I’m deeply suspicious of this kind of argument: one that defends being a jerk, or insensitive, or aggressive, by trying to claim the mantle of being anti-establishment, i.e. rejecting “professionalism” as some sort of shallow conceit for “squares.” I haven’t a clue what went on between these two people (and I don’t care that it is Torvalds either – not impressed), I’m just talking about the idea, the ideology: this notion that being “real” or “authentic” or “genuine” requires ignoring the kind of self-reflexive controls and limits that we put on each other in order to get a long long enough to get something done, to manage to work together. I get that false people are dangerous, but so are people that use being “authentic” as an excuse for being abusive or insensitive.
This also bleeds into the domain of those who critique “political correctness” as some sort of outlandish restraint on their freedom. Political correctness is a positive social quality, to my mind, and it doesn’t just mean not saying things you might otherwise say; it means learning how to say them in a way that makes it possible for people with very different sensitivities (draw from different political and historical experiences) to begin to work together. Torvald, by contrast, seems to think that there are these “natural” affinities between people, and by implication that one can act “naturally” (i.e. his “explosive emails”) without fear of causing pain or damage, or breaking down communication.
All in all, this is a pretty shallow – and I would say just flat wrong – conception of human psychology. In fact, Torvalds repeated use of the word “natural” is pretty revealing. I suspect it’s wrapped up with a rather explicit rejection of the findings of modern psychology, which largely rejected naturalistic models of the human “character” turning instead to a model of the structured relational model of the human personality, that is built up over time, and is deeply affected by human relationships and communication.