than it did a month ago.

                                                              I don’t understand why anyone would want to be associated specifically with Free Software whilst hating on the only person who truly lives by it.

                                                              I don’t hate him (or anyone - humans are too complicated to hate). We all have virtues and vices; I can respect him for his virtues (many, and rare) while also finding his vices (oppositional defiance of social norms and wilful disregard for the impact his behavior has on those around him) a bridge too far.

                                                              1. 4

                                                                The FSF, as far as I can tell, continues to exist. From what I’ve seen, it’s got quite a bit more funding this week than it did a month ago.

                                                                Where exactly do you get this data from? I’ve emailed Stallman to ask him privately about his FSF resignation and what people could/should do; his suggestion was to join FSF (yes, of which he’s no longer the president).

                                                                I’ve seen someone post on Twitter (not exactly the manifestation on the use of free software, BTW) that they’ve quit FSF after learning these things about Stallman like his well-known unconventional political notes from years ago (which pretty much everyone with any sort of history in the whole FLOSS movement was very well aware of), and, on the other hand, several users posting on Reddit to have resigned from FSF membership because the only thing that kept them there was Stallman. To conclude that it’s going one way and not the other would be to perpetuate the same level of disinformation and the Trial-By-Twitter culture that brought this issue upon us in the first place; so, let’s kindly not degenerate Lobsters to that level.

                                                                Likewise, to say that FSF continues to exist is a premature assessment. If they continue to follow Stallman’s leadership, then it’s not exactly a benefit that Stallman himself has to hide or be hidden from his involvement in FSF for the rest of his life. If they do decide to deviate and embrace a more Proprietary-friendly approach, then they’ll likely lose their uniqueness and the remaining folk that affiliate themselves specifically with FSF just because of Stallman.

                                                                And I’m yet to see all these #cancelStallman folk joining the ranks of FSF; most of them probably don’t even know the difference between Free Software and OSS, and wouldn’t be the target audience of FSF as we know it anyways, making the whole point of catering to them rather moot. TBH, it just doesn’t make any sense why he resigned; I think he must have gotten scared for the future of FSF, or was tricked by some of his associates that seem have their own interest at heart. The whole thing is rather confusing to observe, especially given his own statements that he had no plans to give up just a few days prior.

                                                                1. 4

                                                                  I personally wouldn’t take too much stock in a cult of personality.

                                                                  rms’ leadership was controversial within the FSF. Beyond “rms is a creep” and other political toxic waste, which makes for juicy headlines (that, and with how tightly the FSF brand was tied to rms, how it reflected badly on the FSF), it’s arguably a distraction from another big reason why - there was the fundamental issue that rms was not a good leader for the FSF beyond founding it. Mistakes like appointing someone to dotGNU that just used the label to work on his PHP groupware projects while condemning Mono, eglibc and egcs forks, dying on hills that meant Emacs has better interop with clang than it does gcc, Hurd being a debacle, poor marketing campaigns that did nothing to preach to the choir, all while failing to address real problems for free software like user-hostile SaaS. The FSF has lost goodwill with actual free software (often under the GNU umbrella!) developers and promoters, not hero-worshippers.

                                                                  The events of the past few days merely provided a social final straw for long-standing leadership issues.

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    I’m yet to see all these #cancelStallman folk joining the ranks of FSF

                                                                    Anecdotes are not data, but I know several who subscribed in the wake of the announcement.

                                                                    probably don’t even know the difference between Free Software and OSS, and wouldn’t be the target audience of FSF as we know it

                                                                    This, I don’t follow at all. People who know the difference between OSS and Free Software don’t need to be reached. The target audience of the FSF, surely, is people who are not yet aware of why Free Software is important.

                                                            2. 1

                                                              Promoting Free Software (specifically, not including Open Source) is advocacy from a moral perspective - it asks people to give up immediate monetary gain, for the sake of the greater good of society.

                                                              It behooves the leaders of such a movement not to be “perfect” - no-one is - but to adhere to the more moral end of the social spectrum. A leader of an advocacy group that embezzles money will lose credibility, for example.

                                                              No-one has accused RMS of financial impropriety, nor has he done anything that amounts to a conviction in a criminal or civil court. But his reported behavior and public statements effectively makes it impossible for him to represent an advocacy group like the FSF. Every appearance he would make could be used by enemies of Free Software to hinder its goals.

                                                              “Dr. Stallman, your ideas for software development are interesting, but let’s talk about how you’ve defended pedophilia….”

                                                              It sucks, and it’s technically unfair, and as a fellow human being I feel really sorry for RMS right now, but it’s the rules you have to live by as a very public figure and advocate.

                                                          2. 3

                                                            I’d already come to the conclusion that ‘default open’ is no longer a useful approach to online life. It seems to be confirmed time and again.

                                                            1. 3

                                                              nuanced rational independent thought in non-tech realms

                                                              If you have rational thought expand on poor axioms, your thought can be extremely nuanced, rational and independent, and still be grossly wrong. Rationality alone is not a good indicator of intelligence and should not be a singular measure. Stallman’s axioms were not good (my claim) and his rational arguments built from them are therefore invalid. I’ve read plenty of rational arguments from flat-earthers that were nuanced, rational, and independent. They were also wrong because their axioms are wrong.

                                                              What people complained RMS was not his ability to be rational and logical. But the way he treated women. The email thread was simply a spark that allowed others to express their complaint.

                                                              1. 2

                                                                I think the point of Bushnell’s post was that the opposition to RMS may have stemmed more from unethical behavior than from his opinions.

                                                            2. 9

                                                              Holy crap, something actually happened.

                                                              I just can’t believe something actually happened over something Richard said. He’s said so many things before with no obvious public consequences, but finally some consequences happened.

                                                              I think, in the end, this could be a great thing for free software. I like free software. I think proprietary software is bad. The baby gnu avatar I’ve chosen for myself on this and other websites is a conscious, political choice. I think we should not compromise with proprietary software, because we have virtually nothing to compromise with while proprietary software has everything to gain from a compromise. We do not negotiate with proprietary software. I think being steadfast about this is good. We deserve freedom. We deserve a world in which no one should have to choose software that they can’t study, share, repair, or trust. Free software is good.

                                                              I just don’t think the way RMS has been doing free software advocacy in the past few years has been good.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                Hi J. Who should replace rms? Personally I would like to see somebody from the EFF school of thought rather than the Software Freedom Conservancy school… Could we like, hold an election? Guess I’m gonna go chat in #fsf…

                                                              2. 5

                                                                He’s responsible for relying too much on people’s careful reading of his note, but even that’s not the problem.

                                                                I am glad someone finally made this point. Stallman has a glossary in which he meticulously defines the way he uses some words. A non-careful reading of anything of his without that context, is ripe for misinterpretation of his intentions. But, even with that, his resignations, and the community’s outrage – all justified, and right. He had to be held accountable for his shit throughout the years.

                                                                I still can’t help but be disappointed, and angry about it all though.

                                                                1. 4

                                                                  It is disappointing. RMS was one of my heros. Kevin Spacey was my favorite actor. I live in a world of deep disappointment. Never meet your heros.

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    It’s sadly probably why he’s so good (i.e. bad) in House of Cards. Just being himself more on screen. In the past, The Negotiator and K-Pax were pretty awesome, too. Also, doing the voice in Moon.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      Charges against Spacey have been dropped.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        So has his reputation. Even if they were dropped because he legitimately didn’t do anything (which, seems pretty unlikely), he’s already been through trial by the press.

                                                                    2. 1

                                                                      I don’t know what incidents over the years you are talking about, could you elaborate?

                                                                        1. 4

                                                                          She listed a few, lets talk about them:

                                                                          I recall being told early in my freshman year “If RMS hits on you, just say ‘I’m a vi user’ even if it’s not true.”
                                                                          

                                                                          So he hit on people. I believe it. Did they reject him? probably. Super awkward? Yes. Victim in this is a bit of a strong word for me.

                                                                          “He literally used to have a mattress on the floor of his office. He kept the door to his office open, to proudly showcase that mattress and all the implications that went with it. Many female students avoided the corridor with his office for that reason…I was one of the course 6 undergrads who avoided that part of NE43 precisely for that reason. (the mattress was also known to have shirtless people lounging on it…)”
                                                                          

                                                                          I wouldn’t be surprised if he slept at work, I’m not sure what the implications are meant to be there. “shirtless people lounging on it” does seem strange, but it is missing some context for me.

