But the initial coverage, particularly the Daily Beast article, does seem like a real hatchet job. There's a big difference between what the Daily Beast headline implied he said:
"Victims were 'entirely willing'"
and what he actually said, when discussing how much fault attaches to Minsky:
"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."
Edit: link to a PDF of the email thread from Vice is https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6405929/091320191...
I don't want to pathologize Stallman, but I have a simmilar tendency, so I will project myself a bit here; and probably go a bit of a rant.
This tendency stems from a way of thinking about the world. Inaccuracies build on themselves, so it is generally best to stamp them out when we can. If the technicality is not actually important, then surely everyone involved would have no problem with the correction. They may be annoyed that they had to spend a few minutes on clarifying such an obvious point.
What happens with the kind of discussion that Stallman entered into is just weird. People seem to get deeply offended by the person stating the technicality while claiming that the technicality is not important and without even disagreeing with the technicality.
This reaction (which seems to be consistent for the topic in question) has the almost tautological effect of excluding an entire class of thinkers from being able to participate in the conversation (or rather an entire class of thinking; some people are more able to switch between modes of thinking easier than others). I am obviously biased in this regard, but I happen to think this does a massive disservice to people who actually care about the issue, because I believe that this excluded mode of thinking happens to be extremely effective at problem solving.
> "If we're debating the definitions of 'rape' and 'sexual assault', perhaps it's better to accept that this conversation isn't productive."
If you are concerned about rape and sexual assault then discussing what those words mean is a vital part of dealing with the issue. It often illuminates the underlying reality as thinking about definitions involves considering the details of what you are trying to talk about, and definantly illuminates the conversation as you do not have different people thinking the same statement means different things. If you catagorically reject these discussions, then I do not see how you can go on to effectivly deal with the underlying issue.
They derail discussions and it doesn’t even matter if it’s intentional or not. They are just corrosive and destructive.
That said, the piece on RMS is deceitful. Manipulative headlines have been common in the media for awhile, but the hatchet jobs are becoming more brazen: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/9/3/20847587/le...
Accusing people imprecisely of horrible crimes doesn't seem a moral action at all. Let's start discussing the morality of those who do so.
People like Richard Stallman are non neuro-typical geniuses. They focus intensely on some topics, and harmlessly pontificate on many other topics. Historically, before the internet reached its more recent point where everything is so well indexed and networked, that the fixed cost to mob justice has dropped to near zero, we would just ignore these people.
So some genius mathematicians or computer scientists (or whoever) has some weird overly-complicated political views that they poorly communicate, and won't ever do anything about? Who cares, leave that for the faculty gossip.
Now it's so easy for us to share, shame, and discuss. But what value do we offer the world by scrutinizing and shaming some computer scientist who is not seeking any political power? Does anyone have a counter-argument to why this is a valuable and useful thing for us to care about and discuss?
I agree it's distasteful for people to focus on personal judgements about Stallman's communications when we haven't walked in his shoes, mentally. But public discourse is necessary to determine what to do with the platform given to comments like this - including if they come from "non-neurotypical" individuals.
Separately, because Stallman's area of focus extends into community formation and protection of individual rights, I don't agree that his statements about sexual coercion are separate from the rest of his work.
That's a fair point. If someone is going to claim a position of moral leadership over community formation, then being judged on their strange political opinions seems reasonable.
In (what I claim) is an ideal world, the fixed cost to this type of collective action against a person like Stallman, would be high enough that only those who participate in his communities would care about this stuff. I still worry that the fixed cost towards sharing/shaming is so low, that people who have no vested interest in Stallman's locus of influence can still join in for fun. This goes for all internet mob justice.
We should be able to have rational, mature, fact based discussions and entertain suppositions about what may have happened without jumping to conclusions.
Not only that, but using such language--for example, a term like "sexual assault"--does not tell you the actual facts of what happened. It only tells you someone's judgment. But if I'm going to take the time to form an opinion about some event of public interest, I don't want anyone else to tell me their judgment about it. I just want to be told the facts. I can make my own judgments. But the media almost never tells you the facts; they only tell you the judgments.
Stallman would prefer that language distinguish between physical coercion and the kind of coercion that can take place because of a difference in knowledge or power (in this case, age). That's a fine point to discuss, but there are very considered reasons people use the same term - it's not just sloppy language.
Also, he'd prefer to assume a scenario where Epstein hid any coercion from his guests - which would make this a "an alleged but possibly unknowing sexual assault". I'm not sure what that's supposed to do to our discourse. Is everyone supposed to imagine the same scenario he does? Or the most expultory possible scenario? I think the uncertainty of the situation and presumption of innocence were already covered pretty well by "alleged".
