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Stallman's final interview as FSF president (theregister.co.uk)
74 points by sohkamyung 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments

This is a pretty interesting comment in hindsight:

" But I believe in judging each thing that a company does separately. So if a company is doing this thing, which is wrong and unjust, and this thing, which is helpful, I'd rather not add them up. If these two activities are separable in practice, in other words, if it's possible to look at each one, individually, and distinguish it from the other, if they're not tied up with each other, so much that that's a nonsensical thing to do, then I do that. Because that way, I can disapprove of whatever is bad and approve of whatever is good. That's more useful, just adding it up to get one total for a given company."

Treating people that way, and expecting to be treated that way, is part of the reason he's had to step down.

> I never believed that Microsoft was the great Satan.

I suspect that the great Satan for RMS was mostly Apple. I don’t think he and his organizations have ever advocated a boycott of Microsoft, while they have called for boycotts of both macOS and iOS at times — and notably at a time when MS owned something like 90% of the OS market, they advocated for a boycott of more or less their last PC OS competitor.

I never quite understood that focus. Maybe it was because Stallman thought that Apple, with its hippie roots, was the bigger disappointment for not aligning themselves with his values.

Or maybe it's because Apples values are significantly more hostile to FSF than Microsofts? Apples flagship devices are completely forbidden from running anything not approved by the corporation and their AppStore is completely incompatible with GPL software. It fundamentally goes against everything FSF stands for: being able to run any kind of software and modify it on your own machine. In a world of Apple, FSF is forbidden from existing by policy and hardware lockouts. Microsoft never came close to this kind of lockdown.

And Apple was always like that - even for Apple Lisa they developed a scheme where a floppy would be permanently bound to a single machine on first use practically forbidding resale. There are really not many large software companies that would be more hostile to FSF core values than Apple.

iOS development is not really compatible with the GPL; both the FSF and Apple agree on that.

But there was nothing in macOS that was incompatible with the GPL, and yet the FSF for a decade prohibited its maintainers from accepting macOS specific patches (So much for “freedom”).

To Stallman, Apple’s “Look & Feel” lawsuit was an unforgivable transgression, but Microsoft’s various tactics to muscle out competitors were never a cause for concern.

> Maybe it was because Stallman thought that Apple, with its hippie roots, was the bigger disappointment for not aligning themselves with his values.

I also believe this is the reason.

Recall RMS's commentary when Steve Jobs passed away, he basically said: nobody should die, but I'm glad to see him leaving Apple, as he has built a cool prison of Apple in his life. It even triggered some strong actions within the community, "it's time to fork the FSF", from members who see and respect Steve Jobs as an important hacker in computer history. But to RMS, he has been excommunicated from the hacker community for what he has done, regardless of his early life.

Meanwhile, blue checks with substantial mob following on Twitter are calling him a "literal pedophile rapist".

Yes, the actually unpalatable elements of the FLOSS community are crawling out of the woodworks now. I would have never expected the Software Freedom Conservancy and the EFF to be amongst them though.

Poor Richard, having his life's work usurped by the ankle biters and the self-aggrandising.

The medium article that was parroted by other sites was a hit piece that lied. And of course the people reading it believed every word without a shred of doubt, and other outlets republishing it failed journalistic integrity spectacularly.

Congratulations, to all those who fell for it.


Wait, so the only thing that happened with Minsky was that she was told to proposition him (by Epstein), and that he turned her down? I'd like to here confirmation of that from the victim, but if that's the case then this whole ordeal is just an epic disaster.

Most people don't need to be told that child abuse is bad. Stallman used to think child abuse wasn't harmful. He only changed his mind after survivors of abuse spoke to him.

Some will claim this is evidence of his scepticism but really it's evidence of lazy thinking. He could have done a tiny bit of reading before saying that child abuse isn't harmful, but he chose not to do so.

Almost all societies used to believe (and some still do) that what we now call child abuse was ok. People who experienced it themselves would go on to do it to others. Getting past that was a thought evolution that took hundreds of years, not "a tiny bit of reading".

