RMS seemed to be arguing for clear description instead of jumping to "everything is child rape".
I don't know exactly where RMS is coming from, but, knowing victims of forcible and child sexual assault, I think it's still worth maintaining descriptive, moral, and legal distinctions...
For those who understand "sexual assault" to mean "lack of consent", rejecting the first term is the same as rejecting the the concept of "consent" in a sexual relationship.
He could have criticized the term, like how he criticizes the term "intellectual property", but instead he rejected the term as being meaningful for this situation. And I want to stress, he used his own (folk) definition for 'sexual assault' in order to disparage how others were (correctly) using the term. How can he argue for a clear description when he doesn't even know that people are using a clear description?
His second wrong foot was in arguing that since age-of-consent laws vary, so sex between a 73-year-old and a 17-year-old is legal, shouldn't be counted as completely immoral. However, the same could apply to Epstein's pedophilia, so this is an indirect support of pedophilia.
Further, this was coerced sex with a minor, so age-of-consent laws don't apply.
This was all part of a defense of Minsky, who (Stallman argues) wasn't violent and likely assumed she was willing. That's the third wrong foot - "I thought she was 18" isn't a legal defense for age-of-consent laws. But really, it's several feet along the wrong path, as the question is not about age-of-consent - which may have been legal at the time Minksy visited the VI - but about sex with a sex slave, or commercial sex with a 17-year-old.
Note that under current VI law, sex between a 70+-year-old and a 17-year-old is classified as second-degree rape, so while it's true that not everything is child rape, in this case the distinction is very narrow. And Stallman was not making narrow arguments about VI law at the time the sex occurred.
Stallman presented what he thought was the most likely scenario, but didn't consider other scenarios. He assumed that Minsky did have sex with a 17-year-old.
In his hypothetical scenario, did Stallman think that Minsky did not consider this was a set-up for blackmail? How many other teens has Minsky had sex with? Why couldn't it be that Minsky knew that Epstein set him up with a prostitute, under a plausible deniability arrangement? (Statutory rape laws are set up to reject a plausible deniability argument.) These seem quite reasonable questions, but unaddressed.
To get to your comments, the issue is that there are clear descriptions - well, as clear as anything involving human nature - codified in law and used in wider discussions on ethics and morality. Stallman doesn't appear to understand these, and doesn't seem to believe that others do, so he rejects the basis for complaining about sexual assault at all.
He then talked about it at the wrong place, and the wrong time. What's the worst that could have happened had he written nothing? Very little. It would be a footnote in Minsky biographies. But at a time when more and more unethical behavior at MIT comes to light, well, it's not good timing. Even worse was his own long history of poor social interactions with women, which Minsky and the AI lab had helped protect, as well as his standing as the guiding light behind the free software movement.
With Minsky gone, and the spotlight on the MIT senior staff for their actions, he no longer had the buffer when he caused that bright light to shine on himself. I think this can be thought of as a change in the social landscape causing a "cusp catastrophe".
Then come back and read what I have to say.
There was nothing offensive or controversial in there. Not a one. The man only pushed to avoid letting the narrative people wanted to believe run away with the reputation of a friend (Minsky) before all the facts were in.
He's endorsing to let the justice system do it's work instead of letting a near tabloid level effort of the media hang a man's reputation out to dry. He's even willing to accept wrongdoing if that is what the facts spell out. He also asks the more extreme poster to the mailing list to provide evidence that it seems he is incapable of uncovering due to his commitment to only using Free Software.
If he's guilty of anything, it's being overconfident of the rationality of others in a world so tormented by those willing to turn even a hint of inconvenient independent thought into a sign of some disfigurement of one's essential humanity.
There are people out there who pose a threat to civil society and deserve civil/social ostracization. Richard Stallman is not the one in this case, as is evidenced by a willingness on his part to have his mind changed.
The media, if anyone, deserves to be ostracized for not actually digging into and presenting the original posts, and picking and choosing only the most controversial aspects of the man that weave the best narrative to draw clicks. If they had done their job, this would have been a non-story, as it would be clear the man was calling for calm in a discussion where passions were running high.
The FSF, and MIT handled the entire thing poorly. Instead of investigating, and not doing anything hastily, they caved to engineered histrionics, and also failed to demonstrate a bare modicum of scrutiny to establish the facts of the matter, or reach out to correct the media. Essentially they prioritized distance and public perception over ensuring the truth was known. Both proved to have betrayed fundamental principles that their respective institutions were set up to protect.
