Source: was at MIT a decade ago, was on the CSAIL mailing list until I decided to actually start filtering mail last week (good timing me). Also he somewhat famously left MIT right before starting GNU to ensure MIT wouldn't own the copyrights, and it would be surprising/confusing if he rejoined.
(The cynic in me believes he's resigning because it's far more newsworthy to say "resigned from MIT" instead of "resigned from the FSF," especially given all the news headlines calling him "Famous MIT Computer Scientist," and it also has far less of an impact on his life or his goals than resigning from the FSF would.)
I will tell my descendants true stories about Richard Stallman, and none of them will believe me.
He did resign from the FSF as well.
If Stallman cared about his reputation or being considered famous his entire life would have been quite different.
I'm not sure he understands the concept of consent.
(see Romeo and Juliet clause)
Stallman being a defender of freedom has, obviously, a very powerful definition of consent ('cos consent is a form of freedom). It's far of ours, and in a dangerous territory. But that doesn't make it wrong.
I think the tendency to take anything, in nearly any context, that could even maybe be vulgar, as vulgar 100% of the time, is actually relatively recent.
What may make it seem to be changing is that society (or more particularly, white-collar workers & pop culture) has gotten far less formal than it used to be. Even non-tech companies are moving away from suits as required office attire, the only professionals I know personally who still wear suits to the office are lawyers or in the financial industry (which have always had a conservative, slow to change reputation).
Edit: typos & formatting
In a way, it cheapens the phrase 'double entendre', as AFAIK the phrase used to imply a clever, sometimes obscure, double meaning that was intentional vs. anything that could be taken out of context.
Or, as Archer would say, PHRASING!
(If you're applying standard SRE philosophy, someone resigning after a media firestorm is absolutely the sort of atypical and unwanted event that merits an unconditional postmortem. Whether or not you agree with them leaving, it's clearly not the right outcome: either they should have stayed or they should have left before the firestorm.)
"Jeffrey Epstein is one of the most amazing, interesting, and brilliant people that I know.” – Gerald Sussman, Panasonic Professor of Engineering, MIT
So for a long established MIT professor to show himself susceptible to a guy like Epstein showing up with a model at each arm and flashing money around is such an unbelievable letdown. Even if nothing else was wrong with Epstein.
> I want to respond to the misleading media coverage of messages I posted about Marvin Minsky's association with Jeffrey Epstein. The coverage totally mischaracterised my statements.
> Headlines say that I defended Epstein. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've called him a "serial rapist", and said he deserved to be imprisoned. But many people now believe I defended him — and other inaccurate claims — and feel a real hurt because of what they believe I said.
> I'm sorry for that hurt. I wish I could have prevented the misunderstanding.
Anyway, he probably should have know better than to weigh in.
One’s well thought out response and subtle points can often turn out to have a few holes. In fact...
“If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged”
Yes. This statement of Stallman's:
> 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.
has been reported in several places as Stallman saying Epstein's girls were "entirely willing", completely ignoring that he was not saying they were willing--he was saying that Epstein would have required them to say they were willing.
If you have sufficient power over someone to force them to have sex with whomever you want them to, you almost certainly also have sufficient power over them to tell them to pretend to be doing it of the own free will. Epstein was massively evil, but he wasn't massively stupid, so almost certainly would have exercised such power.
Stallman was talking about Marvin Minsky's sex with a girl at Epstein's island retreat in 2001, which was a few years before Epstein's sexual atrocities became known. Stallman was arguing that from Minsky's point of view, he probably had no reason to suspect that he was not dealing with a consenting girl.
Epstein's island wasn't some stereotypical villain lair where anyone who steps foot on it must be up to no good. It was a place that he conducted the normal business that any entirely legitimate billionaire would conduct, in addition to the villain stuff.
Based on the girl's deposition, it looks like she was there on the record to provide massages to guests, and off the record was forced to make those erotic massages including sex. It is not clear which, if any, recipients of those massages plus sex knew that the sex was something she was forced into. There are no details given on her sex with Minsky other than it happened.
This isn't applicable to the specific case of Minsky, but I think that ambiguity evaporates after Epstein's first conviction.
The allegation about Minksky stems from a single line in a gigantic recently published deposition ( https://twitter.com/_cryptome_/status/1159946492871938048 ), covering events long before 2008.
Minsky was included in a list of people that Epstein's assistant asked one of his victims to have sex with (the deposition didn't ask if sex actually occurred). In the deposition the victim couldn't remember the date they received that request, but a third party reported that they saw the victim approach Minsky in 2002 and that he turned her down and complained about it ( https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/339725/ ).
It may be the case that the witnessed event and the content of the deposition were unrelated and at different times, but if not-- the victim was also 18 at the time...
But no one really cares about the facts, this is almost entirely a ceremonial battle over who has the sickest imagination. Because there are essentially no clear details, not even a concrete allegation, everyone is essentially making things up in order to fight over them.
> Epstein’s former neighbor, the psychologist and computer scientist Roger Schank, describes another such event that he attended: a meeting of artificial-intelligence experts, organized by Marvin Minsky and held on Epstein’s island in April 2002. “Epstein walks into the conference with two girls on his arm,” said Schank. The scientists were holding their discussions in a small room, and as they talked, “[Epstein] was in the back, on a couch, hugging and kissing these girls.”
"Consenting girl" is a contradiction. A child cannot legally give consent for sex. If he knew she was underage and if he had sex with her anyway, that was criminal.
If you are traveling, and there is any possibility you will engage in any sexual activities outside your home area, it is a good idea to check the destination's laws. If you forget this and just assume they are the same, you can get screwed (no pun intended), regardless of if the age of consent is higher or lower at your destination.
If it is higher, you might inadvertently commit statutory rape with someone who is clearly old enough back home and so doesn't trigger your "do an age check" alarm.
If it is lower, you might run afoul of laws back home against against sex tourism.