                                                                          When I was a teen freshman, I went to a buffet lunch at an Indian restaurant in Central Square with a graduate student friend and others from the AI lab. I don’t know if he and I were the last two left, but at a table with only the two of us, Richard Stallman told me of his misery and that he’d kill himself if I didn’t go out with him.
                                                                          
                                                                          I felt bad for him and also uncomfortable and manipulated. I did not like being put in that position — suddenly responsible for an “important” man. What had I done to get into this situation? I decided I could not be responsible for his living or dying, and would have to accept him killing himself. I declined further contact.
                                                                          
                                                                          He was not a man of his word or he’d be long dead
                                                                          

                                                                          To me this mostly shows he was very lonely and sexually frustrated person in the past. He probably needed help and someone to guide him in the right direction.

                                                                          I don’t know if he has a girlfriend or wife, lots of this type of behavior disappears from sexually frustrated men after they have had a long term girlfriend.

                                                                          1. 2

                                                                            In Soviet Russia, every man was assigned a women.

                                                                            There are plenty of “sad and lonely” women, but they don’t appear to do anything like “sad and lonely “ men do.

                                                                            1. 3

                                                                              I don’t see your point? Yes sad and lonely men do stupid things. Likely more than women. So? That’s not a solution to the problem.

                                                                              I don’t think he needed ‘an assigned women’, I don’t know where you even got that idea from. He probably just needed a friend to teach him the right ways to find dates without being so creepy.

                                                                              I just think making them sadder and more lonely leads them to more desperation.

                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                In Soviet Russia, every man was assigned a women.

                                                                                Got a cite? I’m curious how that worked.

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  That was a joke, just in case, anyone didn’t get that.

                                                                                2. 1

                                                                                  Men and women are completely different, that’s why.

                                                                        2. 8

                                                                          Wow mods, nice merge. Totally stories that should be merged. Great work :)

                                                                          1. 8

                                                                            I usually sit back on controversial ones letting democracy work here. I like seeing what different groups do for what reasons. The group that flags low-signal content is usually 3-4 votes or something. This is a rare situation where it hit 12. That’s close to the upvoting crowd which has several times their votes on most posts.

                                                                            So, I flagged as off-topic. That’s on top of my perception of it being gossip with lots of unknowns presented with a selective, interpretation-heavy type of reporting often associated with bullshit. Intentional or unintentional. For serious charges, too. This isn’t how reporting or due process should work.

                                                                            1. 5

                                                                              Turns out his opinions on pedophilia are public and pretty clear. Just look search on stallman.org. So I think the OPs criticism is valid.

                                                                              1. 7

                                                                                Your next link is a snippet of text on your own website that I might be able to do in MS Paint if not wanting to do a web page.

                                                                                Look, this is your activist piece. If you want results, you need to have the link to proof that’s credible ready to go. It should’ve been the first link I saw. You put plenty of effort into two that would get tossed out of court. Get a stronger case together with references available up front, package it up nicely, and target the groups that can actually do something about Stallman if they believe the evidence.

                                                                                That’s how you do it. Don’t forget that he says she says, anonymous snippings on 3rd party sites, etc could be used against you in a smear campaign. Keep it up if you’d personally accept total ruin on a person’s hearsay and an image on a stranger’s web site. Otherwise, due process with credible evidence, esp first hand.

                                                                                  1. 8

                                                                                    Something real to work with. Ok, reading the linked article, the first thing I want to know is whether he was responding to the 14-16 idea or the rest cuz he said voluntary.

                                                                                    The first is whether young people, esp teens in high school, should be able to have sex with older people at the age when they’re biologically-programmed to try to have sex, usually are having sex for purely non-rational reasons (esp fun), are doing it with each other, and sometimes detrimentally due to immaturity. “Underage sex” is so normal it’s in so many books and shows yet specifics in real life must be taboo or evil.

                                                                                    On other hand, almost all real-life victims (I’ve met a few) and realistic depictions in movies involving rape show it does much more damage than folks consentually enjoying each others time in ways deemed illegal. (Sidenote: Gay folks should relate to this in many areas.) The damage difference makes it false to equate the two, even diminishing what rape is. “Statutory rape” belittles it.

                                                                                    If we have laws on this, I never thought they should be as serious as they are if both parties consent (focusing on teens here). If anything, it should have its own label (eg unlawful sex), its own lower set of consequences (eg misdemeanor or infraction), and not put people on lists that make people think they were actual rapists devastating other people with the folks on lists screwed for life. That the allowances of three years and such from 18 shows even lawmakers get what I’m saying to a degree. The label and damage to the accused should be closer to the actual damage or no-damage done to the victim or “victim.” If no damage and just illegal, those punished should have chance for recovery vs what existing situation is.

                                                                                    (Side note: There was a quote in OP that said it was rape because the law, statutory rape, says it’s rape. Some of the consent laws over here say it’s not rape if the kid is married off to someone they abhor with parent’s consent. Steel yourself up and look up “forced child marriage,” “child brides,” etc. Also get young as 12-14. The law said it’s consensual marriage, though, so it is consentual sex or something like that. Whereas, Nick P. said it was some forced, prolonged, sick, child rapist shit. Just noting these laws giving parents consent have issues above on damage-to-crime ratio and ensure in current form years of actual child rape.)

                                                                                    The second option is he’s for any child to have sex with any adult. I’m 100% against that for obvious reasons. I’d have to know he’s about that given it’s rare view. Your link already justifies at least pressing him on the issue. Also, you could use this to push him out of an event or project that was focused on children. Past that, I don’t know if it’s relevant unless you’re a group that ditches people and opportunities 100% on principle if they have any association with evil. Thing is, most of the morally-outraged folks on Lobsters work for, use products from, and so on high evils. I’d usually say the line is being drawn where it allows beneficial-to-them evils and blocks evils good for their outgroup. In this case, this one is really serious and universally hated. I’ll pass on that analysis vs excessive damage in the laws in teen situations.

                                                                                    I just don’t know which group he falls in based on that broad set of demands they were making. Someone should ask him to be really specific about the various claims in the linked article. Give him a chance to put them down, endorse something, or ignore it. Then, we learn more. Meanwhile, you can present it to conference organizers, colleges, etc trying to achieve something with them.

                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                      It’s pretty simple here, RMS thinks children can consent to sex, and that it should be ok if it’s consensual. My argument is also simple. I don’t want to live in a world where we have to constantly debate “but can children consent to sex with an adult?”. Anyone entertaining the idea should automatically be disqualified as an idiot. RMS here is an idiot and I can’t take him seriously anymore. There is nothing wrong with being dogmatic here. Makes the world a much nicer and saner place. We have much more important issues to deal with than some bullshit about consent and children. No, children cannot consent to sex with an adult, end of story.

                                                                                      1. 9

                                                                                        I haven’t seen evidence in the links of what you said since he might be talking about teenagers, which were in the link. The combo of Presumption of Innocence and Principle of Charity means what you linked would make me watch him carefully in those situations on top of asking pointed questions. He should be pushed to answer specifics. Back to the other topic.

                                                                                        “children”

                                                                                        A broad label applied to everyone between 0 and 18 used in this case to turn specific humans into monsters. The KKK used that approach, too. I dismissed their label since it didn’t fit evidence about people involved. Here, you’re about people who have gone through puberty, are designed/evolved to be sexually active with arbitrary people, and who are actively seeking sex. Then, you’re equating them with pre-pubescent kids not seeking sex. There’s a world of difference. Society itself already created a new label, teenagers, specifically for this class of youth. So, there’s inconsistency here.

                                                                                        I certainly didn’t think of myself as a child at 14 with the 16-18 years olds about indistinguishable in behavior. Today’s 16 yr olds mostly act like the 14 yr olds in my school. The teenagers’ behavior were pretty similar. They were really different from those much younger who we usually think of as children. My question is “Why do we treat them like adults with things like drivers licenses, school activities, financial responsibility, and ability to enter military to command and/or kill other people? And then, the second they want to smoke, drink, or have sex, they’re suddenly children?” Makes no sense at all.

                                                                                        “Anyone entertaining the idea should automatically be disqualified as an idiot. “

                                                                                        That would’ve been most of civilized society at many times in the world, including current time depending on area. People used to marry in 12-14 range. Society pushed it up after deeming it inappropriate. Age of consent varies depending on area. Early laws on statutory rape had 17yr old couples getting together, guy turns 18, and he’s charged as a rapist. By your definition, he should be since he was “an adult having sex with children” (or one in particular). Laws were modified to allow gaps of a few years that look similar to high school timeline. So, now I’m claiming we might change them again to either reduce the age or stop treating consensual sex with teenagers like a violent act with lower penalties for the former. We still have high penalties for sex with younger people.