Stallman dared to question the dominant belief in the US today, and needed more evidence before accepting that belief. With sufficient investigation (hardly "lazy thinking") he came to agree with it, but that's not enough for the social media mobs.

His experience shows that one must not only accept the dominant belief, one must accept it immediately and without question, because a moment of heresy will never be forgiven or forgotten.

Just saw a tweet that claims he "LOVES RAPE".

rms writes and talks a lot. This gives many opportunities for his opponents to find ways to attack him. The main point of rms is freedom. Freedom is a right than can sometimes benefit to evil people. Defending freedom does not mean we defend evil people. I don't see anything reprehensible in the comments of rms, just opportunities for his opponents to use this fallacy.

That’s a hell of a travel rider.

He was our guest for a conference and stayed for a couple days. He ia an interesting person indeed. Preferred to stay at someone's house instead of a hotel. If that person has a parrot that would be a plus. And some other crazy stuff. He has a 3 page document that explains what he likea and what not (i am not saying it is weird or he is asking for too much, for a frequent traveller such as him i think it is perfectly ok)

Funny story. He "stole"/borroe my phone. He didnt have a phone so we lended him one. My phone was a dumb phone and we guessed that would be better. After the conference, he took my phone to another conference that was in our country. I got it back though

>If you can find a host for me that has a friendly parrot, I will be very very glad. If you can find someone who has a friendly parrot I can visit with, that will be nice too.

I enjoyed that rabbit hole, also.

> I am willing to stay in a hotel if there is no other way. ... My distaste for a hotel is less if it does not know my name, but staying in a house with people is normally more enjoyable than staying alone.

"I was involuntarily self-promoted into management."

I'm actually baffled that someone so tone deaf about so many things was able to create such a success.

I’m not a friend of RMS, although we have argued over email.

RMS has a unique super power I propose you admire: he is deeply committed to his convictions, and willing to construct his life around them.

He has autism so he finds himself in situations that you are politely calling tone deaf a lot; he has said in public that he can find the responses hurtful. But he still keeps on with his values, at times at great personal cost.

I think of him as a sort of national treasure; if we had 10 of him in the last twenty years the world would be a much better place.

I agree somewhat; having had dinner with him once with our local Linux organization when he was in our part of the world over 20 years ago, I think I learned a lot in that short time.

What I came away with was that SOMEONE needs to hold the points of view that he holds, at least as far as they pertain to software development and licensing, since almost nobody else does.

Whether he presents as well as he could is a different matter. The recently reported on comments he has made could and will be perceived as quite distasteful.

I greatly admire many if his achievements. My comment is that I'm surprised that he was able to be so successful while many times taking a position so at odds with a sentiment held by most of society. My opinion is that "picking your battles" seems to be a more successful strategy in general. I'm also not commenting on the ethics of being flexible about your convictions and how you express them.

> But he still keeps on with his values, at times at great personal cost.

Until it's too inconvenient. He's said previously that he doesn't own a mobile (cell) phone - but will use someone else's.

He's the tech equivalent of a fucking anti-vaxxer. Doesn't want to deal with the realities and compromises of having convenient communications, but happy to ride on someone else's compromise for his own benefit.

> I think of him as a sort of national treasure

A man who wants pedophilia, child porn, bestiality and necrophilia legalised, is "a national treasure"?

I don't even want to know what nation you think should treasure people like that.

Perhaps all that says is that your mental models about how the world works are inaccurate.

A useful response in general to unexpected confusion.

It isn't accurate to presume that someone is deaf to a tone, just because they make a statement that doesn't acknowledge the tone.

Let's not make the mistake of calling Stallman unintelligent or deaf. He simply chooses to direct his attention to other tones.

I looked up a definition of "tone deaf" to see if I misunderstood in my interpretation of the term and how I used it above.