(Pay attention to recreational drug laws, too. Sex and drugs are both things that are taken vary seriously. Most other things tourists might do aren't nearly as risky--nobody except maybe Singapore is going to make a big deal of it if you, say, improperly dispose of a food wrapper or something like that. Oh, and also be careful with religion).
The age of consent is 16 in 31 US states and the DC (including Massachusetts). It s 17 in 8 states. It is 18 in the remaining 11 states.
It's 18 in Mexico, 16 in Canada, ranges all over the place from 14 to 18 in South America, 13 to 21 in Asia, 14 to 18 in Europe, and 11 to 18 in Africa.
It also varies widely whether or not places have close-in-age exceptions (also known as Romeo and Juliet laws). Such an exception might, for example, might say that in a place with an age of consent of 18, a 16 or 17 year old can consent to sex if the other participants are under 21. Don't assume that because you are young that you don't have to worry about other young people's age.
Finally, it also varies widely by what kind of sex. There are places where they have close-in-age exceptions, but only for heterosexual acts, and so a 17 year old girl with a 17 year old boy is fine, given an age of consent of 18, but a 17 year old boy with another 17 year old boy is statutory rape by both of them because the close-in-age exception doesn't apply.
That's the problem with the internet today. It's too toxic to hold any meaningful public discussion.
I'd bet that RMS was open to discussing the point he expressed. Because that's what you do on an old-fashioned mailing list. But apparently he got no response to his email. Instead Selam jumped the gun and started, essentially, a shaming campaign on medium.
This kind of attitude essentially hushes people who can actually hold a meaningful online discussion, and perhaps revising their starting opinions after one. Instead we only get to hear the voices of people that are righteous about their opinions—be right or wrong.
Internet has transformed from an open forum to a shouting contest; if you can't join a big enough shouting group, no need to waste your energy participating.
He was defending a 70 year old who had sex with a coerced child by trying to say that the word "assault" shouldn't carry either its everyday English meaning or its more specific legal meaning, but should instead have some other meaning that he created.
It's also funny that you complain about RMS twisting the "everyday English" meaning of "assault" while at the same time you call "child" someone who you'd most definitely call a "teenager" or "youngster" if you met in person.
This urge to abuse words in order to sensationalize an already perfectly valid argument is what RMS was pointing out in the first place.
Stallman defended Minsky. Judge him for what he said. Don't judge him for a defense of Epstein - he unambiguously condemned Epstein with the rest of us.
It's little different than the absurd pretzel that Lessig bent himself into when trying to defend his friend Joi Ito :
> Q: Doesn’t it make sense to you that people would say someone who is taking money from and cozying up with a guy who is a pedophile and who is targeting young women, maybe he shouldn’t lead an institution that includes women?
> Lessig: I’m not sure it describes the case, and more importantly, what about the institution?
> Q: What do you mean it doesn’t describe the case?
> L: I don’t know about the “cozying up to.”
> Q: Going to his house, being socially in his orbit, taking money from him.
> L: In the context of raising money — just like you would go up there and meet with him in the context of an interview...
> L: When you say that he is cozying up to him, that’s something very different from what I understand actually happened, which is: Joi, in the context of his job for the M.I.T. Media Lab, built a relationship with one of the people he’s raising money from.
I don't begrudge Lessig and Stallman for attempting to apply what they think is logic and rationality in approaching these topics. I absolutely despise them for their hypocrisy in the way they refuse to acknowledge how they themselves are tainted by irrationality when defending their friends.
It's massively different, because Joi Ito's interactions with Epstein were after Epstein's sexual atrocities were known. Minsky's were in 2001, which as far as I have been able to find is before Epstein was known to be evil.
What sources were you using that implied Minsky's contact with Epstein stopped 10 years before that?
Before Epstein was known to be evil, Minsky accepted support from Epstein for science, and also had a sexual encounter with a girl who was ostensibly a masseuse in Epstein's employ but was actually being forced by Epstein to have sex with his guests--it is not clear which of those guests, if any, knew that she was being forced to do more than just give them massages.
It is this sexual encounter that Stallman was defending, and that the poster I was replying to compared to people defending Ito's dealings with Epstein.
After Epstein was known to be evil, both Minsky and Ito did accept support from him. Minsky, as far as I can tell, did so publicly with no attempt to hide it, and I haven't seen any suggestions that he continued to do so after MIT decided to stop accepting donations from Epstein. Ito, on the other hand, appears to have continued to do so, and appears to have tried to keep it secret.
Can you please provide a reliable source for this claim? Last time I checked there is at least one witnessing of him turned down offering of sexual favours in that Epstein case context, and none of the opposite.
The US is engaged in finding an equal hated group among the left and right and then attacking anyone who is remotely associatable with them or willing to make any argument that implies a defense of someone associated with them. We have seen this behavior before and it does not ever end well.
RMS is not exactly famous for his keen social skills.
Should he try to have more tact? Sure, of course. But failing that, the correct response is compassion and gentle correction, not a witchhunt. Not driving him out of his jobs.
In particular, he says he did try to do the compassion and gentle correction work, and Stallman had no interest in it.
Stallman's job has a job description - leading the Free Software Foundation. If he's not leading it effectively, it is important for his own cause that he step away, and it is important that the FSF Board do their job by finding someone more effective at it. If he's not suited for it for reasons outside of his control and never will be, that's all the more reason that we should compassionately and gently get him to find another job.
(Also, I think this argument is deeply unfair to the many neuroatypical people in this world who still manage to not say the things Stallman does - which is in most cases not merely a matter of "tact," but even so, many of whom put conscious, learned effort into having tact. I have friends with all sorts of things going on in their brain who are wonderful people and in many cases also wonderful free software authors, and I think this argument does them a disservice.)