                                                                                        Another thing that’s odd about our debate is your personal philosophy. You told me you measured science, law, ethics, etc by how it contributes to human happiness and potential. I liked that. So, let’s apply that view to an extremely common scenario. There’s a 16-17 year old whose behavior is indistinguishable from 18 who wants to have sex with a college student for fun, like the 18 yr olds. Both are willing, they’ll enjoy it, and they’ll be happier for it. You have two options:

                                                                                        1. Let them do it based on default of allowing any action that doesn’t damage another party. There’s no damage: just fun they both want to have.

                                                                                        2. For some reason, put the older one in a federal prison. They’re beaten and raped repeatedly for years. When they get out, they’re a felon who can’t get a good job. They’re also given a label usually reserved for people who actually rape pre-pubescent kids. People speculate about them for the rest of their life. They can’t take their kids or whatever near schools. Many effects.

                                                                                        Your belief system would’ve made me think you’d have gone with No 1 or at least lower penalties if it was a teenager close to the legal age. That you want someone who made someone happy to be repeatedly beaten and raped doesn’t fit your professed worldview. You’ve made a strange exception. I voted in the opposite direction: let the stuff happen with no penalities or, if a ban is deemed worthy, the penalties that normally go with victimless crimes. It’s only fair.

                                                                                        Side note: Without prison reform, everyone who you send to a serious prison will be beaten and/or raped. Some will be forced to join gangs to survive committing crimes outside prison. If (a) know this, (b) don’t try to stop it, and (c) send someone to prison, then you’re the cause of that as much as the people inside. I could put a rapist or killer through that. People having consensual sex, prostitutes, pot dealers, folks that gambled money, etc don’t deserve to receive all that violence. So, I vote for no charges or lower ones that lead to places not as rough on top of advocating for prison reform. People can tell themselves whatever they want but putting non-violent, non-rapist folks in places like that is making similar acts happen. So, they’re partly responsible. You all might want to consider that when evaluating what should be high-class felonies.

                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                          The reason there is a law that makes 18 or 16 or whatever threshold adult vs child, even though a 17 year old and an 18 year old are basically the same is that it’s not just about puberty (which is a fuzzy concept), but power relations. Consent is about power relations and when there is a large age difference during this early time in life, the gradient of power is large. You simply create a threshold because it’s a fuzzy subject. The law would be too complicated otherwise. It’s an approximation.

                                                                                          So sorry, teenagers having sex with other teenagers is not the same thing as a teenager having sex with a college kid because a college kid has far more power than a teenager.

                                                                                          But you completely ignored my power relations argument. Instead, you go into some weird “they have fully functioning sex organs” argument. Since you ignore power relations completely, you are missing the whole point. Sexual assault is not about age but power relations. It’s not whether someone is “mature enough”, it’s about the differences in power between two people. This is why teenagers having sex with each other is not a big deal, but a college kid or adult having sex with teenagers is.

                                                                                          1. 6

                                                                                            “ you go into some weird “they have fully functioning sex organs” argument.”

                                                                                            Come on, man. My argument had more to it. Legal sex is usually just two people that have gone through puberty, are also 18, want to have sex for (arbitrary reason here), and then do. The 18 part seems arbitrary. The punishment was also extreme. The only person I know that made an argument like you just worded that was Silvio Berlusconi. Don’t be lumping me in there with him.

                                                                                            “But you completely ignored my power relations argument. “

                                                                                            You never made a power relations argument. You just said “sex with children” and children couldn’t consent. You now brought up your actual point I’m guessing. Let’s talk about that.

                                                                                            “but power relations. Consent is about power relations”

                                                                                            I’ve never heard of this. I just follow the mainstream conversations in corporate media, social media, etc that represents what most people talk about and believe on these topics. Power relationships they usually talk about are authority figures essentially: parents, bosses, preachers, judges, etc who can unravel the other person’s life. I’m guessing consent = power relations in general is another far-left, liberal belief that comes out of universities. I give them all a chance, though. I’m very interested in any links you or others have that delve deep into this subject with examples.

                                                                                            Now, just going from the phrase you uttered to where it leads me. Been a long day. So, the noggin just comes up with a few ideas:

                                                                                            1. Perhaps you mean they have more experience, wits, and so on to game the younger people. This is true of everyone at 18 and older, too. There’s no societal rules or laws keeping people who might have more game from having sex with them. College folks might even get hit with it more since they’re even more independent and sexually active.

                                                                                            2. Maybe you’re talking about they have more money, connections, etc. That’s true in general for a lot of people. No laws against having sex with those above you in class or power. It’s true on average for older people than younger people. It’s not true if younger people come from a higher class where they can bring in their parents’ skill, lawyers, etc.

                                                                                            3. The inverse: young people’s claims or accusations of messing with them can ruin careers of anyone who isn’t as capable of dodging them as, say, Donald Trump. Much like the metoo stuff. The recent string of them has all kinds of upper-class and executive men spending less time with women, doing it only with cameras or witnesses that are women, having less private conversations (esp mentoring) and so on. That doesn’t sound like power so much as extreme vulnerability. Even more so with youth where seeing folks destroyed who did nothing led me to take same actions.

                                                                                            Adding to No 3, I absolutely refuse to be around most minors whose parents I don’t know well unless I’m on camera and/or there’s witnesses. I know my life will be toast if they make a single claim. That’s not me having power over them: they have power over me. That defense saved my ass a few times with some female predators which took older and younger women testifying to defeat. Who has the power again in that scenario if I’m relying on all of them to not be destroyed by hearsay from just one?

                                                                                            So, looking at it, I see some power here, none there, vulnerability yet over there, and yet everything you say applies to those 18 and up with no legislation addressing it. The intent, reasoning/emotion, and circumstances are nearly the same with one treated like sex regardless of power and one is rape regardless of what person in question wants or is capable of. It’s just inconsistent regardless of whether we keep it illegal.

                                                                                            I still want your references on consent = power relations, though. It will also take time to mentally process it weighing it against everything else people of various ages have told me. I’ll get back to you if anything comes out of that.

                                                                                            1. 8

                                                                                              At least over here in Australia, “Power relations” means that if you’re someones direct supervisor, university teacher, parole officer etc then their consent isn’t considered to be ‘freely given’.

                                                                                              1. 4

                                                                                                Thanks for bringing another country’s perspective. That view is same as what I described with authority figures over here. mempko view is something else on top of it giving it’s random people doing things for fun.

                                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                                At any given time, people can have power over others. At any given time, there are social hierarchies that can develop. Some of the hierarchies are static (like at a company, or organization). Teacher/student, Boss/worker, Police/Citizen, Coach/Player. Some are dynamic. Many of these hierarchies are NOT voluntary in the sense that there is real harm not playing along. Don’t play the Boss/worker game as a worker? You get fired. Don’t play the Teacher/student game, you get punished. Don’t play the player/coach game, you don’t play. In those circumstances, you don’t have consent. You do things because you are told to, even if you want to do them.

                                                                                                For example, if a soldier follows the instruction of a general, they are not consenting, and also they are not guilty of crimes, the general is. Or in a company, if a worker does something illegal at the command of their boss, it is the boss who would go to jail, not the worker, because the worker cannot consent. Even if the worker wanted to do the illegal thing, or the solder wanted to do the war crime, it’s not consent. Why? Because if they didn’t want to (vs wanted to), they wouldn’t have a choice in the matter if they didn’t want to harm themselves.

                                                                                                When it comes to children, it’s clear that with adults, they are always in some kind of heirarchy. They are NOT peers with the same power. Therefore, there is no consent, and sex cannot be consensual. Even if they ‘wanted’ to, the question you have to ask yourself is, what if they didn’t want to? Could they say no without consequence?

                                                                                                In other words, you can’t tell if someone wanted to do something, or HAD to do something when there are unequal power relations. Even in situations where they say they wanted to, you can’t tell, because there could be consequences of them saying otherwise if those relationships are in play.

                                                                                                Or to make it more obvious, If I put a gun to your head and told you to have sex with me, would you be consenting even if you wanted to? How could anyone else tell?

                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                  re hierarchies. I mentioned them in my post. Most of America agrees with you on that. What’s controversial is the part you added about 18-20 “adults” and 16-17 “children” having a power structure that should make sex between them banned but not anyone else. That’s my focus here. I’ve never heard of such power structure in those circumstnaces.

                                                                                                  “When it comes to children, it’s clear that with adults, they are always in some kind of heirarchy. “

                                                                                                  It’s really not. We didn’t obey college kids or random adults when I was in school. We obeyed those we had to who had actual power. Your theory is already not fitting the data. Further, who had power over who depending almost entirely on circumstances, not age.

