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[flagged] Richard Stallman challenges 'misleading' coverage of his comments on Minsky (slashdot.org)
76 points by MilnerRoute 36 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments



I don't know much about Stallman, but he does seem to be fond of saying "well, technically..." in discussions where it's pretty tone deaf and easy to misconstrue, in a similar way to some discussions on HN itself. As someone says in the email thread, "If we're debating the definitions of 'rape' and 'sexual assault', perhaps it's better to accept that this conversation isn't productive. When this email chain inevitably finds its way into the press, the seeming insensitivity of some will reflect poorly on the entire CSAIL community."

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...


He seems to be fond of saying "well, technically" on every subject; regardless of if it is tone deaf.

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.


Talking about technicalities is an extremely common derailing tactic. So that’s the reason why people are upset about technicalities that don’t matter.

They derail discussions and it doesn’t even matter if it’s intentional or not. They are just corrosive and destructive.


I agree with your sentiment: sometimes there is a place for speaking with moral clarity rather than utmost precision.

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...


> sometimes there is a place for speaking with moral clarity rather than utmost precision.

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.


Might I suggest that this is just the equivalent of gossip under the sheen of hacker news and self-righteousness?

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?


Richard is specifically a public figure who influences a lot of people, and some of that influence comes from platforms like his MIT professorship that imply endorsement from other groups.

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.


>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.


I think the point that RMS was trying to make is that using inherently charged and prejudice language against an individual is sensationalist and (as mentioned) prejudiced.

We should be able to have rational, mature, fact based discussions and entertain suppositions about what may have happened without jumping to conclusions.


> I think the point that RMS was trying to make is that using inherently charged and prejudice language against an individual is sensationalist and (as mentioned) prejudiced.

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's email reacted to the use of "accused of sexual assault" in an event announcement. This phrase matches the legal definition of the current facts, so this is not about someone choosing inflammatory language beyond the norms.

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.


> " Is everyone supposed to imagine the same scenario he does?"

I think it's fair to expect everybody to consider the possibility (and subsequently discount it for lack of credibility.)


Are you trying to suggest that Stallman does not intend to be political, and does not intend to use the FSF as a political organisation to further his political goals? The FSF is a non-profit with implicitly political aims, primarily related to the use of free software, but the GNU project is used to campaign on other issues. Don’t take my word for that; trust Stallman himself https://sourceware.org/ml/libc-alpha/2018-05/msg00001.html https://sourceware.org/ml/libc-alpha/2018-05/msg00115.html

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.


But RMS does things about his political views. He founded the FSF, gives talks, tries to change policy. As a public figure, he should open to criticism.


It's very valuable in building up evidence that naming and shaming doesn't work.

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.


> They focus intensely on some topics, and harmlessly pontificate on many other topics.

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.


They were discussing potential impacts on MIT's reputation. That's fair game for an MIT mailing list.

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.


Because no one operates in a vacuum. A person's work is never just one person. You're part of a context working on other people's work and your work are in turn used by others.

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.


> 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).


Vague?!

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.


> Was that the problem? One level of abstraction?

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.


> It's the equivalent of asking "why was that young girl out alone so late at night anyway?" when discussing a sexual assault case.

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.


I have personally spoken with three women who have stated that they will not attend conferences where rms is also attending, or speaking, specifically because he won't leave them alone (by which I mean "keeps coming onto them"), and won't listen to them when they ask him to leave them alone, which they have done repeatedly, and unambiguously.

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?


I'm sure you have, and there's no doubt in my mind he deserves the backlash he's getting.

Did you disagree with the point I made in some way, or was this just the most convenient outlet for some keyboard banging?


I really, really, do not understand why some people's reaction to this is trying to get him fired or to apologize.

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.


> 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!

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.


People who will jump on every excuse to go "well akshually it's not pedophilia" or "well actually it's not sexual assault" on the internet are not even slightly rare.


But they will be anonymous and the level of conversation will probably not be very high.


The MIT mailing list thread that provoked this whole discussion was pretty indistinguishable from any of the millions of reddit discussions on the exact same subject.


