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Richard M. Stallman resigns (fsf.org)
1747 points by maxdeviant 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 2180 comments



RMS has called himself "borderline autistic". His socially clueless black and white thinking makes it look like he is far in the spectrum. RMS is anal about meanings of terms and their use. That's not working well in the current climate where words carry perceived intent. I find myself agreeing with RMS with most of the terminology and its use in this case. Women who tell stories about him paint a picture of lonely socially incompetent man who makes super creepy attempts to connect opposite sex.

I have worked in jobs where there have been very strange creepy people, both women and men. Some are angry and tense. Some are odd and talk restless or slightly disturbing stuff that make everyone uncomfortable. But if they do their work well they can stay. Others give them some room. It's called tolerance.

If RMS was just random superhacker doing his thing. I would defend him. His boss should find a position for him where he can contribute and other people should feel free to feel uncomfortable and avoid him.

But RMS is de facto leader and public figure in movement that is also political. He does not deserve the same level of consideration as normal HR headache would. Even if everything against him would be completely unjust, there is no requirement for just treatment for top leaders. They can be sacked for any reason whatsoever.


Can we please stop excusing bad behavior with some form of "oh because autism"? It's an insult to the many, many neuro-atypical people who don't say shitty, stupid things online, who don't act creepy around women, who don't have a sign on their MIT office that says "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)", who don't have a gross mattress in their office where they encourage people to lie topless, who don't try to pressure women into dating them by saying they'll kill themselves otherwise. All of those things describe RMS, things that have been mostly quietly ignored and hand-waved away for decades.

We don't have to tolerate people who make women feel unsafe and unwelcome in our (or any) industry.

You seem to be arguing the usual tired old thing: "but he's a genius and does such great work that we should tolerate the bad things he does". I really thought we'd started to move past that over the last few years.


Attributing all his behavior to his autism is wrong, you're right, but autistic people do have social problems that can influence some behavior, like the ability to pick up social cues and learn something is wrong before hearing others say it.

Also, you're doing a bait and switch, neuro-atypical covers a large swathe of people including autistic people. May be you're using it here as a mere synonym for "autistic" for lingual flare, but it includes people who are generally typical in social settings.


I agree with both of you, and I think stallman also had the misfortune here to be so beloved that people are willing to give him a pass on a lot of the things he's said.

It's absolutely true that neuro-atypical people can learn from others, even if they can't pick up on social cues the way neurotypical people can. I'm guessing stallman just goes unchallenged on much of this stuff because of the lingering effects of the rockstar syndrome in tech, where "great men," geniuses, whatever, get cut a lot of slack because of their position in the industry.

It's only recently that I've seen a shift away from prizing our jerk 10x rockstars ("hey, he's so smart he can keep the whole codebase in his head!") to valuing better-behaved people. stallman seems like he'd be even more isolated than the typical one of those, with less chance to have the rough edges smoothed off in the rock tumbler of social interaction.

Again, not an excuse, but I'm more interested in, "how did we get here?" (where "here" is a decades-long public figure questioning the wrongness of pedophilia and making jokes like the "emacs virgin" thing well into the 2000s).


My daughter who has autism constantly says things that could be considered offensive because she's not aware of sensitivities around race, gender, orientation, etc. It certainly can explain it for certain individuals. You can't say many neuro-atypical people don't say bad things so it can't be an excuse for him. "Neuro-atypical" is a huge, huge group of people who are very different.


The ultimate thing is though that as the leader of the FSF foundation his actions have broader consequences and demand a stricter scrutiny. He was given a loooong time to learn and improve, people have been talking about how he's actually kind of sexist and problematic for years.

Stallman's job as head of FSF wasn't just to be technically competent, which he has in spades, but to forward the mission of the foundation and a certain level of social acuity is a necessary part of that.


Can you link to sources regarding Stallmans behavior towards women? It’s not that I don’t believe you but because I tried to google “Richard Stallman suicide threat” and couldn’t come up with anything... I do want to believe you, but I can’t propagate information without evidence.


https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix...

It has quotes you might be able to follow up on.


Great! Thanks so much. I'll read and come up with my own conclusions from the raw evidence.



So far as I can tell the name "Stallman" appears nowhere in that document. (I'm not 100% sure because it seems to be a scanned PDF -- but searching for some other words I can see on the page appears to work OK.)


It's interesting to see how much of this applies to HN.



> Can we please stop excusing bad behavior with some form of "oh because autism"? It's an insult to the many, many neuro-atypical people who don't say shitty, stupid things online.

No it's not an insult to anyone. It's an attemoted explanation of why some neuro-atypical people behave in atypical fashion.


Are you, or the parent, a mental health professional? If not, then I'd suggest you aren't qualified to tell if he's even autistic at all, or, if he is, that his autism is what's causing the problems here, not terrible beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. In that light, using autism as an excuse for Stallman's behavior is just an unfounded theory by an armchair psychiatrist with no business making diagnoses.


The wisdom of attempting to diagnose someone without a formal diagnosis is an entirely different issue, and I agree it is unwise.

The original claim was that saying that someone's anti-social behaviour was due to being neurological atypical, was an insult to everyone who is neurological atypical. This is clearly nonsense.


> This is clearly nonsense.

If we're just going to throw around absolutist statements: No, it's not.


OK. Let's take an analogy. Do you believe that saying that a history of parental violence contributed to the boy to be violent in his own turn is an insult to everyone who was beaten up by their father?


I think you're confusing explanation and excuse.


As a neuro-typical, it is an insult on me. Being autistic doesn't mean you are allowed to be an asshole.


His behavior being related to neuroatypicality doesn't mean that neuroatypicality lead automatically to that behavior.


I didn't read the parent's post as "excusing" Stallman at all.

I certainly would not excuse him! Nor should anybody else!

But given his stature, it's surely worth discussing and understanding him. And any attempt to do that would certainly have to include his famously black-and-white and self-described borderline autistic thinking.

Pointing out that somebody is austistic (or left-handed, or that they have psoriasis, or dyslexic, or seven feet tall, or...) and thinking about how that may affect their actions isn't excuse-making. It is empathy. It is critical thinking.


> I didn't read the parent's post as "excusing" Stallman at all.

I did. To me, it says "I've known a lot of creepy people; as long as they get their work done, it's ok". And I don't agree with that.

> self-described borderline autistic thinking.

That's another thing: has he actually been diagnosed? If not, well, he may still be autistic, but that just sounds like RMS himself hiding behind a shield of autism that he's crafted himself, which is pretty low.

> Pointing out that somebody is austistic and thinking about how that may affect their actions isn't excuse-making. It is empathy. It is critical thinking.

Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what was written. The parent even said "if RMS was some random superhacker doing his thing" he'd defend him. To me, that's excuse-making, not empathy or critical thinking.

But I do agree that autism can certainly explain some behaviors, and it's worth trying to understand people, even though the explanations may not excuse the behavior. The parent's post just did not strike me as that.


[flagged]


We ban accounts that post like this, so please don't post like this.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Please provide evidence for this. I can't find anything describing the things you just typed.


> "but he's a genius and does such great work that we should tolerate the bad things he does". I really thought we'd started to move past that over the last few years.

Nobody thinks this of RMS. He's a competent developer who was in the right place at the right time to found a new ideology: The idea that software should work for the user, the only way for software to do so is to empower the user to also be a developer themselves. That's all.

Being competent himself wasn't a sufficient condition for anyone to listen to him, but it was necessary.


> We don't have to tolerate people who make women feel unsafe and unwelcome in our (or any) industry.

Promoting intolerance of people we disagree with, even if we vigorously disagree with them, is perhaps not the best response.


This isn't about disagreement; it's about creating a hostile environment for women at MIT and continuing to do so for years. I'm not prepared to tolerate things like that.

If we want to talk about disagreement...

He only recently recanted (with quite suspicious timing) his view that pedophilia is fine if the child gives consent. No, I'm not going to tolerate that view. I wouldn't want to work for someone that had that view.

In the email thread under discussion, he wanted to redefine "sexual assault" and "child rape" to something that agrees more with his sense of linguistic purity. No, that's not ok.

At some point, when people keep having disgusting views, and won't change them, you give up on them entirely. It's just not worth the effort anymore.


It seems to me that nobody who remains within the bounds of the law, but consistently flirts with the bounds of polite society deserves no respect from polite society but every bit of due process in a nation of laws. So the only matter that seems of any value is constraining the scope of 'bad behavior' within the context of polite society.

Hand waving and quietly ignoring is the mark of tolerance. But one wonders exactly how polite society is. One certainly presumes the existence of both knights for justice and hot ladies in a nation of millions. What society are we talking about?

I don't expect MIT to be any more representative of society than the NFL. It is a magnet for extreme people who defer common sense and common acceptance in search of very particular goals. I wonder if we were to get rid of Stallman and replace him, deserving as he must be, for a bust in our Hall of Fame if our society could resist defaming his very image and existence.


It is you and those like you that make people feel unsafe and unwelcome. RMS is quirky and weird and he says what many don't feel safe to talk about. The recent assault based not on fact or principle but rather implied (assumed)intent is a farce and wont lead to good things. Tech is dead and RMS is a fallen king. Take your PC bullying and wreck havoc over everything the geeks or "autists" created. I'm moving on but the industry is no longer a place of inclusion and all of the safe guards put in place were not enough to stop societies wicked. Enjoy eating each other in your Brave New World.


> We don't have to tolerate people who make women feel unsafe and unwelcome in our (or any) industry.

A lot of people (mostly men) hugely overestimate just how fragile and vulnerable women are.

The semi-autistic are a lot more likely to be made unwelcome than women.


And yet, women have been driven out of CSAIL for years by RMS's (and others') behavior (I know several, personally). And he's only being driven out now.


But the neuro atypical have been driven out of basically everywhere for years, by women.


Some women are driven out, but I suspect they're a very small proportion (women are tougher than you think).

And yes, celebrities will get more of a pass than others. Which isn't ideal.


[flagged]


Could you elaborate?


I was mistaken.


The article you link does not at all say that:

> Gano also posted a photo of Stallman's office door, which has a sign on it reading: "Knight for Justice (Also hot ladies)."

Gano posted a photo of the sign, not the sign itself.


Ceci n'est pas un pipe, Magritte?


Wow, thank goodness the Epstein issue came to light so we can finally put away this monster for being bad with women. Social justice priorities.


>But RMS is de facto leader and public figure in movement that is also political

What does this mean ? He is a leader of an organisation related to software freedom (or more pedantically, the choice of licences used for software). How is it relevant ? All you are saying is, "Famous people can't talk like that".


There are multiple issues here:

* General principle that people in influential positions have less protections and should have more scrutiny than average John Doe. Celebrities and influential people have less legal privacy protections.

* People are free to speak as individuals, but they may not be free to speak while they have public position in the organization. Elected members of the organization like FSF don't have the same protections as employers have. They represent the organization even outside the work. Their public position gives them a platform where what they say goes trough bullhorn and private becomes public and reflects the organization. If something they say harms the organization they should go even if they are right.


You feel safe because you are not famous, but remember that if you make an inappropriate joke or someone mistake something you say as an inappropriate joke, you can end fired https://techcrunch.com/2013/03/21/a-dongle-joke-that-spirale...


There's plenty of ground between "Stallman shouldn't get a pass for years of varying grades of crappy remarks and opinions as a public leader of the FSF" and "the PyCon dongle thing got way out of hand..."


I agree that they are very different. The GP said that the famous people should be very careful about what they say or have the risk of being fired. I only wanted to notice that everyone should be very careful about what they say or have the risk of being fired.


Celebrities do have protection from any injustice, and mob rule is unjust. They can't demand punishment for other people for mild disturbance, but that's all, they have all other rights and protections.


If you are the leader for an organisation focused on advocacy (i.e. raising awareness and communicating), then your words become de facto the words of the organisation, even with comments not related to your organisations purpose.

If your leader appears to advocate pedophilia, then your organisation no longer becomes "that organisation that advocates for free software", but "that organisation run by a pedophile apologist".


> If your leader appears to advocate pedophilia

He doesn't advocate pedophilia. Nothing has changed for years. Are you advocating it?

He has just been completely misrepresented by some popular media as supporting statutory rape, and you are fueling the fire.

It is pure bullshit - the journalists that write (or publications that publish) headlines that completely reverse meaning should be held accountable for their lies.

It is libel: make it appear Richard said she was willing when he definitely said she was coerced (within the exact same paragraph as the "quote"). Seems she was 18 too - any organisation publishing clearly slanderous headings designed for sensation and payment for eyeballs should be punished.


The pedophilia advocating is much earlier. From his website (the last sentence is his opinion)

Dutch pedophiles have formed a political party to campaign for legalization. [Reference updated on 2018-04-25 because the old link was broken.]

I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children


I disagree with Stallman's skepticism (I do think it harms children and I don't think children can make that choice). But that one liner does not make him a pedophilia advocate. That makes him someone who is wrong on that topic.


He didn't know what he was talking about, but felt it was okay to use his public platform to say it anyway. That's not scepticism. It's laziness. We have reams of evidence to show that paedophilia is harmful to children, and a 5 minute web search would have returned some of it.


> He didn't know what he was talking about, but felt it was okay to use his public platform to say it anyway.

You've described basically every single human being in tech I've ever met, they just don't have as big a platform. See: Musk's twitter feed, for instance.


If this is so easy, please provide links to research, preferably not done by a clearly biased organization. (E.g. not IICSA) Books are acceptable too, as long as they're research.

There are only a handful of case studies of really bad cases I'm aware of. And they're not that exacting in follow-up.

Note research, not opinion pieces.

Good quality papers. I found just a handful. I'm having trouble fishing then out from the thousands of opinion pieces.

Edit: I found one credible meta-analysis so far, and the results are not good. Most of abuse is not reported. Impact is not known, how handling of it is done is unknown to affect severity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3720272/


And he did retract that more than a decade old statement.


It took him a decade to retract that statement, said retraction conveniently occurring when this shitstorm about Epstein is reaching a crescendo. Retractions and apologies with such timing appear awfully convenient and insincere.


Who remembers everything they've said more than a decade ago? He was reminded now that he had said that and has changed his views on it.


This isn't a verbal conversation, this is something he wrote on his own blog, no?


Yes, but one doesn't have neither written or regular speech memorized so it doesn't matter which it was.


Why did it take him takes to come the the conclusion that sexually abusing children is wrong? And why are you defending that?


Because who remembers everything they've said? I do what?


Yeah but is there a web search engine that respects your freedom?


If you're wrong about something, are famous and put that wrong thing on your site, you are advocating for that wrong thing.

Because people believing in that wrong thing will point to you as a figure of authority.

Not fair, but life's not fair.


[flagged]


Wtf?


As a rule, explanations are more helpful than exclamations.


The point is it doesn't really matter what he advocates. He's using his position of power (given to him to promote Free Software) to push his controversial political opinions instead. It doesn't matter if those opinions are right or wrong. What matters is they are controversial and that he's using his platform to express those opinions.

If he said this anonymously or in private it would've been fine. The problem is him using his platform for stuff that it's not meant to be used for. So now they're taking away his platform. Seems fair to me.


Just picking away at the 'what matters is that they are controversial' statement - that isn't in Stallman's control and it relies on 'everyone knowing' something and evidently without people ever being able to discuss it or test out ideas once they have reached a certain level of respectability. Stallman wasn't trying to make this an international topic of discussion. Important people are going to be wrong about things and calling for resignations is not a sustainable solution if it isn't directly in their line of expertise.

Everyone bar nobody has formed an opinion on an important topic that is completely wrong at some point in their life. To correct their opinion, they will need to talk to somebody who will explain why it is wrong.

This wasn't Stallman trying to use his position on the FSF to spread his opinions, he was using his position at MIT to try and defend a colleague to other academics. And what you are describing is an unreasonable standard to hold anyone to if a topic isn't supposed to be their central area of expertise.

It does matter what he advocates and it does matter whether his opinions are technically correct and incorrect. The 5-days-comment-to-resignation mob are doing damage here; and setting up terrifying dynamics. They aren't going to stop at Stallman.


The point is that it doesn't really matter what anyone actually says or thinks. If they are in the public sphere and holds power they will be got at for some hurt.

Truth doesn't count if the thing hurts someone. Intent doesn't count if harm was caused. This is a view that many here would seem absurd but which many here would also agree with.

Does this still seem fair? Is truth and intent not that important when it comes to tricky issues?


Richard Stallman about defending pedophilia:

"The nominee is quoted as saying that if the choice of a sexual partner were protected by the Constitution, "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia" also would be. He is probably mistaken, legally--but that is unfortunate. All of these acts should be legal as long as no one is coerced. They are illegal only because of prejudice and narrowmindedness."

