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It's time to talk about post-RMS Free Software (mjg59.dreamwidth.org)
54 points by ingve 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments



> Remove everyone, if we must, and let something much better be built from the ashes.

This is cancel culture taken to the extreme. Now that everything is built, the builders are expendable. They're "problematic."

We're facing down a new form of puritanism that is a greater threat to civil rights than the "problematic" individuals they seek to destroy.

No defense for RMS' statement, it's absurd, but if there's no moderation whatsoever in regards to a proportionate response (eg. he's either "clean" or "unclean"), then no one else is safe as the mob ratchets up its criteria for existing as a virtuous person.


The issue isn't one problematic statement. It's a history of behaviour that's documented to have driven multiple people away from the free software community and an absolute unwillingness on his part to do anything about it. If your movement's leadership acts in a way that hurts the movement, what's the appropriate response? Everything short of pushing RMS out has been tried already.


> If your movement's leadership acts in a way that hurts the movement, what's the appropriate response? Everything short of pushing RMS out has been tried already.

You are making a baseless assumption that it hurts the movement and are using it to push a change in leadership to someone, who is ideologically more aligned with your views (presumably, maybe you have hidden agendas, who knows). To me it seems that politically correct leadership afraid to talk about controversial topics and express controversial opinions is going to hurt free software much more by letting "the mobs", corporate PR attacks, etc. influence them and shape the movement.


These are not “controversial opinions.” Controversial opinions are things like “Chernobyl wasn’t that bad” or “abortion is murder.” This is just a guy defending the rape of children.


He wasn't defending the rape of children.


Well, he spent a bunch of words arguing it’s not rape. I suppose that is slightly different.


What would provide sufficient base for you to accept that statement?

Because I think there is some basis in that statement, given the many conversations I've had over the last 20 years I've known of free software, and known of people who dealt with Stallman.

Including my own experience.


People who run away from something when their feelings get hurt are no great loss to whatever "movement" they're too weak to contribute to. Free Software has much bigger problems than these losers.


I personally know high quality developers who refuse to work on free software projects because of Stallman. It's not a matter of weakness, it's a matter of principle.


I personally know high quality developers who only work on free software projects because of Stallman.

I’m not sure how valuable these baseless anecdotes are to the conversation and is one of the reasons why I try to argue on principles.

I’m optimistic that you brought up principles as well as I think it’s important to judge developers based on the quality of their code rather than how popular they are.


The popularity of a developer is certainly not a reason to judge them in itself. But the reasons for that developer's popularity are. Is that developer popular because they provide empathetic feedback to other developers? Is that developer popular because they help other project members think about the goals of the project in useful ways? Is that developer popular because they make it easier for others to involve themselves in the project? If so, that developer should be regarded highly even if their code isn't great.


I agree with you. I was trying to communicate that we should evaluate based on the underlying value rather than surface characteristics. Hopefully a great developer will also be popular (because of impact) but not necessarily. I frequently try to remind myself that I should assume value based on popularity.

Good software isn’t a democracy. Democracy is great for things that are arbitrary, but sucks for things where there’s objective value. I don’t want my surgeon taking a vote on how to proceed while I’m on the table.

However, that doesn’t mean democratic principles have no place. Consensus, discussion, collaboration are all important. But not to the exclusion of skill and responsibility. While I don’t want my surgeon taking a vote that includes the orderly and electrician who happen to be in the room, I hope that they solicit input and consider opinions from others before they decide on the course of action.

I also don’t know of a way to compare individuals for their value and think it’s a waste of effort to do so. People who encourage facilitation are awesome and I think frequently projects can do better with a fun person who attracts participation rather than some hard core coder who pisses everyone off. But not as an absolute rule. I’ve worked on projects with wonderful cheerleaders that never produced anything because they were all happiness and tons of people, but no one actually doing work.


The main problem of Free Software (read GPL) is that it is not free, compared to say BSD. It doesn't promote competition and doesn't help small player, as you have to release all changes back under GPL. On the other hand, GPL increases barrier to entry, so big monopolistic players, like Microsoft and governments, win from it, while small indie devs lose.


So they only work on commercial software projects because of Richard Stallman?


Yes. They concluded that working in communities that wouldn't tolerate people like RMS was more important than working on free software.


This is a disingenuous argument.