It seems that you have a desire to hyperbolically label things as "pedophilia" or "sexual assault", and simply don't like it being called out. And so you're engaging in social bullying based on stereotypes ("akshually") rather than keeping to the truth of the matter.


> 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.

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.


This is exactly how witch hunts work - if you don't just follow the mob 100%, but rather point out some nuance or call for some restraint, even while generally agreeing with the purported goal of the mob, then you are the next target to be attacked. The true driving force is not justice, but rather power.


What "power" is gained from this? Also, that was nothing like how a witch hunt works.


Care to explain us how a "real" witch hunt works, in your opinion? I'm genuinely curious.


The power is that of the mob itself - attacking people and feeling righteous about it. And you know, attacking RMS is much easier than trying to go after whomever had Epstein snuffed so he couldn't talk.

"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.


> The true driving force is not justice, but rather power.

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.


I disagree with RMS on many topics, but I don't get the outrage at him. He explained how Minsky was likely not guilty of sexual assault. To use an analogy: If I have a sanctioned boxing match with someone, and it is later discovered that Don King coerced my opponent into taking the match against his will, am I guilty of battery? I don't think so.

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.


Epstein's victims being sex slaves is not the unusual outcome but the expectation. His behavior was fairly known.

A better analogy would be participating in a fight organized by somebody who is known to coerce fighters into participating.


I don't think that analogy is better. The Minsky allegation is said to have happened in March of 2001. That was years before Epstein was investigated, let alone charged or convicted of anything.


You don't have to go to boxing matches to find relevant analogies. You could start with "If I have sex with someone who's unable to consent due to some type of incapacitation, have I assaulted them?".


How does that question apply to Minsky?


I think I've seen several posts on this ongoing debacle.

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.


Stallman is the worst person to be making these arguments. In a much different context, Matt Damon tried to reasonably add nuance to #metoo and got viciously attacked.

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.


From https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-fec6ec21..., stallman is quoted saying

> “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.”

yeeeeeesh


He is technically correct though.


The most useless kind of correct.

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?


Yes, because "pedophile" right now just means "horrible person", when it actually had a definition already - "person sexually attracted to prepubescent/pubescent children". And this makes it much harder to actually have a conversation about pedophilia and how to prevent pedophiles from hurting children and themselves.

So yes, this is a conversation much more worthwhile than whether Stallman is a bad person.


>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?

Apparently.

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.


It is weird how often that seems to happen. When subjects like this come up, people suddenly get very pedantic about the definition of pedophilia versus ephebophilia, and the threads here have been dominated by sprawling, legalistic arguments about the precise definition of "sexual assault" and "rape" and the relevance of ages of consent and whether words even mean anything, really.

And this ... as if the distinction between prepubescent child rape and postpubescent child rape is at all relevant enough to mention.


> 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.


Stallman has never limited his "well technically..." outbursts to topics of sex/rape. He seems to do it with any topic without discretion.

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.


I think there's a meaningful distinction between a pedophile who is primarily (exclusively?) attracted to children, and someone who keeps child sex slaves because they're easier to manage than adults.

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.


Seeing quite a few of these outrage and holier than thou post lately and I'd like to see even less of them in the future.

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.


It would concern us all, if Stallman were to fall and the ranting author got away with it.

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.


The thing from that Alumni and Vice are basically hit-pieces, designed to kill the reputation of RMS.


I'm hoping he'll legally retaliate. IANAL, but the misleading VICE, Daily Beast and Fox News headlines appear to be defamation/slander, wouldn't he not stand a good chance in court against them?


[flagged]


This is what happens when social media companies destroy the business model of journalism and the entire profession gets replaced with outrage bloggers chasing impressions.


how old are you? i'm 41, and the media has been a pay-to-play controversy factory for as long as I have known it. the whole "good old days" of journalism spiel is a self-serving media fiction.


When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.


“I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children.” — Richard Stallman

https://stallman.org/archives/2006-may-aug.html#05%20June%20...