The facts of the actual case are for the courts to sort out.
Stallman's focus on avoiding the factual label for the accusations is a weird priority, and there is nothing immature or irrational about calling it out.
I think it's fair to expect everybody to consider the possibility (and subsequently discount it for lack of credibility.)
Given that the FSF asks for donations for technical projects, and explicitly defines itself as a political organisation; the political opinions of its President would seem very relevant, valuable, and useful to discuss.
It may change how people choose to support free and open source software in future.
And also gives us a clear count, within a population how many people will continue to do it anyway.
As regulation of news media and social media are being designed, one of the big questions is what to do about that part of the population.
Most of them are triggered and trapping themselves on treadmills that go nowhere. And most of them need help getting off that treadmill.
This was on an MIT mailing list, though. Even if we grant that he just wanted to engage in idle intellectual speculation, he ought to understand that an academic environment is not the right place for it.
Also, "idle speculation" is not a good term for what they were doing. They were trying to get at the actual facts of what happened, independent of anyone else's judgments about those facts.
These people not only normalize abusive behavior, they push people away by poisoning the context making it impossible to interact unless you "tolerate" their behavior.
I very rarely comment on these kind of threads, but this quote is a perfect example of an unfortunate epidemic I see ever more often online:
Using vague and virtue-signal-ey language to get away with making a point that - if expressed in plain English - would be instantly exposed as ridiculous (if not downright dangerous).
Let's not dwell on the irony of how you are sort of saying "dangerous" without not actually saying it. Instead let me be clear.
You don't have to research Stallman for long to encounter a whole bunch of people (women) who feel the misgonistic air around him actively drove them away from engaging in fsf style open source.
As someone who experienced very similar things in other (typically white straight male dominated) areas, be it the locker room or upper echelons of power, I used a slightly generalized word "context". Was that the problem? One level of abstraction?
And no. That doesn't define all such contexts and no, that doesn't define all white straight males. We're arguing one single statement here – that why can't we let the "genius" Stallman just be the genius and only judge him for his work. Which is exactly what I was arguing. No one exists in a vacuum. The total sum of output of a person matters.
No, that's not the problem.
Take this sentence from your last comment, for example:
> You don't have to research Stallman for long to encounter a whole bunch of people (women) who feel the misgonistic air around him actively drove them away from engaging in fsf style open source.
You're being deliberately vague.
You don't say "Stallman is a misogynist" or "Stallman drove women away from contributing to fsf..."
Instead, you say there are people who "feel" that a misogynistic "air around him" drove them away.
Do you not see how that's a problem?
What if I were to claim that people "feel" a "misogynistic air" around you is driving people away from Hacker News?
That could be true, it could be false. Difficult to disprove.
But more importantly, it might not be your fault.
What you're doing is being deliberately vague to get away with blaming/accusing someone of something you wouldn't be able to get away with accusing them of directly.
It's the equivalent of asking "why was that young girl out alone so late at night anyway?" when discussing a sexual assault case.
Stallman may be a very bad man. Maybe he is a misogynist. Maybe he drove women away from working on FSF.
If so, accuse him of it. Don't hide behind waffle and doublespeak.
No. That's actually very different, I struggle to see any parallel.
> What you're doing is being deliberately vague to get away with blaming/accusing someone of something you wouldn't be able to get away with accusing them of directly.
Of course not. I'm deliberately using words that leave wiggle room, but not for the reasons you think. I believe in processes, not essences, I might sloppily say "Stallman is a misogynist", but I mean "Stallman's actions are misogynistic".
In a similar way, when trying to describe someone else's perspective I would not use absolute language. I can't presume to completely understand another person's experience. In order to be inclusive, I relay my general understanding with language that deliberately doesn't make hard borders for inclusion or exclusion.
Specifically, you suggest fixes to my language that change my meaning:
>> ...encounter a whole bunch of people (women) who feel the misogynistic air around him actively drove them away from engaging in fsf style open source.
> You don't say "Stallman is a misogynist" or "Stallman drove women away from contributing to fsf…"
I specifically didn't mean Stallman exactly, but him in the center of actions/reactions and whoever supports his ways (in mailing lists, meetups etc), hence "misogynistic air around…" (as earlier stated, I don't believe anyone IS anything). I also didn't mean contributing to the FSF only, but that this air around him has affected GNU and related software.
I try to use precise language, but you seem to argue I should reduce my views down to absolutes, which is not how I think about anything.
Is that a direct enough statement of facts for you, or would you like their phone numbers or emails or whatever, so you can fact-check for yourself?
Did you disagree with the point I made in some way, or was this just the most convenient outlet for some keyboard banging?