I work on some free software projects and most people don't even know who RMS is. There are multiple Free/Open Source software associations, projects and communities to choose, all with different people working on them, some of them don't tolerate such behavior.

If none of those fit, people can just create their own and choose who to associate with.


> They concluded that working in communities that wouldn't tolerate people like RMS was more important than working on free software.

This is clearly a fabricated justification. But if such people were to actually exist they would not participate in the free software movement either way due to misalignment of values and ideologies.


Companies have cultures and legal constraints that get coworkers fired for perpetually hitting on their coworkers. That's a positive for a lot of people (myself included).

Bushnell makes the excellent point that he wasn't pushed out for this email alone, but for the pattern of thought the email indicates when aligned with other behaviors in his career.

https://medium.com/@thomas.bushnell/a-reflection-on-the-depa...


This comment is precisely indicative of the attitude that is holding the Free Software movement back, and if pushing Stallman out gives better indication to the fact that this attitude is not to be tolerated, then his removal succeeds in sending the correct message.

The movement doesn't grow further as just an old-boys-club, or a tough-emotions-only club. That stuff is, quite frankly, exhausting and detracts from good engineering.



You say, "No defense for RMS' statement" and yet here you are.

RMS is using his position as a free software spokesman and leader to minimize sex trafficking and defend rapists and you are talking about "cancel culture".

This is a horrific response to this article.


Something like what Python has done in transitioning off of a BDFL is well worth discussing.

Even though I'm not religiously bound to the GPL, it would be idiotic to refuse props to RMS for having profoundly affected society in a positive way through the FSF.

Are we confident that the FSF doesn't pass on with RMS? How?


>No defense for RMS' statement, it's absurd, but if there's no moderation whatsoever in regards to a proportionate response (eg. he's either "clean" or "unclean"), then no one else is safe as the mob ratchets up it's criteria for existing as a virtuous person.

What more proportionate response would you suggest?

So far, the only alternative responses I've seen offered are that Stallman is either correct or the true victim, and we should sympathize with him, respect him and let him be.


How about call him an asshole, let him learn from his mistake (or not) and move on?


So basically, just put up with it and do nothing consequential?

RMS isn't some random asshole who made a slightly off-color remark, he's a leader whose influence and cult of personality have shaped the culture around F/OSS development and programming for decades, who appears to have troubling issues around the concept of sex and consent with minors. He's also a man known for his intransigence, so the chances of him "learning his lesson" seem low.

To say that he doesn't deserve to be inconvenienced by the social consequences of opinions that would ostracize anyone else isn't proportionate, it's elitist.


“Gosh, why are there so few women in tech? It’s such a mystery. I guess the female brain just isn’t as suited for programming. There is definitely nothing we can or should do to change the situation.”

I am so disgusted with this community right now.


It is entirely possible that the people who are good at building technologies aren't great at building cultures or communities, or at finding the most human-beneficial uses of those technologies. Different skillsets.

Wernher von Braun never went to the moon.


I grow more and more tired of these discussions. Talks of banishing people because they’re ignorant, rude, sexist. Conferences are getting shut down, people are having their world turned upside down for being ignorant. Every topic is a hot potato. I feel i can’t even have a reasonable conversation about diversity, ignorance, or whatever the controversy of the day is. It’s easier to just be quiet than express opinions.


> Talks of banishing people because they’re ignorant, rude, sexist.

The problem is that not getting those people to stop doing that - or, if necessary, excluding them - causes them to exclude other people.


> The problem is that not getting those people to stop doing that - or, if necessary, excluding them - causes them to exclude other people.

And getting those people to stop excludes people who don't like for anyone to force them to stop and to cave to the mobs.


Why are the people who object to Stallman's views "mobs" - a rabble mindlessly driven by rage and conformity - but "ignorant, rude and sexist" people who agree with him are not?

I have yet to see a mob mentality like that which forms to defend Richard Stallman at all costs.


I don’t buy that. Or at least I don’t buy that more are being excluded by RMS remaining vs banishment.

I think it’s easier to be inclusive by people’s preference to join rather than to try to guess about unknown groups that may be be comfortable enough to participate but since we don’t know them we can’t query them.

I don’t think RMS is scaring off good developers. I also don’t understand what kind of developer would be put off by his statements so much they would not collaborate on a project.


People have literally talked about how they left the field because of RMS's behaviour. This isn't a case where we're randomly guessing that he discourages participation, we know he does.