I'd agree with Matthew Garrett here. Some of Richard Stallman's statements in the past have bordered on being outrightly indefensible for various reasons. Not necessarily indefensible as the opinions of an individual, as controversial as they may be, but certainly inappropriate as the opinions of a person representing an organisation. I doubt that Stallman's various eccentricities have done much to hamper the FSF's mission, but Stallman himself would certainly do little to endear it to anyone.
Edit +1 hour: this comment certainly aged well...
So the (implicit) argument "This is just what you expect with neuroatypical people" / "If we want to be welcoming of neuroatypical people, we have to be welcoming of people who act like RMS" is even less true because of how diverse the category is. We know RMS isn't being excluded because of his (hypothetical) neuroatypicality because there are so many neuroatypical people who aren't and wouldn't be excluded.
If you want to argue that the problem with RMS is he is in the narrow category of people who act like RMS (and I would say that not even Linus Torvalds is in this category), that's a fine argument to make, but it's a bit circular to defend his inclusion on such grounds. Is this category the sort of category, like race or class or neurological makeup, that is beyond (or mostly beyond) one's control and has little correlation with whether you can do good work? Or is this a category like "asshole"?
I'll grant that some of the headlines about what RMS wrote were overblown, but still. You don't have to look outside the four corners of what he wrote to see why it wasn't an excusable thing to blast out to a departmental email. Once you expand from those four corners to his prior comments on pedophilia it gets way worse.
At a certain point, if you have lived as long as RMS has, you should have some knowledge of your own limitations. It would take an absolute master of rhetoric to make his argument and not have it taken badly. He is not one, and he should (at this point) have the barest humility to not subject the entire CSAIL mailing list to his half-baked ideas on how Minsky might be exonerated.
I also think that being tactless is not a moral crime. It's aesthetically offensive and counterproductive from a leadership perspective, but being a bad leader doesn't make somebody a bad person.
Really? That's far from my experience with meeting him. I found him to be physically and socially repulsive, but intellectually fascinating.
Each person contributes to the flavor of the community in which they participate. It is within the right of those who lead the community to curate its flavor by adding or removing people when necessary.
In this his case, his removal was well-justified for the cause of keeping the community welcoming and safe-feeling for members of all genders.
Also don't be surprised if lots of disparate organizations agree that certain behaviors are inappropriate.
RMS and others are free to say or do whatever they please, but they aren't free from experiencing the consequences (social or otherwise) of their choices.
In fact, your message here makes me feel unsafe right now. Something needs to be done, call the mods.
> Giuffre was 17 at the time; this makes it __rape__ in the Virgin Islands.
Does it really? I think it is morally absurd to define "rape" in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.
I think the existence of a dispute about that supports my point that the term "sexual assault" is slippery, so we ought to use more concrete terms when accusing anyone.
I think it's an immoral argument too- Minsky should have known something was going on, and would be culpable. And it's very possible he did know.
But paired with RMS' prior pedophilia apologia, the combination is horrendous.
This fucking guy.
And it’s deeply unfair to people who have issues to simply blame gross behavior in being “neuro-atypical”.
> and more like he's got a horse in the race.
Has the mob now progressed to insinuating that he's a pedophile himself? Is that what the 'horse in the race' idiom means in this context?
(a) your implication that Stallman is flip-flopping due to public pressure
(b) Stallman's lifetime as a Diogenean polemic who has been shown to stand by his beliefs, no matter how unpopular?
1. Stallman already has a lifetime of of examples of somewhat poor leadership within the GNU project, resulting in decisions that have compromised GNU and FSF's trajectory (compared to their potential), so once again, these are not new circumstances
2. How is Stallman doing FSF under threat here?
He resigned from the FSF presidency and board yesterday a few hours after my comment, which should answer that question.
I think you're mixing me up with another commenter.
Through personal conversations in recent years, I've learned to understand how sex with a child can harm per psychologically. This changed my mind about the matter: I think adults should not do that. I am grateful for the conversations that enabled me to understand why."
- Richard M. Stallman, 14 September 2019
Absence of of evidence is not evidence of absence, but philosophizing about murder does not make you a murderer
It looks bad.
Sorry but you don’t get to weasel out by saying you have poor social skills.
He's attempting to find some remotely plausible scenario where the actions of his friend are morally acceptable.
No amount of tact makes that okay, and complete lack of tact just makes it worse.
It was taken directly as the girl being “willing” when what he actually said was that she may have been coerced by Epstein into appearing to be “willing” to Minsky.
It doesn’t help that he has a documented history of fucked up comments in this general area.
Is that not a possibility?
If Minsky suddenly find himself in the plot to a porno, and just went along with it, then trying to defend his moral culpability is probably a lot out of the bounds of acceptability.
The person in question was born in 1983 and the events in question were in 2002 (or potentially 2001 if there were multiple incidents, but not prior).
Maybe your confusion is because the age of consent is 16 in Massachusetts?
It's not an interesting defense, and given his prior statements on the subject of statutory rape, I'm having a hard time taking it seriously.
I've spent basically my entire life discussing things in the abstract. I'm not a politician, I don't make laws, and frankly I wouldn't want that power.
To me it makes absolute sense that someone would attempt to "defend" even the most heinous person. It's weird to me that being considered a "defender of X" could even be a bad thing. That's the process by which we collectively make decisions, it's the basis behind stuff like fair trials for example; the lawyer acting for a defendant is not a bad person. It's what (rational) individuals do when they make decisions - even some of the most obviously correct ones - take the opposing side and see where it leads.
It doesn't seem to be limited to this case - I don't know if it's a recent thing, having mostly come of age post-Internet. It's just like, really weird. Amongst my real-life friendship groups this sort of "hate mob" type stuff just doesn't exist, pretty much any topic is up for grabs.
Except that in fair trials we have the concept of stare decisis, that once something has been decided, it's been decided. We very intentionally do not have the courtroom try to reason something out from first principles every time. We do not defend each person who runs a red light by saying, is it actually bad to run a red light. The cases which do overturn existing legal or social precedent are rare, carefully picked by the lawyers to be as sympathetic as possible (cf. Rosa Parks), and carefully timed to line up with sufficient hope of social consensus having changed around the law.