>having or showing an obtuse insensitivity or lack of perception particularly in matters of public sentiment, opinion, or taste

Having read that I stand by what I said. In my opinion he has shown "an obtuse insensitivity or lack of perception of public sentiment" on more than one occasion. The Minsky message being a very good example. Whether you agree with the sentiment or not is seperate from clearly being obtusely insensitive about the public sentiment I think.

No one is questioning his book smarts or ability to perceive auditory sounds. But, like, learn how to read the room, man.

He waded into the crazy internet morass that is sexual assault and Epstein, and didn't realize that quotes like the one below might trigger a response. That is either hopelessly naive, or absolutely "tone deaf" -- these have been over-the-top, hyper-sensitive topics for weeks.

Maybe he's just so used to staking odd or controversial positions and didn't see this as any different, I don't know. But the optics are terrible.

> "The most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing," Stallman wrote in his post last Wednesday. "Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates. I’ve concluded from various examples of accusation inflation that it is absolutely wrong to use the term 'sexual assault' in an accusation."

And yet, people are concluding from that quote that he "loves rape", which is so wildly different from what he is actually saying that I have to wonder if people even read his words.

It seems to me the problem isn't that he's tone deaf but that other people have terrible reading comprehension.

>Stallman's post to the MIT mailing list argued, in a spectacularly INSENSITIVE fashion, that Minsky may not have been aware Giuffre had been coerced to have sex.

How is this particular statement by Stallman insensitive?

Because it's besides the point. It's a distraction from the actual topic at hand.

It's also naive. I mean... powerful billionaire brings you to his private island and presents to you a beautiful young woman who wants to have sex with you, a 70-something man. That sounds like the "plot" of a really bad porno. You'd have to be obnoxiously naive to believe the woman wasn't being coerced in some way.

Assuming the allegations that they had sex are true, I think the most likely scenario, and the one that Minsky believed, was that she was a completely willing paid escort. It's only in hindsight that you think it must have been obvious she was coerced in some way. Why would he assume a billionaire had not simply used some of his money to pay for escorts? Isn't that more logical, without knowing what you know today about Epstein?

Ah, yes, the "only in hindsight" defense. I don't buy it.

A paid escort is plausible, though, and I hadn't thought of that. However, the girl was 17. Obviously age isn't always obvious down to the year, but I would hope someone in that situation would think twice before assuming everything was kosher.

"Huh, this billionaire bought me a child prostitute. Neat."

...I don't think it makes it any better.

> completely willing paid escort

...applies to a tiny minority of people involved in prostitution sex work.

When we're talking about recklessness and naivety it's not a persuasive argument to say "he thought this child was a willing prostitute".

> I mean... powerful billionaire brings you to his private island and presents to you a beautiful young woman who wants to have sex with you

Which means powerful billionaire wants to own you, and you should gtfo while you can.

> You'd have to be obnoxiously naive...

Well, some people probably are.

> ..to believe the woman wasn't being coerced in some way.

or believe that she was willingly paid?

Idk, I think I'd be creeped out way before it came to that, but who knows.

Have you heard of groupies? Plenty of young women will throw themselves at rich/powerful/famous people, it's been happening forever. Plenty of young men will too for that matter, but historically there's been far less rich/powerful/famous men.

Sex trafficking isn't the logical conclusion to draw.

He should have argued as vociferously for the alternative: he may have been aware. He should have argued for the girls perspective. The insensitivity was to ignore the girl,and her rights, and her status,in discussing Minsky's

I assume that he would agree that the girl was victimized (as would I, obviously). Why argue vociferously for a position that everyone in the discussion already agrees with?

Pragmatically: So as to stave off comments such as the one you responded to.

That is probably what you or I would do, yes. My point was that perhaps such disclaimers should not always be as necessary as they are.

Fully agreed.

alt_f4 30 days ago [flagged]

I believe Minsky was his (now dead) friend. If something like this comes up for a good, deceased friend of yours, will you pick the side of an unknown to you girl over the person you knew and care about?