“People” is not very specific. This is a tricky discussion topic because I don’t really care if people left the field without more info. Were they awesome programmers? We’re they mean people? Was it a net positive that they left the field? I have no way of knowing this.

I’ve worked on a lot of projects and software is weird and awesome because the impact of one person is so amazing. Lots of people can come and go without making a difference. So discouraging participation isn’t some absolute evil to be avoided. Sometimes it actually helps cut down on noise per the whole Brooks Law kind of thing.


Who are the people thus excluded by RMS?


People who aren’t comfortable associating with someone who defends child rape.


Which - to the best of my knowledge - Stallman has never defended.


“ I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily [sic] pedophilia harms children.”

https://stallman.org/archives/2006-mar-jun.html#05%20June%20...


It does, but how badly, it depends? What are the worst kinds, what are relatively harmless if any?

Does our current handling thereof help or harm?

If those questions are not answered, we're flying blind.

Also there are some stupid things done like putting 18 y.o. boy in jail for sleeping with his 16 y.o. girlfriend, consensually.

Someone should do actual not politically correct and not victim culture motivated research.

It would be hard work, reaching out to the victims and running longitudinal observation.

If there is such research, I'd like to read it.


Child sexual abuse is strongly linked to a range of mental illness later on in life.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0...

> Someone should do actual not politically correct and not victim culture motivated research.

Someone should take a few minutes to read the reams of research that has been written about this rather than parotting NAMBLA discussion points.


I'll add that "harm" doesn't make a difference - lack of consent is what's at issue.

If someone has sex with a woman in a coma, there's no harm to the woman. There's no need for physical force. It's still sexual assault.

Unconscious people, children, and sex slaves are not able to give meaningful consent.

Stallman doesn't appear to understand the role of consent in these laws.



For those who might prefer unredacted, here's what Stallman is reported to have said:

"The word “assaulting” presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way, but the article itself says no such thing.Only that they had sex. We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates."


The issue in a nutshell, right here: Primary source evidence is downvoted in favor of complaints about fabricated statements made by chopping up sentences and adding different words to them.


Of course, the definition of "sexual assault" presumes no such thing.


The law definition in the United States, you mean.

In Poland, it requires use of force or coercion on part of the person doing the sexual act. Without it, say drugging and then letting someone else do it, it's "just" assault. (The other person is committing sexual assault.)

What Epstein did is called pimping and also punishable by law. Potentially also abduction or assault. Forcing a minor to commence a sexual act is a separate category of pimping (pimping a minor) that's yet more harshly punished.

Sex with minor is also punishable by law separately. (With some exceptions and discretion by the judge.) Now there is a strong association with sexual assault, though circumstances can leave it as just sex with minor. Depends on prosecutor and judge.

So it is likely Epstein would be convicted of multiple crimes and potentially recidivism (repeat offense) and organized crime, while Minsky would be convicted for sex with minor, not any kind of assault.

Note that repeat offense means Epstein would not be offered bail nor allowed a reduced sentence.


> The law definition in the United States, you mean.

No, the everyday English word "assault" doesn't have to include "use of violence". RMS has wrongly said it does.


Maybe read the link about which we are all talking.


A less condescending tone would be appreciated. I read that article - and formed certain opinions about it - long before it was posted to HN.


The whole thing is about RMS defending child rape on the basis that legal age limits are stupid and that it’s not rape if the child is willing. If you managed to miss all that then maybe try again.


If you could kindly point me to the passage where Stallman talks about rape, I would be much obliged.


“...the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing.”

The context is an underage sex slave. Having sex with her is rape by definition in two different ways.


Why can't you have a reasonable discussion?

Stallman emailed a big mailing list for a computer science department the following about a child sex trafficking victim:

"The reference reports the claim that Minsky had sex with one of Epstein’s harem…Let’s presume that was true (I see no reason to disbelieve it). ...

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

Is this acceptable to you?


To imagine a scenario, sure. I can imagine plenty of scenarios.

Epstein liked to film his visitors and use the material to blackmail them. Knowing that, it's not unreasonable to assume that he ordered his slaves to behave nice and inviting.

You should be very careful about drawing lines between what you can and can't think. Once you do that, it doesn't really matter if you call it Religion or Science; you're still hosed.


He’s not just imagining a scenario. He’s saying that this is the most likely scenario, and that the fact that she presented as willing makes everything totally cool.