    RMS on June 28th, 2003 https://stallman.org/archives/2003-mar-jun.html
--------------------------

"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. "

    RMS on June 5th, 2006) https://stallman.org/archives/2006-mar-jun.html#05%20June%202006%20(Dutch%20paedophiles%20form%20political%20party
--------------------------

" There is little evidence to justify the widespread assumption that willing participation in pedophilia hurts children.

Granted, children may not dare say no to an older relative, or may not realize they could say no; in that case, even if they do not overtly object, the relationship may still feel imposed to them. That's not willing participation, it's imposed participation, a different issue. "

    RMS on Jan 4th, 2013) https://stallman.org/archives/2013-jan-apr.html#04_January_2013_(Pedophilia


You can sue for slander and defamation of character.


Well, he started the movement and got it very far, with the dominant OS using his foundation's license. Despite his limitations. There is no one in the movement who should have the authority to sack him.

But, he resigned himself. This is moot.


The president of the United States never fires anyone. He informs them he expects their letter of resignation on his desk at x time.

FSF was pressured. RMS did not decide this all on his own of his free will.


Why does Trump care about free software?


There are numerous reports that he asks someone to ask the person expected to resign to pen such a letter.


FSF board of directors could have sacked him. RMS probably realized that he damages everything he has worked for if stays, or others convinced him.


He said things as a certain role model or in a setup where he shouldn't.

It's just reasonable to remove him from those positions.

Independly I find it very weird what he was saying nonetheless and for this he falls under a category of humans which I don't think are worth it to give such amount of support.

There are other people out there which are worth it more.

I stopped working with people who might be technical good or very good but dicks. I hate working with dicks. There is no amount of brilliance which justifice being a dick.


He is the founder of the FSF. He advocated free software so that it is accessible to anyone.

But sure, he is probably a dick so let us remove them...

You know what? He actually probably isn't the easiest person to be around. Just saw him once and he certainly isn't the guy to move crowds.

But let us be certain that we have very distinct definitions of what constitutes "being a dick".


His behavior in this current case is something I would consider dickish.

There would have been someone else to create something like the FSF.

Wouldn't you think so?


Can you clarify what you believe is being "dickish" in this case?


Top leader of a staff of 11 and a budget of <doctor evil> 1 million dollars </doctor evil>


The scope of and influence of nonprofits can't be measured in staff and budget.

Linux foundation and FSF have small staff and budget but the total economic value of the projects they steer is in tens of billions.


So the lesson is: Don't selflessly give your work away for nothing out of idealism lest it improve the world in some fashion all out of proportion to the budget involved because, if you do, we shall surely expect your head on a pike at some point for some wholly unrelated personal gaff.

Rather than, you know, finding some humane, compassionate approach to dealing with the personal shortcomings of someone who has done so very much for the world.


No, the lesson is: don't treat women poorly, period. And if you happen to be a notable public figure and treat women poorly, it'll be that much worse for you. Giving your work away for free and being idealistic doesn't give you a pass on bad behavior.

I would agree that the severity of RMS's remarks regarding Epstein/Minsky is lower than the press is making it out to be. But Stallman's bad behavior stretches back decades, and this oddly-shaped, not-entirely-correct straw happened to finally break the camel's back. Good riddance.


I'm not talking about giving him a pass on bad behavior.

I'm talking about there being options other than either "giving him a pass" or "off with his head."


The thing is, people told him about his behavior for years, and he never changed his ways. When conferences added that speakers were not supposed to flirt or give sexually suggestive comments to attendants, he circumvented that by asking women to go across the street and gave them his "pleasure cards" [1].

After almost 30 years of people giving him a pass and trying to make him understand, I am glad that he is getting some reckoning. His views are abhorrent and he gives no indication he is willing to change them.

[1] - https://fossforce.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/RMSleisure....


He gave men his "pleasure card", too. [1] He put in books he signed (for a man in this example.) [2]

The text is: sharing good books, good food and exotic music and dance tender embraces unusual sense of humor [contact details]

There is perfectly benign interpretation of this expressing the things from which he derives pleasure. The most plausible and available interpretation of "pleasure card" is a dad joke level word play on "business card", especially when considering his role in de-commercializing software.

Talking to women isn't a crime. If he didn't take no for an answer or asked women out in inappropriate circumstances, that's a problem; but we have no accounts of him doing that. All we have here is an Nth hand story [3] in which he supposedly left a conference with a woman (singular, you made it plural.) and then gave her his card. If we choose to imagine there was romantic intent, a) there's no suggestion he coerced her into leaving and b) he took pains to respect the conference's CoC. Even this extremely reaching accusation has zero implication that he disrespected an individual's volition. Sage Sharp's indictment that he "skirted around the conference's CoC" is bizarre unless the real intent is that men like Stallman should be closeted heterosexuals.

There are numerous aspects to all this hand wringing about his cards and interest in meeting women that one has to choose to view through a prurient lens to make it sexual. Even then, it's only problematic to a puritanical world view in which it's wrong for people to be sexual beings and individuals are dispossessed of their self-determination.

[1] https://www.oreilly.com/openbook/freedom/ch14.html [2] http://ju.outofmemory.cn/entry/119457 [3] https://twitter.com/_sagesharp_/status/1173637158181072900


Who says his head got lopped off? He was forced to resign his position at MIT, which seems fair given past bad behavior there (plus he really has no useful relevance there anyway), and he was forced to resign as head of the FSF, which is perhaps debatable, but not the end of the world.

This just happened. Let's check in with him in six months, and see if he's still breathing. If his experience is like many of the shitty men whose misbehavior has been unmasked as part of the MeToo movement, I'm sure he'll end up back on his feet at some point, whether he deserves to or not.


Hell, Tom Ashbrook is already pitching a radio show for disgraced creeps (like himself) to come on and talk about "how much they've learned".


> don't treat women poorly, period

Is it OK to treat men poorly?

Why single out women for special treatment?


> Why single out women for special treatment?

Because college is where women are driven out of computer science, by behavior from professors and peers. If you want to talk about fields where men are driven out (and they do exist: primary school teaching and nursing come to mind) go to a thread about those. But either way, derailing this discussion doesn't help.


> Because college is where women are driven out of computer science, by behavior from professors and peers.

A lot of people take that for granted based on anecdotes, but actual data is elusive.

Some things we should expect to see if this theory is correct:

* CS student gender ratios close to 50:50 at admission

* A relatively large change in CS student gender ratios between admission and graduation, compared to other majors

* A relatively high rate of "misbehavior" (e.g. sexual harassment) in CS programs and/or the tech industry, compared to other fields

From what I can tell, though, we don't observe any of those.

> If you want to talk about fields where men are driven out (and they do exist: primary school teaching and nursing come to mind)

The same questions could be raised about those: why are we so sure they're being "driven out" at the college level?

Here's a paper investigating the causes of gender imbalance among primary school teachers: https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=ysu1515846...

The men interviewed for the paper disagreed that discrimination, social barriers, stereotypes, or other forms of injustice play a role. ("I don’t feel that there is any injustice… men who want to teach, are able to. It’s not like we’re being held down.")

It also points out that a greater number of men than women choose to go into primary education during college, which is the opposite of what we'd expect if they were being driven out by professors and peers.


> But Stallman's bad behavior stretches back decades

Citation needed. What kind of behavior? What exactly did he do?


He held opinions some people didn't like and had personal traits some people considered 'creepy'.


You mean such as:

  "The nominee is quoted as saying that if the choice of a sexual partner were protected by the Constitution, 
  "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest 
  and pedophilia" also would be. He is probably mistaken, legally--but that is unfortunate. All of these 
  acts should be legal as long as no one is coerced. They are illegal only because of prejudice and narrowmindedness."

    RMS on June 28th, 2003 https://stallman.org/archives/2003-mar-jun.html
--------------------------

  "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. "

    RMS on June 5th, 2006) https://stallman.org/archives/2006-mar-jun.html#05%20June%202006%20(Dutch%20paedophiles%20form%20political%20party
--------------------------

  " There is little evidence to justify the widespread assumption that willing participation in pedophilia hurts children.

  Granted, children may not dare say no to an older relative, or may not realize they could say no; in that case, even if they do 
  not overtly object, the relationship may still feel imposed to them. That's not willing participation, it's imposed participation, a different issue. "

    RMS on Jan 4th, 2013) https://stallman.org/archives/2013-jan-apr.html#04_January_2013_(Pedophilia


Yes, precisely this. It's a controversial opinion, certainly that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but it also seems to be a considered one. Notably absent from posts where people pasting these quotes is any argument against the claims made by RMS. We are apparently meant to assume he is both wrong and malevolent merely for holding an opinion we find uncomfortable.


To be fair to RMS he has retracted this opinion and provides arguements against it himself....


>I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children

I'll just leave this here

https://www.amazon.com/Trauma-Myth-Sexual-Children-Aftermath...


I doubt anyone here is defending pedophilia. I certainly am not.


> [...] necrophilia [...] should be legal as long as no one is coerced.

I wonder how that is supposed to work. How would one acquire consent from a corpse?


Who owns a corpse? If the former inhabitant of the then-living body had designated a particular heir via a will or similar legal instrument, one might acquire consent from that heir?


I wonder which of his other strong opinions could have led to a similar result.


[flagged]


Something I am glad to say he has retracted some years ago.


I see a retraction on his website dated Sep 13, 2019.


Scroll back a few years.

And no I won't link. You defamed someone. Where I come from it is up to you to prove your defamation is justified.


No.

My point is that public leadership position is not related to humane retirement of people individuals. Leadership is never entitlement.


Your words, from above:

If RMS was just random superhacker doing his thing. I would defend him.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20992148


Yes. That's that's my point. You seem to think that I'm contradicting myself. Either I'm expressing myself badly or you are misunderstanding my argument.


You write this like it's an insult, but with a dozen stuff and million dollar budget he's done more for the world than most of us could do with 1000 staff and a billion dollar budget.

That's a testament to his vision and leadership.


I wrote it as a poke at the parent poster who suggested that top leaders should expect to be held to different standards than the rest of us when speaking of a man who enjoyed none of the perks of being a "top leader" while contributing a lot.


> But RMS is de facto leader and public figure in movement that is also political. He does not deserve the same level of consideration as normal HR headache would. Even if everything against him would be completely unjust, there is no requirement for just treatment for top leaders. They can be sacked for any reason whatsoever.

If his past behavior was sufficient justification for his sacking, then that should be enough. However, that is not why he was sacked. He was sacked on the basis of false allegations, and as an attempt by MIT to deflect from their own complicity in the Epstein scandal.

This is not (only) about finding a place for weirdo super-hackers to contribute to society (without bothering people too much) but about the truth dammit.


> That's not working well in the current climate where words carry perceived intent.

I agree that there's a current climate that's even less amenable to open discussion than at other times. However, I disagree that words carrying perceived intent is something new. Any time you make an assertion about individual facts of a particular situation, people's first assumption is going to be that you're pushing the narrative best supported by that assertion. Telling people what you're not saying will continue to be important even if the current climate improves.

EDIT: To clarify, I'm stating a general principle, not saying anything about what RMS did or didn't say, or did or didn't intend to say. I don't have time to dig into all that.


> He does not deserve the same level of consideration as normal HR headache would. Even if everything against him would be completely unjust, there is no requirement for just treatment for top leaders. They can be sacked for any reason whatsoever.

The only people who deserve less consideration are those that pick and choose who to treat justly.


> Women who tell stories about him paint a picture of lonely socially incompetent man who makes super creepy attempts to connect opposite sex.

Really?


"When I was a teen freshman, I went to a buffet lunch at an Indian restaurant in Central Square with a graduate student friend and others from the AI lab. I don’t know if he and I were the last two left, but at a table with only the two of us, Richard Stallman told me of his misery and that he’d kill himself if I didn’t go out with him."

https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix...

LaGrange 30 days ago [flagged]

> RMS has called himself "borderline autistic".

As someone actually autistic, he doesn't get to blame being a douchecanoe on being autistic.

> His socially clueless black and white thinking makes it look like he is far in the spectrum.

Then _learn_. Also, we're not talking about not getting social cues about when it's okay to start talking, we're talking his considered and repeated position on issues such as sexual assault, and his _actual actions_ towards teenagers.

> But if they do their work well they can stay. Others give them some room. It's called tolerance.

Great tolerance for the people your creeps chase out or abuse, thanks. You actually do have to pick, and if you pick people like RMS, you pick against all the people that can't - and shouldn't have to - deal with an environment people like RMS create.


Sad to see that you're being downvoted. Richard Stallman's insane statements about child abuse have nothing to do with autism. The man has defended pedophilia and apparently also harassed women throughout his career. Absolutely disgusting behaviour that has nothing to do with being neuro-atypical.


I'm sorry if I communicated badly. English is not my native language

I was trying to give explanation, not excuse.

I was trying to communicate understanding, not acceptance.


[flagged]


There actually seems to be a bit of a battle going on in my upvotes right now.


> As someone actually autistic, he doesn't get to blame being a douchecanoe on being autistic.

Was he a douchecanoe? Is that even a helpful label for you to apply to him? Was he claiming he behaved / behaves the way you think he does solely because he's borderline autistic, or are you extrapolating?


[flagged]


The President "should" also be forced to resign, but the power politics does not support that for a whole host of reasons. It's extraordinary to watch "Christian" evangelical moralists defend him, but in some ways that's the logical conclusion of their moral contortions.


Then again, if someone believes a man in the sky created the world in 6 days, claims the earth is 6000 years old, ... , what stops them from defending the POTUS? Why expect logic where no other logic seems to apply?


It doesn't really matter for most decision wether the universe came to being 6e3, 6e9 or 12e9 years ago, or always has been ... unless you are a geologist.


> accused rapist

That’s the standard for being “canceled” now? An accusation? Anybody can accuse people of things. We have courts and the presumption of innocence for a reason.


Credibly accused rapist.

The courts are for determining whether someone should go to jail. But anyone can draw conclusions about whether or not they want to deal with someone who is accused of a crime.

Someone might be accused of child molestation, but never stood trial. Would a parent then be obligated to be ok with the accused being alone with their children since 'hey he's innocent until proven guilty'? Should someone who had been credibly accused of many instances of sexual misconduct be trusted as if they are a model citizen?

The presumption of innocence is there to ensure someone gets a fair trial in court. It doesn't mean everyone else has to ignore evidence of criminal conduct until a conviction comes down. It also doesn't always mean that someone who was found not guilty by a criminal court, didn't actually do what they were accused of. It just means the court didn't find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Out of curiosity, what is "canceled"? I haven't seen it used before.



By evicting him, and finding someone who's better, making the parameters more clear each time.

Who can say what would have been in place if a particular leader hadn't? They take oxygen. Some would even say we should move away from the model of a few leaders representing many.


This culture didn't elect him. The culture that created the Electoral College did.

This culture voted overwhelmingly for the other option.


A nomination to one of the two major political parties says plenty enough about the culture that allows this while targeting people like Stallman who haven't actually hurt anyone for their unusual opinions.


It's unfortunate that scarlet letter offences are still alive and well in today's culture.

Normally, when someone engages in behavior seen as offensive, the procedure is to pressure the person to apologize and mend his ways, and only get rid of him if he refuses to do so.

But when a "scarlet letter" offence is involved, we jump straight to the punishment phase, removing the person outright with no judicial process. This is completely backwards, anti-democratic, and anti-freedom. It brings a chilling effect on everyone, because suddenly people start to realize that they're living under the Sword of Damocles, which could destroy them at any moment without warning. You can never be sure if something you say or do is going to get you publicly pilloried in future, and destroy your career, friendships, and reputation in the blink of an eye. Far better to just sit quiet and never say anything that might offend someone. Far better not to participate at all.

Mob justice always turns ugly in the end. That's why we have courts.


I'm normally 100% on board with condemning this Malthusian environment that has sprung up in the last couple years, but I don't believe that Richard Stallman is a complete victim in this scenario.

He has a long history of using forums meant for technology discussion to promote borderline (and that's generous) social opinions, and of being openly hostile to people who don't tow his line. In this instance he ridiculously downplayed the most egregious instances of sex trafficking of minors, by a horridly evil individual... who happened to donate almost a million dollars to him!

His previous comments about minors on his personal blog, which I don't even want to dignify with a description (you can do your own search), leads me to wonder what other connections than money he had with Epstein.

For all of us that don't worship Stallman - I consider him a net negative to the FOSS movement - this has been a long time coming. It would have been a deserved resignation in a normal social environment.


"His previous comments about minors on his personal blog, which I don't even want to dignify with a description (you can do your own search), leads me to wonder what other connections than money he had with Epstein."

Speculation, which would not be allowed in a court of law, is unfortunately a perfectly acceptable character assassination methodology.

And this kind of tar-and-feathering is precisely why we need official processes for this sort of thing. Official reprimands leading to termination if unfixed, like all civilized peoples do. This ensures that it's made crystal clear what's acceptable and what's not, with time to mend one's ways. The alternative is arbitrary terminations, which makes everyone insecure.