                                                                                                  I’m going to give you some examples of younger women I met when I was in college. I want you to explain how I have power over them instead of the other way around. I want your theory to fit the evidence. In this, I’m going to be a poor, white nerd with a barely-functioning car, a part-time job, lots of college work, and no lawyer.

                                                                                                  1. Popular, attractive women with many friends including folks on the football team. They make one call, someone gets put in the hospital. I claim these women have power over me since they could make my life a living hell or even end it (odds unknown).

                                                                                                  2. Similar to 1, less popular or attractive women who have similarly dangerous connections. They might range from authority figures to cops to dangerous relatives (common) to gang members. I have to worry about keeping them happy.

                                                                                                  3. Women with more game or social ability than me. They can block me, win at social games more, and tarnish my reputation if we split in a bad way. I’m no threat to them. So, they have the power.

                                                                                                  4. Women with money, esp from their parents. These women had cars, access to more jobs, and their parents would make problems go away for them. They can’t solve all problems. The amoral ones gave us serious headaches. Still do in current workplace. They have more power.

                                                                                                  5. Women with less social ability or mental aptitude than me who have no connections or financial advantages. Although money isn’t a factor, I don’t date women with the remaining attributes since my partners must complement me, challenge me, and/or be worth bragging on a bit. If I did No 5, I would have power in that situation. Hard to say how much, though, as that varies by circumstances.

                                                                                                  So, looking at reality instead of theories from radical far-left, I find that I was powerless in most situations. This wasn’t limited to nerds: it was anyone with less social ability, connections, or resources than the other side. Your theory, that we had power, was 100% inaccurate in practice in many or most relationships. So, it must be modified to fit that power goes in opposite direction with protections for us or discarded in favor of a new, data-driven theory.

                                                                                                  The other problem was inconsistency. By your definition, this automatic, age-based power relation would exist in all people having sex with older, experienced people. By your rule, 18’s couldnt do 20’s, 20’s couldn’t do 25’s, etc since there’s automatically an invisible power relation just on age making them unable to consent. Yet, I’ve never heard any of you wanting statutory rape laws in place for 18+ for that reason. So, I’m not buying that you actually believe this since you left a huge hole in it from 18 to 120 years.

                                                                                                  You’re claiming, against field evidence, that 18+ always has power over 15-17 to such a degree it’s impossible for them to consent just due to age, and that power relation effect either magically goes away after 18+ (ha!) or their ability to consent despite power relations magically forms where no statutory provisions are needed. You’ve applied a concept reasonable in other power structures to situations with lower, wildly-varying power that only applies sub-18 in one direction but magically disappears afterwards. There’s wild ideas in theoretical physics I rejected that were at least more logically consistent than this.

                                                                                                  “In other words, you can’t tell if someone wanted to do something, or HAD to do something when there are unequal power relations. “

                                                                                                  Again, this is two people who aren’t worker/boss, teacher/student, etc where there’s actual power in play. This is just two people who know each other and wanted to have sex for whatever reason. Usually hormones or sex drive with you looking at that way too analytically. Only people I’ve see do folks for rational reasons are single golddiggers going person to person, prostitutes (overt golddiggers), and folks doing strategic marriages often for money (legal golddiggers). You can replace gold with another selfish goal. Most sex is risky, irrational, and all about pleasure.

                                                                                                  Due to how this works, we can know they wanted to do something since they can charge the other person with actual rape if they didn’t. Your whole line of reasoning leaves out that we have already laws against all kinds of predatory behavior. If they don’t want sex, they don’t give it as social standards already dictate. Their body, their right. If they do want it, they give it and have sex. That’s how you know they wanted to have sex. I think this is also the first time I’ve ever had to explain that.

                                                                                                  1. 0

                                                                                                    It’s clear you understand power relations.

                                                                                                    It’s funny that you disregard option 5 because your logic is, you want to be with women who are equal or in higher stances in the social hierarchy than you. So by definition, you created scenarios that you are lower in hierarchy most of the time. Then you say “see look, I’m the one who has less power”. Well duh. My advice to you is, find someone you love who is your peer, where you have mutual respect for each other and where they don’t hold power over you.

                                                                                                    Your whole line of reasoning leaves out that we have already laws against all kinds of predatory behavior.

                                                                                                    Do you mean like having sex with children? Or are you arguing those other laws are fine, but this one isn’t? I’m not interested in getting rid of those laws because I have no interest in having sex with people under 18. Why is it 18 and not 16, or 14, or 20? It doesn’t matter, the line is drawn somewhere to, as you said, prevent predatory behavior.

                                                                                                    My logic is that age is a factor because the younger you are, the more likelihood people older than you are higher in a hierarchy for your social situation. Adult/child is a hierarchy we have and that hierarchy is defined by age in our society. Other societies have rites of passage that define it.

                                                                                                    If they don’t want sex, they don’t give it as social standards already dictate.

                                                                                                    You are clearly an idealist and not a realist. Yes, ideally their body, their right. If that was true, we wouldn’t have rape and sexual assault, but we do. I personally want a world with no unjust hierarchy. But I also don’t pretend to live in a world without unjust hierarchy. Yes, ideally everyone can consent and live in a world where we are all among peers, where no single person has power over others, but that’s not the world we have. Maybe you are just a far-left idealist in disguise? Because that’s the world the far-left wants.

                                                                                          2. 1

                                                                                            There is nothing wrong with being dogmatic here. Makes the world a much nicer and saner place. We have much more important issues to deal with than some bullshit about consent and children. No, children cannot consent to sex with an adult, end of story.

                                                                                            There is something wrong with being dogmatic here, and that is that it is the same way of thinking that lead tot the holocaust.

                                                                                            One of the quotes that has been etched into the history-books is a leader of the Dutch resistance, whom ran a network used to shelter jews from prosecution is along the lines of; “Now you see how they really are! They even trade in their own people if it makes them money!”. Keep in mind that this was said in a context where a jewish lady that was part of the resistance, deliberately compromised some of their operations in hopes of making it out alive herself.

                                                                                            The real lesson there was that we should not allow dogma’s into our reasoning ever again.

                                                                                1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                                                  1. 13

                                                                                    To truly understand any event you have to understand the creation of the universe. Fortunately, as people, we can use some heuristics to avoid all that. It’s pretty clear from RMS’s response, it’s no good. I am a Free Software guy and have supported RMS all my life. I no longer do. It’s very upsetting.

                                                                                    1. 17

                                                                                      Why exactly do you no longer support him? Like, this is thirdhand gossip, but even with that being the case Stallman is Stallmaning as per normal: being very picky about wording and trying to make sure that moral arguments against something are not based on a quirk of local law.

                                                                                      1. 7

                                                                                        I no longer support him because I don’t want to live in a world where we debate “can children consent to sex with an adult”. Anyone entertaining this idea should automatically be disqualified as an idiot. Children cannot consent to sex with an adult, end of story. I don’t care how rational he is, “rational” is not the same thing as right. His basic assumptions are wrong, and when they are wrong, any rational conclusion is disqualified.

                                                                                        1. 7

                                                                                          except as this point its not third hand gossip, and its also not the first time, I say this as also being a Free Software Guy who has supported RMS since I got into free software (over a decade now)

                                                                                        2. 7

                                                                                          I’m just reading the quoted part of the email in the post, and RMS directly states that he has no reason to believe the accusations against Minsky aren’t true, just that the language used in the cited article isn’t specific enough to presume that the language that was used in the Facebook post in question was accurate. Am I reading this wrong?

                                                                                          1. 6

                                                                                            As a follow-up to my own question, I really spent some time looking into the quotes in question and trying to infer what Stallman was referring to. Here is what he stated:

                                                                                            I think it is morally absurd to define “rape” in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”

                                                                                            Here was the response in the post:

                                                                                            in response to a student who said “Giuffre [the victim who testified] was 17 at the time, this makes it rape [sic] in the virgin islands” . Again, this mailing list has undergraduate students on it. It is likely some of them are “18 years old or 17”. was shocked. I continued talking to my friend, a female graduate student in CSAIL, about everything, trying to get the full email thread (I wasn’t on the mailing list).

                                                                                            It turns out, in Massachusetts, the age of consent is 16. Nowhere in the post is there any indication of which country the presumed crime occurred in. I think what Stallman was getting at, was that that the definition of rape in this specific case doesn’t involve age. The author of the post didn’t have access to the complete e-mail, only some selected quotes. These quotes may have been taken out of context. I’ve been reading RMS e-mail for decades, and it doesn’t matter what the topic is, the structure of his arguments has been pretty consistent.

                                                                                            Let’s see the full e-mail thread before we start accusing RMS of things.