I agree with some of what Stallman said, but he didn't simply encourage everyone to reserve judgment. He imagined a plausible scenario, argued for a particular moral interpretation, and emphatically rejected legal definitions. He called opposing views "absolutely wrong" and "morally absurd". He dug in when someone suggested that the conversation was unproductive and could reflect badly on CSAIL.
Why do you believe the FSF and MIT didn't investigate? Many people have called this the straw that broke the camel's back.
To be honest?
If they had, I'd have expected an official rebuttal, and a call for either calm, or a full retraction.
Since neither has happened, I see it as a duty to dig up, and try to propagate the facts as far as possible.
To that end a compilation of accusations, rebuttals, and sources follow.
Specifically, Stallman has been accused of
(1) Defending Jeffrey Epstein (while in reality Stallman was defending Marvin Minsky);
(2) Describing Epstein's victims as entirely willing (while in reality Stallman was arguing that one specific victim of Epstein, Virginia Giuffre, was presented to Minsky as entirely willing because she was coerced by Epstein, not that she was entirely willing);
(3) Defendinf pedophilia (while in reality Stallman was arguing that age doesn't matter in a case of rape because rape is always a terrible act no matter the age of the victim);
(4) Defending pedophilia in the past (while in reality Stallman already countered his controversial claim from 2006 -in which he expressed skepticism in case of consensual sex- with a comment in 2013, where he said that children can't really be consensual);
(5) Condoned sexual assault (while in reality Stallman was arguing that the term "sexual assault" does not fit the description of Minsky's act towards Virginia Giuffre since she wasn't assaulted by Minsky but coerced by Epstein; Stallman also added that the term is generally too vague as it refers to bad acts that can range from harmful to very harmful, and that the term usually makes readers think of the worst case);
(6) Implying that the victim wasn't harmed (while in reality Stallman explicitly claimed that she was harmed);
(7) Making comments that are excuses about rape, assault and child sex trafficking (while he condemned all three as explained above);
(8) Used to keep a mattress in his MIT office, implying sexual activity and/or macho behavior at work (while in reality Stallman is known to have lived in his office for a certain period of his life).
As a consequence of these writings, Stallman resigned from his position at MIT and also from his position at the Free Software Foundation.
Sources in chronological order:
Stallman on his home
Stallman on Pedophilia, 2006
Stallman on pedophilia, part deuce, 2013
Point being: Let his words/acts stand as they are, and come to your own judgement.
There is a petition floating around for journalists to own up and post a retraction (not that anyone is expecting miracles), but if you're against having the Press straight up spreading lies, consider offering a signature.
I leave it to every individuals conscience to make of it what they will... I just know that to me, this entire thing stinks to high heaven. I cannot see any way in which any of this boondoggle can be remotely said to have happened in good faith. Spread the word, or just at least make your decision on the most accurate information possible.
There's no doubt in my mind that harassment and sexual assault, as well as discrimination and sexism, really do happen to some individuals. But when you have narratives being twisted to fit a prescribed perspective, when words and talk about the semantics of those words as signifiers (such as in Stallman's case) are interpreted as defense for the object signified by those words, the line between the aggressor and the aggressee become blurred. That does a lot more harm to movements FOR victim and AGAINST discrimination, by generalizing the phenomenon to the point that it loses all relative value it might've had. If everyone's an aggressor, and every conversation is discriminatory in terms of potential interpretation, all men, women, non-binary, etc. are affected. It is debilitating to the highest degree, and no one should defend, let alone strive to create, such an environment.
If anything, when faced with such situations, we are not discriminatory enough. As Popper described with his famous paradox of tolerance, tolerance of intolerance presages the destruction of tolerance itself. He clarifies, saying: "I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise."
I can only hope that people who are outraged by these aforementioned cases of verbal transgressions have become so because they've misinterpreted what thought was being communicated. Unfortunately, as they more often than not work in consulting or have some "acceptance" program to push towards companies and projects, I can't be certain that they are genuine in their offense.
 Karl Popper, Open Society and its Enemies, vol. 1, note 4 to chapter 7.