>Speculation, which would not be allowed in a court of law, is unfortunately a perfectly acceptable character assassination methodology.

Why are so many people obsessed with applying the same standards used in a court to real life?

If someone is a jerk, I don't have to maintain a chain-of-custody for the evidence I use to determine that person is a jerk, and I don't have to have sworn testimony from reliable witnesses to apply the jerk label, and I certainly don't need the opinions of a jury of said jerk's peers.

Here's a job-keeping pro-tip, free of charge, for everyone: Especially if you are a public figure, don't talk about child sex trafficking unless it is to criticize it or else you may be fired.


Because mobs are horrific and that's what you get when people base punishments on speculation.

> Especially if you are a public figure, don't talk about child sex trafficking unless it is to criticize it or else you may be fired.

Great. That's the kind of society I want to live in, one where I can't say anything for fear of a mob lynching me.


>That's the kind of society I want to live in, one where I can't say anything for fear of a mob lynching me.

I'm sure that's hyperbole because comparing being asked (I assume) to resign after downplaying child sex trafficking is not functionally or morally equivalent to lynching.

As far as watching what you say, that is the world:

1. As it has always existed.

2. It exists today.

3. Will always exist until the end of time itself.

And that will never, ever, change.

Don't conflate raging anonymously online with being able to say whatever you want in public.


Moral authoritarianism is quite the dangerous thing. It is at the root of every single 'evil' of times past. One has to keep in mind that these evils of times past of course did not see themselves, in general, as evils. Instead they were simply enforcing their world view which, from their perspective, was the 'right' one. It's much easier to do awful things to people when you convince yourself they deserve it.

To take one of the more innocuous examples from the past consider the Red Scares. It was fundamentally driven by people believing that they have the moral high ground against a certain view. Communism is bad and therefore it was okay to do bad things to people who held positive views of such. And it was simply 'common sense' that supporting communism in any way, shape, or form was an absolutely abhorrent thing to do. And I use that as an example only to avoid any rousing of emotion but the exact same logic drove the KKK, Nazis, and nearly every group, sinner and saint alike, throughout time. Moral authoritarianism is again, a very dangerous thing.

And I certainly do not agree with you on this was or will be the way of society. Words and actions are distinct. I think an ideal society would have no tolerance for intolerant actions but an unlimited tolerance of words. Indeed this is even what the actual quote, often egregiously bastardized and misused by the most intolerant of today's society, on the 'paradox of tolerance' fundamentally suggests. Even looking back now at the Red Scare we can generally see how quaint our intolerance was. There's no need to name and shame communists - the view itself is simply not supported by enough of society to matter. And if it does become supported by enough of society? Then we try it, almost certainly fail, and continue on our disjointed path "forwards" as always.


> There's no need to name and shame communists - the view itself is simply not supported by enough of society to matter.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here.

As Scott points out in https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/04/02/social-censorship-the-... censorship is mostly used against groups we think are dangerous (mostly because they actually have a fairly large amount of support). Someone advocating that going to church should be mandatory and divorce and blasphemy should be illegal will get eye rolls, not anger.


They used to accuse people of being communists, thus landing them on a blacklist and unable to find work.

I guess some things never change, including that people think such behavior is a perfectly good way to conduct a society.


>I guess some things never change, including that people think such behavior is a perfectly good way to conduct a society.

Many people seem to be complaining about this.

As far as I can tell, very few people are filming and posting publicly a video saying:

"My real name is $myActualName, I work at $employer, and I think it is acceptable for Richard Stallman to have said “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.”and he should face no consequences."

or

"My real name is $myActualName, I work at $employer, and I think it is acceptable for Richard Stallman to have said “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.” and he should face no consequences."

Instead they wave their hands and mutter about "free speech".


It seems perfectly consistent to me that someone worried about people being fired for controversial opinions would not give such an opinion non-anonymously. I don't see what point you're making.


I think the user you are responding to is attempting to undermine anything that can loosely be construed as a defense of Stallman. A bit of a dirty tactic, IMO, but the lines of battle have clearly been drawn.


Yeah this is like the authoritarians who claim that if Snowden really feared for his safety as a whistleblower, then he would be happy to be renditioned to a secret blacksite dungeon for punishment by the TLAs he has offended. Does not compute...


Give free speech and it will happen.


Feel free to believe anyone you meet, or merely hear about, is a jerk.

The question is--should being a jerk be a fireable offense?


"should being a jerk be a fireable offense?"

On its face... yes???


Here's another pro-tip: If you make dishonest or negligent accusations about another person, such that said person suffers materially you can probably* sued for defamation.

*IANAL


> Why are so many people obsessed with applying the same standards used in a court to real life?

Because IRL there's no attorney of defense.

You can just throw accusation in the air and somebody else get hurt.


> Speculation, which would not be allowed in a court of law,

Prosecution: "We think he knew this person was subject to coercion and we say this because X, Y, Z".

Defence: "We think he did not know this person was subject to coercion and we say this because we interpret X, Y, and Z differently."

These involve speculation about the mental state of the accused.


> who happened to donate almost a million dollars to him!

Is there any evidence of this? There is a big difference between the place he works at taking money and him taking money.

I don't think its right to hold an employee responsible for their employers actions.


>He has a long history of using forums meant for technology discussion to promote borderline (and that's generous) social opinions,

How often does he bring it up and how often is it in response to someone else saying something that is technically wrong?


Who jumped straight to the punishment phase? What punishment was doled out? "Removed outright" from what? MIT?

RMS chose to step down himself. That was his decision. Even if you think MIT told him to, that would ultimately be MIT's decision, not the work of some "mob".

Furthermore, stepping down from MIT is not destruction you're playing it up as being. People have done similar (and of course, worse!) things and, after being the subject of some number of embarrassing articles on the web and some larger number of angry tweets, are currently living their lives with new jobs just fine. RMS doesn't need us to feel bad for him. He's still free & healthy.

If you're worried about kangaroo courts and injustice, there's plenty to focus on somewhere where people's lives and livelihoods are actually at stake, like the US-Mexico border or Hong Kong.


>Even if you think MIT told him to, that would ultimately be MIT's decision, not the work of some "mob".

The mob pressured MIT and the FSF to remove him from his positions. It's ultimately their decision, sure, in the same way that it's ultimately up to a local business owner whether they purchase a "protection plan" from the nice salesmen with the baseball bats.

>RMS doesn't need us to feel bad for him. He's still free & healthy. If you're worried about kangaroo courts and injustice, there's plenty to focus on somewhere where people's lives and livelihoods are actually at stake...

You could just easily say "Hong Kong doesn't have it that bad, they have food and shelter. Focus on conditions that are actually bad, like starving child soldiers in Africa."

This just seems like deflection. Conditions being worse elsewhere doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss the issues that are more local to us.


It's ultimately their decision, sure, in the same way that it's ultimately up to a local business owner whether they purchase a "protection plan" from the nice salesmen with the baseball bats.

If you think the brass at MIT are in any physical danger from a bunch of angry tweeters, I don't know what to tell you.

This just seems like deflection. Conditions being worse elsewhere doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss the issues that are more local to us.

No, that's a deflection. Someone choosing to step down from their job is not an issue that can, as the parent post puts it, "destroy them at any moment without warning". Being a starving child soldier in Africa is, being locked in a cage in a foreign land is.


I think he's trying to say that coercion is involved.


What leverage does an unorganized group of nobodies have over MIT and the FSF?


Signficant leverage in the realm of reputation and public perception which is quite important to large instituations?


They all simultaneously call his employer and demand that he gets fired.


Yup. There are many things I disagree with Stallman on, but I still can’t get behind mob mentality accusations and indictments. But in this day and age people want instant retribution for wrongs as well as perceived wrongs and are perfectly willing to bypass due process. Just fire them! Now! Someone said they said something bad!


On the other hand even with this resignation he doesn't appologize for anything. He could even have made his point of thinking it's a misunderstanding and appologize, but didn't.


"Headlines say that I defended Epstein," Stallman wrote. "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."

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


http://simon-mcav.blogspot.com/2016/05/im-sorry-you-feel-tha...

> When a person tells someone else "I'm sorry that you feel that way", they are not acknowledging the potential role they might have played in making them feel this way. Instead, it is more like they are absolving themselves of responsibility, and are showing apparent sympathy that the person who is complaining might be upset for some abstract, and potentially irrational reason. It not only fails to acknowledge the potential role played by the speaker (or who they might represent), but this phrase is actually used to position the speaker as an innocent actor who has had little or no influence over the current situation.


> He could even have made his point of thinking it's a misunderstanding and appologize, but didn't.

> 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.

The statement that RMS did not attempt to make an apology even one that is a false apology is 100% made up, he did in fact make a false apology.

My point is that like many people on here the person making the argument believes RMS did wrong and they are now inventing reasons to justify their belief, its not an honest argument.

You are ignoring or not reading the argument I was responding to which establishes the honesty of an apology as irrelevant. This is another example of a dishonest argument because it is moving the goal posts of the argument again to justify your prior beliefs.


> he did in fact make a false apology

No he didn't. Making a false apology requires some form of deception or misdirection whereby it isn't obvious that you are denying any responsibility.

For example "I'm sorry you feel that way - but I'm not at fault!" Is not a false apology, since it is very clear that you are denying responsibility, despite that fact that it contains the triggering substring "I'm sorry you feel that way".


I didn't see/find his post. Thanks for that.


> who has had little or no influence over the current situation.

Stallman had no control over being misquoted.

He also didn't say "I'm sorry that you feel that way" - He specifically mentions he was misquoted, leaving no doubt that he is not apologizing for the cause of the offense - People were offended by the misquotes, not the original statements.


That's a "I'm sorry you were offended" apology. Which is not an apology at all.

Stallman decided it was a great idea to, in the wrong place at the wrong time and in response to a protest regarding someone he knew (Minsky, not Epstein), construct a hypothetical that exonerated Minsky and then judge that protest, again publicly, through that hypothetical. That's not a "believe he said" thing. That's what he did. He got tossed out on his ear for that and that's a thing he did.


Just so you know, the central victim of this scandal did not (to my knowledge) actually accuse Minsky of having sex with her - only that she was coerced by Epstein to make the offer. An offer which another witness testified was turned down. If true then the protest against Minsky has no basis (or at least much less).

Now, RMS then did construct a hypothetical based on his knowledge of Minsky's character. Note that nowhere in his hypothetical did he either defend Epstein or assert that the victim was in fact willing - both of which were things that he was accused of doing. He then insisted that people be more precise in their speech, which is exactly what you should do if you want actual justice.


Kevin Hart apologized for some offensive jokes, he apologized as advised by the academy, and still got cancelled. Apologizing only serves to augment the conviction of a mob intent on finding fault.


No, initially he refused to apologize, then he withdrew from the hosting gig, then he actually apologized, more than once.

Had he just apologized when the academy first brought up the issue, he could have gone right on with hosting. As it was, he pulled out of the deal because he didn't want to be a distraction.


You say Kevin Hart "got cancelled", yet he's still working on a Jumanji sequel, another film called Fatherhood and has been in commercials since the Oscars.

It seems like you're gravely overestimating how much power angry people on Twitter have.


Cancel culture may be running out of steam, but did Kevin Hart or whomever else know ex ante (meaning right after the scandal outbreak) what they were going to face.

As it stands now outcomes vary wildly. Some people like Kevin Spacey were literally erased from movies that were already filmed; some others have just claimed back their place (maybe not their peak fame) on their own like Louis CK. And then there are neutral outcomes like the one you mention.

And then there's Jussie Smollett who isn't a sex situation but was caught in, uh, something that's not a good look.


> And then there's Jussie Smollett who isn't a sex situation but was caught in, uh, something that's not a good look.

He was caught framing innocent white men for hate crimes. He was going to send people to prison to boost his 'clout'. It's not just 'something'. It was a vile crime


(Sarcasm.)


> You say Kevin Hart "got cancelled", yet he's still working on a Jumanji sequel

> "got cancelled"

> Jumanji sequel

A part on the sequel to a reboot of a mediocre 90s movie? WOOO living the dream!


The reboot made 960 million dollars. You could argue about artistic merit of reboots and sequels, but he'll be getting a hefty paycheck for these.


Indeed. Those who apologize must submit to a struggle session.


There was actually an article on HN recently about just this: executives who retained their position or high status (regardless of employer) despite "scandal" did not admit fault. Those that did never recovered.


Even from a law perspective many lawyers will advise against apologizing[1] to a victim because the apology can be used as evidence of guilt in a civil case. I think it works the same way for most situations including online mobs.

—Adding this to expound on what DanBC writes.

[1] Goes on to explain that this varies by jurisdiction and many have passed laws protecting apologizers.

[1]https://accidentlawyerhenderson.com/is-saying-im-sorry-an-ad...


For any English people reading this in England: this advice is both wrong and harmful. If you've done something wrong you're allowed to apologise. You're not admitting liability and it doesn't open you up to further legal action. Not apologising may in fact increase damages against you.

I don't know how other jurisdictions handle this.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/29/section/2

> Apologies, offers of treatment or other redress

> An apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty.

This is especially true if you're a healthcare professional or work in a healthcare organisation. Your professional registration tells you to apologise; your organisations registration body tells them and you to apologise; your medical defence body tells you to apologise; a bunch of arms-length bodies are clear that you need to apologise if you do something wrong.


> If you've done something wrong you're allowed to apologise.

mc32 wasn't saying an apology will increase damages, just that it is often seen as an admission of guilt. In some places (e.g. Canada) an apology is not a sign of guilt. But you seem to be saying something different?


It wasn't a misunderstanding caused by his poor wording; It was caused by poor (and possibly malicious) misquoting.

He has nothing to apologise for in this respect, but he does say:

> I'm sorry for that hurt. I wish I could have prevented the misunderstanding.

This could be seen as an apology, "I'm sorry" often is; but in context you can see it is not. It is literally "I'm sorry I could not prevent this hurt" without any sense that He is responsible.

Ironically, this sentiment only brought on more criticism: The claim that this was a "false apology", i.e. something masquerading as an apology despite not being one - but that was Stallmans intention, it is thwarted by all the other sentences in the same paragraph that make it clear he is being misquoted.


> but didn't.

So he's being punished for thinking out loud and not apoligising for thinking out loud?


For a little cultural orientation, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scarlet_Letter

While redemption is one of the themes in the book sadly the internet has not quite developed that level of sophistication so we are stuck with denouncement/punishment.


The redemption in the book is only for Dimmesdale, as his last dying act. For Hester, the recipient of the scarlet letter, there is no respite.

The point of the Scarlet Letter is that its victims are forever oppressed by the masses, and those near to the victim are made guilty by association.

It doesn't matter what the crime is; forever punishments are unjust, and prone to abuse.


These days you might as well become a hermit or kill yourself because there is no penance great enough to be accepted by some people.


You are forgetting who is President of the United States. The third choice is to go all-in.


I support a theory that cases such as this are one of the main reason Trump got elected - some voters were just fed up. I also think that he'll get elected again, cause Dems are concentrating on impeachment instead of trying to understand & connect with his deplorable voters.


By summer 2017, it was clear that RussiaRussiaRussia was all they had in store for the next several years. At that point, I knew Trump would be reelected. This is a fairly awful person who has actually done a number of impeachable things, many of them after he took office. Yet, they chose to dwell on something that was obviously false to the average voter. Why would they do that? I think the answer to that is related to the fact that Biden is the current pick. If in 2016 we had made a (short) list of candidates likely to lose to Trump, Biden and HRC would have vied closely for the top choice.


RMS is not encountering any judicial or criminal sanction.

He is merely encountering actual consequences for saying absurd, indefensible things -- and, likely, also finally encountering consequences for being a well-known source of creepy behavior towards women for a very long time. People lose jobs all the time for less.

Yeah, he's done some good things. And maybe (MAYBE) he's actually not neurotypical. But that doesn't mean he gets a pass on being a creep forever.


Do you not think people have tried to get RMS to stop talking about how injust statory rape is, or that he should probably stop talking about how child porn is ok?

This isn't a one off and he's one of the least likely people to mend his ways.


The censorship of ideas the majority dislikes is pretty repulsive.

This is one of the reasons it took so long for homosexuality to become accepted.


Can you explain how he's being censored? This event has caused his comments to be circulated more than ever.

Free speech is a right, but it's not a shield. He can continue to express his opinions, and the public will continue to have the right to object to them. If public opinion on a person is negative, companies will not want to associate with that person. That's the way society has been and will continue to be. This isn't inherently good, as seen with things like race/sexuality--but conflating the long struggle of the LGBT community with one man's archaic thoughts on pedophilia is frankly disgusting.


Censorship isn't just done by stopping someone broadcasting a view, it is also done by punishing those you express that view as a deterrant to any others out there who would want to promote or broadcast that view.