                                                                                            1. 7

                                                                                              The fact that RMS feels the need to comment is pretty damning. He should have either shown solidarity towards the women or stayed quiet. Punching down is not right.

                                                                                              1. 9

                                                                                                RMS comments on all sorts of things, including one rather memorable incident involving somebody talking about their new kid.

                                                                                                I don’t think I ever have heard of him “punching down”.

                                                                                              2. 2

                                                                                                Whoever flagged my above post as “incorrect”, I agree with you. But I had to dig for more information to figure out why.

                                                                                                I found a follow-on post based on a twitter thread that goes a bit further but doesn’t provide a lot of additional information. There is also this article about Minsky that does provide some concrete information. Apparently, the incident that was the source of Minsky’s involvement did occur in the U.S. Virgin Islands (age of consent 18):

                                                                                                A separate witness lent credence to Giuffre’s account, testifying that she and Minsky had taken a private plane from Teterboro to Santa Fe and Palm Beach in March 2001. Epstein, Maxwell, chef Adam Perry Lang, and shipping heir Henry Jarecki were also passengers on the flight, according to the deposition. At the time of the flight, Giuffre was 17; Minsky was 73.

                                                                                                The deposition itself is available here, and it is the primary source of information that most of the articles are based on.

                                                                                                Based on this information, RMS was wrong. It definitely falls under the legal definition of rape in the Virgin Islands.

                                                                                                If the medium article contained the above information, it would have been far less controversial. I went back and revised my voting and flagging of this thread, including down-voting several of my own posts which were based on an incorrect/incomplete understanding of the issue.

                                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                                  The full e-mail thread (20 pages) was just released, so I deleted my comment regarding waiting until it was available. That e-mail thread contains a lot of additional context that was missing from the Medium article. RMS wasn’t simply wrong, he was changing the focus of the entire issue. Regardless of age, Giuffre was a trafficking victim and he ignored that point.

                                                                                                  The e-mail about the protest event is on pages 18-20, and that should be the starting point for reading the thread.

                                                                                                  1. 7

                                                                                                    Please don’t delete your posts in the future…just add a strikethrough markup. It makes having clear discussions, difficult with topics far less inflammatory than this, much harder.

                                                                                                    Also, note that that link about the deposition probably was not read by Stallman because it requires nonfree software to run in the browser–something he mentions in that thread. If you read the thread, he also explicitly acknowledges she was being harmed, so the trafficking thing isn’t exactly “ignored” in my reading.

                                                                                                    1. 8

                                                                                                      I understand what you’re saying and normally I wouldn’t delete a post, but the tone of this thread soured late yesterday, and all I wanted was context on what RMS was being accused of. My initial post criticized the content and structure of the Medium article, and when it was flagged as ‘troll’ 24 hours later, I found that the Medium article itself had changed several times since my original post, and the original issues I was criticizing had been corrected. My comment could only be taken out of context at that point, and as it no longer added anything helpful to the conversation, could only harm the discussion. Those comments were over 24 hours old, and since I could no longer edit them to add strikethrough, I chose to delete them instead.

                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                        Ah, understandable.

                                                                                        3. 4

                                                                                          Is this the extent of the announcement?

                                                                                          To the MIT community,

                                                                                          I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT. I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations.

                                                                                          Richard Stallman

                                                                                          If so, it’s interesting, but this news/announcement is really really light on information, and hardly seems worth posting here..

                                                                                          1. 7

                                                                                            It’s from Stallman himself. Definitely worth posting and discussing IMO.

                                                                                            But an article that covers the details would be valuable for context, I agree. Especially for those of us who haven’t followed this issue.

                                                                                            Edit: for context: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbm74x/computer-scientist-richard-stallman-resigns-from-mit-over-epstein-comments

                                                                                            1. 6

                                                                                              Thing that bothers me most is the combination of these statements:

                                                                                              “When someone else in the email thread pointed out that victim Virginia Giuffre, who was 17 when she was forced to have sex with AI pioneer Marvin Minsky, Stallman said “it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.””

                                                                                              “Stallman is known as a pioneer of the free software community and movement, which is closely related to the open source movement.”

                                                                                              Great fucking P.R. for the “free software community and movement.” They probably should’ve said something that indicated he was different than many or most of the other people involved in F/OSS. Media wise, this might be making casual readers suspect this is a larger problem among advocates for these types of software.

                                                                                              1. 7

                                                                                                Great fucking P.R.

                                                                                                Thankfully open source as a concept and movement has become ubiquitous enough that Stallman’s writings won’t damn it.

                                                                                                Remember, this is the same guy who wrote about legalizing possession of child pornography (2012) or stating that bestiality, necrophilia and child pornography are illegal due to prejudice and narrowmindedness. He’s spent a lot more time talking about possession of child porn than one would expect. It’s rather unsettling to see the “It’s illegal because people are narrowminded!” (No Richard, child porn in specific is illegal because children cannot consent. Ever. And such is the fruit of the poisoned tree…)

                                                                                              2. 5

                                                                                                Why is it worth posting or discussing?

                                                                                                Is it actionable? Unless you’re RMS, not really.

                                                                                                Is it going to foster productive discussion? Well, if you don’t agree with what happened or why, it seems like posting here about to that effect would at best be irrelevant and at worst could get you flagged…or worse. It’s hard to have a discussion when everyone is violently agreeing with each other–that’s more of a circlejerk.

                                                                                                Is it something the practicing technologist can use? Unless we’re so cynical as to say “This is why you keep your head down in leadership roles”, no.

                                                                                                Is covered elsewhere? Extensively, to varying degrees of accuracy.

                                                                                            2. 6

                                                                                              Why is there so much pedophilia apologia in this thread?

                                                                                              1. 9

                                                                                                Where are you seeing that? The person spamming the most about it is mempko, who isn’t even decent enough to link to the actual thing they’re crowing about–which is a shame, ’cause the secondary link there would really help their case.

                                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                                  Where are you seeing that?

                                                                                                  Strange considering you said this.

                                                                                                  Stallman is Stallmaning as per normal

                                                                                                  In other words, stallman making excuses for pedophilia is somehow a ‘stallman just being his cute self’ thing. In other words, you are doing pedophilia apologia of the second order.

                                                                                                  The person spamming the most about it is mempko

                                                                                                  Other people call ‘spamming’ having a conversation.

                                                                                                  who isn’t even decent enough to link to the actual thing they’re crowing about

                                                                                                  I didn’t link to it because I thought a picture would be easier and I didn’t realize he had anchors to those comments.

                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                    As someone is deeply troubled by Epstein, the media lab, and just about everything related to this ugly business, I’d still cut RMS (and friendlysock by proxy) some slack. It’s a borderline Terry Davis situation.

                                                                                                    1. 9

                                                                                                      I’m well aware that he’s personally responsible for a shitload of the things I use daily. Not every tenured professor is so generous with their time, and that’s to his credit.

                                                                                                      He follows his moral compass, no matter what. I have a lot of respect for him for being able to do that, though I often disagree with where that compass points.

                                                                                                      I know multiple people, women and men, who got out of the FSF because of his behavior. They were good engineers. That’s not the mark of an effective leader.

                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                        This is probably the best argument to cut RMS some slack. However, I don’t believe he is borderline Terry Davis. Stallman calls himself ‘borderline autistic’. I’m curious to know if other autistics have similar views to his. However, Stallman’s cause that he has been fighting is a social and moral cause. It’s clear he has strong moral convictions and if anything I should keep him to high moral standards that he himself would keep. He is just wrong, badly wrong about this, and if anyone needs to be pressed about it, it would be someone like him who has strong moral convictions. I think a bigger disrespect to RMS would be ‘you have a bad brain, you are therefore excused’ since he would likely strongly disagree with this.

                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                          “Bad brain” is editorializing.

                                                                                                          Terry Davis was one of the few people in this industry who managed to call it what it is: error, confusion. He also saw CIA glowni*****s when he went to Target. Nutty? Yes. Bad brain? Hell no. A very relevant one!

                                                                                                          RMS is obviously touched–perhaps not to Terry’s extent, but still touched. What he feels about that diagnosis doesn’t change anything. Facts are facts.

                                                                                                      2. 5

                                                                                                        Additionally,

                                                                                                        https://stallman.org/archives/2003-may-aug.html

                                                                                                        28 June 2003

                                                                                                        The nominee is quoted as saying that if the choice of a sexual partner were protected by the Constitution, “prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia” also would be. He is probably mistaken, legally–but that is unfortunate. All of these acts should be legal as long as no one is coerced. They are illegal only because of prejudice and narrowmindedness.