Your repeated false statements in this comments page might be doing your cause more harm than good, since others have posted links and full actual quotations that contradict your statements.


> totally cool

I didnt read that in the email thread. Human trafficked sex slaves appearing willing to Minsky does not mean everything is totally cool.


He keeps saying it shouldn’t qualify as sexual assault or rape. If it’s not that then what is it?


For Minsksy it’s at least statutory rape, not cool at all. For Epstein it’s the whole gamut of messed up stuff, also not cool.

It seems to me that Stallman is saying that qualifying language is valuable as statutory rape in USVI (and most other jurisdictions) has a much smaller penalty than other forms of sexual assault. So using the same word for Epstein and Minsky is not fair, I think, to their victims.

But saying “use more accurate language” is not the same as saying what Minsky is accused of is totally cool.


He also spends a lot of time arguing that statutory rape shouldn’t count. So if he thinks that’s all Minsky did, it seems entirely fair to summarize that as “totally cool.”

Not to mention that if Minsky did in fact have sex with a slave who was forced to do it, that’s real actual rape, and the best thing you could say there is that Minsky was somehow tricked into committing rape.


Lots of people think statutory rape shouldn’t count. In the British Virgin Islands the age of consent is 16, so the crime Minsky is accused of isn’t a crime a little while away. I don’t think it’s fair, or accurate, to characterize the entire population of the British VI as being “totally cool” with other forms of sexual assault and human trafficking.

I think the risk I run is in characterizing acts incorrectly. I’m not aware of anyone being charged with “actual rape” for having sex with human trafficked prostitutes in USVI. So it depends a lot on the facts of the case, etc etc.

We will have a tough time knowing what Minsky knew and didn’t know. I think it’s reasonable to know if a sex partner is legs age, but it’s much harder to know whether someone was exploiting someone against their will. But legally I’m not sure he would be charged with being “unwilling rape” or whatever crime you think he committed.

What I’m trying to point out is that someone can be against statutory rape, even against rape tricking, and not think it is “totally cool.”

Logically, it is not appropriate to make such leaps unless we have more info.


The US, and England, and probably other countries, have enacted laws that mean some sexual offences against children committed outside those jurisdictions can be tried inside the jurisdiction. Precisely to stop this kind of sex tourism.

See for example this from England:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/48

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/53A


I don’t get it. If it wasn’t rape (statutory or otherwise) then what is RMS saying isn’t “totally cool” about it?


The gist of what RMS said is that Epstein trafficking a 17 year old is bad, but if Minsky had sex with a 17 year old who gave the appearance of consenting, Minsky didn't do something wrong.


> For Minsksy it’s at least statutory rape

That's probably not the case. At the time, 2001, the age of consent in the US Virgin Islands was 16. Around the middle of that year the legislature said they wanted to raise it to 18, but I don't think they actually accomplished that until the passage of the Child Protection Act of 2002.

(For comparison, it varies from 16 to 18 for US states. 16 in 31 states and DC, 17 in 8 states, and 18 in 11 states).


Oh thanks. I just looked up the current age of consent in USVI and didn’t think to look it up at the time of the event in question.


A couple things to note.

1. The sex they are talking about was in 2001, which was before there were any criminal cases or charges or civil cases against Epstein. Is there any reason for Minsky to have suspected that the girl he met at Epstein's place then was being coerced?

2. Stallman and Minsky were good friends.


So it's a binary decision is it? It's either acceptable or not? Does every argument have to be reduced to for or against?


If a person has sex with a minor without knowing they are a minor it is a crime. But should they lose their livelihood and reputation if they didn’t know the parts that make it a crime or didn’t commit the coercion themselves?

If I buy a car cheaply at auction that was seized as part of a drug-dealing crime and then get busted for having drugs still stashed in the doors, I am now a drug offender. I did not knowingly do it nor did I mean to hurt people with drug trafficking so should I lose my livelihood and reputation?

If buy a unknowingly stolen Gucci handbag on the street for a cheap price (thinking it could be a knockoff).... you get the picture.

I’m not defending drug traffickers, child rapists, or appropriating stolen goods, I am wondering if knowingly participating in the moral violation that defines the crime should make the reputational difference... or should you be persona non grata regardless? Is that Stallman’s question?