While it is absolutely your right to say "What if this bad thing is not actually bad," to do so without presenting a novel argument about it, and especially to do so for the sake of being contrarian, is not how we make decisions. You should look at the strongest arguments on both sides. You should privately take the opposing side and then see if you can knock it down.
The arguments Stallman presented were hardly arguments and were not novel at all. They're arguments that have occurred to the people he's arguing against, already. If he wants to seek the truth and not just advocate a side, he could have and should have figured that out. I still believe in his right to free speech (in the sense that I would defend his freedom to speak without government coercion), but I don't think he made a contribution to the discourse that's worth defending at a social level.
You think that Minsky being unaware of the coercion would not be a mitigating factor in accusing him of sexual assault? When was that decided?
Powerful billionaire brings you to his private island and presents a beautiful young woman to you who appears ready and willing to have sex with you, a 75-year-old man.
Is that ever credible, even in a porno?
For Stallman to push this "Minsky didn't know" narrative now, with no horse in the race, and Minsky having passed away 3 years ago, is beyond the pale. I get the idea of trying to defend the reputation of your dead friend, but... c'mon. It's not the time or the place, and Stallman should know better after decades of being "misunderstood".
Then again, an account from someone else at the gathering claims he saw what happened, and that Minsky rejected the girl's advances. If true, that kind makes the whole thing moot.
(I'd like to not get into arguing about Minsky's own actions or about mitigating factors in sexual assault in this particular thread. 'esotericn is talking about what is reasonable to discuss or not in which circumstances, not about the merits of the argument in question. And I'm also personally not interested in arguing the case.)
I guess I don't understand your point about Stare Decisis, then. Is your point that Stallman knew that his argument was wrong, but he put it forward anyway? Was there some piece of social case law he was supposed to be referencing here?
If those circumstances were unfavorable to him (as in your analogy), i'd be convinced that Minsky was at fault. If not, then I wouldn't be. But all that is to say that it seems to me that Stallman's abstract argument was fine to bring up - it just then puts the question back to his counterparts in the discussion to articulate a view on those circumstances to justify their position.
To clarify further, however, Minksy was not dead "before any of this hit the news"; he died in January 2016.
Claims against Epstein had significant publicity much earlier than that; as just one example, in 2015 the Prince Andrew - Epstein connection was making headlines due to the Virginia Roberts case.
You’re absolutely right that the allegations against Epstein were in the news before 2016 though, after all he was initially sentenced for his crime in 2007.
This is a strange conclusion for you to draw because this statement applies to the majority of HN posts likely including both yours and mine. No decisions are being made here.
Perhaps some context would be useful with regards to Stallman.
Edit: in my defence, is op defending Stallman, or Epstein? Honestly, I don't know how Epstein and Stallman are related. I don't follow Stallman's every statement he makes. I simply asked for some context and enlightenment in this headline and esotericn's comment.
edit: ok...finally some context from other commenters answering (finally) my question, which I think is this from 11th August 2019:
Jeffrey Epstein appears to have committed suicide in his cell. Or perhaps he was murdered — it is not unusual for prisoners to murder prisoners accused of sexual crimes.
Epstein was accused of trafficking: bringing people long distances on false pretenses and then pressured them into sex or prostitution. He also reportedly raped some of those people. I believe those accusations, and I think he deserved to be imprisoned.
Some of his victims were legally adult. Some were teenage minors. I don't think that makes any moral difference. I don't think rape is less wrong if the victim is over 16.
Ok maybe I'm really thick, how does this cause Stallman to resign? His language seems pretty much on par with newspaper of headlines in his "blog". I really don't have an axe to grind either way. I'm trying to get to the bottom of who said what?
Edit..again: so thanks to: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20990293 , this is the crux of the matter:
I've not read the full thread so don't have an opinion either way. If Minsky and Stallman were good friends then I can understand Stallman coming to his defence, especially when dead people can't give an account of themselves. That said I kinda feel Stallman's dug a bit of a hole for himself, and may need a bigger shovel to get out.
So I think the OP is wondering out loud why it's not OK for Stallman to have a public opinion about the morality of the situation where it is apparently OK in one country, but if you go on holiday to another country it is rape.
The OP did not mention Epstein at all and it's not related to the discussion in any way. The problem is that the media has been waging a kind of character assassination of Stallman and quite frankly appears to have slandered him rather badly.
However, to answer the OP's musings: Stallman should know better than to get pulled into this kind of conversation because he has many political opponents who will stop at nothing to drag his name in the mud. He was completely stupid to respond at all. Maybe it's not fair, but it's reality.
No, having sex with Epstein's trafficked victims is considered rape in pretty much all countries. Protestations that the victim "presented herself as willing" are like defending a buyer of obviously stolen goods on the basis that the fence didn't overtly tell them they were stolen. Minsky was a 73-year-old man offered sex by a 17-year-old girl on his friend's Caribbean island -- he knew what the real situation was.
I'm also pretty much 100% in agreement that Minsky ought to have known that what he was doing was wrong. However, I know literally nothing of the situation. It was stupid of Stallman to give a "for instance" because it's always going to be construed as him advocating a really bad situation. But later he literally asks people for copies of the deposition (that he can read with free software) so that he can find out what actually happened. He also had no idea what actually happened and was basically saying that he's not willing to condemn someone without understanding the circumstances. There may be mitigating details that we know nothing about. There may not.
There are people who believe that there can be no mitigating details. They may very well be correct (again, I literally don't know), however, I hate the witch hunt against people who do not wish to pillory others without understanding the situation first.
Having said that, like I said, it was stupid of Stallman to wade into this. He's got a big target on his back and there are people who will take every opportunity to lob something at him.