                                                                                                        Also, to use Stallman’s own words, look at all the “narrowminded” downvotes on the article. It’s interesting, why downvote such a thing as off-topic when it’s very much about a central figure of free software, a focus of this forum? There are regularly far more poorly written technical pieces on this website that are upvoted to the top only because they don’t call a “hero” of free software out for thinking pedophilia is totally fine.

                                                                                                        While friendlysock said, “Stallman is Stallmaning as per normal” I’d say that the software community is just being itself as per usual. Morally bankrupt in its perpetual fence-sitting and deathly frightened of approaching any social problems on their own terms.

                                                                                                        1. 14

                                                                                                          I’ll respond to both you and mempko.

                                                                                                          kel:

                                                                                                          It’s interesting, why downvote such a thing as off-topic when it’s very much about a central figure of free software, a focus of this forum?

                                                                                                          In short, because it’s ugly and petty and not even news to anybody who’s familiar with Stallman’s writing, style, or viewpoints.

                                                                                                          Because it’s gossip, because I’d bet few people here even interact with Stallman on a regular basis, and from a standpoint of actionability the takeaway seems to be “Don’t have low EQ or autism or ever be mistaken about anything important because if you do people will ignore three decades of exceptionally hard work in favor of getting a chance to tear you down and misrepresent you in the press.”

                                                                                                          There are regularly far more poorly written technical pieces on this website that are upvoted to the top only because they don’t call a “hero” of free software out for thinking pedophilia is totally fine

                                                                                                          That’s incorrect. Those articles are in fact technical while this one is not, and frankly actionable, while this one is not–unless you consider mob justice and doxxing action. Further, look at it simply: the folks that are going to think pedophilia is wrong are not suddenly going to see the light, and the (probably, hopefully) small minority that think it is fine are not going to stop. There’s little to be gained here–hell, I’m only engaging because I think that using Lobsters as a clearinghouse for witch-hunts is bad practice.

                                                                                                          mempko:

                                                                                                          In other words, stallman making excuses for pedophilia is somehow a ‘stallman just being his cute self’ thing. In other words, you are doing pedophilia apologia of the second order.

                                                                                                          It’s not Stallman “being his cute self”, as you so dismissively put it. I put “Stallmanning” because there’s a very particular brand of hairsplitting that some folks do, and Stallman in particular is both very very particular about word choice (arguably to the detriment of the FSF, see the profound verbosity of the GPL and AGPL), famously stubborn (like, because he doesn’t run non-free software and because he handles emails in bulk periodic downloads, the poor bastard probably isn’t even going to see most of these articles about him until next week when it’ll be too late to do anything about it), and in possession of one of the strongest moral compasses I’ve ever seen in tech.

                                                                                                          Him saying “hey, if something is wrong, it shouldn’t be wrong because it’s the wrong calendar day in the year for this jurisdiction” is not defending statuatory rape, it’s him trying to make sure we’re talking about something other than the banalities of law. And note, in the transcripts, he explicitly acknowledges both that the lady was being harmed and that there was a bunch of information we don’t know and so we should give the benefit of a doubt.

                                                                                                          Him saying “hey, if people aren’t being coerced, something shouldn’t be illegal just because people are squicked out by it” is pretty tame support of explicit consent and not blindly making laws. You can disagree with him about whether or not kids can give consent, or how old they have to be to do so, or whether his understanding of developmental psychology is correct, but his core claim is something that can be engaged with without needing the explanation that he’s some sort of monster.

                                                                                                          ~

                                                                                                          I get that y’all are out for blood and nothing will slate your desire to string up some poor autistic nerd who is a relic of a time where people could think critically and engage specifically with words on mailing lists and generally not assume the worst of their coworkers, but can you just…like..do it somewhere else?

                                                                                                          (If you want to continue this slapfight, DMs are open.)

                                                                                                          1. 10

                                                                                                            I get that y’all are out for blood and nothing will slate your desire to string up some poor autistic nerd who is a relic of a time where people could think critically and engage specifically with words on mailing lists and generally not assume the worst of their coworkers

                                                                                                            can we stop doing this? his behaviour is not caused by (supposed, not diagnosed) autism, it’s assholery, and assigning it to being on the spectrum is patronising to the people actually being on the spectrum; people on the spectrum have been writing about it since long; cf. Russel Coker’s take from 2012 and more recent The Myth of the Autistic Jerk by Brandon Weaver.

                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                              Ok, I can easily argue his core argument. When two people consent, who makes the decision it’s consent? If two people have unequal power relationship, can consent exist? I would argue NO. Consent can only exist between peers. He mentioned necrophilia (clearly one side cannot consent ) or bestiality (clearly one side can not consent ) and pedophilia (clearly one side can not consent). This is because in all of those cases, there are unequal power relations.

                                                                                                              RMS is wrong as explained above. For him to dismiss power relations is wrong. His arguments against the protesters are petty and wrong. Is he being rational ? Yes. You can be both rational and very wrong at the same time.

                                                                                                            2. 3

                                                                                                              Thank You!

                                                                                                              The cause RMS is fighting (Free Software) is a just cause. However , his understanding of people is poor, therefore his social commentary is poor and at times, completely bankrupt.

                                                                                                            3. 1

                                                                                                              I don’t see “X being X as normal” in any way apologetic. More accepting of facts. If you are not in the position of power to stop X from doing X.. I’d use that if “X doing/being X” if I saw it multiple times. There’s no endorsing or going up in arms.

                                                                                                              If this is a good thing to do is another topic, but I do think you’re reading too much into this statement. Whenever I read such a statement, the *eyeroll* is basically implied, so to me it actually sounds the complete other way - but of course I could be wrong as well.

                                                                                                        2. 3

                                                                                                          If there are any oversight abilities that rms has that require ethical judgement they should be removed. I am unfamiliar with his exact roles.

                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                            This is a very sad situation.

                                                                                                            For those of us that want to help RMS in these difficult moments, would joining the FSF or making a donation be a good thing to do for him?

                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                              Hi lobsters. I understand that a lot of people here want to talk about Stallman. The thing is, the whole point of Lobsters is that it’s a community focused strictly on technical articles. The reason (as I understand it) is that there are multitudes of non-technical topics that are of interest at any time; without the “technical” criteria, where do you draw the line?

                                                                                                              Here’s an example. Personally, I’ve wanted to see a discussion on Lobsters about this: https://www.projectveritas.com/video/insider-blows-whistle-exec-reveals-google-plan-to-prevent-trump-situation-in-2020-on-hidden-cam/

                                                                                                              There are a number of benefits to having a discussion. Firstly, it gives Google employees a chance to counter the claims presented in the video. Secondly, it helps clarify overall sentiment in the technical community. And thirdly, it talks about problems that affect every one of us as technologists (and in fact, the entire world).

                                                                                                              However, that article is not welcome on Lobsters. And I completely agree with that decision. The reason it’s not welcome is that although it involves an important topic, it gives no technical insights. It’s, essentially, pure politics in a domain that happens to involve technologists.

                                                                                                              Such stories seem to have consequences for communities as they grow. They have a higher likelihood of dividing people and splitting the community into cliques, for example.

                                                                                                              I see a number of comments calling out the moderators for wiping the previous Stallman posts. But as far as I can tell, that makes complete sense: If the above URL isn’t allowed, then surely a story like this shouldn’t be allowed either. Again, where do you draw the line? It’s not enough that a lot of people are interested in talking about it.

                                                                                                              The line on lobsters is technical merit. And although this Medium post offers a lot of insight and is an interesting read, that’s not the criteria for lobsters.

                                                                                                              You have other options: HN and Reddit, though they are large and noisy.

                                                                                                              You could also try https://www.laarc.io – there are a number of interesting people with unique perspectives on there.

                                                                                                              1. 6

                                                                                                                Firstly, it gives Google employees a chance to counter the claims presented in the video.

                                                                                                                No, having a discussion with Project Veritas is completely counterproductive. The mere act of having a debate with that kind of organisation gives a veneer of legitimacy to their claims, however thin that veneer may be. Certain topics should not be debated because they’re simply preposterous.

                                                                                                                Also, it’s exhausting and fruitless. There’s no point. Don’t do it.

                                                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                                                  http://paulgraham.com/disagree.html comes to mind.

                                                                                                                  If it’s heretical merely to discuss a claim, what should people believe?

                                                                                                                  That’s the point, though. Even if a few dozen members of the community upvoted this article, it’s still politics. There’s no technical merit here whatsoever, so why is it allowed?

                                                                                                                  The goal was to bring attention to alternative venues. Lobsters’ strength is that it’s tech-focused.