Censorship can be done by governments, institutions, individuals or society as a whole.

I'm not really conflating the LGBT history with RMS views, merely noting that attempting to surpress non-majority views can be bad by using them as an example.


>> "Normally, when someone engages in behavior seen as offensive, the procedure is to pressure the person to apologize and mend his ways, and only get rid of him if he refuses to do so."

How many years and incidents is enough to move to removal?


People make it sound like Stallman never did offensive or questionable things. This was the veritable "straw".


The challenge is: there is ample evidence that misogyny (and similar offenses) has been unacceptable for years, but it continues. Part of the me-to movement, the election of Trump, ( and the Epstein blowback) is that we need to just stop. And that's why the pressure is there if people can't understand that this sort of behavior in unacceptable in 2019, they need to GTFO.


In which case, it's on MIT and the FSF to stand up and take charge, saying "You either change your ways and apologize, or else you're out."

But what we've seen instead is cowardly throwing someone to the baying crowd.


The guy has a long history endorsing pedophillia. Is it so hard to not endorse pedophilla? Can't that just be the one thing everybody agrees on?


See this recent interview with him, he addresses this topic and shows he changed his mind.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/09/17/richard_stallman_in...

> The guy has a long history endorsing pedophillia.

This is a big accusation, do you have source to back this up?


As long as you can show you have changed your mind, should nothing you have said before matter?

I agree with the principle of people being able to change their minds and we should accommodate that, but I also have a hard time giving a huge credit when a 66 year old man says that contrary to everything he's written on the subject, he has recently learned that having sex with children is wrong.


>As long as you can show you have changed your mind, should nothing you have said before matter?

If changing doesn't have any benefits, would anyone change?

I'm not saying there should be no lasting repurcussions for such behavior, but when someone admits they are wrong, it should matter.

If admitting they were wrong doesn't matter, then it doesn't make any sense for them to do it.


I agree, it should always matter. How much it matters would certainly depend on things like that. So on that scale, it would take a lot more than "I've now learned that sex with children is actually wrong" before I consider that person redeemed. But that's just me.


Do you have citing for this? Very easy to make a wide claim like this and go on a witch hunt.

I don’t know the guy but that’s a big accusation.



First link is not about this topic i believe.

For the other statements, I dont think he's "endorsing" it, he's raising questions. I'm not AT ALL on the same boat as him wrt this topic, but I dont mind a discussion on this topic. I consider that the basis of democracy.

Also, from this recent interview on the register it shows he changed his mind on this topic: "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."

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/09/17/richard_stallman_in...

I respect that people openly change their views.


People can and do change their views, certainly.

But when a 66 year old man says that he has now learned that sex with children is wrong, do you just wipe the past clean and forget that anything ever happened? Would it be wrong for those past views to have any effect, now that he's changed his mind?


I dont know what his age has to do with it.

And yes, I think we should not dig up old statements once he has announced he has changed his views: that's why I commented.

I understand those past views will linger on, I just dont think they are protayed fairly, nor that it is adequately considered that he has changed.


There is a comment of his talking about "voluntary pedophilia." This is likely (very likely) a misuse of terms, though -- having had this discussion with others on the Internet, they do not usually intend pedophilia, which is an attraction to the prepubescent. Prepubescent children have no sex drive and their interest in sex is usually taken to be a sign of sexual abuse. Consequently it is hard to see voluntary pedophilia as something that can happen.

He probably means hebephilia (11-14) or ephebophilia (14-19). In some countries (Italy, Germany) or cultures the age of consent is as low as 14. Some are perhaps lower. The strict liability concerning statutory rape may also be different, which is likely what he wanted to bring into question.

There are currently people serving sentences for sexual crimes they "committed" after being lied to by their partner.



> The guy has a long history endorsing pedophillia

Among the many things one can say about RMS, this is not one of them.

This is just slander.


> The nominee is quoted as saying that if the choice of a sexual partner were protected by the Constitution, "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia" also would be. He is probably mistaken, legally--but that is unfortunate. All of these acts should be legal as long as no one is coerced. They are illegal only because of prejudice and narrowmindedness.

https://stallman.org/archives/2003-mar-jun.html

he's saying that it should be legal at the very least.


Well, there is big difference between 'saying it should be legal' and endorsing.

For example, i think that drinking alcohol and smoking pot should be legal, but also think it is stupid thing to do and definitely would not endorse that.


it's rather interesting how all the information technology (social media, etc...) is slowly moving our culture towards increasing self-censorship. One has to have the right opinion or stay quiet.

Having the wrong opinion about certain topics is getting more expensive. Stay away from taboos or else... never mind the fact that what we regard as wrong changes across different societies over time.

Weirdly all the information technology is steering towards being more similar in our opinions and in what we can say without facing consequences.

Recently I started to thing about how in spite of having the ability to share, and change, and store information better and with more ease than ever, we seem to be going in the opposite direction. Instead of having more transparent institutions, everything is getting more "opaque" (so to speak) towards the public (even it this is happening due to overload).

does anyone remember "information wants to be free"? I don't think anybody says that anymore, but I remember reading that a bunch on slashdot in the early 00s


> One has to have the right opinion or stay quiet.

I don't really see how this is so hard. Don't treat women poorly, in person or online. Don't talk authoritatively about subjects you don't understand, especially when those subjects (like rape and human trafficking) cause people intense pain.

If you really do want to act this way, then you probably should exercise some self-censorship, and rethink your views, perhaps.

> ...in what we can say without facing consequences.

What you say should have consequences. No one should censor you (what you say should be up to you), but you don't live in a vacuum. What you say has a real effect on others, and if that effect is bad, you should be held accountable.


I don't really see how this is so hard. Don't treat women poorly, in person or online. Don't talk authoritatively about subjects you don't understand, especially when those subjects (like rape and human trafficking) cause people intense pain.

Morality is constantly changing and what is considered treating someone poorly changes too. More recently it appears to be changing faster than ever. That can make it hard to remain with the bounds of what is in the current instance of time considered socially acceptable by the majority. There is no absolute morality even though it may seem like it if you are thinking with the span of an hour or a day. Stretch it out and it's a constant shifting. In any case, I don't think anyone should be silenced. If they say something that the majority feels is foolish, they can be considered a fool, or a debate can be had to convince them of why they may be wrong, but to silence externally, or increasingly, self silencing with self censorship, in my opinion is dangerous as that means ideas cannot be discussed openly.


>Don't talk authoritatively about subjects you don't understand

Then it's time to just shut down HN in general, eh?


I'll have you know I'm an expert, I'll stake my [imaginary] PhD on it.


> What you say has a real effect on others, and if that effect is bad, you should be held accountable.

Speech is just a tool to share a thought, if a thought effects some one it is for them to bare alone.

The idea that sharing thoughts should have consequences upsets me greatly, maybe it shouldn't but it does. Your speech has filled me with bad feelings and troubling thoughts is that burden mine to bare alone or should I hold you responsible?

The sword you are flailing is sharp at both ends.


How does one learn what is wrong unless they speak out? You have to give people room to grow and forgive them when they fail.


Yes, people have to grow to not be stupid assholes. On the other side, if people think you're a stupid asshole, they should be allowed to cut off contact.

Thus you probably want to avoid growing in the only global circle we have. With smaller circles, getting cut off (as always has happened) is less of big deal.

In a similar vein, I'm fine with scientists exploring "IQ of the races" in their work. But going on a podcast and sharing that with a more general audience while not understanding its role in broader society while washing concerns away with "this just facts" is fine to have consequences.


You seem to be advocating keeping the public ignorant. Presumably this only applies in cases the knowledge in question is an instance of the adage "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing"?

Do you think having norms that advocate hiding knowledge that someone could argue is dangerous from the public will do more good than harm and won't backfire in the form of public distrust of experts?


You learn by first listening, and asking questions. No one expects everyone to be perfect out of the gate, but you at least have to make an effort.


I think that in general animals and people learn most efficiently by making mistakes. Sure, I am talking about mistakes that do not kill us. But even mistakes that kill, have hopefully a learning effect on those who observe.

I think as well that we as a society should learn to be more empathic, more tolerant, to learn how to forgive, and to avoid mob judgements.

Both, are my opinions. I don't know if there are any studies or references to this.


You learn by discussing.


Sure, that's what "listening and asking questions" is. But in the beginning, when you know very little, your default should be to absorb, not to espouse.


Easy: don't speak authoritatively. Acknowledge the limits of your knowledge and invite better information from people who know better.

I would advise not speaking authoritatively even if you are an authority. People are less likely to offer suggestions and ideas you didn't consider if you act like you know what you're talking about. I learn all kinds of things by not sounding as certain as I usually am.

...they said, authoritatively. I'm a work in progress.


> Don't talk authoritatively about subjects you don't understand

No one is allowed to have an opinion unless they're an "expert"

(Sarcasm)


I get that you're being sarcastic, but... yes? It's fine to talk about topics where you're not an expert, but if you want to talk authoritatively about something, yes, I'd expect something at least approaching expert level.


Then, pray tell, what qualifies you to state your authoritative opinion on what we are permitted to talk about? We would like to see your credentials. /s


I mean, I'm posting on HN so clearly I'm an expert in... oh... damn.


You are right!

Maybe we should start an experts registry, so there is no confusion about who can speak.


I'm hesitant to post anything, anywhere, just because I don't want to offend anyone by expressing an earnest opinion.

I think the trend's moving more quickly towards self-censorship than anyone realizes. How can we even quantify that? Those who censor just disappear?

What stands out for me is the obvious monoculture we're developing.

I miss custom PHPBB boards for every little interest and opinion.


Self-censorship is a norm which always existed as a social behavior, even online. In a small geeky world of early days of Internet, when community of connected people was small and more homogeneous, it was easier to touch certain topics without receiving strong reactions, but it didn’t mean self-censorship did not exist. It just concerned different things and the worst that could happen was a ban on the forum or IRC channel. It’s still the case for unimportant people: no one cares what random Joe says online. Everyone expects that opinion leader conforms to the norms of society - hence all those crazy scientists are being ostracized for spreading nonsense outside their field of research.


Phpbb forums didn't go away because of self censorship, they were simply replaced with bigger sites like Reddit. If you're trying to create a community around a niche topic, a subreddit is substantially easier to create than deploying and maintaining a forum.


I was not aware that phpbb forums disappeared; I regularly read three of them that are all quite active. Yes, there are subreddit counterparts, but the reddit versions are mostly filled with crappy karma-seeking memes and wildly off-topic discussions.

The phpbb forums tend to be a lot more ruthless in self-moderation and probably a fair amount of gatekeeping too. But the content is significantly better than reddit, which I believe is a source of pride for many of the participants. I also get the impression that there is a growing sense of “coolness” using a crappy outdated UX. I predict the return and rise of the niche community sites will happen before its total disappearance.


But then you're at the whims of a board of shareholders who will decide what is acceptable content.


phpbb forums went away ? I'm still visit those on a regular basis.

some did close but the reason is facebook sucked people in its time consuming spiral of irrelevant noise.


I think what is perceived by a community as right or wrong changes as the composition of the community changes...I mean Trump doesn't self-censor because he reflects the values of his broader base and his base eats up whatever he says....RMS' hugs and kisses, free love, anything goes attitude might have been ok during the hippie era of the 70s and 80s during the formative years of his career but does not reflect the values and sensibilities of today's broader development community....which means he needed to adapt or step down. -- The Dark knight quote - "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain" seems apt in this scenario.


Ironic how in the subject of moderation in self-censorship someone with an upopular opinion gets suppressed.

I really wish you'd have to write a reason when downvoting.


[flagged]


I just don't have 1-1s with anyone I manage. Don't want problems for having 1-1s with women, don't want discrimination accusations for having 1-1s with men. No one can accuse me of anything if everything happens in an open office with plenty of witnesses.


> No one can accuse me of anything if everything happens in an open office with plenty of witnesses.

If you won't have one-on-ones over issues that are personal and sensitive, and force them to be dealt with “in an open office with plenty of witnesses”, then, yeah, there will probably be things you can be accused of on that basis alone.


Don't want problems for having 1-1s with women

What sort of problems? I don't hear about many cases of women accusing other women of using their status as manager for sexual harassment.


I'm a lesbian...


How do you do performance reviews (or whatever they're called at your workplace) with those you manage, then?


Good point, those are private, but I go in with the paper version of their review in that case and they sign a document at the end which states we discussed everything in the document during the meeting.


I think that it has next to nothing to do with technology. MIT was still reeling from the fall out with the Media Lab and Epstein. If it wasn't for that, they might have gotten by with a simple apology, but that wouldn't be enough at this point.

There is also a history of controversial stuff related to his time at the FSF which meant that probably wouldn't settle for a simple apology either (not that RMS seemed willing to give one).

As organisations change over time, what they need in leadership also changes. In this case, they didn't need an ideologue with a history of generating controversy, they needed someone who can keep the ship going forward so that the projects they are overseeing don't lose enough talent that they become irrelevant.


I think without heavy proponents for free software, we would be in a worse place, especially technologically. Never met a software developer that wasn't dependent on free software to learn about the fundamentals of programming and system design.

Calling him an ideologue in contrast to current pioneers in the software industry is a bit much, maybe he just had some hard principles.

> wouldn't settle for a simple apology

To whom? To those that endorsed questionable business relations that drew attention in the first place that still are in leading positions at the MIT?

> need in leadership also changes

Visionaries and thought leaders can probably have a positive influence. I doubt we will get a adequate replacement. There also is no strong leader/mentor that can make you magically smart. He would need to inspire you to learn yourself which I would argue Stallman did pretty well.

"Controversies" are seldom intellectually engaging and if you look at the core of his statements, the subject and reactions become quite ridiculous.


>Never met a software developer that wasn't dependent on free software to learn about the fundamentals of programming and system design.

You probably have been in a bubble all this time. I grew up in former Soviet Union without an internet connection with whatever software I was able to buy around the corner. It wasn't Linux and GCC, it was Windows 9x, Delphi, then MSVC, and so on.

I think the first time I've used (any) FOSS application was after 4 or 5 years of using computers. I had the fundamentals more or less covered by then.

This only strengthens your point though.


> To whom? To those that endorsed questionable business relations that drew attention in the first place that still are in leading positions at the MIT?

Side note: Ito, at least, is out at MIT. Others may be as well.

As far as to whom, it would have been to "anyone who was harmed by his statements". This could include those at the FSF who he represented, the students and researchers at MIT, who also were associated with the statements, and to people victimised by Epstein and others like him.

It's not as hard to find someone to apologise too, as it would be for the guy to actually admit he's wrong in the first place.


nobody was harmed by his statements.


He also sort of tried to apologize and ended up making it worse because he was obviously neither sorry nor interested in how to avoid doing the same thing in the future.


the FSF is a Ideological organization, how can you say " they didn't need an ideologue" when that is EXACTLY what they need

FSF entire purpose is to push for the adoption of Free Software licensing (in opposition to Both "Open Source" and Commercial licensing)


What's with the downvotes? All of this is absolutely correct


The wrong opinion? Stallman questions whether the victim, who he admits was coerced into sex, was actually sexually assaulted. This is an incredibly shameful take on the situation. If any politician or public figure said this statement in the past 70 years, they would have ended their career. There are no Internet vigilantes hunting down dissenters. There are people trying to downplay sexual assault. As the internet and as the tech community, we absolutely have the right to condemn public figures when they say stuff like this. That’s what free speech actually means.

If you or I said what Stallman said, but to a coworker or to the boss, we would get fired - justifiably. This is not a new concept unique to the digital age, nor is it a concept that should be done away with. The popularity of your comment depresses me deeply.


I didn't read RMS's "take" as in any way excusing what happened to Giuffre, but rather disputing whether it was accurate to accuse Marvin Minsky of "sexual assault", if from Minsky's perspective at the time nothing seemed wrong. (Sensationalist reporting and selective paraphrasing, like you've done here, has conflated the two issues.)

Suppose there's a boxer, "Joe", and he has a scheduled fight against a named opponent. It's set in a legitimate venue, is freely advertised as if the promoters have nothing to hide, includes a normal ref & audience, and then proceeds like any other boxing match, including the traditional cordialities between opponents before and after. To "Joe", nothing's wrong. But then, years later, it's discovered that the opposing boxer was coerced into fighting, perhaps with threats of violence or blackmail.

Is "Joe" now guilty of physical assault, for repeatedly punching the other boxer, even if to "Joe" at the time it seemed like a normal voluntary encounter, no seedier than any other boxing match?

Maybe RMS's take was dumb. Maybe my analogy is dumb! But it's not "shameful" to try to work out the reasonable characterizations, given Minksy's possible mental state, the law, or common-sense. It might even be possible, under formal legal definitions, for Giuffre to have been "assaulted" while at the same time Minsky's actions don't rise to the level of "assault".