Given that even the Virgin Islands locals took to calling it "Pedophile Island," it's a pretty good guess that most of the people who went to the parties there had at least an inkling of their true nature. But no-strings-attached money (or worse, other "favors") were a powerful motivator to look the other way.
> Given that even the Virgin Islands locals took to calling it "Pedophile island"
Locals almost always have more knowledge about a place in their backyard than someone flown in for a special occasion.
> Epstein was accused of trafficking: bringing people long distances on false pretenses and then pressured them into sex or prostitution. He also reportedly raped some of those people. I believe those accusations, and I think he deserved to be imprisoned.
>Some of his victims were legally adult. Some were teenage minors. I don't think that makes any moral difference. I don't think rape is less wrong if the victim is over 16.
Sure, but if anyone bothers to read to the end of that sentence he says:
"I don't think that makes any moral difference. I don't think rape is less wrong if the victim is over 16."
He's not defending rape in any way shape or form, regardless of age.
Am I the OP in this context?
I think this is exactly what I'm talking about? I've made a comment explaining how this environment baffles me, and you think my comment must be somehow tribal in nature.
Tribal in what way? And I said nothing of the sort. I have no "tribal" interest in Stallman's efforts or his beliefs. I think the man has done some fine things in terms of GPLv2, less so v3, but I'm certainly not an absolutist.
I genuinely didn't understand your comment, which you still haven't answered, yet you attack me for being "tribal".
The answer is, err, "not applicable"?
edit: ok, so now I have some context:
Which after all this was what I was asking for. Jeezo.
> Stallman wrote that it was most plausible that the Epstein sexual partners were willing participants
is one of the misquotations of what Stallman actually wrote that change the meaning significantly.
> 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.
"presented ... as entirely willing" is very different to "were willing"
Suppose you wished to discuss "ethical problems" in a tutorial, people can do that, and in some other (limited) environments too. You might - to invoke a particularly awful idea - like to hypothetically explore whether what people wear had relationship to their likelihood of being targeted for sexual assault.
If you are in a position of leadership however, you incur responsibilities. People under your leadership must be confident that if someone were to tell you they have been sexually assaulted, your response would not be to wonder what they were wearing. The reason for this is, as is well established, that speculation over what women (or survivors in general) were wearing at the time they were sexually assaulted is a loaded idea that has widespread use in casting blame on the victim of sexual assault, and has been very effective at this for hundreds of years, leading to a vast amount of preventable suffering, all because of we continue to tolerate the mistaken idea that women might somehow 'invite' their own assault.
A person in a leadership or representational role doesn't get to publicly speculate about "clothing and sexual assault" in the abstract, because they have a duty to be aware of how incredibly damaging that is in the general sense, and how public speculation about that sort of relationship would clearly act to dampen survivors of sexual assault from coming forward, including in the org they are leading, in addition to being distressing for the people who have experienced it in the past, which is a significant fraction of people in general, even supposing the speculator meant well.
Even though Stallman wasn't a professor, and was "just" a Visiting Scientist, he maintained an office on campus, and was afforded a certain level of status by MIT. With that status comes an amount of responsibility. Making "philosophical" arguments that appear to defend abhorrent positions, regardless of the intent behind those arguments, is not in line with that responsibility.
>A person in a leadership or representational role doesn't get to publicly speculate about "clothing and sexual assault" in the abstract [...]
How is this applicable to Stallman? What was Stallman doing at MIT? It doesn't seem like he's in any sort of leadership position.
2) It would take a staggering feat of mental gymnastics to suggest Dr. Stallman's idiosyncratic role at CSAIL -described variously as "visiting scientist"- absolves him of having leadership responsiblities to students.
3) Though I did not go into details at the time, the argument above applies more widely than leaders per se - it applies to people who affiliate with and represent organisations; for example, I think we could probably agree it would apply to television anchors whether or not they led a 'team' of any kind.
Stallman's relationship with MIT (and vice versa) is a public enough role that I've known about for nearly 20 years though I live on the other side of the planet.
"What he should have done was in my opinion deliver one policy speech. 'This is where we stand on antisemitism. This is where we stand on the mechanisms for dealing with antisemitism in our party. Case closed.' The other major mistake he made was .. a complete abandonment of the principle of free speech. People have a right to say and think whatever they want. 'I'm a member of the Labour Party. OK. I subscribe to Labour Party's political platform. That's what makes me a member.' But that doesn't mean you have the right to troll my Facebook postings, you have the right to vet everything I say or post on Instagram. I mean that's Romania under Ceausescu, that's North Korea under Kim Il Sung. That's now going to be the mandate of the Labour Party? To be trolling in your thoughts and ideas? To see whether you are an antisemite? Everybody, including you, including your camera people harbors some antisemitic stereotypes... OK. Who cares? I mean It's very hard to extirpate, ... because it's rooted in thousands of years. I mean it's everywhere. It's part of the atmosphere, it's part of the environment, it's part of the history. Do I not harbor any anti-black stereotypes any racist stereotypes? Do I harbor no sexist stereotypes? No! And now we are going to have a Labour Party, which is going to [?] the depths of your conscience, ... looking for some evidence of antisemitism, ...? It's complete lunacy and it's a complete repudiation, abandonment of the most fundamental principles of what's called the Enlightenment beginning with as the Germans put it in that nice German folk song Die Gedanken sind Frei (Thoughts are free). People have the right to think what they believe, and since thought is inseparable from speech, you have the right to think and speak as you please. And if you don't like what a person is saying then you have the right either not to listen or try to persuade the person ... but what you don't have the right to do is penalize people, punish people, expel people for their thoughts... It's a complete political disaster because all it does is it forces people to repress what they're thinking until a demagogue comes along and starts saying what you're thinking, what you were forced to repress. And instead of your erroneous thoughts having been answered, the fact that you were forced to repress them, it validates it for you. ... And then the demagogue comes along and starts to exploit all of those repressed thoughts. So morally it's unacceptable to try to police people's thoughts and politically it's a complete disaster." https://youtu.be/OPYfLY2cAi4?t=616
Stallman wrote that “the most plausible scenario” for Giuffre’s accusations was that she was, in actuality, “entirely willing.”