                                                                                                                  1. 6

                                                                                                                    It’s not “heretical” to discuss Project Veritas stuff, it’s just a waste of time. Their whole deal is to make stuff up and argue with a complete lack of good faith.

                                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                                      Are you saying that the video is completely fake? For example, at 00:28, a Google employee is talking about Google policy. Do they actually work for Project Veritas and not Google?

                                                                                                                      If so, then that’s helpful to know. If not, then Veritas seems to be relaying Google policy in their own words, and it doesn’t seem like they made anything up.

                                                                                                                      (The meta-point here is that non-technical topics are divisive for Lobsters.)

                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                        “Veritas” is Latin for “truth”. The sure sign of the con-man: “trust me”.

                                                                                                                        Do they actually work for Project Veritas and not Google?

                                                                                                                        Entirely possible, they’ve done this sort of thing before, but more likely they asked certain questions designed to get specific answers that they could quote out of context:

                                                                                                                        https://www.snopes.com/news/2016/10/18/project-veritas-election-videos/

                                                                                                                    2. 4

                                                                                                                      It’s not heretical (there’s no religion at stake), it’s merely pointless. It’s tiring for everyone and convinces no one and the mere act of debate legitimises preposterous ideas as potentially valuable.

                                                                                                                  2. 3

                                                                                                                    I’m really glad to see communities with similar focuses and different rules, there’s tons of room for them in tech. Best of luck with laarc.

                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                      The site was originally more like that per submissions and votes. It eventually went the other direction since people favoring it brought in likeminded at a higher rate than technology-only folks trying to vet quality of invitees and such. Also, the apolitical kept pretending it was a no-politics site or politics tags would make politics legitimate on an already-politicized site.

                                                                                                                      Last census was here if you’re wondering where it’s at. Reversing the trend would require apolitical groups to be voting and inviting at a rate exceeding the politically-active groups. They’ve been unwilling to do so and that would be counter-moved to some degree. So, the site will continue in this trajectory with whatever effects that implies.

                                                                                                                    2. 1

                                                                                                                      inb4 topic merged and disappeared from front page

                                                                                                                      1. 6

                                                                                                                        That would be a shame because I feel this article has insights I haven’t seen elsewhere.

                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                          Yeah, the mods have made it very clear that RMS discussions are currently not welcome on the site.

                                                                                                                          1. 8

                                                                                                                            Yes, it happened with this story that links from different days were merged. As with the merge before it. As with the merge before it. As with the merge before it. As with the merge before it. As with the merge before it. As with… I mean, you take the point, but as with the first merge.

                                                                                                                            This is not mods sneakily putting a thumb on the scale to influence a discussion. This is the way merging has worked, as reiterated the day before this story was posted and 106 of the other 192 merged stories. Merging news has always been central to the design of the feature.

                                                                                                                            Users are not especially divided on this and mod action ran the opposite the way of you imagine. This was flagged 35 times as being off-topic and once as spam, making it the most-flagged story in Lobsters history, and I chose to leave it up anyways. The FSF has been transformational for our profession and I thought maybe it would go OK.

                                                                                                                            There’s also a proper meta thread I’ll add some more thoughts to when I have time away from work, just wanted to leave a note here because you’ve repeated this conspiracy theory many times on-site and in chat this last week, so clearly it’s important to you.

                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                              I thought that the merge feature was originally for articles on the same news story, reporting very similar content, not for “everything related to a topic must go into this one place” but I guess I was wrong. Fact is that the story I commented on here was relatively positively received, while the original post that everything was merged into wasn’t. And the content within them is not at all similar. Which means merging effectively disappears the positively received thread from the front page, introduces ridiculous and unnecessary confusion, and reduces the chances of anyone stumbling onto the topic on lobste.rs from reading the positively received and upvoted post and its thread. I would like if from now on all posts about Github are merged into a megathread every week to match the current rule, it’s obviously what the users want.

                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                Eh, I don’t think you’re doing anything all the conspiratorial (or you’d be in a conspiracy of one, if so), just that I think you got tired of seeing people argue about pedophilia and dismayed to see a lot of downvotes on a story, so figured that arguing from prior jurisprudence would be appropriate for this case. I disagree. This case was different than prior ones you’re citing. I think that mergedeleting erased a pretty big story to the point that a lot of people didn’t even see it and confused a lot of different threads into one, effectively silencing the discussion.

                                                                                                                                I think this was big enough news with different enough development that it warranted a few separate threads. I didn’t see newer threads getting downvoted into oblivion nor more pedophilia flamethreads popping up, but doubtlessly you can see things I can’t.

                                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                                  yeah to be clear I don’t think it’s like a conspiracy either lol, I just disagree with the decision

                                                                                                                              2. 7

                                                                                                                                mods have made it very clear

                                                                                                                                That’s a weird way of referring to “users of lobste.rs”.

                                                                                                                                The original post, the ur-text of this entire kerfuffle, was equally upvoted and flagged. The only mod action after that was, as per policy, fold further update posts into that original one.

                                                                                                                                I didn’t flag the original post as off-topic, but it was a borderline decision for me. I did hide it though. I personally don’t think the topic of “tech people behaving badly” is on-topic for lobste.rs.

                                                                                                                                1. 6

                                                                                                                                  The users are divided on this.

                                                                                                                                  If there was user unanimity, there wouldn’t be need for further action. The Lobsters software would automatically bury a story that had nothing but downvotes.

                                                                                                                                  Mergedeleting story after story is a clear moderator policy, not a reflection of user consensus.

                                                                                                                                2. 4

                                                                                                                                  They do it on many topics where there all about the same thing. It’s happened to one of my before, too. There were actually several times more articles on the RMS situation than that one IIRC.

                                                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                                                    Yeah they should just drop the pretense along with the “culture” tag.

                                                                                                                                    1. -2
                                                                                                                                    1. -3

                                                                                                                                      Flagged off-topic, since it’s about a personnel change and extremely light in detail.

                                                                                                                                      Also flagged because frankly I hate seeing bullies win.

                                                                                                                                      1. 26

                                                                                                                                        Also flagged because frankly I hate seeing bullies win.

                                                                                                                                        I don’t see any “bullying” going on in this situation. Stallman did something inappropriate, again, and is facing consequences and taking actions as a result of that.

                                                                                                                                        This isn’t happening because of “SJWs”, “outrage culture”, or any other cheap excuses. Stallman did something incredibly inappropriate, insensitive, and rude, that unfortunately isn’t very surprising if you’re aware of his past behavior. This is life. This is the “adult” world. There are consequences for your actions.

                                                                                                                                        If most people pulled half the shit he has in a professional setting, most people would no longer be in a professional setting. It’s pretty clear that Stallman has been getting a pass on his bad behavior for decades.

                                                                                                                                        Aside from that, Stallman represents the FSF as its president and is somewhat representative of the free software movement as well. His actions are relevant far beyond just his office, a mailing list, or even just MIT.

                                                                                                                                        1. 13

                                                                                                                                          “Stallman did something incredibly inappropriate, insensitive, and rude, that unfortunately isn’t very surprising if you’re aware of his past behavior.”

                                                                                                                                          “If most people pulled half the shit he has in a professional setting, most people would no longer be in a professional setting. It’s pretty clear that Stallman has been getting a pass on his bad behavior for decades.”

                                                                                                                                          Although I don’t like it on Lobsters, I agree with this characterization of Stallman in general. He got special treatment overlooking what wouldn’t work for most of us. His bad habits gave enough ammunition to his opponents to finally do him in at least on MIT side of things. That’s whether the interpretations are true or not. He’s still handling it so badly.

                                                                                                                                          1. 4

                                                                                                                                            If most people pulled half the shit he has in a professional setting, most people would no longer be in a professional setting. It’s pretty clear that Stallman has been getting a pass on his bad behavior for decades.

                                                                                                                                            And it’s worthwhile asking why that is. People who are exceptional in one dimension are on occasion lacking in others. In the past, society seemed generally OK with cutting slack for the shortcomings roughly in proportion to the value.

                                                                                                                                            We seem to be moving away from that, towards a situation where we’d prefer to discard genius unless it is presented in an acceptable way. There’s a long list of people who have moved the needle in compsci alone who fail our modern standards - Stallman, Torvalds, Eich, De Raadt, DHH, even Jobs. I dare say it’s the same in a lot of other industries.

                                                                                                                                            Perhaps we’re making progress in one dimension, but I’m not sure we’re fully weighing up the costs.

                                                                                                                                            1. 14

                                                                                                                                              In the past, society seemed generally OK with cutting slack for the shortcomings roughly in proportion to the value.

                                                                                                                                              This indicates that a sufficiently valued person will be allowed to get away with heinous crimes because “they’re too valuable!” I don’t and won’t accept that.