I'm not saying that's the correct side, but it's a human, emotional thing, rather than rational.

I wouldn't come to a conclusion before even considering what situations would be plausible for the girl to be in. In the case of a 17 year old and a 73 year old, the main responsibility rests with the adult, just based on the respective age and positions of power. I wouldn't make an exception for friend nor foe, but if I had a friend who did that, I wouln't any longer consider him a friend, and there is nothing about the girl, short of her raping him, that could change that.

"Friend" isn't just some flag that gets set by cosmic rays and then stays that way forever, that would make it meaningless to me, not more noble.. blind loyalty isn't loyalty, just blindness. I say this as someone who did cast of friends, which was painful to me, even though it was for totally trivial and harmless, outright edifying reasons in comparison.

> "Friend" isn't just some flag that gets set by cosmic rays and then stays that way forever.

Agreed. It's more of a collection of experiences and knowledge of character.

If I've known you for 20 years and known you to be a good person, if I hear something like this I'm more likely to believe this is some sort of a mistake, as it is completely out of character. One way to rationalize it would be to believe that you were misinformed, rather than me being a poor judge of character for all of these years.

Again, not saying it's what happened - i dont know. But it's just human nature to react like that. It's not really human nature to consider the social media and print media applications before writing an opinion.

You're essentially just describing what you're not saying, and "some sort of mistake" is much too generic for me. While I personally wouldn't feel much better about a friend having sex with someone a third their age even if that person is an adult, it's impossible to have sex with a minor by accident, unless they have fake ID. Not even asking for it means not caring, no ifs and buts.

"Human nature" is also too generic, the question was, how would you react. I answered that question, and have the former friends I showed the door to prove it. It's clearly within "human nature" to react like that, too.

> While I personally wouldn't feel much better about a friend having sex with someone a third their age even if that person is an adult

Why, if it is 2 consenting adults? As I said in another comment, some people are into BDSM, tentacle stuff, toys, etc. If they're both into it and happy, it's none of my business.

This agist view towards sex that you are prescribing is certainly no better than someone who would stop being friends with someone because they found out that their friend is gay.

Friendship also requires the consent of two. I don't stop thinking at "consent" and "into it", and I don't have to justify that to you, either. I could elaborate, but you're not really asking, or respecting my opinion at all -- me just "being into" certain people as friends apparently isn't enough for you.

> This agist view towards sex that you are prescribing

You're actually trying to prescribe to something to me, and about my reasoning and "view" you know nothing, because you prefer your own straw man.

> is certainly no better than someone who would stop being friends with someone because they found out that their friend is gay.

Aaaand here comes the payoff, where being against taking advantage of someone is "the" bad thing, and dirty old men don't exist, just an "agist view". A lot of variations can be seen in that other thread, too: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20990583

You fail to realize that there are plenty of relationships between younger and older people where no one is taking advantage of anyone. In fact, you assume that, just because of the age difference, someone is being exploited.

Your assumption is completely wrong.

I've only read some of his comments after the fact. I don't think he was taking sides against the young women, as much as just speaking up for a friend.

I agree, but I don't know how to phrase it better.

No worries. For what it's worth, that's what I assumed you meant. I was more or less attempting to rephrase it in my own words.

In a world where one's written words can be so twisted beyond their original intent, it's good to reaffirm an assumption of good faith.

I think the statement in question is "The most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing."

This statement isn't sensitive to the anger that people feel towards Epstein and thus Minsky, and the fact that Stallman has said it in this angry environment has caused quite a spectacle.

So in that sense, I think one might call it "spectacularly insensitive." On the other hand, I think that was the point. And I don't think that all public intellectuals should be required to be sensitive to the angry mobs at all times. I'd like someone to stand up to the mob, from time to time.

Read: "most plausible in light of what I know personally about the character of the accused". Of course, Stallman could just be a poor judge of character and did not pick up on Minsky's flaws.

EDIT: to be clear, the italicized part is what I infer Stallman's intent was.