Right here we have one human being that will ponder on random issues and offer his honest opinion. He will do it without regard for social pressure. This is an incredible rare thing! This is an amazing thing, go browse your Facebook or LinkedIn feed and see how "authentic" it sounds. What's more, this gentleman is a very rational person and does not shy away from thinking about pedophilia and various paraphilia. What's more he seems truly inquisitive in understanding how to measure what Minsky did, what motivations and perceptions each participant had, etc. This is so much more important than just getting revenge, being constantly angry on the internet or just saying Epstein was evil and calling it a day.
We need much, much more people like Stallman and much, much less people that will cry foul on a Medium post when someone doesn't go along with what they want.
It's neither rare nor authentic nor is it even well reasoned. Every reddit and twitter thread is filled with the same carbon copy half-assed responses.
This is a totally reasonable statement and it hardly seems like he's defending Epstein or somehow justifying what was alleged to have happened. Stallman's point is that the legal usage of the term "assault" sometimes doesn't match up with the idea of physical violence that comes with the colloquial understanding of "assault".
Also it seems super weird, distasteful, and immature when, instead of discussing with or further debating this person who said something you don't like, you go tattle on them to a sympathetic reporter. Yuck.
"Witch hunt" may not be the absolute best of terms, as RMS is responsible for having poked the hornets' nest. It's still an appropriate reference to the social dynamics, but perhaps "lynch mob" would be better.
You've hit the proverbial nail in the head. This virtue signaling wave sounds an awful lot like how religious people manipulate mobs to persecute their personal targets and further their ghrasp on power.
RMS is also correct that Epstein was many things, but not a pedophile. He's discussing facts and people are treating it as if he's discussing morality.
A better analogy would be participating in a fight organized by somebody who is known to coerce fighters into participating.
I keep wondering if there is anything we can do to either elevate the discussion of the matter or more thoroughly stamp the discussions out like the little dumpster fires they tend to be, which naturally threaten to become towering infernos.
I debate whether refusing to comment at all and simply flagging them is the least worst thing I can do in a world that seems to have no constructive path forward on such topics. But that also strikes me as making the topic unspeakable, a practice known to deepen moral problems, not resolve them.
I don’t like witch hunts or ruining people’s careers for what they say, especially when media exaggerates it to make it sound worse. It’s bad enough on it’s own.
There’s also other billionaires out there, one with an infamous island in the Bahamas, who has dozens of horrific stories about him. A former President and his wife visited this island, and they have lots of photos together. I hope the media and the outrage stays focused on the principals and their enablers, not poorly expressed opinions of people trying to defend deceased friends.
> “I disagree with some of what the article says about Epstein. Epstein is not, apparently, a pedophile, since the people he raped seem to have all been postpuberal.” He preferred to call Epstein a “serial rapist.”
edit: to the downvoters -- is a discussion on whether a man who trafficked and raped dozens of underage girls is "technically not a pedophile" really a worthwhile conversation to have?
So yes, this is a conversation much more worthwhile than whether Stallman is a bad person.
And don't bother complaining about downvotes in a thread like this. Any opinion besides a full-throated defense of RMS and denunciation of his detractors as a mob of pearl-clutching SJWs or shills out to destroy free software is probably going to get voted down. People will go through your history and downvote every comment they see. There's nothing you can do about that, it's Chinatown.
And this ... as if the distinction between prepubescent child rape and postpubescent child rape is at all relevant enough to mention.
It is if the distinction between prepubescent children and postpubescent children is relevant, which certainly is the case in our current system of laws.
Furthermore, failing to observe such distinctions makes every single term that describes any kind of activity that some people don't like--pedophile, rapist, etc.--all equivalent; they all just mean "bad person". But that makes it impossible to have a useful conversation at all, because "bad person" is not a useful category if you're trying to figure out what to do about such people. You have to look at the specifics. If you refuse to look at the specifics, then you're not helping to do anything about the problem; you're just virtue signaling. "I think all of these people are just bad!" Okay, got it, thanks for sharing.
A couple of days ago I attended a talk he gave at the Seattle Public Library and he did the "well technically..." routine to an audience member who claimed to be a fan of free software ("It's strange to say you're a fan of freedom [...]" or something to that effect.) He also did it in response to several other topics, but that one stood out to me.
I don't wish to pathologize aberrant social behavior since that could probably be turned back against me pretty easily, but if one were so inclined I think classifying Stallman would be pretty easy... Pedantry and lack of tact is a trait I've seen before.
It's not that one is worse than the other, it's just that they're quite different situations. I don't know exactly in which category Epstein falls because I haven't been following this whole ordeal too closely, so I'm not making any claims about that.