The problem with your analogy is that, in reality, "Joe" was presented with a beautiful woman over 50 years younger than him who supposedly wanted to have sex with him, while at a gathering on a billionaire's private island. If "Joe" were a reasonable, non-sketchy person, the absolute best interpretation there is that she was a prostitute of questionable age, which is still pretty bad. Going along with that without asking some very hard questions would seem to be not only morally questionable, but also personally risky.

(Of course, there's also reasonable debate as to whether or not Minsky actually had sex with her. One person who was present at the gathering claims Minsky didn't.)


If Minsky didn't realize she was essentially a prostitute, he was foolish.

But how do you know Minsky didn't "ask[] some very hard questions"?

At the time of the alleged sex, 2001-2002, Epstein's cover as an investment billionaire who threw money around to win the attention/affection of young-but-legal women was still secure. He'd been a recent repeat visitor to the Clinton White House, and President Bill Clinton's multiple trips in Epstein's plane were contemporaneous or followed soon after.

The thinking at the time would have been: "If an ex-President (and husband of sitting Senator Hillary Clinton) can hobnob in public with this guy Epstein, he can't be into anything too shady, can he?"


Why is the best interpretation that she was a prostitute of questionable age as opposed to just... a prostitute?

Legitimate question, I haven't been following this closely enough to know. If it was reasonable to assume she was an adult I don't see an issue with it, but I don't have a moral objection to prostitution


RMS's take was really dumb. He may not be the right fit for the job. The example you gave with the boxer was a really good comparison, but for him to handle the topic that way is so incredibly tone-deaf and frankly, stupid.


Essentially Stallman takes issue with accusing Marvin Minsky of sexual assault because:

> The word "assaulting" presumes he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way.

And then Stallman goes on to point out there is no evidence to suggest that Minksy acted violently toward the victim, and may have been unaware that the victim had been coerced by Epstein.

Given that the definition of "assault" is "a physical attack", I can't really disagree with him from a purely semantic perspective. And I would agree that there are other terms terms such as "statutory rape" and "soliciting prostitution" that may better describe what Minsky is accused of.

Is it "shameful" for me to see some merit in his argument?


I think this is all missing the point. RMS may have been technically correct about what happened, but he chose to speak up at the wrong time, about the wrong topic, and derailed the conversation into a diversion that didn't add any value.

And to make matters worse, he tried to quibble about the definitions of "sexual assault" and "statutory rape", which is pretty insulting and hurtful to people who have been victims of those situations.

Now, I don't necessarily see that this should definitively add up to RMS being forced out of MIT and the FSF, but this, combined with decades of awful behavior around women and some pretty messed up attitudes around what he called "voluntary pedophilia", is an understandable camel's-back-breaking straw.


It's a misapplied kind of pedantry anyway; he can quibble with what he thinks "assault" means but "sexual assault" has a legal definition.

It also confuses me to see people talk about stallman's language tricks as pedantry when he spends a lot of energy redefining terms or trying to pull out alternate meanings -- kind of the opposite of pedantry. Or a pedantry against his private dictionary.


Sexual assault does not have “a” legal definition. It has many different and often conflicting legal definitions depending on which state you happen to be in. Things that might factor in would be the victim’s age, whether the defendant knew the victim’s age, the type of sexual act, etc.

Laws are notoriously complex (it’s why we have lawyers), and if you are going cite “a legal definition” that conflicts with the common definition of a word (e.g. assault), I think that carries a burden of actually citing the applicable law that was violated. But that’s simply not possible with in Minsky’s case as there are just not enough details in the deposition where he is named, and he was never formally charged with any crimes.


Sure, there are different definitions of sexual assault.

In none of them does the law say "let's break the phrase up into two words, sexual and assault, now, assault implies violence, and was this violent?"

That's not pedantry, that's playing word games.


The phrase “sexual assault” consists of the adjective “sexual” modifying the noun “assault”, meaning “an assault of a sexual nature”. If I then substitute in the definition for “assault”, I get “a physical attack of a sexual nature”.

I’m not playing word games here, this is just how I understand the English language to work and sexual assault to be defined.

I understand that in certain legal settings, any sexual interaction with a minor is deemed a sexual assault due to the fact that a minor cannot legally give consent. But as mentioned above, the laws in the US dealing with sex crimes are actually quite complicated, and details of what actually occurred between Minsky and the victim are few and far between, so I don’t know if that term would apply in Minsky’s situation.

Maybe I am wrong or maybe we just have different understandings of the phrase (possible given the vagaries of the language). But I think accusing people of “playing word games” and trying to “move the goal posts” is not constructive. You’re assuming bad intent where it could just be something as simple as a difference in understanding.


I am quite honestly happy to accept that you're not playing word games and that your intent with trying to dive into this language is good.

I do not believe the same is true of stallman, after having watched him redefine terms for decades, offer his own set of meaning for jargon in common use elsewhere, and so on. I think his frequent stance of "we must examine what this means" is more often than not a distraction, because sometimes he takes a technical meaning, sometimes he substitutes his own, and it never seems like his goal is a shared understanding; just that we should accept his.


People really dislike a hate train/circle jerk/lynch mob being derailed by facts.

I greatly dislike the new emphasis on feelings and image over accuracy and truth that has entered the tech sector in the last decade or so.

^ not particularly directed at your comment, it just inspired the thought


Legally any form of touch can be considered assault in the wrong context. It doesn't have to "look violent".

(Check your local statutes!)


> If any politician or public figure said this statement in the past 70 years, they would have ended their career.

I mean, given everything in the news these days, this is blatantly untrue. I suspect it wasn't ever quite that true before either. Maybe it should be but I don't think it's quite that easy.

> The wrong opinion? Stallman questions whether the victim, who he admits was coerced into sex, was actually sexually assaulted. This is an incredibly shameful take on the situation. [...] There are people trying to downplay sexual assault.

I'm hesitating to respond to this (self-censorship and all) but I'm not a public figure so I can risk being wrong, right? Right?!?

This isn't exactly what RMS was getting it and you're kinda missing the point in the same way RMS kinda missed the point. He didn't get why we use the term "sexual assault" as broadly (and reasonably so) as we do, and it doesn't sound like you get why he decided to argue the semantics of it.

His point was that he felt calling what Misnky had done "sexual assault" seemed to imply that Misky hadviolently attacked and raped her in a physically restraining sorta way instead of, to his best knowledge, in a "she was coerced by a third party without his knowledge" sort of way.

He missed the point that regardless of those details she was sexual assaulted. Further, he seems oblivious to the fact that splitting hairs defending his friend distracts from the real issue: that this isn't about any of them, it's about what happened to the victims. I think that take is fair enough but I agree making that case is bone headed. Not because he shouldn't speak his mind, but that it's just besides the point.

I think you're missing the fact that at all RMS was about was just clearing up the record of what Minsky did and didn't do. Not even that he was fully innocent. I agree it was in poor taste but I think if he was any less a public figure it would have been read more charitably with an awkward sigh instead.


> He missed the point that regardless of those details she was sexual assaulted. Further, he seems oblivious to the fact that splitting hairs defending his friend distracts from the real issue: that this isn't about any of them, it's about what happened to the victims. I think that take is fair enough but I agree making that case is bone headed. Not because he shouldn't speak his mind, but that it's just besides the point.

I don't know... to me it seems totally understandable (even somewhat admirable) that Stallman would stand up for a deceased friend/colleague and try to set the record straight.


I think most people would stand up for a friend in this way. I think where Stallman erred is by making it all about Minsky without in anyway acknowledging what had happened to these girls. It came off poorly.


His friend is accused of having sex with an underage prostitute on a billionares private island.

The fact that he thinks people don't have issues with that, but with the fact that he may have forced himself on her, is what makes him a piece of shit.


I think that details matter when assessing the severity of a crime. The law also takes details into account, assigning different categories and punishments depending on the details of the sexual offense. So yes I think the details of whether he forced himself on her matter. So do other details like what type of sexual acts occurred, the victims age at the time, whether he knew she was under age, etc.

To be clear, I think Epstein committed some terrible crimes and I am glad he was eventually brought to justice. And based on the limited details available surrounding Minsky’s involvement, it certainly looks bad for him as well. And my heart goes out to the victims for the terrible exploitation they were subjected to... I literally can’t even imagine what that must have been like as I have never experienced anything even remotely comparable in my life.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I think some acts of sexual misconduct are worse than others. That I think details and precision matter when accusing someone of a crime. Or that I think the accused should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Does that make me a “piece of shit” too?


> I think that details matter when assessing the severity of a crime.

Sure, but no permutation of details could make an actual sexual encounter, which is the hypothetical RMS is talking about (what really happened isn't even relevant when assessing what RMS said), benign or okay. It could be even worse, sure, but not really good.

> whether he knew she was under age

The only way to not know that would be to not care.


Who is saying that anything is “benign or ok”?

Saying that one crime is less severe than another does not imply that the lesser crime is “benign”.

Stallman takes issue with the word “assault” because he doesn’t think it likely that Minsky forcibly assaulted the victim. That doesn’t mean he is saying Minsky is without guilt, or that the whole Epstein ordeal is somehow “benign or ok”.


Quoting WP:

> The United States Department of Justice defines sexual assault as "any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.

Saying Minsky might not have realized she was coerced, in context of a 17 year old on a private island having sex with a 73 year old, is just nonsense. If (!) he did anything at all (and so far, there's only a claim that Minsky turned her down, plus no claim he had sex with her, AFAIK), that'd be sexual assault just by merit of the power differential.

If RMS doesn't understand that at age 66, that's tough luck, and splitting hairs about the arbitraryness of the age of consent or territorial jurisdictions, then talking about how it was all misunderstood and mischaracterized, because he was also, additionally falsely accused of defending Epstein, doesn't make it seem like he learned anything, at all.

Last, but not least: Not knowing someone's age because one didn't ask for ID isn't ignorance, it's not wanting to know. Likewise, a highly intelligent man thinking "oh my, this young lady who also happens to vacation here is really into me, what a lucky bastard I am" and any variation thereof doesn't pass the smell test. Even having attempted that argument was insulting to anyone's intelligence, and it's insulting to victims of such things.


> Likewise, a highly intelligent man thinking "oh my, this young lady who also happens to vacation here is really into me, what a lucky bastard I am" and any variation thereof doesn't pass the smell test.

I didn’t interpret Stallman’s comment to mean this at all. But rather that Minsky assumed that the victim was engaging in prostitution and willfully engaging in sexual acts in exchange for money.

With regards to not knowing someone’s age, there are a few plausible scenarios that come to mind. The victim could have lied to Minsky. Epstein could have lied to Minsky. She could have presented a fake ID, etc.

I think you making a lot of assumptions here that just aren’t borne out by the evidence available. Assumptions about what Stallman thinks or has implied, and assumptions about the nature of the accusations against Minsky. As far as I am aware we don’t know where or when it allegedly happened, the victim’s age at the time, or the details of how it was initiated. Some of the details you are assuming about the victim being 17 or the encounter having occurred on a private island seem to have been pieced together in a highly speculative verge article or from internet commentators (if you have quality sources of information that report otherwise please share). Stallman may not have had these details in mind or may have had a different set of assumptions when he wrote what he did.

I for one would like to see Stallman elaborate on some of his positions to better answer these questions. Not silenced.


> I didn’t interpret Stallman’s comment to mean this at all.

It does though, just by leaving room for Minsky just thinking she might be "willing", "not coerced".

> As far as I am aware we don’t know where or when it allegedly happened

On that private island during an AI conference held by Epstein when Minsky was 73 and the girl 17.

Though AFAIK there isn't a claim Minsky did anything, just that the girl was "directed to have sex" with VIP, including Minsky. One person stated Minsky turned her down, and she AFAIK didn't claim Minsky even touched her.

But that "something happened" is the hypothetical scenario within which Stallman argued on that mailing list. It's not my "assumption" at all.

> Some of the details you are assuming about the victim being 17 or the encounter having occurred on a private island seem to have been pieced together in a highly speculative verge article or from internet commentators (if you have quality sources of information that report otherwise please share)

Why not just ask right away, instead of after me telling me about my assumptions and sources. The first thing I heard about this was a link to the mailing list, the rest from searches. I never even read the Verge article, no need. I know some articles falsely claim RMS defended Epstein, but that's also not from reading them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Minsky#Allegation_of_ch...

> In 2016, Virginia Giuffre named Minsky as one of the people she was "directed to have sex" with on Jeffrey Epstein's private island while she was 17 years old [5 sources]. It is alleged to have happened in 2002, during an AI conference hosted by Epstein at his compound in the US Virgin Islands. [1 source]

See the sources in the footnotes of that article. If you disagree, don't just do it here, correct the WP article. I for one made sure I know what I'm talking about before I even started to do so. And Stallman isn't being silenced, either, he simply doesn't have a leg to stand on here.


Those citations in the Wikipedia page reference a deposition given by the victim many years after the alleged crimes occurred. When asked where she went to have sex with Minsky she answers “I believe it was” Epstein’s private island. That is not a strong statement of fact. She is using language which implies there is a possibility it may have happened elsewhere.

When asked when it happened, she answers “I don’t know”. This is why I question whether she was really 17 at the time.

There is a flight record that shows Minsky and the victim were together on the same flight, when the victim was 17 years old. But there is nothing that links that flight as occurring at the same time that the victim was directed to have sex with Minksy. Given that the victim was employed by Epstein for years, and reports that she basically traveled everywhere with him at the time, it's entirely plausible that they were two separate events. The reporting that links that flight with the victim's deposition is entirely speculative.

This is my understanding of the available evidence. But it is entirely possible I am missing something. If you think so, please share.


I very much disagree that defending the reputation of your dead friend should be called "splitting hairs".

On a partially related note, the abuse of language that has lead to the current definitions of "rape" and "sexual assault" is distressing. :(


I think it’s wrong to absolve Minsky of responsibility, though. He would have had to be pretty clueless to not at least wonder why all of these teenaged girls were hanging around Epstein’s place. Whether he knew doesn’t mean he did not still have sex with an underage girl. Claiming that he didn’t know she was underage seems shaky to me. At the very least he was taking advantage of a woman in the employ of Epstein who seduced/tried to seduce him. At the very least Minsky was involved in indirect, coerced sexual assault as the one having sex with her (if ended up doing so), even if Epstein is the mastermind. I think Minsky was smart enough to know what was happening. So that is why I disagree with RMS. I think calling it sexual assault done, perhaps unknowingly, by Minsky is an accurate description.


> I think it’s wrong to absolve Minsky of responsibility, though.

Stallman was not saying that Minsky should not be absolved of responsibility. He was just saying that the term "sexual assault" is inaccurate in that it implies violence.

> I think Minsky was smart enough to know what was happening.

That's a fairly large assumption. Minsky's name shows up twice in hundreds of pages of deposition. Once is in a statement by the victim when she is asked to name names:

> They instructed me to go to George Mitchell, Jean Luc Brunel, Bill Richardson, another prince that I don't know his name. A guy that owns a hotel, a really large hotel chain, I can't remember which hotel it was. Marvin Minsky.

And the only other reference (that I am aware of) is in reference to being on a private flight with a bunch of other people.

How are you able to infer so much from so litte information?


> He was just saying that the term "sexual assault" is inaccurate in that it implies violence.

Which is also incorrect. Sexual assault encompasses coercion without physical violence.

It is accurate to say that the girl was sexually assaulted; whether or not Minsky sexually assaulted her is up for debate.

I agree with the parent that it seems sketchy that Minsky (and the others present) didn't have at least some idea what was going on. At best, these girls could be prostitutes, but just assuming everything about the situation was completely legit is in my mind morally questionable.

Then there wass also a person present at the gathering who says Minsky turned the girl down. If she says that she had sex with him, I would tend to believe her, though.


> Which is also incorrect. Sexual assault encompasses coercion without physical violence.

I was actually reading Stallman's site last night, after seeing the article about him leaving CSAIL. I noticed he had a "glossary" section where he basically rejected the use of many common words and phrases, because their literal meaning did not match the colloquial or modern use (for example, he rejected the word homophobia, being pedantic about the phobia part). I'd bet this whole thing about "sexual assault" is along the same line.


It probably is. Stallman is a pedant in the worst possible way: he rejects reality in favor of textbook perfection.


Where the "reality" of language is a result of brutal culture wars that have given us very unnatural categories ("X means Y+Z except in very specific circumstances K where it means Y+W")?

In that case think its important for thinking clearly to develop your own definitions that group things together into categories where all members share important traits.


Not even! He rejects common language where he has redefined the words, and he rejects specific jargon where it runs contrary to common language.

When he uses the tools of pedantry, he does so to try and change the goalposts of the conversation, not to provide greater clarity.


> It is accurate to say that the girl was sexually assaulted; whether or not Minsky sexually assaulted her is up for debate.