>>Minsky may not have been aware Giuffre had been coerced to have sex.

>How is this particular statement by Stallman insensitive?

It's insensitive to the fact that if you are a very old, famous man, who is taken by another old, rich man to a private island, where a seemingly willing 17-year-old girl offers sex -

- then the right thing to do is to politely decline the offer, because anyone with a half brain cell, a world-famous scientist more so, can figure out what that is about.

The statement is insensitive regardless of the allegations. It shows that RMS, alas, doesn't think that something that we today can't accept is wrong at all.

Does it make him unworthy of being the president of the FSF? I don't know; he has been right about the tech, I think. I just wish he abstained from commenting on social matters that don't have anything to do with FSF concerns.

It wasn’t, and it’s absurd that people still insist on calling it a sexual assault. Stallman’s logic was spot-on.

John Lennon was a misogynist but wrote world changing music.

Churchill was a racist that (arguably) saved his nation from invasion.

Stallman is a Marxist ("from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs") when it comes to how the power of computing is used and distributed and arguably the GPL and Linus's choice to use it for Linux have had world changing effects.

But Stallman is a man that also has no clue about how to deal with people in general or in tolerating other views.

His defence of Minsky's behavior is unacceptable as the head of the FSF and damaging to CSAIL/MIT (as is the relationship of MIT to Epstein in general).

It is unfortunate for him that his defence of Minsky has had this effect on his career. However, the impact of the result of that defence on the institutions he represented is much more important to resolve.

Geniuses in one field are not knowledgable in others.

I've made this point elsewhere, but it is Minsky's alleged behavior and Stallman did Minsky a large amount of harm by defending him as though it had definitely happened.

See also:


Unless they are just mythological, all people are fallible, inconsistent human beings who put on their pants one leg at a time. There is no magic.

It is interesting how you presented communist slogan as a marxist.

> Geniuses in one field are not knowledgable in others.

What "knowledge" are you suggesting is required, that RMS does not posses, to understand that fucking kids is not OK?

Is this like when a sports "star" rapes someone, and then the team says they'll have "training". What does this training look like? "Lesson 1. DON'T RAPE PEOPLE. Class dismissed."

About time if you ask me. RMS is brilliant but also completely unpalatable to people outside the world of GNU.

Time for someone who is a bit more accessible and savvy to take the FSF cause onwards.

The question though would be, will the FSF mission change or it's cause be diluted without RMS at the helm?

> RMS is brilliant but also completely unpalatable to people outside the world of GNU.

He just sacrificed his job and legacy to defend the honor of a friend.

What kind of person do you want leading the FSF, a mealy-mouthed politician?

> He just sacrificed his job and legacy to defend the honor of a friend.

He resigned after claiming that a victim of child sex trafficking, was "a member of (the trafficker's) Harem" and "entirely willing".

Defending his dead friends honour might be to raise the question of whether it was in fact his friend who was involved. He essentially gave the "but she wanted it" defence, for a dead man, who is accused of raping a child whom he had "borrowed" from another dead man, who is also accused of raping children.

> What kind of person do you want leading the FSF, a mealy-mouthed politician?

Most people would probably just be happy with someone who doesn't say the following about prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia (and I quote):

> All of these acts should be legal as long as no one is coerced. They are illegal only because of prejudice and narrowmindedness.

> "entirely willing"

As I understand it, he opined that she may have been coerced into acting as though she were willing. Which is substantially different from your version of it.

What's adultery doing on that list? Why shouldn't it be legal? Prostitution is legal in many places. Legalising it everywhere would help get rape cases reduced. Unless you're a vegan it's hard not to laugh at criticism of justification of bestiality.

And regarding sex trafficking/rape - sex with a 17 year old is almost never seen as rape legally. That's a mostly US thing. The age of consent is 16 generally; lower than 16 in parts of Europe. Everyone's entitled to an opinion but criticising someone for defending actions which are legal and - subject to opinion - moral seems like a bit of a boring waste of time.