Let's say you knowingly stash the drugs in your car doors and are then arrested, convicted, serve your sentence, and are released. Should you then have the rest of your life extrajudiciously ruined by a group of people who have dedicated their lives to harassing drug dealers because their own kids died of drug overdoses?

Because applying metered justice and preventing ongoing escalating feuds is the entire point of the justice system. We're in this clusterfuck because people don't feel it is working, and they are not wrong. Specifically here, we all expect Epstein's close associates to reliably quash deeper investigation - investigation into their guilt went cold with Epstein's body.

And I'm generally for grassroots direct action, but this frenzy doesn't seem directed towards making up for the failings of the system, but rather scoring points against easy targets for the thrill of it. RMS himself was nowhere near this island, rather he simply had the audacity to question the lynch mob's narrative! With a reaction like this, how can it be said that these pitchforks are in the service of justice?


In every case you suggested, yes you would be charged as described, except the theft unless there was evidence you were not involved. In the first two you would go to court to prove your lack of guilt. We're talking about grown adults going to the house of a convicted sex offender finding young women who are held against their will in a harem and then having sex with them because they were told to make you happy. If you cannot understand why your defense wouldn't hold up in this case then you'll never be convinced. Stallman, a man I've met and had a very nice conversation with, holds views that literal children have the intellectual and emotional capacity to engage in sexual relationships with adults on equal footing. This is just plainly untrue. A child cannot fully understand the consequences, they aren't even fully developed yet. This is not the middle ages, this isn't the neolithic. We know the proper development is required for children to become proper adults. Stallman has repeatedly made statements and actions that are inappropriate, blatantly sexist, and has himself abused his position within the community for personal gain and satisfaction. As much as he has given to the FOSS community, it's time for him to step back as being the face, if he's not willing to do so then it's up to the community to police itself lest we all be considered supporting his positions.


At some point recklessness takes over from lack of mens rei. If someone is so reckless as to have sex with a 17 year old without making very sure that she consents and isn't coerced then they're so reckless that it doesn't matter if they know or not.


> Every topic is a hot potato.

Yeah, you can't even condone raping children anymore. What has the world come to?

More seriously, the point is that this topic is not enough of a hot potato if RMS is comfortable talking about it in public.


I don't disagree with you, but I think a lot of commenters here are talking past each other. We all agree that having sex with a 17 year old girl who is being abused and manipulated by a billionaire pedophile is inexcusable. I personally don't like the use of the phrase "child rape" to describe it because it's the same phrase you would use to describe the violent rape of a toddler. If the terminology we use to debate this subject equates those two acts, how can we ever have a reasoned discussion? One of those things makes you a sleezeball, and certainly deserving of all the social and professional consequences of your actions. The other makes you a vile monster, and deserving of removal from the earth. Both are crimes that warrant prosection. Failing to acknowledge the difference between the two is a dangerous path to go down.


Fair enough. My comment above used obvious overstated sarcasm, but I agree that these things are different. Substitute "statutory rape of a minor" or something like that above. I don't think this means that we should judge RMS any differently.

> having sex with a 17 year old girl who is being abused and manipulated by a billionaire pedophile [...] makes you a sleezeball

Not the greatest way to put this, I think.


The "overstated sarcasm" and faked quotations is literally what pushed RMS out of his job. Congratulations.


It turns out that if the opinion in question is “maybe pedophilia is ok” I am OK with the speaker being shut down and/or banished.


It depends a lot on the context. I wouldn’t want to work on a project with a pedophile. But if someone was having a conversation about early Islam and trying to understand the cultures of that time, etc then that’s an example where your statement wouldn’t be ban worthy. I just don’t think there’s a clear set of bad things that can’t be said.

Programmers I know are frequently doing thought exercises so even something like “what if murder were legal” would need to be taken in the context of the conversation to even understand what the author was advocating.


> It depends a lot on the context

The context is Epstein and RMS claiming that this woman trafficked by him was willing. We don't need to pontificate about all these hypothetical scenarios; this concrete thing that he's defending is pretty disgusting.


Your factual claims are not true, probably because you only read the lies published on Medium and salacious reposted, and did not read the source material.

RMS surmised that the woman "presented herself as willing" to Minsky. His point is that Minsky likely (in his estimation) was not aware of the coercion. He did not defend the coercion.


> It’s easier to just be quiet than express opinions.

It's no wonder that instead of staying quiet, many wind up at echo chambers like Voat and Gab.