“whether or not Minsky sexually assaulted her” is precisely the thing that Stallman was debating, and got into trouble for.


Indeed. The "best case" assumption that Minsky could have made was that Epstein was a procurer and a pimp.


Great you might be right but are you sorry people got to hear your opinion AND Stallman's? Would it be a better world if only your thoughts were heard or would you not even be sharing them if not for his thoughts being shared?


Did anyone silence, or threaten to silence, Stallman?


You believe free speech actually means not being able to express an opinion on anything anywhere that someone else could be offended by or lose your ability to live/eat/get medicine you need to survive. This is what getting fired means to normal people lest you forget.

Having a a factually or morally incorrect viewpoint on a public happening isn't an assault on a victim. Its an opportunity to help that person learn better and even more importantly to help the many more who believe the same as the speaker but who wont speak up learn as well.

Silence dissent and you lose that opportunity and everyone is poorer for it.


> If any politician or public figure said this statement in the past 70 years, they would have ended their career.

Sadly this is not true; it's been routine for all kinds of authority figures to blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator in cases of sexual assault and rape. Including police and judges.

The only way we've moved forward is the public making very clear that that is not acceptable, but this actually has a low hit rate. For every Stallman there is a Kavanagh, and a hundred rape apologists to back then up.


> If any politician or public figure said this statement in the past 70 years, they would have ended their career.

"I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything. [...] Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."


Is whatever he said (I doubt he used the words "sexual assault") actually untrue?


> I doubt he used the words "sexual assault"

A child who had been captured by Epstein and coerced into sex with a bunch of people said that Minsky was one of those people.

RMS said let's assume it did happen, and then started defending Minsky by quibbling about the definition of assault.

RMS said that minsky having sex with a coerced child shouldn't be called assault because assault requires force or violence.

He's wrong. Assault has an every day English definition and it doesn't require violence or force. Assault has legal definitions and they don't require force.

His position on the word "assault" makes no sense.

This follows on from earlier comments where he said that children can be willing participants in incestual abuse, or that he thinks it's unlikely that children who are abused are harmed by that abuse. He retracted some of those after people told him that yes, in fact, children who are abused are often harmed by that abuse.


> Assault has an every day English definition and it doesn't require violence or force.

Not sure where you live but in my subculture it does. It's quite possible it also does in RMS's social environment.

Do you have a source on his retraction? I would have thought Rind et al (and a bit of first principles thinking) would have been his main source.


It was in fact a very popular concept in Victorian England.


I'm quite certain that in '50s USA there were almost no problem saying racist comments and jokes in front of a public audience, but decades later there were. And I guess people from those same '50s were complaining during this change period that they could not express their opinions freely.


You can apply the same reasoning to rappers today, yet there is no public outrage.


I'd say that the fact that rappers using the N-word are part of the community for whom the word was created as an insult it's crucial enough, wouldn't you? Just like I can talk shit of my family but you can't.


Yes, but they say a lot of "bad things" and yet don't seem to be subject to the politically correct rules that the rest of us have to abide by. Hell, Jay Z said worse things than anything stallman said. Yet he was CEO of tommy boy records and there was no controversy.


Having the wrong opinion about certain topics is getting more expensive

This is an excellent point. More and more, there is no middle ground in consequences. Nothing like a suspension? or leave of absence etc. I don't recall how things used to be but I really lament the lack of some sort of gradient scale for punishment.


Not only that, now we obviously have reliable sources to turn to to get the right opinion about stuff. O brave new world.


I'm afraid I've lost the metaphor, what's the "right opinion" about pedophilia?


> I'm afraid I've lost the metaphor

Then you should be way more careful, sir. Lost metaphors are seldom returned, in these uncivilized times.


That "pedophilia" means the same thing as "child molestation" whih means the same thing as "child rape" which is obviously bad.


I wouldn’t call “not actively espousing hateful or bigoted views” “self-censorship”. And if people are afraid to be hateful or creepy in public, I’d call that a win. You don’t get to proclaim the advantages of chattel slavery and be magically immune from everyone’s responses, and afterwards you can’t complain about self-censorship when you think twice about writing or saying something abhorrent.


I am afraid to be mis-interpreted as hateful or bigoted, and have to spend an inordinate amount of time/effort either choosing my words for my audience (which is really hard on the internet with such a broad audience) or correcting knee-jerk responses.

The general over-reaction and constant jousting at windmills seems like a net loss to me.

I am forced to exercise self-censorship.


I am forced to exercise self-censorship.

I've found that a net good thing at least for myself. I used to be the dude who would blurt out whatever popped into my head and not care too much how it would be received by my audience, and sometimes even relish the fact that it was badly received.

By self-censoring and thinking through what I'm about to say and thinking about my audience before I open my mouth I find not only are social interactions easier and more pleasant, but I actually get my points across more consistently and clearly. People are then also more open to listening and don't always automatically get defensive. So ironically applying self-censorship has made it easier to make the points I actually want to make.


Statistically and predominantly that is my experience too, but in risk management you don't count your wins - you count your losses.

It's not the 99 times when your parachute opens that you stress about. It's the other 1%.

(Mis)interpretation reduces to choice, as does the principle of charity. With a large enough audience fallout is a statistical certainty.


I think at the end of the day you just have to take that risk. Or not. It's up to you. I think the majority of the time that you accidentally say something stupid or are misunderstood, it's in a fairly low-stakes situation, so a simple apology will suffice. But when you're a public figure with power over people and ideologies, you have to be a lot more careful about where you choose to engage.

Arguably the (male) head of the Free Software movement has no place debating the definition of "sexual assault" or "statutory rape" in a conversation about a human trafficker and child abuser. His opinions there have zero value (not to mention that a debate over such definitions is missing the point entirely), and engaging in that conversation -- even to come to the defense of his tangentially-related dead friend -- was a very poor choice, even for someone known to be contentious and often misunderstood.


A man does have a place defending the reputation of his friend though. That ovverrides his position in Free Software.


On any subject one can imagine two tribes: The "self-restrained" and the "self-indulgent". The former thinks through every word and the latter blurts out immediately.

And they could self-organize into self-selected groups. Then each type could best thrive in their own self-constructed communities.

And they could practice other-tolerance for the other sort of folks. Because tolerance.


That, plus one can actually change one's mind on some things one has reflexively formed a badly thought-out opinion on before embarrassing oneself by blurting it out.

Not only getting one's point across better, but actually getting a better point across.

On the whole, definitely a net positive.


I agree with this, at least. It is very easy to be misunderstood in a textual medium like the internet, where people have very little (or no) context about you or how you express yourself.

You call your solution self-censorship, but I just kinda think it's general common sense: why do you feel the need to broadcast your views to a large, unknown audience on controversial subjects where misunderstandings cause a lot of trouble for you? There are plenty of other real-world places to discuss things that don't carry that risk, and likely some more-private places on the internet where you can join an actual community of people who will get to know you over time and understand what you say in context.

Put another way: most people wouldn't randomly walk up to a group of 10 strangers on the street and immediately bring up a controversial topic. Why do we think that's a good move on the internet?

I think we're starting to see the social limits of instant around-the-world communication. It just doesn't work as well as we want it to. The internet is still ridiculously new to the world, and our understanding of its social nuances is still in its infancy.


I agree our understanding of the social nuances of the internet is in infancy; though the human tendency to enact mob "justice" is relatively better understood. The internet has enabled that ugly tendency of humanity to a scary degree. Especially coupled with the strong profit motive of sites like Vice and other so called media outlets, which stand to benefit greatly from whipping up such smear campaigns.


What's the difference between exercising self-censorship and exercising judgment about what's appropriate to say in different situations? Because I think we all do that. Is that censorship?


Has your judgment ever led you to conclude that something ought to be said and it's the appropriate thing to say, and then choosing not to say it anyway because you can't predict the response?

I do that a lot.

You could trivially interpret that as "exercising judgment", but it's not that. I am exercising caution and self-preservation.

It's akin to the onset of apathy.


I can definitely relate to that, and that's probably a good way to think about the difference.

However, that would categorize Stallman's gaffe here as bad judgment and not self-censorship. Seeing as what he said was definitely not appropriate to say in those circumstances.


Most of us don't have to do that because we aren't in the public eye. The worst you will get is a couple of downvotes.


Well, there's always the risk of some twitter celebrity choosing your comment to draw attention to. There's been more than a few cases of regular people losing their jobs to mobs calling their employer.


Yeah, I've been watching the vote-count on this post. It's quite... erratic to say the least. It re-bounded from the negatives.

Many angry down-voters bashing that [-] button only making my point.


The [-] button is actually a handy thread-collapser. The downvote button is a mirror image of the upvote button and only shows if you have several hundred karma.


500 karmas for downvoting, at least it was then that the downvote button appeared for me a few months ago.


Your argument assumes that there's some objectively right definition of which views are hateful or bigoted that exactly corresponds with the ones that will bring the social media mob's wrath down on someone. There clearly isn't:

- How someone is treated depends heavily on whether they're perceived as being part of the right clique. For example, a few years ago Nintendo sacked someone who thought it was a great tragedy that owning photos and videos of kids being raped was illegal and bloviated about this on social media. (Probably not for that reason as it turns out, although her job did involve interacting with kids.) She was in the clique and the people who drew attention to this weren't, so all the right-thinking folks and publications rewrote her views into something much less objectionable, then insisted that repeating what she actually said was a bigoted lie and the whole thing was a misogynistic attack against her. I'm pretty sure there's a heavy overlap between those people and the ones going after Stallman by rewriting what he said in the opposite direction now.

- The views you have to hold in order not to be a bigot aren't consistent from year to year. For instance, there's a faction of self-proclaimed feminists who're really hateful to trans people and have successfully lobbied for some rather bigoted laws. A few years ago any trans woman who merely pointed out the harm they'd done was labelled as a terrible misogynist. Sometime around 2016 this flipped and all the same people who'd been demanding everyone shut up decided those views were now so evil that they justified beating up elderly women merely for holding them, and that the people who were uncomfortable with this violence were the bigots. There was zero overlap between the views that were acceptable before and after the flip, and no room for a more moderate position. That faction has become increasingly irrelevant over the years, so fighting them is actually less important than it used to be.


> someone who thought it was a great tragedy that owning photos and videos of kids being raped was illegal and bloviated about this on social media

I hate how diluted the word "rape" has become. I can't tell if you mean some perfectly willing petting between a 17 year and and a 20 year old.


The larger your audience, the more likely one of them will consider your views hateful or bigoted (regardless of what your views are).

Are there perhaps some views that you think are not quite hateful or bigoted, but aren't totally fine to state? Maybe, "err on the side of caution" type views?

I wonder what Zeno would think on moving your views from completely hateful to completely fine: first you must go halfway-hateful, then half of that, and so on. Perhaps one will never find a completely fine view to state!


I'm picturing someone from China saying "if people are afraid to say things that undermine the stability of our country in public I'd call that a win".

The fun is always in defining what exactly should be in the category "hateful"/"undermining stability of our country".

As a side note, I've advocated for chattel slavery in the past, it actually didn't go too badly.


Any sensible person nowadays stays away from certain discussions. Not sure if that's good or bad. Commenting this makes me a tad uneasy.


It's best to look at it through the prism of game theory.

Moral outrage as a language game, especially where certain hot button issues are concerned, like anything involving sexuality, bears a striking resemblance with the language game that unfolds umong children when it is alleged that someone has the cooties.

When such an allegation is made there are three possible plays. Agree, disagree, or stay quiet. In my opinion, the best play is to vocally agree with the allegation when it is made by at least one popular kid or when a critical mass of kids agreeing with the allegation has already been reached. When a critical mass has not yet been reached and the allegation is backed by only a small number of kids and kids who are unpopular or of undetermined popularity status, the best play is to stay quiet while waiting to see if a popular kid joins the allegation or if a critical mass is reached, at which point you should start to also voice your agreement. Something you never ever want to do is to speak up to disagree.

This is because the claim "you've got the cooties", despite being by definition false, draws credibility from how many people agree with it. If someone finds themselves on the receiving end of the allegation, the only possible response is to go "no you've got the cooties" and try to build consensus around that.

So, Kid A goes "Kid B's got the cooties", Kid C goes "No he doesn't". That would be a very stupid play if Kid C is an unpopular Kid, because it would be likely to make Kid A pivot into expressing the view "Kid C's got the cooties", putting Kid C into a strategically worse position than he started out in.

Now, choosing between the vocally-agree versus stay-quiet plays: Vocally-agree is usually a better play. Because Kid B could respond by turning around and saying "no, Kid C's got the cooties!" That is unlikely, but the probability is greater than zero.

If, on the other hand, Kid C goes "Haha! It's true! Kid B's got the cooties" that makes Kids A and C allies, so it advances Kid C's position by getting it into the safety of the herd, so to speak. Because now, if Kid B goes "no, Kid C's got the cooties" you will find that Kid A will voice disagreement. So between Kid B having the cooties and Kid C having the cooties, the greater consensus is around Kid B having the cooties.

It quickly becomes apparent that the game unfolds around popularity and conformism as a self-fulfilling prophecy and that, at the end of the day, popular kid always wins, unpopular kid always loses.

So, about Stallman. Popular kids win. Yet again. Who would have thought that. Stallman's got the cooties.


Yeah, people should be afraid to be "creepy" in public. Bring back that good old high school dynamic where nerds knew their place. Next headline: RMS stuffed into gym locker. Right on!


> Yeah, people should be afraid to be "creepy" in public

I agree.


Where did you get this opinion? I'm really curious.


Consider this then: People who are not allowed to speak their mind will simply be hateful and creepy in the privacy of their home. Wouldn't you rather know who exactly is hateful and creepy to avoid them entirely, rather than create a fake atmosphere of safety.


Bollocks. Like Ricky Gervais said the other day actually you can say anything you like. People might not agree with you and that's fine.


Nope... people will not agree and call you out, drumming up outrage until you resign or get kicked out.

From what I’ve read about the Cultural Revolution and Jaquereies, what’s going on looks pretty much the same mob pattern.


I think the idea is, let’s not revere or put in power people who do/say/espouse these kinds of views

Stallman is a legend, which means he has a great distance to fall. His point was lost in the fray. I wish he could’ve just kept it to a private conversation with a friend.

Obviously no child can consent to being pimped, for money or otherwise.


> I wish he could’ve just kept it to a private conversation with a friend.

It was actually a private conversation.


A large university department mailing list is hardly a private conversation. One of the participants in that conversation even referenced the thread inevitably being sent to the press.


You can say anything you like in North Korea too. The government might not agree with you and that's fine.


If it was as simple as a disagreement, that would be fine. But it's not just simple disagreements anymore. It is costing people their livelihoods and futures because they're not toeing the ever shifting line.


When exactly was this mythical time when not toeing the line came without consequences?


I'm not sure, I'm just as confused as you about this mystical time. I don't remember ever mentioning a time where words didn't have consequences, just when you wouldn't lose your job because someone across the country heard you say something they didn't like.


The internet and the IT industry used to be a lot more free-form and libertarian, where people could debate or advocate almost anything.


[flagged]


I think you managed to perfectly exemplify the point parent is making. Stallman never argued this, but in the frenzy of outrage his points are being misconstrued and he is villified to rationalize the punishment he has received.


he downplayed the severity of it with his wording, which is tacitly arguing in favour of it


I mean, RMS definitely wasn't helping by any means but I think "tacitly arguing in favour of it" is kinda a leap.

I get being mad he wasn't helping but thats a looooong way from supporting the human trafficking.


Not what this was about.


By disagree you mean people might put pressure on your employer until you are fired in order to silence you and anyone who thinks about expressing such thoughts.


You mean people might exercise their freedom of speech to express their view to a company? If I do that, am I censoring someone else with my speech?


Just like Stallman you can express disagreeable things.

If you control money that goes to Fred who employs Bob and tell Fred fire Bob or I fire you then while your actions may be verbal they aren't merely communicative. Clearly you are acting to censor Bob. You may well simultaneously be within your rights to do so and also wrong to do it. If I tell you so I'm not controlling you I'm just trying to persuade you.


Gervais is hugely powerful because he has the money to survive being unpersoned. Not everyone is in his position. His comment is like Shaquille O’Neal saying you actually can walk around and punch anyone you like in the face, because nobody retaliates when he does it (just a hypothetical, of course Shaq wouldn’t do that).


That’s why I mostly use pseudonymous channels these days, like this one. I treat everything I say with my real name like I’m publishing it on the front page of the New York Times and submitting three copies to the Library of Congress.

Many fewer of my current associates hear any real thoughts of mine compared to 20 years ago. I used to get into all kinds of arguments like Stallman’s, on public email lists, which thankfully haven’t surfaced online (yet).


Wait until the AIs get a little better at forensics. Might not be wise to post comments you wouldn't want to come back at you at a forum that doesn't let you delete them, pseudonymous - for now - or not.