How is that a rational, defensible statement in any terms?
What he actually said, without Vice editing the quote, is:
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.
From the email thread reproduced in its entirety by Vice at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6405929-091320191420....
In my estimation, there's a big difference between Vice's framing of "Stallman said she was 'entirely willing'" and the full quote above. There are, of course, other poor comments in that thread.
EDIT -- I mention Vice specifically, because their article (which I'd read earlier) has similar phrasing to the wording used here (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbm74x/computer-scientist... -- "Stallman said the “most plausible scenario” is that one of Epstein’s underage victims was “entirely willing.”"), and I'd thought the quote that codesushi used was from that publication. On double checking, it might be unfair to single that publication out for the given quote.
There are other pretty bad comments, yes. If most of the coverage focused on those rather than something he didn't actually say, I wouldn't have as much of a problem with it.
Now that I can't say I totally agree with. The free software movement is a political movement, and as such his statements and opinions on social issues of all kinds have a deep impact on whether or not he can be a good representative of the FSF.
But we should at least be truthful about his statements and opinions!
It can mean that.
sentence immediately after that makes it clear that he didn't mean it as such.
No, it is debatable. The following sentence does not clearly state they were unwilling.
Another Stallman gem:
I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.
"Many years ago I posted that I could not see anything wrong about sex between an adult and a child, if the child accepted it. Through personal conversations in recent years, I've learned to understand how sex with a child can harm per psychologically. This changed my mind about the matter: I think adults should not do that. I am grateful for the conversations that enabled me to understand why."
Edit: just noticed that's from two days ago, so in reaction to this fiasco.
The first is what was actually said the latter is a lie being repeated.
"The most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing," Stallman wrote in his post last Wednesday. "Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates. I’ve concluded from various examples of accusation inflation that it is absolutely wrong to use the term 'sexual assault' in an accusation."
"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."
Say what you will about the inappropriateness of RMS's conduct or speech or timing, but you should not try to persuade people by misquoting him.
We know that we are in deep trouble when the new generations start solving math formula or hypothesis democratically, by the numbers of 'likes' and 'thumbs up' that they receive.
Is a popular opinion true automatically just because is emotionally satisfying to us, and hence is popular? Not.
As long as he assumes the risk to be corrected and wrong, Stallman has the right to express an discomforting ugly hypothesis or a discordant opinion. And is just that, an opinion. I have no reason to thing that is a dishonest one, that there is malice, attempt to defamation, or that there is a hidden agenda subjacent about it
Demonstratively, he did not have that right.
Or perhaps you believe in some kind of imaginary right where you could still be held to have it if you predictably suffer terrible consequences should you attempt to make use of it?
I've commented a number of times on this subject, calmly trying to direct people back to the facts-- but each time I know that any one of those message could be misrepresented and turned into terrible false accusations about me, simply because I pissed off the wrong mob.
I think the right you imagine might exist for some people-- people who do nothing of notice, people who never challenge anyone's thinking, or people who really don't have to give a darn about what anyone else thinks-- maybe it exists for me, maybe it exists for you at least for the moment. It did not exist for RMS.
Which of these three seems more likely in GENERAL:
A) That this happened on a party island and all adults were willing.
B) That someone has been lead to believe this is a consensual act on some party island with willing people there; but in reality the victim is coerced into presenting false consent.
C) That the 'active offender' is aware of a lack of consent and that they are with a victim.
Since I choose to believe that at least a majority of humanity aren't evil; just more than likely stupid and easily tricked, I happen to believe that the set a circumstance being either A or B is more likely that C. I also believe that if "services" were legalized and HEAVILY REGULATED circumstances B and C would be FAR less likely to happen.
Epstein hosted conferences on a number of occasions for scientific luminaries, which is why-- for example-- there are pictures of Stephen Hawking on Epstein's island.
Minsky was involved in an AI conference held by Epstein in 2002.
What I was suggesting is that there are plausible reasons someone might find themselves on such an island; which seem more realistic if those involved are rich elite who lure 'loose' individuals down with warm sandy beaches and cold drinks.
My take on the full RMS text in question is that they were (probably biased but) pointing out that they believed in a friend being a good person and thus the generic case I called Scenario B being the one that they believed was likely.
As I lack the facts to properly make a judgement on the issue I can only speculate about what //might// have happened, and hope that those who should be reaching a judgement gather all the possible facts and prove those who are guilty as such, without making more victims out of others tricked or entrapped by the actual wrong-doers.
I guess you mean that a position taken for the purposes of intellectual discourse (e.g. devil's advocate) could just as well be the person's "real" position?
Is there actually a difference in practice, if they're not in a position to act upon it anyway? (Or is the issue that by engaging in the discourse they are acting upon it?)
I think I understand your basic point - everyone who's a public figure is subject to the opinions of a huge number of people who might want to attack them (politically, physically, whatever), and that limiting expression of opinion is a way to protect against this. But doesn't that ultimately result in all public figures being "soft", "tame", basically politicians?
> “I have to confess, when me and my friend, sort of, used to run through the fields of wheat – the farmers weren’t too pleased about that.” - Theresa May, UK prime minister, when asked of the naughtiest thing she'd ever done
Just look at the state of comedy today. It’s absurd. Their jokes are taken as their actual real-life positions on things.
It's an odd twist of irony. Everyone seems to be able to be rational, intellectual, and level-headed, when the issue they are debating does not personally affect them.
Edit: Judging by the karmic sentiment, we are probably unable to have a rational, intellectual, level-headed discussion of such a topic. Pity.
> rational, intellectual, level-headed discussion of how, say, their right to speech should be restricted
Isn't that a contradiction in and of itself?