> And regarding sex trafficking/rape - sex with a 17 year old is almost never seen as rape legally

This is untrue.

Sex with a coerced child is rape in everyday English(although it may have a different more specific legal term), and sex with a 17 year old prostitute is also rape (again, it may have a more specific legal term).

For all those places that have legal prostitution can you show me one that allows prostitution in under 18s?

I simply copied the whole quote so someone who wants to defend him won’t cry about partial quotes.

But sure, carry on as usual because there’s always someone to defend RMS no matter how fucked his statements are.

You copied two words out of a complex sentence and now you simply lie. Or maybe you don't really know what he said and that's the reason you can't understand why people may be defending him in this case?

You need to read what you reply to. I quoted an entire statement made by RMS on his own website, claiming that amongst other things, child porn and fucking kids, should be legalised.

Another poster asked why "adultery" was in the list of things in the quote, and I explained that I quoted the entire thing he said.

So fuck you, read something before you want to claim people are lying.

As opposed to you apparently, I've done my share of reading already: https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#14_September...

...and you just straight out lied there:

> He resigned after claiming that a victim of child sex trafficking, was "a member of (the trafficker's) Harem" and "entirely willing".

> As opposed to you apparently, I've done my share of reading already

So, he says something a decade and a half ago, and then coincidentally 3 days after an email discussion where he defends a man alleged to have had sex with a victim of child sex trafficking, he suddenly "thinks adults should not do that".


He called her a member of Epstein's Harem and said the "most likely" explanation is "she presented herself as entirely wiltingly"(sic)

A harem is a collection of wives or concubines. How exactly is a child sex slave either of those things?

RMS' theory is that a 70 year old man goes to a billionaire's private island and a 17 year old girl just happens to "present as willing" for sex and the guy asks no questions?

As other's have said, even if he didn't know she's 17, and somehow it never occurred to him to ask, it's the plot for a bad porno, it's not a plausible chain of events in reality, and it's definitely not the most likely scenario.

Just so we're clear:

> "She was asking for it"

is very different from

> "I don't think my friend - who I knew well - was aware that she was coerced"

You, at least initially, argued that the former was the correct interpretation of his words, but to do so you did misquote him in a way that obviously altered the meaning of his words. Was that intentional or a mistake?

I don't have the context for the "harem" quote, but given how you presented the quote with regard to the victim's willingness, I think it's reasonable to conclude that RMS meant something other than what you insinuate.

In any case, it seems now that you recognize that the latter interpretation is correct, and you question whether RMS' position was reasonable. Fair enough. But tell me, would you know the difference between an 18yo prostitute (who is otherwise free to leave) and a 17yo slave?

Look, I think what Minsky did was wrong regardless, that he was foolish to let himself become entangled with a man like Epstein, and I think it's atrocious what happened to the young woman, but these two scenarios have vastly different legal consequences. Do you not think it is plausible that Minsky thought it was the first scenario?

For what it's worth, my initial thought when I heard that Minksy had been implicated in Epstein's ring, was that he was fully aware and complicit in the abuse. And Minksy may have in fact been fully aware, but RMS' words lead me to question that assumption because RMS actually knew the guy.

EDIT: hold the phone. Looking at some other sources suggests that Minksy may not have even had sex with the young woman. It sounds like she was coerced by Epstein to proposition Minsky, and that according to another witness Minsky turned her down [1]. It does not appear that the victim is actually accusing Minksy of assaulting her (though I could be missing evidence. If this is the case, then why is this argument even happening?


> completely unpalatable to people outside the world of GNU

It's concerning to me that you don't think his defence of pedophilia (not even just theoretical now - an actual specific case with an actual victim) would make him unpalatable to any people outside the world of pedophiles.

My point still stands regardless of that for the fact that RMS isn't known outside of the FSF/Unix community.

If you ask the average punter on the street who RMS is, they would shrug.

That isn't at all what I was referring to.

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