It is something I've thought more about in recent years and have pulled back on what I say even pseudonymously.


Sad to have to limit yourself in this fashion but you know it's coming.


That would be stalking, a criminal offense. And GDPR is must have too.


In what jurisdiction is ascertaining someone’s identity from their public posts criminal stalking? Certainly not mine (California).


Ascertaining identity is not stalking, but ascertaining identity via stalking (unrestrained targeted data collection) is stalking.


Isn't that just indicative of the sad state of things.


Ah yes, that free golden age of the Comic Code and McCarthy hearings.


> Weirdly all the information technology is steering towards being more similar in our opinions and in what we can say without facing consequences.

Patently that is false.

Given the sheer amount of ad revenue that youtube, twitter et al get from hosting stuff that if printed or broadcast, would be liable to fines. (at least in the UK)

Self censorship is what defines empathy. When your child has done something hilariously stupid and hurt themselves, you comfort them, you don't stand back and tell them how incredibly stupid they are.

99.999% of people would never Mock a grieving spouse in person, why should you be enabled to broadcast that to millions of people on the internet?


I recently deleted all my “controversial” tweets (about 3 or 2). I just don’t share the same opinion than the majority in a couple of topics. I never got into any kind of trouble because of that, my tweets were far from inflammatory, but after reading so many stories of people losing their jobs after someone found an old tweet, I couldn’t risk it, I just can’t risk my family’s stability just for expressing an opinion.


Absolutely. In certain environments you have to even self-censor your political affiliation. https://www.snopes.com/news/2016/11/11/grubhub-ceo-trump-vot...


> it's rather interesting how all the information technology (social media, etc...) is slowly moving our culture towards increasing self-censorship.

It's not. Take it from me, a guy who predates social media by decades.

If you go back and look at what Gary Hart dropped out of the 1988 presidential race for, and compare it to what Donald Trump said on social media before, during, and after being elected President, there's just no comparison.

Racial, misogynistic, derogatory, offensive sentiments you can easily find being published on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or most other social media platforms would not have passed muster in any mass-media channel or public conversation 30 or even 20 years ago.

On the positive side, social media has been a tremendous boon to marginalized communities like gay/lesbian/bisexual, transgender, heck, even furries. It has allowed like minds to find and support each other, and allowed the rest of us normies to see these communities for the constructive, positive forces so many of them are. I am convinced that social media aided in their growing public acceptance.

In fact, I'd say that social media has opened up the discourse so much that even the resignation of a powerful figure over controversial remarks about pedophilia--an outcome which would have been expected and commonplace for at least the past 70 years of U.S. society--are taken as somehow problematic.

In other words, things are so de-censored now that even the most anodyne and obvious objections to gross statements by powerful figures is taken as censorship. The Overton Window has moved way over to one side, but people still complain when they hit the edge of it.


You're conflating two very different environments. Mass media of yesterday was the establishment broadcasting carefully considered things. Social media today is individuals chatting to other individuals in a manner that can incidentally be seen by everyone. People using say, hackernews, aren't modelling this interaction as if they are on the stage being broadcasted to the world, they are modelling it as if they were talking to someone at a pub.


The proper comparison is not what a politician could say 20 years ago, but rather what a well-known software figure could say on a mailing list. "Predating social media by decades", you should appreciate how online communication was before the status-gamers got here and reasserted their tribalistic bullshit.


I hate that the parent is being downvoted. It speaks to the poor quality of the community at HN. Parent is absolutely right: twenty or thirty years ago, you were driven from the public sphere for merely a fraction of what passes today as 'within bounds'. Every cry of how we're self-censoring and being chilled rings hollow with every tweet by the pussy-grabber-in-chief. Whining about the boundaries now is just a confession of how little history you know.


The boundaries have always depended on who you are. Most of us aren't billionaires with the office of the president of one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, the services of the strongest military on the planet, and millions of admirers to shield us.

This extremely perverse situation tells us a good bit about a lot of our fellow citizens but nothing about what the rest of us can get away with nor the constraints placed upon us.

If I said something that was misconstrued sufficiently enough for thousands of people to hear about it and hate me even wrongly I wouldn't be giving up my position at MIT I would probably end up homeless until lack of Asthma medication caused me to suffocate.

Part of that not having billions of dollars to fall back on thing.


I think there's more nuance, though. Trump gets a pass (and even praise) for the garbage he spews because he has so many supporters. RMS gets kicked out because his community demands better.

If you or I said something stupid, it'd either not be noticed much at all, or get 15 minutes of fame and then fade into obscurity. In reality, our lives wouldn't change all that much. Yes, there's an outside chance that we could do something so dumb that we'd lose our jobs, but that's vanishingly unlikely, and still, I'd expect the effect to be temporary.


[flagged]


To what "ethno-religious viewpoint" are you referring?


While the comment was about the 1980's maybe this Los Angeles times article from 2008 can shed some light, though I'll dig up some more sources if you like: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-dec-19-oe-stein...

>By Joel Stein

>I have never been so upset by a poll in my life. Only 22% of Americans now believe “the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews,” down from nearly 50% in 1964. The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping. Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood.

>How deeply Jewish is Hollywood? When the studio chiefs took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago to demand that the Screen Actors Guild settle its contract, the open letter was signed by: News Corp. President Peter Chernin (Jewish), Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey (Jewish), Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger (Jewish), Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton (surprise, Dutch Jew), Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer (Jewish), CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves (so Jewish his great uncle was the first prime minister of Israel), MGM Chairman Harry Sloan (Jewish) and NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker (mega-Jewish). If either of the Weinstein brothers had signed, this group would have not only the power to shut down all film production but to form a minyan with enough Fiji water on hand to fill a mikvah.

>The person they were yelling at in that ad was SAG President Alan Rosenberg (take a guess). The scathing rebuttal to the ad was written by entertainment super-agent Ari Emanuel (Jew with Israeli parents) on the Huffington Post, which is owned by Arianna Huffington (not Jewish and has never worked in Hollywood.)

>The Jews are so dominant, I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies. When I called them to talk about their incredible advancement, five of them refused to talk to me, apparently out of fear of insulting Jews. The sixth, AMC President Charlie Collier, turned out to be Jewish.

>As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you’d be flipping between “The 700 Club” and “Davey and Goliath” on TV all day.


We've banned this account for breaking the site guidelines. Would you please stop creating accounts to do that with?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Hello HN mods? Are you okay? Are you okay dannie?

The community has brought attention to this account multiple times with no actual action on your part.

I guess you might be too busy tone policing, as per usual: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20993139


Actually, no one brought this to our attention until a user emailed about it earlier today. If you don't see something being moderated that should be, the likeliest explanation is the simplest: we just didn't see it. We don't come close to seeing all the posts on HN. There are far too many.

As the site guidelines explain, the way to react to a bad comment on HN is not to feed it by replying, but rather to flag it and (in egregious cases) to email us at hn@ycombinator.com. Posting more comments complaining about lack of moderation doesn't help, for the same reason: we might not see it. In fact we probably won't, if we didn't see the original post in the first place. Making your complaint as sarcastic and cruel as you can doesn't add to its visibility.

Would you please review the site guidelines and follow them? They're written the way they are because, to avoid HN deteriorating further, users need to help preserve the site. Letting moderators know about egregious comments (in ways that work—flagging or emailing) is one way the guidelines ask you to do that. Not being snarky or calling names is another.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


>The community has

You and your alt account do not make up "the community". Since I make comments related to the articles and discussions then I am way more a part of the HN community than you are. Anyway, I invite you and your alt account to respond to the content of what I write in order to have a constructive conversation.


It's an interesting dynamic. I would agree that on the whole, you're probably correct that there is less censorship in the society.

However, it seems that the political division is greater than ever. It is almost as if there are two Overton windows now, one for liberals and one for republicans (roughly).

The republican one shifted to much less self-censorship, while the liberal one shifted very slightly to more self-censorship.

And RMS seems to be caught in the liberal one. He has held his opinions for a long time, and nobody really cared that much.

He is also not a particularly powerful figure. If anything, FSF is weaker than it has been in the 90s. That's also an interesting change in dynamics, the shifting of both windows now affects powerful and powerless alike, where in the past, it was I believe considered less decent to have "wrong opinions" if you were powerful, and the wrong opinions of the powerless were tolerated much more. (Basically, the difference between elites and proletes, and agreement who is what, is now morphing into a difference between liberals and republicans.)


I feel like this censorship is mostly caused by centralization of information on closed/proprietary platforms, and the stakeholders of these platforms put it upon themselves to censor content they deem inappropriate or incompatible with their bottomline.

People can say that these platforms are privately-owned and freedom of speech is only about government censorship, but where do you speak when these platform are well established and chances of dethroning them with a decentralized and open alternative are slim to none?

Social media is not social, it's corporate.


You say people should be able to to say what they want on one hand but that other people should not be able to say what they want on the other hand.

You’re free to say what you want and I’m free to not want to associate with your or not want to do business with you and encourage others to do the same.

I don’t see how you have one without the other.


Yes, it's sad that there are 50 ways to instantly send photos to your friends, but for bringing disparate opinions together it's pretty much just https://www.kialo.com/


Twitter is not the real world - what goes on there only really effects what happens if you let it. If you ignore it, nothing bad happens.


I agree the internet is getting locked down, it'll end up like daytime tv if we're not careful. But I'm two clicks away from access to Nazi and extremist content right now. The internet still is the wild wild west version of a library, in terms of access to content, but now there's laws and archiving of everything typed and read applied on top of that too.

This Stallman case is edge-case fallout from a massive political movement. He could have probably discussed the age of consent in public pre-2013 and maybe get a few disgusted reactions but generally be fine. The political control of internet arguments is more obvious than ever, and the quest for advertising money.. but I'm fairly sure I can start and run a website/subreddit/blog for whatever niche idea and be left alone.


> He could have probably discussed the age of consent in public pre-2013 and maybe get a few disgusted reactions but generally be fine.

He did. People don't remember, but his home page used to have articles regarding age of consent, which he later took down.


I hope my post didn't look like a defense of stallman, because it isn't meant to be. Yeah people don't remember right? The stories about him seem troubling.


> But I'm two clicks away from access to Nazi and extremist content right now

So? Don't make these clicks and you'd never see them.

> The political control of internet arguments is more obvious than ever, and the quest for advertising money

Advertising money has nothing to do with it - FSF doesn't need advertising money. They're just live in deathly fear of the woke Red Guards, as many before them (e.g. Mozilla) - and that fear may be very well justified.

> but I'm fairly sure I can start and run a website/subreddit/blog for whatever niche idea and be left alone.

Sure you can. If you can do without: hosting, DDoS protection, DNS, advertising, search engines, social media, payment processing, etc. All those have recently been engaged in deplatforming people for political considerations. But yes, you are free to lay your own cable infrastructure, set up your own data centers, build out your own internet, and there have you own website about whatever you want, completely free.


Just saying that the crazy content is still available so assessing the idea that speech is being limited and we are reaching a monoculture is testable against that yardstick. I'm not here to defend the quality or content of those extreme websites.

Advertising money has something to do with YouTube deplatforming people which is part of evaluating the idea that we are becoming a monoculture.

I think only the daily stormer is an example if you go anywhere you will be pulled down, including for. Controlling that stuff is the government's job, I would expect radical political sects to lose the fight to host a website. But if your idea is non political you're basically in the clear.


[flagged]


Please read Richard's actual words again. Read them carefully --- and read his actual words, not just someone summarizing them or stitching fragments out of context. Richard said no such thing.


Except he did:

> P]rostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia ... should be legal as long as no one is coerced. They are illegal only because of prejudice and narrowmindedness.

Here, June 28th 2003: http://stallman.org/archives/2003-may-aug.html

Or do you believe someone planted it on his website and it went unnoticed for 16 years? How about this:

> 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.

Posted 3 days ago: https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#14_September...

Does that confirm that he indeed said it?


Unfortunately the comment I replied to has been flagged, so I can no longer review the context in which my reply was written. The context for me, involved a FaceBook post, a blog post, a number of media headlines, and a CSAIL mail archive. I believed this was also the context for the parent poster.

What Stallman has said on his personal website, and what his personal views are at large, is definitely outside the realm of what I'm prepared to dive into.


> Does that confirm that he indeed said it?

Well, no? Surely the coercion bit is the important bit? It's a bit odd that he had to "learn" that sex could bring psychological harm to children, but he's basically saying that adults should not have sex with children.


> Surely the coercion bit is the important bit?

Absolutely not. The entire point why paedophilia is considered an awful act is because a child is not mature enough to give consent for such action.

Since children (and I repeat, CHILDREN) are unable to give a proper consent, any sort of a sexual action with them is considered as rape.

> ...but he's basically saying that adults should not have sex with children.

No, he specifically disagrees with the age of consent:

> 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.

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

In case you're curious, age of consent is mostly 14 to 18 around the world (with some exceptions), and 16 to 18 in the US, depending on the state. He does not provide us with a number, but if you ask me, it's a really weird hill to die on.


From Wikipedia:

So, as of May 2019, in the 34 states that have set a marriage age by statute, the lower minimum marriage age when all exceptions are taken into account, are:

    2 states have a minimum age of 14: Alaska and North Carolina.
    4 states have a minimum age of 15.
    20 states have a minimum age of 16.
    8 states have a minimum age of 17.
In Massachusetts the general marriage age is 18, but children may be married with judicial consent with no minimum age limit. In the absence of any statutory minimum age, one opinion is that the minimum common law marriageable age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys may still apply. Unlike many other states, in Massachusetts a child's marriage does not automatically emancipate the minor, or increase his or her legal rights beyond allowing the minor to consent to certain medical treatments.

-- End of quotation --

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_age_in_the_United_Sta...

I'm not an American, so I don't understand why you have not fixed this obvious problem.


Those exceptions are related to the age of the other person.

So, for example, in a place where the age of consent is at 18, an 18 year old could have sex with a 16 year old without being considered a paedophile, while a 25 year old could not have sex with anyone below 18.

There's nothing about those exceptions that's US-specific. The number I've posted are the official ones if the other person is above 20-something, while the numbers that you've posted are applicable when both parties are similar in age.


> So, for example, in a place where the age of consent is at 18, an 18 year old could have sex with a 16 year old without being considered a paedophile, while a 25 year old could not have sex with anyone below 18.

That doesn't sound correct to me. As I understand it, an adult (18 and above in the US) cannot legally have sex with someone under the age of consent. So if the age of consent is 18, and an 18 year old has sex with a 16 year old, that is considered statutory rape or child sexual abuse. A quick Wikipedia skim[0] seems to agree with me.

Perhaps you meant to say "if the age of consent is 16"? Even then, that doesn't sound right. In that case, both an 18 year old and 25 year old could legally have sex with a 16 year old.

There do appear to be some exceptions in some parts of the world where, as you say, there are exceptions for people of similar age. So in some places, an 18 year old might not be prosecuted for having sex with a 16 or 17 year old if the age of consent is 18. But these seem to be few and far between.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent


> As I understand it, an adult (18 and above in the US) cannot legally have sex with someone under the age of consent. So if the age of consent is 18, and an 18 year old has sex with a 16 year old, that is considered statutory rape or child sexual abuse.

That's a pretty common mistake to make. There's two different sets of rules that kinda blend together when you try to reduce age of consent to a single digit. Wikipedia indeed agrees with me:

> In most states there is not a single age in which a person may consent, but rather consent varies depending upon the minimum age of the younger party, the minimum age of the older party, or the differences in age. Some states have a single age of consent. Thirty U.S. states have age gap laws which make sexual activity legal if the ages of both participants are close to one another, and these laws are often referred to as "Romeo and Juliet laws". Other states have measures which reduce penalties if the two parties are close in age, and others provide an affirmative defense if the two parties are close in age. Even though state laws regarding the general age of consent and age gap laws differ, it is common for people in the United States to assume that sexual activity with someone under 18 is statutory rape.

Paragraph taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_consent_in_the_United_...

In any case, we've deviated from the topic far enough. I'd argue that it's a weird thing to advocate for lowering of the age of consent. At best, I'm willing to agree that RMS uses terms like an edgy teen. Minors sext each other, therefore, we should make child pornography legal (seriously, I'm not making this up: https://stallman.org/archives/2012-jul-oct.html#15_September...). Age of consent needs to be lowered, therefore paedophilia should become legal. He talks about the edge cases to argue for the whole thing, completely ignoring that those edge cases are not what most people think about when using those terms.


Let's not forget that there was a time when children were taught sex in practical lessons with their parents and this was the norm and perfectly accepted and as such worked well.

It is quite possible that in our times and current society the same does not apply but let's keep in mind that our current society is sick and wrong in many ways, rotten to the core to the point it is self-destructive.

"It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society."


> "there was a time when children were taught sex in practical lessons with their parents and this was the norm and perfectly accepted and as such worked well."

