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> I kinda have the same somewhat fearful gut reaction to these kinds of episodes as a lot of geeky guys do. There's a post[1] out there (which I think originally I found through hacker news) that does a pretty good job of analyzing where that reaction is coming from, and why the fear isn't totally illegitimate

Considering a guy just lost two positions, one of them his life's work, for speaking incorrect opinions and being awkward with women, I would say that fear is quite legitimate!

Thank you for posting that link, because rereading it puts this whole clusterfuck in context.




Yeah, I really like that article; it articulates a part of the social dynamic that I just don't see talked about enough.

But given the sheer scale of screwups here, the number of people's affected, while I have some sympathy for stallman, ultimately I think this one really is his fault -- it's one thing to make some social gaffes now and then. It's another to actively contribute to a toxic enviornment for longer than I've been alive, to be in the public eye enough that there's no way you're not getting an earful about it from time to time, and at no point sit down and read through some of the arguments about this and consider if maybe there's something you're doing that is maybe a problem.

Again, I have some sympathy (empathy, even; I'm no stranger to being the awkward aspie guy), but there's a limit to how much you can lean on that as an excuse.

I do think angry-mob-accountability is not a very good way to deal with problems, but part of the trouble is people are going to this because the usual channels have failed them. I the way through this is to put in place systems of accountability that actually work so a civilized way of dealing with problems is even possible.


I don't think it gets talked about much because it's a tough topic that seemingly requires acknowledging each tribe, internalizing it, self reflection on your own biases, patience to remain detached, eloquence to express any synthesis achieved, and still often ends up sounding like you're just supporting the "other team" to the "cool nerds"!

This whole thread is overwhelmed with bullshit downvotes, presumably from "geek feminists" who think that defense of RMS is equivalent to supporting toxic patriarchy rape culture or whatever. Really we just don't want to be dragged into their monkeysphere games. They cannot understand this, as they cannot comprehend an existence that's not beholden to monkeysphere status games!

As someone who had to work to develop reasonable social skills, it does pain me to see people not learning basic tact. But I don't think scale of awkwardness on its own is an indictment - some people just do not "get it". And remember we are talking about a world in which they happily existed until the outsiders arrived - an "excuse" should not be necessary.

If specific boundaries are not being respected (neutrally, say B.O.), then that is a failure of management to make the rules known in a "right brain" manner. This dynamic has long existed in the professional world, even taking a step backwards under the tenure of these "cool nerds". The anecdote about the mattress in RMS's office rises to this level, and if as creepy as described, should have been shut down by the administration long ago. The failure there belongs to the Institute itself, not as dirty laundry to pile on years later.

I agree about the general lack of accountability, and I think it applies at larger scale. A few months ago everyone was all excited at the prospect of Epstein spilling his guts and taking down some associated evil fuckers generally shitting up our world. But then he got snuffed, which we all kind of knew would happen somehow but wanted to hope otherwise. So that prospect of nabbing some entrenched evil fuckers slipped away (they didn't get to their position by submitting themselves to justice!), but hey here's this weird guy who stuck his neck out to be attacked...


I suspect part of the reason others are downvoting you is:

1. It's too much suspension of disbelief for them to think that he really could not have been expected to figure this stuff out on his own. 2. Your comments are also lacking any clear acknowledgement of the real harm here, which makes it read like you're just trying to use that link I posted as a defense for him, without engaging with the details of the situation.

I'm not sure how fair I think that reading is, and I think your own explanation for the downvotes is also part of the picture -- but not the whole picture by any means.

Specifically re: this bit:

> is equivalent to supporting toxic patriarchy rape culture or whatever. Really we just don't want to be dragged into their monkeysphere games

What I think this misses is that, regardless of intent, outcomes matter, and by making excuses you do make it easier for the injustices to continue, whether you mean to or not. A lot of guys have a really knee-jerk reaction to the term "rape culture" but the idea it exists to articulate is actually really important, whatever you think of the choice of expression: There are lots of behaviors far short of committing any heinous crimes yourself that add up to contribute to a society where these crimes are allowed to happen. Ironically, this quote commits the same lack of willingness to look past an gripes with the way an idea is presented and actually engage with the idea that lots of folks are pointing to in the reaction to RMS's statements.

I can't prentend to be able to see perfectly into RMS's mind and say what was really going on. It's certainly the case that management (of both MIT and the FSF) enabled him, but I don't think that totally absolves him. But I'm also not really interested in judging him one way another. I wish it hadn't had to come to this, and I hope he learns something from it and makes good use of the rest of his years. But ultimately I'd like to just move forward and keep trying to make things better -- ideally we build an environment where the next guy gets it into his head early on, doesn't make folks miserable for decades on end, and gets to keep his job; everybody wins. But to do that we need to be willing to acknowledge that there was harm here, and not just push the one side of the argument.


I agree my phrase was overly dismissive, but it was intended to be dismissive. The point isn't to deny the validity of these concepts, but rather to reject being pulled into the drama [0]. The reason that "weird nerds" generally give "geek feminists" a better reception than the "brogrammers" is because their critiques have actual merit. But on the flip side, when those critiques are leveraged into a status play against a "weird nerd", that strikes a deep chord.

As far as downvotes, there is a steady stream of upvotes as well, in a way that a simply missing the mark or being unpopular does not incur. I interpret this as "geek feminists" versus "weird nerds", with the former being more numerous these days.

It's not that the above framework justifies what RMS did, but it puts it in a measured context where it is possible to empathize with it. As opposed to the mainstream narrative which is dead-set on dehumanizing him. And if one wants to honestly consider the "real harm" in his pattern of behavior, that measured context is the only just place to do it - what I alluded to being the ultimate job of the Institute to keep "weird nerds" in check.

But we're now well past that context, and this is a lynch mob rather than justice. If I see someone being chased with torches and pitchforks, it doesn't particularly matter what they are accused of doing - my "herd alert!!" klaxon is blaring. (And yes, I do appreciate the modern luxury of being able to comfortably speak out against the herd, rather than needing to pick up a torch and blend in).

[0] I make irreverent jokes about most of the sensationalist trash in the banal "news cycle" for exactly the same reason - their only relation to me is that of abstract symbols, and they're being used to wage an emotional attack on the audience. Man bites dog? Well, I hope it tasted good.




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