The other side thinks that it's perfectly good and proper to not have a rational, intellectual, level-headed discussion of reprehensible topics, and would rather the first side not pull them into it.
Open source is in a really complicated moment for its survival. Is like we would had arrived to a sort ot 'extinguish and replace' phase.
Updated, link here: https://itsfoss.com/gimp-fork-glimpse/
Then again, I've only seen the two quotes appearing in the HN threads.
The specific relevant passage is on page 7. Copied verbatim - line with a '>' is Stallman quoting another e-mail in the thread.
From the Medium post that kicked the whole thing off :
…and then he says that an enslaved child could, somehow, be “entirely willing”.
And from Vice [2, 3]:
Famed Computer Scientist Richard Stallman Described Epstein Victims As 'Entirely Willing'
Stallman said the “most plausible scenario” is that one of Epstein’s underage victims was “entirely willing.”
And the Daily Beast:
Renowned MIT Scientist Defends Epstein: Victims Were ‘Entirely Willing’
Here’s what Stallman actually wrote:
We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she [Epstein’s victim] presented herself to him [Marvin Minsky] as entirely willing.
In other words, Stallman isn’t saying she was willing, but rather that she likely acted as if she were willing. Lest there be any doubt, the next sentence reads:
Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.
So Stallman explicitly acknowledges the likelihood that Epstein coerced these girls and coached them to pretend to be willing to have sex with Minsky and others in Epstein’s circle. At no point does Stallman say they were willing—rather, he suggests the exact opposite.
Regardless of what one may think of Stallman, what else he wrote, or any of his other behavior, the wide dissemination and repetition of this lie is absolutely unconscionable. Those promulgating it should be ashamed.
Unlike 20th century newspapers, they don’t have ombudsmen or public editors who care more about truth than headlines (A traditional newspaper might make mistakes such as these, but they’d at least be embarrassed enough to issue a correction the day later). And since they publish in the USA, about US persons, they also have no fear of libel suits due to the US constitution’s commitment to free speech.
Anyone who is a public figure, or might become a subject of news coverage, needs to be very aware that their words will be taken out of context or lied about if needed to get clicks.
They did anything to sell a headline - in the 20th century, ethical standards for media were better for a while, although of course they have always been susceptible to influence by the government as you mention (whether Iraq, Vietnam, or more justifiable wars).
Which, again, is worse than anything they've done recently.
In my experience outlets like the NYT do issue corrections - e.g. just over this weekend, they published a pretty questionable story about Judge Kavanaugh but then published a correction within a day when the article was challenged and compared to the book it was based on.
In comparison I’d be very, very surprised if VICE issued a correction for its lies about this reporting, which they boldly publish right alongside the documents debunking their faked quotes.
Certainly some organizations have better reputations than others, and I do trust the NYTs more than I trust Vice. My point in all of this is that when talking of some sort of golden age in journalism, one needs to keep in mind the severity of lies told in the past, as well as the relative opportunity the truth had to surface in different eras. Could the NYTs have suppressed knowledge of the Holodomor so effectively in the modern era when the wrong viral video from some random bystandard with a smartphone can circulate widely without the assistance or cooperation of organizations like the NYTs?
I mainly wanted to call attention to how online outlets are so focused on headlines and clicks they have even less incentive than the past to be truthful or curate a reputation for accuracy.
When your views depend not on a base of weekly subscribers or businesses advertising in the classifieds, but on how viral your story is and how many ad impressions it can get, the truth suffers even more than it used to.
Can information be suppressed as easily now? No, as you point out the primary sources of information are far more widely disseminated than they ever have been in the past (e.g. all the videos from both sides coming out of the Syrian civil war thanks to cell phones and YouTube). But if people are still trusting in secondary sources and don’t check the primary source when it’s available, that doesn’t help as much as it could.
Please note, I am one of the people in tech who thinks Stallman should resign from leadership roles for the comments he made; the media coverage which mischaracterises his comments and especially so in headlines (looking at you, Vice) is unethical, and damages the assessment of what he actually said.
What he actually said, unfortunately, is in my view incompatible with him continuing in his leadership roles.
In other words, he's taking us on this garbage thought experiment that Minsky is somehow an innocent bystander. To even arrive at that talking point is asinine.
The point I’m making is that many, many people are deliberately lying or willfully misreading what Stallman wrote in order to force his resignation. Those using such tactics, in violation of their own cherished principles, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Instead, tonight they are celebrating their victory with glee.
The alleged Minsky assault happened in 2001.
This was not an isolated incident.
If it were, I'd look at his comments and write it off as his usual tendency to jump on a minor point and derail a conversation with some totally pedantic technicallity, and I do think the thing he actually said in this case has been wildly mis-interpreted and overstated in many places (the bits about him defending Epstein are clearly untrue, and even the author of the blog post that went viral and set off the shitstorm has said so, and sent corrections to the publications she'd spoken to directly).
I even agree with his statement that, from a moral standpoint 17 vs. 18 isn't really that important -- we set arbitrary cutoffs for age of consent and it's not like there's a legal determination to be made re: Minsky anyway: he's dead.
So from that mailing list thread alone, it reads like a typical autism-spectrum dude missing the social context, making a pedantic point that people read too much into and take the wrong way, and getting himself in trouble. And this is an angle that would naturally draw my own sympathies toward him.
But Stallman is on-record as saying he thinks there's such a thing as "consentual pedophila", and given that context, I think folks can be forgiven for reading into his current statements.
Ultimately though, the bigger issue isn't even about anything that happened in the past few days. RMS has been behaving inappropriately in more serious ways for decades. There are many stories out there about him harassing and propositioning students, making wildly inappropriate remarks to women, and generally making a bad situation around gender and inclusiveness in tech worse. Everyone I've talked to who has known him in a non-trivial personal capacity has corroberated this. The fact that this email is the thing prompted a blog post that happened to go viral and got people to make a fuss about it is incidental.