                                                                                                                                              #metoo took out several of those people who benefited from such slack for nearly a lifetime. Times are changing and people are no longer satisfied with looking the other way for some “genius’s” indiscretions when they exceed the “Oopsie” scale. I’d consider writing about how a 17 year old coerced into sexual contact as not being rape falls off the oopsie scale and jumps into minimizing the crime.

                                                                                                                                              Then we look at his other notes (advocating for possession of CP, claims that CP et al are illegal due to narrow-mindedness and prejudice), it paints a rather unsympathetic picture. It’s a shame to confront those icky parts of him, but they’ve been there in writing since 2012, 2002 (I don’t want to peruse for more of this… ugh)

                                                                                                                                              1. 13

                                                                                                                                                We seem to be moving away from that, towards a situation where we’d prefer to discard genius unless it is presented in an acceptable way . . . Perhaps we’re making progress in one dimension, but I’m not sure we’re fully weighing up the costs.

                                                                                                                                                On the contrary, I think you’re not fully weighing up the costs. You only write about the individual and their relationship to their field. What about all of the other individuals who aren’t a part of the field because of the negative behaviors of this one? How do we calculate the costs of never getting their contributions?

                                                                                                                                                We’re moving not toward discarding genius, but demanding basic civility.

                                                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                                                  We’re moving not toward discarding genius, but demanding basic civility.

                                                                                                                                                  I’m a big fan of civility. But what if genius doesn’t always come in a civil package? I think there are some people (perhaps RMS is one) whose disagreeableness is in no small way related to their genius.

                                                                                                                                                  There is the possibility that there are geniuses whose input we’ve missed because they were chased out of a field. This is a Bad Thing. Genius is incredibly rare; I think we should be very wary of discarding it intentionally (when we deem a person unacceptable) or unintentionally (when we fail to create a conducive environment). There can be conflicts between those two goals.

                                                                                                                                                  1. 16

                                                                                                                                                    But what if genius doesn’t always come in a civil package?

                                                                                                                                                    I am totally 100% OK with demanding that anyone I work with be civil.

                                                                                                                                                    You are very focused on single geniuses, but they’re not a great model for future discoveries and progress. Humanity pushes the boundaries of our knowledge and our fields less and less with lone geniuses, and more and more with groups and teams. And effective groups and teams don’t mesh with jerks.

                                                                                                                                                    1. 5

                                                                                                                                                      In the early 20th century, major progress was made by single geniuses. Some time back, Friendlysock pointed out to me that Haber, a nazi chemical weapons scientist, is responsible for most of the humans living today (via his discovery and implementation of efficient nitrogen synthesis). Even after the allies got their hands on his factory they needed him to show them how it worked.

                                                                                                                                                      I think we’ve run out of fields where a single mind can make a massive breakthrough (and carry it to implementation, as Haber did).

                                                                                                                                                      I don’t have strong evidence for that claim beyond anecdotes from my friends who still do that sort of work and the observation that papers author lists have gotten much longer over the past 50 years.

                                                                                                                                                      1. 17

                                                                                                                                                        In the early 20th century, major progress was made by single geniuses.

                                                                                                                                                        No. (And neither was it true earlier.)

                                                                                                                                                        Some time back, Friendlysock pointed out to me that Haber, a nazi chemical weapons scientist, is responsible for most of the humans living today (via his discovery and implementation of efficient nitrogen synthesis). Even after the allies got their hands on his factory they needed him to show them how it worked.

                                                                                                                                                        This is verifiably untrue. Haber worked on nitrogen fixation (not nitrogen synthesis), for which he developed a solution with help of British chemist Robert Le Rossignol; the process then was brought up to scale by Carl Bosch at BASF. Both Haber and Bosch received the Nobel prize; Le Rossignol’s work was recognized by Haber well enough that his name is on a number of patents related to the process.

                                                                                                                                                        The “solitary genius” narrative is a false one, and results in extremely toxic work environments.

                                                                                                                                                2. 6

                                                                                                                                                  Stallman claims to represent an ethos of individual liberty where the morally pure “free” and “non-free” are so easily assigned to good and evil in the software domain, and yet by placing an assault victim under the microscope, he arrives at strange conclusions regarding good and evil in another context. Apparently Minsky suffered the “injustice” - despite being dead - of an assault allegation. And in discussing morality, apparently the salient topic is examining and re-defining “sexual assault” rather than engaging in the impact of these events on the MIT community.

                                                                                                                                                  There’s a long list of people who have moved the needle in compsci alone who fail our modern standards - Stallman, Torvalds, Eich, De Raadt, DHH, even Jobs. I dare say it’s the same in a lot of other industries.

                                                                                                                                                  Funny how Turing, Lovelace, and Hopper are pretty clean, but it’s the modern man failing our “modern standards”.

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                                                                                                                                                    You’re rather downplaying the damage Turing suffered at the hands of the “modern standards” of his day. Standards changed, and he’s a hero. Standards can change again, and he may well be vilified.

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                                                                                                                                                      You may have misread my point, which is about what these people have done in their lives, not about how they were victimized by others.

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                                                                                                                                                        Ah, I indeed may well have. Thank you for pointing that out.

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                                                                                                                                                    Once upon a time, it was difficult for somebody to spread an idea outside their home, their friends, their workplace, or their town (if they wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper). Most of the people who encountered an idea, and most of the people who accepted it, came from a similar background and upbringing. If the person spreading the idea had personal failings, it was easy for the audience to forgive them, because everyone in the audience probably shared at least a few of them, or knew many people who did.

                                                                                                                                                    These days, anyone can set up a blog, or post to Facebook or Twitter, and share an idea with a billion people around the world. Most of the people who encounter that idea, and indeed many of the people who accept it, probably don’t come from a similar background; if the person sharing the idea has any personal failings, they’re likely to be surprising and upsetting to a good part of the audience. It’s therefore much more important that the people representing an idea to the public be unobjectionable — to avoid distracting outsiders from the idea itself, and to avoid personal failures being stereotypically associated with the idea.

                                                                                                                                                    To a certain kind of technically-oriented mind, this smacks of non-orthogonality: why should a person’s behavior in context X affect their respect or authority in unrelated context Y? But the problem of disseminating ideas is a social problem, not a technical one, and it must be solved by social rules.

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                                                                                                                                                      To a certain kind of technically-oriented mind, this smacks of non-orthogonality: why should a person’s behavior in context X affect their respect or authority in unrelated context Y? But the problem of disseminating ideas is a social problem, not a technical one, and it must be solved by social rules.

                                                                                                                                                      I agree. Those social rules apply both sides of the interaction however; the rule for the author may be “be as polite as possible” while the rule for the reader may be “assume good intentions and attempt to look past poor communication”.

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                                                                                                                                                        “assume good intentions and attempt to look past poor communication”.

                                                                                                                                                        People have been extending this courtesy to Stallman for decades.

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                                                                                                                                                          People have been extending this courtesy to Stallman for decades.

                                                                                                                                                          Yes, and broadly, I’d say that has been a net positive.

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                                                                                                                                                            Perhaps. Or if RMS had had credible pushback for the stuff he’s been getting away with for decades, maybe he wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in now.

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                                                                                                                                                    This is happening because some lady second-hand (she was forwarded some chunk of a mailing list from her angry friend iirc) got pissed off and decided to write a blog about it–and apparently spam a lot of news outlets. Said outlets (both Vice and The Daily Beast) frequently misquoted or used out of context his writing.

                                                                                                                                                    If having people purposefully misrepresenting your views (say, by “summarizing” your post to say that you “defended Epstein” in a mailing list when you actually said the exact opposite) and using that to gain clicks and pressure you to remove yourself (or be removed) from a position you’ve worked very hard for isn’t bullying, I’m skeptical.

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                                                                                                                                                      This is happening because some lady second-hand (she was forwarded some chunk of a mailing list from her angry friend iirc) got pissed off and decided to write a blog about it–and apparently spam a lot of news outlets. Said outlets (both Vice and The Daily Beast) frequently misquoted or used out of context his writing.

                                                                                                                                                      That is incredibly disingenuous; and tries to remove any responsibility for the situation from Stallman. Don’t do that.

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                                                                                                                                                        decided to write a blog about it […] “summarizing” your post to say that you “defended Epstein” in a mailing list when you actually said the exact opposite

                                                                                                                                                        Are you saying the medium post says that? I can’t see anything in the post that says that.

                                                                                                                                                        The Medium post takes issue with the arguments Stallman made to defend Marvin Minsky. (Rightly so to take issue with them, in my opinion.)