So you decided to dig up something from an old archive and not present a more recent update to continue piling on?

https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#14_September...

"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'm very glad to see Stallman can learn to appreciate the nuance of these questions and acknowledge that he had previously thought incorrectly, but the subject of this thread, and the subject of The Fine Article remain cases where he just shouldn't have opened his mouth in the first place.

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.


And sometimes shutting up means the unreasonable and emotional win.

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.


I think the very fact that so many of us look at talking with people as something that can be "won" is the preponderance of the problem. It doesn't have to be a competition.

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.

EDIT: Phrasing


> 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.

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.


Did I really need to explicitly, preemptively disclaim that the approach I was describing is more appropriate to daily life type interpersonal stuff, than it is to fucking Nazis?


No, of course not.

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.


Fine, since people seem to feel the need to read whatever shallow interpretation of my point they want, let me be "See Spot run. Run, Spot, run." clear:

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...


When I read your original comment, I commented because the point I wanted to make seemed interesting (to me at least) and worth making.

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.


My question is why hasn't the open source community shunned him for these sorts of comments? Someone like the ex-Mozilla CEO was shunned and booted out of his position for much less.


Well technically it would be the free software community who would shun him, since the open source community have already rejected his principles and leadership.


I see what you did there! Well played sir!


Because his views on things like these do not matter when considering him as a figure in the open source community. There's no reason to believe that this would impact the quality of his software or his ability to communicate with people about software.

FWIW, I feel the same way about Eich.


Much of the open source community doesn't know who RMS is. Much of the rest don't have a problem with these sorts of comments, and just assume RMS is a victim of an SJW witch-hunt.

>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.


Because we are becoming more mature.


Unfortunately, we all know the answer. It is currently more acceptable to most journalists and to the media mobs to be friends with a billionaire pedophile and sympathetic to pedophilia than it is for a person to give money to an organization that doesn't turn its website into a rainbow for 1/12th of the year.


Christ, that's horrible. How can you be so right about complex issues, when you're so wrong about the widely held belief that under 18s are morons and it's exploitative to get your jollies from them, no matter how mature they appear to you.


You don't understand how Stallman thinks. You should view his statement from the eyes of a researcher. He said he is skeptical, not that something is true or false. Obviously his formulation is pretty bad from a PR perspective, but it should be pretty clear by now that rms doesn't care much about that.


Given that I am a researcher, I reckon I have been. I'm also not a parent, so I don't have any sexy babies growing up. But given that the 'consensual child sex' argument has been used historically in courts against children as young as 6, statements like that in 2006 are distressing.


I thought your previous comment was maybe sarcasm, but apparently not... Do you think that "children" are morons the day before they turn 18 and they cease to be morons (and getting your jollies from them is no longer exploitative) on the following day?


nope


Age of consent varies by country and the response to sex with someone below the age of consent also varies by country. It's very cultural.


Apparently he changed his mind https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20973792


Why do you think it’s widely believed that under 18s are morons?

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.


TBH 18+1day aren't any better off, yet that'd be a get out of jail card.

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'm sorry to have offended you, but I actually used to be under 18.

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.


While that's true, the idea that there is some magical line at 18 that divides the moral from the immoral is absurd, and Stallman is simply pointing that out. We do have to have a line of some kind for legal purposes, but we shouldn't confuse that statutory line with the nuanced reality when discussing the abstract morality of behavior.


Even around here, there are some overrides on the statutory line - allowed by judge or accepted by both families. They're not often used and cases that need them are carefully scrutinized, but they work.

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.)


The concrete line has to be drawn somewhere. It's quite low given that (and this is a daring conjecture by which I firmly stand) the majority of 18 - 21 year olds are completely out of bounds for anybody who wants a stable mature relationship. They are culturally wild. Discovering drink, drugs, sex... So, the question is: why would anybody want a relationship with somebody under 18 if not for sexual exploitation of their lack of experience?

EDIT: I was a wild 14-21 year old, it's perfectly natural that they are bonkers. Fair play to them!


I had the only stable romantic relationship in my life so far between the ages of 18 and 21.




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