Even at the FSF's own conferences, he's one of the more frequent violators of the safe space policies that the organizers have put in place. I think the first year the conference had an explicit safe space/anti-harassment policy, he was the only person who violated it (in this case it took the form of a sexualized joke during his closing keynote).
I kinda have the same somewhat fearful gut reaction to these kinds of episodes as a lot of geeky guys do. There's a post out there (which I think originally I found through hacker news) that does a pretty good job of analyzing where that reaction is coming from, and why the fear isn't totally illegitimate, but the idea that this is just a mob picking on some misunderstood misfit is just not what's happening here. Folks have been lienient to the point of negligience with him up until now.
Considering a guy just lost two positions, one of them his life's work, for speaking incorrect opinions and being awkward with women, I would say that fear is quite legitimate!
Thank you for posting that link, because rereading it puts this whole clusterfuck in context.
But given the sheer scale of screwups here, the number of people's affected, while I have some sympathy for stallman, ultimately I think this one really is his fault -- it's one thing to make some social gaffes now and then. It's another to actively contribute to a toxic enviornment for longer than I've been alive, to be in the public eye enough that there's no way you're not getting an earful about it from time to time, and at no point sit down and read through some of the arguments about this and consider if maybe there's something you're doing that is maybe a problem.
Again, I have some sympathy (empathy, even; I'm no stranger to being the awkward aspie guy), but there's a limit to how much you can lean on that as an excuse.
I do think angry-mob-accountability is not a very good way to deal with problems, but part of the trouble is people are going to this because the usual channels have failed them. I the way through this is to put in place systems of accountability that actually work so a civilized way of dealing with problems is even possible.
This whole thread is overwhelmed with bullshit downvotes, presumably from "geek feminists" who think that defense of RMS is equivalent to supporting toxic patriarchy rape culture or whatever. Really we just don't want to be dragged into their monkeysphere games. They cannot understand this, as they cannot comprehend an existence that's not beholden to monkeysphere status games!
As someone who had to work to develop reasonable social skills, it does pain me to see people not learning basic tact. But I don't think scale of awkwardness on its own is an indictment - some people just do not "get it". And remember we are talking about a world in which they happily existed until the outsiders arrived - an "excuse" should not be necessary.
If specific boundaries are not being respected (neutrally, say B.O.), then that is a failure of management to make the rules known in a "right brain" manner. This dynamic has long existed in the professional world, even taking a step backwards under the tenure of these "cool nerds". The anecdote about the mattress in RMS's office rises to this level, and if as creepy as described, should have been shut down by the administration long ago. The failure there belongs to the Institute itself, not as dirty laundry to pile on years later.
I agree about the general lack of accountability, and I think it applies at larger scale. A few months ago everyone was all excited at the prospect of Epstein spilling his guts and taking down some associated evil fuckers generally shitting up our world. But then he got snuffed, which we all kind of knew would happen somehow but wanted to hope otherwise. So that prospect of nabbing some entrenched evil fuckers slipped away (they didn't get to their position by submitting themselves to justice!), but hey here's this weird guy who stuck his neck out to be attacked...
1. It's too much suspension of disbelief for them to think that he really could not have been expected to figure this stuff out on his own.
2. Your comments are also lacking any clear acknowledgement of the real harm here, which makes it read like you're just trying to use that link I posted as a defense for him, without engaging with the details of the situation.
I'm not sure how fair I think that reading is, and I think your own explanation for the downvotes is also part of the picture -- but not the whole picture by any means.
Specifically re: this bit:
> is equivalent to supporting toxic patriarchy rape culture or whatever. Really we just don't want to be dragged into their monkeysphere games
What I think this misses is that, regardless of intent, outcomes matter, and by making excuses you do make it easier for the injustices to continue, whether you mean to or not. A lot of guys have a really knee-jerk reaction to the term "rape culture" but the idea it exists to articulate is actually really important, whatever you think of the choice of expression: There are lots of behaviors far short of committing any heinous crimes yourself that add up to contribute to a society where these crimes are allowed to happen. Ironically, this quote commits the same lack of willingness to look past an gripes with the way an idea is presented and actually engage with the idea that lots of folks are pointing to in the reaction to RMS's statements.
I can't prentend to be able to see perfectly into RMS's mind and say what was really going on. It's certainly the case that management (of both MIT and the FSF) enabled him, but I don't think that totally absolves him. But I'm also not really interested in judging him one way another. I wish it hadn't had to come to this, and I hope he learns something from it and makes good use of the rest of his years. But ultimately I'd like to just move forward and keep trying to make things better -- ideally we build an environment where the next guy gets it into his head early on, doesn't make folks miserable for decades on end, and gets to keep his job; everybody wins. But to do that we need to be willing to acknowledge that there was harm here, and not just push the one side of the argument.
As far as downvotes, there is a steady stream of upvotes as well, in a way that a simply missing the mark or being unpopular does not incur. I interpret this as "geek feminists" versus "weird nerds", with the former being more numerous these days.
It's not that the above framework justifies what RMS did, but it puts it in a measured context where it is possible to empathize with it. As opposed to the mainstream narrative which is dead-set on dehumanizing him. And if one wants to honestly consider the "real harm" in his pattern of behavior, that measured context is the only just place to do it - what I alluded to being the ultimate job of the Institute to keep "weird nerds" in check.
But we're now well past that context, and this is a lynch mob rather than justice. If I see someone being chased with torches and pitchforks, it doesn't particularly matter what they are accused of doing - my "herd alert!!" klaxon is blaring. (And yes, I do appreciate the modern luxury of being able to comfortably speak out against the herd, rather than needing to pick up a torch and blend in).
 I make irreverent jokes about most of the sensationalist trash in the banal "news cycle" for exactly the same reason - their only relation to me is that of abstract symbols, and they're being used to wage an emotional attack on the audience. Man bites dog? Well, I hope it tasted good.