[flagged]


"I don't care about his stance on politics but I think he should be shot in the head" is one hell of a take.


In this context that's implying that rms has done things such as looking for child pornography online, which is something we don't know and can't prove. Defending the right to do something != doing something


Jesus Christ, HN.

I read this article and my reaction was: damn, I knew RMS was weird and opinionated, but I didn’t know he was evil.

I come here to see how others react to this revelation and what do I find? “By golly, what is the world coming to when you can’t even defend child rape without someone calling for your removal from leadership?”

Y’all motherfuckers need Jesus.


What am I even reading in this thread?

> The perpetrator is a victim, there's no doubt about that. Psychopaths aren't born, they are created through trauma in a society that doesn't give a crap about humans.

> This is cancel culture taken to the extreme.

> I grow more and more tired of these discussions. Talks of banishing people because they’re ignorant, rude, sexist.

Stallman is, and has, defending child sex trafficking and rape.


The salient point is that free software is a movement consisting of many individuals with their own viewpoints. If you want to support free software without endorsing the behavior of this man then donate your time, money, attention, to a different free software organization. There are a lot of them [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_free_and_open-source_s...


If you click through to the first to links of the post, it's really quite an eye opener.


Oh. I didn't realise Stallman's rigid stance to freedom of software also extended to having sex with children and victims of sex trafficking.

It's amazing how much hanging out in the tech world you don't hear anything about this.

Of course, just like he argues that a perpetrators is the real victim. I'm sure I'll read some article about how admirable Stallman's views are.


I thought this much would be obvious by now, but here we go. The people who traffic and rape children are mainly found among the filthy rich so called elite. If you want to do something about that, punching RMS won't help.

The thing about RMS is that he prefers to use his own brain and is not afraid to stand up for his views, which is an increasingly rare phenomenon. So rare that its nearly considered a crime these days.

The perpetrator is a victim, there's no doubt about that. Psychopaths aren't born, they are created through trauma in a society that doesn't give a crap about humans.


So he uses his own brain to advocate for the "elite" and that's somehow admirable.


That sounds very unlikely to me, and would need to be backed up by solid proof.

I think you need to take a chill pill and figure out where all the hate is coming from.


Solid proof? The emails he sent to the mailing list is the proof.

What hate exactly? It seems there's plenty of people even on this site defending him.

Could explain what you're implying that I'm missing?


I think just because someone may be bad at one thing, does not necessarily mean they are bad at other stuff too.

Also, I think you should have the right to your opinion. But, people who have other opinion also must have right to their opinion, too, rather than only one.

These are just as true with Stallman as with Minsky, and also the other people who complain about it, I think.

I don't like it either that they did that sex, and I fail to see how "the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing", but I think it make sense that you should not "accusation inflation", even though other people might says differently. I do not defend rapists, but also do not accuse them of other stuff too automatically.

Whether or not you use GPL and Emacs and so on are entirely different decisions than those reports they mention, though. It is separate, even if done by the same person.


it is all about rms being rms. When an act of illegal copying copyrighted material is called piracy, he pedantically says that it is a wrong term, because piracy is a penal crime that involves violence and forcible property theft.

when a pimp presents an underage woman to a customer, he pedantically says that it wasn't an assault.

I've read the whole email thread and didn't see him defending child rape and sex trafficking. Maybe ones who are quick to condemn him should read something but the medium post


A useful self-test on this topic is to consider the following question:

If we really needed to talk about the inception of ReiserFS, should we bail Reiser out of prison for a bit and pay him a speaker's fee? Or can we content ourselves with considering his technology while excluding the man?

It turns out, opinions differ on this. And while I'm not implying that RMS's words are worse than Reiser's actions, I'm noting that the fact some people believe the answer is "Yes, we do bail him out of prison for a bit" is telling on where people in our industry set the bar on dividing a person's works and their other qualities.


I didn't read this as RMS minimizing sex trafficking or defending rapists. I read it as him making an inappropriate argument about semantics in entirely the wrong place. These are very different things, and it seems like many people, including the author of that Medium article, really want it to be the first instead of the second.


The best-case scenario is still incredibly sordid: Minsky partook in sex acts with a young woman 50+ years his junior who was part of a billionaire's "harem" without checking her age or true consent status.

Quibbling about whether it's actually sexual assault still leaves RMS using his position, stature, and reputation to defend this still horrible "best" case scenario. He still needs to go even if you believe this is what is going on here.