Hackernews does a pretty good job on filtering out all the political stuff but all this #metoo, "can you believe he said that?" posts are not things that I want to read about here.
I'd argue there is a higher number of people who'd go "Well, technically" in tech than anywhere else. We're (mostly) not evil, but it may often seem that we're defending those that are, when technically, we're just pointing out factual truths.
"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.
Since then, through personal conversations, 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."
I am eternally grateful to rms for the contributions he's made, and many of the often unpopular, but amazingly principled stances he holds. For some of the things I think he's right about, I think he's one of the only voices out there saying that thing.
But for fuck's sake, Richard, the notion of staying in your lane sometimes has merit. Like with your awful jab about Jobs' death, keep that shit to yourself. Sometimes, remaining silent is the right move. Sometimes, attempting to defend your position just weakens it further. Sometimes, it turns out, "technically correct" is actually the worst kind of correct.
This is how we end up in this mess of stupid press and politics, by killing the middle the sides get radicalized and deafened to dialogue. Shouting is not dialogue.
Someone has to try to reset this, if it takes 1000 martyrs then so be it.
Speaking as someone who has learned this the hard way, over and over and over again, please hear me when I say: "Correct" does not always entail "right", even leaving aside whether being right is even necessarily laudable. Getting all, "Well technically..." in the places where those things disagree is a battle — since it's something to be "won", remember — you'll want to consider carefully whether it's worth fighting, every time.
At some point, I decided that it might be better for all of our well-being, not to have all the "incorrect" people in my life always annoyed with me. Based on the quality of the relationships I now have with them, I think it was worth it. Even better: now, when I do actually make the effort to make these kinds of distinctions, I tend significantly more often to be listened to.
Your mileage, of course, may vary.
The only problem with that is it's the same excuse a lot of Germans used to justify not speaking up against the Nazis.
While it may make your life better, it's very much a local maximum.
That's the thing about local maxima - when you're in one, it isn't obvious.
Instead, the burden is on others to notice and speak up.
You may not like the Nazi comparison, but it's apt...
Especially with the things Trump says and does as president, there's a real danger that staying quiet about "daily life type interpersonal stuff" could have disastrous consequences a few years down the line.
After all, just like with the Nazis, you'll never be put in a position where you're asked to ignore much more than you already ignore.
I'm talking about not going all aspy-monologue, "well, actually..." at people about ultimately inconsequential things like using their turn signals or not, or misusing a word, or whatever — precisely so they aren't pre-disposed to eye-roll at me, and then tune me out, when I do take the time, because this time it's a subject that matters.
For a recent example, let's suppose I might have taken the effort to expound upon what "words actually mean" in a discussion of the definitions, laws, and treaties relevant to the notion of "asylum", who is or isn't eligible, whether or not criminal liability might attach for illegally crossing a border, and so on, because that is a place where the fight is more likely to be worth it.
Simply: pick your battles. More often than you think, they probably aren't worth the cost. If you save your "well actually" points for the places where they are, you'll get significantly better return on spending them.
I am just gobsmacked that I'm arguing in favor of doing something judiciously, so that when you do it, it matters, and I'm being told I'm somehow excusing the very kinds of shit I'm talking about saving your energy for fighting...
On re-reading, I understand how it may have come across as less of an "interesting observation" for others reading and more like nitpicking or point scoring. I apologise for that. It wasn't my intention.
FWIW, I feel the same way about Eich.
>Someone like the ex-Mozilla CEO was shunned and booted out of his position for much less.
Entirely different factions within the community.
The people who don't take issue with Stallman's comments also likely had no problem with Brendan Eich, and believe he was a victim of an SJW witch-hunt as well.
Depth of experience and intelligence are different things and I think most people understand that very well. Under 18s can be extremely smart, but due to lack of experience can sometimes be exploited or manipulated.
For what I remember Italy has a law governing sex between individuals across legal age (18)... anything involving < 13yo is pedo and statutory rape (fair enough) while anything else where the delta is no more than 4 years is not illegal (might be cause to deploy social workers but that's not the point.)
That's fair enough IMHO, but I'm a savage Italian... not a woke puritan
I think under 18s are inexperienced human beings who are undergoing some of the hardest years of anybody's life, their hormones are changing and their culture is often quite dangerous. I'm also frustrated that I couldn't have just left it at morons and for you to have got that.
Some additional ones are drawn, allowing a minor (with unsuitable family or orphaned) to have extended civil powers. And employment is allowed, though highly scrutinized, allowing an out from certain terrible situations. (Typical rare example is parental alcoholism or abuse.)
EDIT: I was a wild 14-21 year old, it's perfectly natural that they are bonkers. Fair play to them!