What time is this referring to?


This has nothing to do with technology.

If you start expressing opinions about how sex with a sex-trafficked child should be legal, won't your friends and family raise some questions about your character?

Unless we're talking of morally flexible individuals. And at least parents should raise an eyebrow, since we have this natural reaction to protect our children.

> information wants to be free

Whomever said that was probably thinking of facts, of knowledge, s/he was probably not thinking of having opinions about pedophiles.

EDIT: don't get me wrong, I think there's a time and place to argue that consensual sex with teenagers might be ok and I think people should be free to make that argument, the problem in this case is that the sex couldn't have been consensual, in which case age becomes relevant, as that teenager isn't fully developed, therefore the harm done is amplified.

And also these opinions have been delivered by a very public figure, with a history of harassing women.

Words matter so the lesson here is don't be a jerk, as technology won't save you from that.


>If you start expressing opinions about how sex with a sex-trafficked child should be legal

That is not what Stallman said, wrote or advocates so that's kind of a strawman hypothetical that continues to pedal a false narrative.


>> information wants to be free

> Whomever said that was probably thinking of facts, of knowledge, s/he was probably not thinking of having opinions about pedophiles.

John Stuart Mill is probably rolling over in his grave from this conversation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Liberty#Of_the_liberty_of_t...

Edit: Particularly relevant to the topic of self-censorship: "unmeasured vituperation, enforced on the side of prevailing opinion, deters people from expressing contrary opinion, and from listening to those who express them."


> If you start expressing opinions about how sex with a sex-trafficked child should be legal

Good thing RMS never did that then.

And your comment is a good representative of the modern debate climate: People will exaggerate whatever their opponent said, and they will assume no good faith in their opponents what so ever. They will not consider an argument something to be learned from, but rather something to be "won".

Getting someone fired over having the "wrong" view is merely a bonus, but a bonus the SJW-crowd loves aiming for none the less.

No wonder we're all getting dumber, when merely trying to have a discussion can get you fired. Of course people will stop debating, and stop gaining insights from that debate.


Dude please review what you wrote, that’s libel


Well “child”, a 17yo woman doesn’t qualify as “child” unless it’s a curious legal definition.

These kind of comments are clumsy claims to moral authority, useless flame fodder.


> a 17yo woman doesn’t qualify as a child

What? 17-year-olds are still in high school. They probably just barely got a driver’s license. They can just barely see an R-rated movie without a guardian. They can’t even sign waivers to give themselves permission for field trips in my state. How on Earth is it fair to consider them adults and fit to give consent for sex with older men while employed for sex services?


I don't wanna touch the Stallman / Epstein story with a 10 foot (3.x meter?) pole, but I do believe that standards vary.

In Germany a 17yo cannot drive, CAN drink and can have (I'm old and it doesn't apply to me, so this might be only somewhat accurate) sex with other people (but cannot be a prostitute), might marry (needs parents approval I believe). Age of consent is 14 (but .. not for sex with adults as far as I'm aware).

I know that German law has nothing to do with this. But please stop and reflect for a second: The US allows 17yo to steer 2+ tons of steel at high velocities, Germany (as the one example I'm familiar with) lets them have consensual sex or drink beer. The same way you say 'How can they agree to sex' one might ask 'How can they be responsible enough to drive'.

It's cultural, not absolute. I understand the outrage, I am in no way defending Epstein, Stallman or anyone here - but please don't present your moral position/your upbringing as absolute truth. See it as something that you were raised to believe and that A LOT of people disagree with on this globe.

(It's obviously not helping the fact that the girls got paid, it's a completely disgusting, sad and shameful story with no recourse - but don't claim 17yo can't have sex with someone older, ... just because)


I agree morality isn’t absolute, but we’re talking about Epstein (an American and convicted U.S. felon) who as far as I know used only American children in his scheme. What I said is relevant to what stage of life the actual victims would likely have been in, as American teens.


I get your point but it is your local and anecdotal evidence.

In the era of mechanization adult men were replaced in factories by children as young as 6 years old and it was considered a great progress because they could be paid much less and do the same job. Is that fair ?

Before school was made mandatory at 17 you had been an active part of the work force for 10-12 years. was that fair ?

At 17 you can be drafted and sent to war to be killed, fair ?

A couple generation ago at 17 you had been working to bring money to the family for several years.

Problem is that fairness is a human made artificial concept, looking at the human societies almost nothing is fair in them, it's mostly about perpetuating hierarchical structure of power and domination, exploitation and competition. The few examples of success through fairness and cooperation comes from the wild that we collectively work so hard to eradicate.


See my reply to darklajid


As somebody else wrote: “minor”. The word “child” has significantly different implications that deserve to be preserved. The examples you’re brining up are evidence of legislative incongruities more than arguments in support of equivalence.


The common definition of child is <13 years old https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child

A 17 year old is not a child, but also not an adult.


I live in a country where age of consent is 15 and many teens start to be sexually active around 16. From this point of view higher US age of consent, like 18 in California, seems totally absurd.


In the law they are a “minor”.


You are twisting what Stallman said.

-He argued that rape is no the same as having sex with a minor. He is right, that's not the definition of rape.

-A minor is not necessarily a child. You can be a minor and the next day be 18 in a porno movie.

-Never did Stallman said it was ok, He just raised the question whether Minsky knew She was being coerced by Epstein. Clearly not the same.


I hear this argument exclusively from adults.


Have you actually tried talking to a lot of children about this topic?

(it would be funny if you did; it would also be equally funny if you didn't, and are surprised that children didn't express said argument, even though you didn't give them the chance)


[flagged]


In a civilized world, you would be able to sue someone for libel for making a statement of opinion, in the abstract, that might somehow be applied to you? And this is your response to a thread rooted in someone concerned about the need for self-censorship?


[flagged]


I am absolutely floored by your comment. I sincerely hope that it is parody.

Jeffrey Epstein was convicted in 2008 of soliciting a prostitute and of procuring an underage girl for prostitution. He plead guilty and was convicted. How much more clear does this have to get? He is a pedophile. How could he not be? He straight up solicited children for sex and has had dozens of credible accusations by women stating that he sexually assaulted them while they were underage. In what planet does this kind of behavior count as okay, even if only a single accusation was true? He solicited a child for sex!

No matter what fucked up views of what is/isn’t pedophilia you have, surely you see how employing underage girls and encouraging them to have sex with adult guests is objectively bad and so justifiably illegal? I mean these are children. Them getting paid makes it no better. Would you be ok with your child being employed by an older man to have sex with rich friends of his? I wouldn’t. Am I just too “self-righteous” to see such employment as exploitive and inherently immoral/fucked up?

It doesn’t matter if it was consensual. It is statutory rape, and 16 year olds are not emotionally and mentally as developed as 22 year olds - no matter what you claim. Ask any 22-year-old woman if she is the same person emotionally/intellectually as when she was 16. How many would say yes? Not many.

If saying, “Hey, Epstein built a secret harem of underage girls and solicited them to adult men - regardless of the children’s consent to be solicited - is a bad thing” is considered a “self-righteous political agenda”, then I guess I’m a full-on self-righteous prick.

The fact that I’m arguing that systematic, coerced sex between rich adult men and underage girls is bad and condemnable and that a lot of people in this comment section would disagree with me makes me lose hope for this world. It should be obvious that statutory rape laws protect minors and are a good thing. But here we are. Something truly is rotten in the state of Denmark.


Convicted in the US of something that is not in crime in much of the world. You are conflating US law with ethics/morals.

You are also appealing to emotion by using 'children' and 'pedophile' in inaccurate ways. If you are going to strictly interpret 'statutory rape' as being morally reprehensible regardless of the circumstances, then I would ask that you stop using peodphile unless you can show me one of his victims that was pre-pubescent. I didn't define that word, it has a dictionary and wikipedia entry that you are welcome to read.

And regarding your claim about emotional and mental development, I would agree that it IS true what you say. However, there are plenty of people who've made it to older age who lack the maturity of their juniors (Stallman apparently being an example!). Age should NEVER be a surrogate marker of capacity... we define ages of legal consent arbitrarily, agreed? There are plenty of 22 year olds making bad decisions...

And the self-righteous political agenda was referring to this legislation:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Enabling_Sex_Traffickers_...

Plenty of groups including the EFF think this went too far and the way that people throw around 'sex trafficking' and 'raping children' and 'pedophile' are emotional appeals that do a disservice to the actual victims of these crimes.

Of course all of these things are bad, but was Hugh Hefner a sex trafficker because he kept a well-paid harem of women at his mansion? If age is the only discriminator, then why is the US your moral compass when clearly age of consent differs throughout the world? What about Romeo and Juliet laws? States like Hawaii where age of consent is lower?.


> why is the US your moral compass when clearly the age of consent differs throughout the world?

Because the question is not “is it moral”, because the answer is obviously no to any decent person, regardless of age of consent. He used women to gift sex to his friends in an exploitive manner; find me an ethical theorist who supports that. You said yourself in the earlier post that his actions put “his morals/character...in question” and I agree. I also agree that his actions are illegal. As he was convicted and sentenced to a U.S. prison in 2008 and charged this last time and put into a federal jail, I’d say the U.S.’s laws are fairly relevant. No man-made law is identical to a divine law, this is true, but I think the man upstairs would be disgusted by nations allowing child marriages or ages of consent under or at 16. Hell, Satan probably feels uncomfortable, or the Flying Burrito, or just your conscience. But going from the sentiments on this thread, though, I’m sure you could start a group of like-minded people to campaign to lower the age of consent. I can think of a senatorial candidate or two who’d back you all up. The fact remains though, he committed a crime, and I’m sure a majority of Americans (the country in which he was prosecuted) would agree that he is morally reprehensible as well. But hey, it’s hard to decide on ethical question like: “should adults be allowed to sexually use children”. I’ll give you that one.

> was Hugh Hefner a sex trafficker

If he transported underage girls for purposes of sex to a private island, then yes. Oh wait, that’s what Epstein did. The women Hefner kept, as far as I know, were not underage, but if they were and if they were treated as products to be used and sold/gifted for sex, then yes, he would be, as is Epstein.

> You are also appealing to emotion by using ‘pedophile’

Pedophilia has formal and colloquial definitions. While yes, you are correct, many dictionaries do qualify with pre-pubescence, but one of the most popular online dictionaries, dictionary.com, states [1] ‘sexual desire in an adult for a child’. I would argue that the real, not formal usage of pedophile is not so restrictive on the question of puberty. Since English has no standard bodies and words’ meaning is determined by usage, I would consider my use of ‘pedophilia’ semantically correct. But hey, substitute every instance of ‘pedophilia’ with ‘Ephebophilia’ if you want; most Americans would still be disgusted by it under this name, too. Even wikipedia [2] says, though, that pedophilia is commonly used to refer to interest in teens past puberty, so I stand by my apparently loaded vocabulary (is teen-sex-connesieur better?) [1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pedophilia [2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia see bottom of paragraph 2


Well, if you want to use Ephebophilia, you need to establish primary sexual preference, not simply sexual interest. Setting that aside, however...

You talk about colloquial definitions, but colloquial definitions vary. When you say "pedophile", I indeed think of sexual desire in an adult for a child (usually preferential desire, but I suppose it doesn't have to be such). However, "child" in this context (as well as most others) refers to a pre-pubescent minor. So, when you say "pedophile", it conjures up imagery of some middle-aged adult and some 10-year old (or perhaps younger!). Same goes for terms like "child sex-trafficking" and "child pornography" --- these all conjure up images of pre-pubescent children for me. Given the reactions by various people on HN (and indeed my perception of the views of people in my bubble of the world), I don't seem to be alone in this.

Teen-sex-connesieur is ridiculous; I don't think anyone would actually suggest that. But the words you are using carry connotations for many, that you don't seem to be expecting. If these connotations do not match what you are trying to communicate, you might consider some adjustment to your language. Perhaps "teen" "underage" or "minor" would be more suitable words here (I would lean towards the first or second, personally).

---

P.S. And yes, while I do see a difference between a 25 year old and a 16 year old in terms of sexual maturity, I also see a dramatic difference between adult interest in a 16 year old and adult interest in an 8 year old. So I don't think "pedophilia" is a good blanket term to describe adult sexual interest in individuals below the age of 18.


> Because the question is not “is it moral”, because the answer is obviously no to any decent person, regardless of age of consent.

Judging by the amount of ahem, activity, between high-schoolers, we are literally surrounded by the immoral. /s


Indeed, sex between minors is clearly the exact same situation as sex between minors and older rich men gifting them as sex objects. /s


Funny that you would single out Denmark when it had age of consent set at 12 when most of the US had it at 10 or even as low as 7 for Delaware[1].

Many 'developed' countries had age of consent set at 12 until recently (for example Spain raised it to 13 in 1999 then to 16 in 2015).

By your comment all societies before the late 19th were just a bunch of rapists and pedophiles, when it's actually a matter of the legal and moral compass and context evolving with time.

I'd argue that we should have a look at what happened in the last 2 centuries in our societies because caring for our children is clearly not the reason here or else we would have done something 40 years ago about the climate, pollution, smoking, fast food, access to water and food, lack of sustainable way of life, teaching them skills we collectively had 100-150 years ago and countless others things that are making sure they will have no future and suffer horribly in the process of experiencing the global collapse.

[1]: http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/teaching-modules/230?section=primary...


> all societies before the late 19th were just a bunch of rapists and pedophiles

I mean, yes? Not sure what you’re getting at. I understand that social norms change over time and remain relative, but if a man in a society of any time period married 7-year-olds or barely teens, then they were morally wrong, even if they were clueless as to the wrongness. I’d hoped this was obvious, but apparently many people on HN have no concept of ethics and see absolutely (ironically) everything as relative.

Think about what you are saying - that given the correct historical context, you would have no qualms with child marriage? That’s not just a lack of a moral compass, that’s a psychopathic perspective.


It's just moral relativism. While not usually the most popular of philosophical schools of though, it's hardly new, either. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/

But, fine, let us suppose that morality is objective --- we can even go so far as to say that it is entirely so, and not at all a moving target. That doesn't necessarily mean that your moral compass, or even the compass of society at any given time, is correct --- even if you strongly feel that it should be. Ethics involves the careful and systematic study and consideration of morality. Words like "obvious" don't really have a place in ethics.


In the Massachusetts of MIT, Harvard, & Martha's Vineyard, the age of consent is 16.

So while coerced sex, or prostitution, remains illegal there no matter the age, mere consensual sex with a 16-17 year-old is NOT "statutory rape" in Massachusetts. Not in that "blue" state, nor the 30 other U.S. states with the same age-of-consent, nor in Canada. Sleazy for those much older, sure, but not the "statutory rape" you're claiming.


But at least one 14-year-old was involved in his case, which lead to his initial imprisonment in 2008. Doubtlessly many of the girls in his employ were 14 or 15. And remember, he wasn’t always in MA. He was a serial exploiter of underage girls, and acquiescence doesn’t mean consent if Epstein held power/influence over the teenage girls.


Yes, some allegations against Epstein himself on other occasions include girls who appeared as young, by witnesses' estimations, as 11-12.

But the specific allegation against Massachusetts-based Minsky involved a woman who 1st met Epstein at age 16, and may not have met Minsky until she was 17.


> He is a pedophile. How could he not be?

I believe the confusion is that you're using "pedophile" to mean "attracted to anyone below the age of consent" while pedophile originally means "attracted to prepubescent children". In that regard, you're most certainly not a pedophile if you're attracted to a 17 year old that has gone through puberty. That's also what RMS was referring to if I recall his email correctly.


> Ask any 22-year-old woman if she is the same person emotionally/intellectually as when she was 16. How many would say yes? Not many.

Ask any 35 year old the same question. You'll get the same answer. There is no bright line where people are mature.

You never stop maturing, not at 40, not at 75 either.

You just have to pick a number, but don't pretend there is any scientific basis to it.


But surely most 35-year olds would say that they changed much less drastically from 25 to 35 than 16 to 25. I mean would you say it’s ok to have sex with 12 year olds since they “never stop maturing” and who’s to pick a number? I think we can pick a number: don’t have sex with people who are barely out of middle school. It doesn’t need to be scientifically verified; it is simply common decency. It is frankly disappointing that in 2019 this is a controversial statement at all.


As if 2019 was a model of how we should live, of ethics and morality. It is simple to point that 2019 is actually the opposite of a what we should do and very close to a model of what we should not do, especially if we care for our children and the future of living on the only planet we have.

In a society which on one hand is prudish and on the other oversexualizing everything as a marketing plot including young children, it seems logical and expected to have this kind of issues.


> it seems logical and expected to have this kind of issues.

Indeed, which is why we are discussing them. The resolution? Stop sexualizing teenage girls and pretending that they are anything other than children. That is my argument; call it prudish if you want.


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