“...the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing.”


Do you think it's more plausible that she'd present as being in distress?


That’s not the issue. The issue is that this hypothetical is used to argue that having sex with her was totally fine.


The hypothetical is used to argue that the phrase "sexual assault" has the wrong connotations, not that it was "totally fine". It's you who keeps adding this "totally fine" part.

The biggest problem I can see here is that Stallman should have posted it on his blog if he wrote it at all, not blasted it out to everyone on that mailing list. That was definitely the wrong thing to do as it's basically picking a fight with people who are organizing an event.


If it’s not “sexual assault” then what is wrong about it?


What is wrong about it is that Epstein is running a child sex trafficking ring. It's not clear what Minsky knew.


Best case scenario for Minsky, if he did have sex with this girl, is that he was tricked into raping her.

But RMS isn’t going with that. He’s going with “not rape.”


I'm not sure that it is possible to be tricked into raping someone. Rape has a mens rea requirement that the defendant intended for the sex to be non-consensual. Some jurisdictions do subject that to a requirement that the defendant honestly and in good faith believed it was consensual, and that being mistaken about that was a mistake that a reasonable person would have made. If you are tricked into it, you probably won't have the necessary mens rea.

For example, consider this hypothetical.

Bob meets Alice at a bar, asks her to have sex with him, she says yes, and they do so. Later, it is discovered that Charles forced Alice to go to the bar, meet Bob, and say yes to whatever he asked. Bob did not know about this. He thought it was just a normal, consensual hook up at a bar.

Bob would probably not be guilty of rape, because a reasonable person in that situation would believe Alice had consented.

Charles, though, would be guilty of rape. (Rape in most jurisdictions isn't just you having sex with someone against your will--it is making someone have sex against their will with you or a third party).

Stallman is not arguing that nobody raped or assaulted the girl. He's just saying that he thinks Minsky is like Bob.


Are we talking legally or morally?

Extending your argument, it is probably not possible to trick someone into murdering someone, because murder requires intent. But it’s definitely possible to trick someone into killing someone.

With rape, we don’t have two different words like that. And Stallman doesn’t seem to be limiting himself to a strictly legalistic interpretation of everything.


I think Stallman was looking at a moralistic interpretation from Minsky's point of view.

Minsky's sex with the Epstein girl was in 2001, several years before Epstein's legal trouble over his sexual practices. She was also over the age of consent at the time in the US Virgin Islands, which was 16 (it did not become 18 until the Child Protection Act of 2002).

So Stallman's argument is that from Minsky's point of view it likely seemed to be a perfectly legal, consensual encounter. Presumably, Epstein was somewhat cautious over letting people know he kept sex slaves, and so would instruct the girls to not go around introducing themselves as his sex slaves to his guests. Thus, Stallman believes that we should not be tossing Minsky in with the people who had sex with Epstein girls knowing it was not consensual.

I've now seen several different places report that Stallman said that the Epstein girls were "entirely willing". What he actually said was

> We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.

He's not saying they were willing. He's saying they probably said they were willing because Epstein would require them to say that. This is an important distinction.

This should not be a controversial statement--if Epstein had sufficient power over someone to force them to have sex with third parties it is very hard to believe that he didn't also have sufficient power over them to tell them to claim they were acting on their own when they did so, or that he was stupid enough not to exercise that power.


Statutory rape is generally a strict liability offense, where mens rea is not an allowed defense.

One of the common forms of being tricked is when the other person claims to be at least 18 (or rather, at least of the age of consent). Quoting https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/can-i-be-con... :

> Historically, statutory rape was a "strict liability" offense, meaning that it didn't matter whether the actor knew that the other person was too young to consent to sex. Some states now permit a defense of honest mistake. Basically, the actor argues "I honestly thought she was old enough because...." However, other states don't recognize this defense.

As a specific example, in Tiba Francis vs. the Government of Virgin Islands (quoting https://web.archive.org/web/20110928024344/http://www.vid.us... ):

> Appellant Tiba Francis appeals his conviction for aggravated rape. ... At trial, he argued that mistake of fact is a defense to the aggravated rape charge, and moved that the trial court should allow the jury to consider such defense. ... The jury convicted appellant of the Aggravated Rape charge based on the trial judge's instruction that mistake of fact as to the victim's age is not a defense. ... Because the trial court correctly interpreted section 1700(a),this Court will affirm Francis’s conviction.

I see this as clear evidence that rape in the Virgin Islands does not always have a mens rea requirement.

On the general topic of "being tricked", here's some history from the UK, where the mens rea requirement was allowed as a defense (from https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/criminal-law/the-... ):

> Rape and its mental element was considered in the case of DPP v Morgan by the House of Lords, in 1976. The victim, Mrs Morgan’s husband (Morgan) invited three men, who were strangers, to have sex with his wife (Mrs Morgan). Morgan had, allegedly, told the three men that his wife was ‘kinky’ and was likely to resist and say no to sex and that this would mean she was actually saying yes and was only resisting to get ‘turned on’. Morgan denied that he had said this to the three men. All four men had sex with Mrs Morgan by using force and violence against her resistance. The three men claimed that they believed that Mrs Morgan was consenting due to what Morgan had told them prior to inviting them. The jury was directed by the trial Judge who stated that ‘unless their belief was based on reasonable grounds, it could not constitute a defence to rape. The three men were convicted of rape and Morgan was convicted of aiding and abetting. All four men appealed to the Court of Appeal then the House of Lords against their convictions. Here it was held that there could not be a conviction of rape if the man honestly thought that the woman had consented to sexual intercourse with his belief not having to be reasonable. However, the proviso was applied and the convictions were upheld.

However, it is no longer allowed. Continuing to quote from the same source: "There was widespread public disapproval of the decision made by the House of Lords in DPP v Morgan, with the decision being hailed as the ‘rapists’ charter’, which was formally known as the ‘mistaken belief’ because it meant that the victim (woman) could actively not be consenting by resisting with struggle and even shouting ‘no’, but the man’s conviction could still be upheld." ... "One of the major changes in the law of rape brought by the 2003 Act was the abolition of the ‘Morgan Rule/Defence’, which as mentioned earlier, could have been used when a man believed the woman had consented, no matter how unreasonable the belief. The law today to determine a belief to be reasonable or not is done by analysing if any steps were taken by the man to be sure whether or not the women had consented."

This is the "honestly and in good faith" requirement you pointed out was the case for some jurisdictions in the US. I wanted to highlight it as an example of being tricked into having sex that was different than the scenario you presented.

Stallman may be making the argument you say he is. However, the relevant law appears to be one of strict liability, and has been for a long time.


Statutory rape would not be applicable because she was 17, which was over the age of consent in the US Virgin Islands in 2001, which was 16. It was changed to 18 by the Child Protection Act of 2002.


So what?

Your statement was "Rape has a mens rea requirement that the defendant intended for the sex to be non-consensual"

I pointed out that it is not a blanket statement, and in the US generally the mens rea defense cannot be used in regards to prohibited sex with a minor, including on the US Virgin Islands.


Forced sex work by one man, very unscrupulous behavior by the other. I do not believe he got tricked, just didn't care.

Different from raping a prostitute, for example. Not rape, not sexual assault, still terrible.

It's still terrible and should be gone, and the likes who do sex trafficking locked up for eternity. The clients punished, yes, but not with the ultimate extent of sexual assault laws, unless it can be shown they were complicit in the scheme.


How old is this man?

He's not stupid. He knows what he's doing.

What a cop out to say "no he was just really hung up about grammar. "


He's autistic and he probably has trouble with communication. He might not know that it's a terrible idea to quibble about why his preferred definition of assault is better than the commonly accepted and used definition.


Surely an autistic person is still capable of learning these things.

If he is not capable of that, then he’s disastrously unqualified to be leading an advocacy organization.


I'm not defending him.


>He's autistic and he probably has trouble with communication.

His job is communication. His eloquence, and the precision of his language have been praised more than once here.

And autism doesn't come with a "get out of social consequences" card. Certainly not for a sixty year old man.


> And autism doesn't come with a "get out of social consequences" card.

I agree.


Not grammar, the connotations of the phrase "sexual assault". I don't think it's a cop out, I think it's clearly literally the case.


Who remembers Jimi Hendrix?


Open source software is driven by powerful economic forces, not by RMS or his politics. In contrast, “free” software is a sideshow. The FSF is mostly irrelevant these days.

It’s interesting to note the history of the GNU project, which bootstrapped itself by ripping off pre-existing BSD licensed projects and publishing new implementations as GPL. Open source predates “free” software.




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