This pretty much hits the nail on the head. Why do engineers think they can talk about sexual assault in the same way they mull over the pros and cons of Kubernetes. Which is why, when Richard Stallman is mulling over whether sexual assault is a real thing, or whether you can really have assault without violence, it's a nasty place to be. Because the person talking about the issue very clearly isn't read up on the subject and is talking about (and often to) people who have actually experienced quite disturbing situations.
However the article is characterizing free software as a centralized system whose purpose is to give powerful men the “freedom” to exclude. It also says the free software movement shares this perverse notion of freedom with the tech giants like Facebook. Can free software maintainers become exclusionary tyrants? Of course, but built into free software is the remedy. You have access to the source control and you are not obligated to tolerate a tyrant. You have near complete freedom over the source code to make any changes or to fork the project, completely sidestepping the maintainer. If someone truly wanted to be a petty tyrant with the “freedom” to exclude they would write their software as closed source, start a company and maintain complete control over all versions of the software and hire or fire all of the programmers who can edit it.
These are complex topics and people don't want to put in the effort to understand them so this needs some top-shelf selling power. And there's no money to be made. Just freedom (as in speech).
In my experience, people who say the FSF have been bad at marketing have three types of criticism.
The first two are unbelievably shallow, and honestly obviated by the FSFs success while ignoring them: 1) fonts, and whatever web design trend is current, and 2) Richard Stallman's personal appearance and tone. Plenty of contenders for the group du jour of software freedom have concentrated on web design and being attractive TED Talk types, have gotten zero traction, and faded into the mist - turns out people prefer a complete and detailed philosophy, a track record of standing behind it, and a spokesperson who clearly has no ulterior motives.
The third is both far more intense and more telling: when Stallman would criticize the practices of specific companies, or the failure or more permissive licenses to require the users to share changes. IMO, this is the criticism of people who don't actually agree with the idea of software freedom at all but don't want to say it because they have strong feelings about property rights and the ability to control their code after it's left their physical or technical possession, that don't jibe with their visceral disgust at a license that would force you to share, or to behave in any sort of an altruistic way (like the unfree "don't be evil" or "don't be the military" licenses.) Forced altruism bothers them.
The people in the third category are obviously unqualified to carry the torch because they at best are bystanders, and at worst enemies of the idea of free software. The people in the first two, the "marketers," are not likely do do it because marketing (of an useful, positive idea) is essentially cynical; it's sugar on the pill. It's what you do to get children to do something that's good for them but they don't understand. Adults prefer better pills. not better sugar. Sugar is cheap, I can buy my own.
This seems to be presenting opinion as fact.
From a software perspective though, I would argue that yes, I should absolutely have the freedom to reject a change in my code from someone else. The rejected party has the freedom to fork my code.
Could you elaborate? Looks like a UK television thing from the 70s. I'm not familiar with UK television culture references.
In one of their sketch, spanish inquisitors would just pop out of nowhere and start wrecking havoc. Hence saying « nobody expects the spanish inquisition ».
You know something has reached a high level of absurdity whenever it makes you think of one of monty python’s program.
Different issues are driving decisions today than were a few decades ago; that's just the flow of time. I don't think it's a bad thing at all that standards and goals have changed.
I think this "new era" began with the rise of FAANG companies, so really, these trends have been in motion for a while. I'm excited what new developments in AR/VR, AI, compiler theory, etc. will come in the approaching years.
Is the Wired article mis-representing the gist of Christine Corbett Moran's complaint?
Or is the author subtly trying to undermine her?
I mean, I'm not familiar with that story, just they linked [this tweet](https://twitter.com/corbett/status/994012399656042496) which says:
> My first interaction with RMS was at a hacker con at 19. He asked my name, I gave it, whether I went to MIT (I had an MIT shirt on), and after confirmation I did, asked me on a date. I said no. That was our entire conversation. Christine, yes, no thanks.
Basically, you dudes might find this all befuddling, but women who have encountered rms are not surprised.
And that’s not mentioning his infamous mattress in the office and how he propositioned to many of the female visitors to lay down on it topless  (i realize that i am citing reddit comments, but the OP seems pretty credible). This would be a problematic behavior for virtually anyone, but moreso for a public figure at a prestigious university.
Saying that doesn't make it so, you have to actually back your claim up with some reasoning.
Explain why any young woman in tech would want to go to a conference where a bunch of old guys think it’s perfectly ok to treat her like a potential mate, instead of a colleague with a brain and technical background worth learning from and mentoring.
Explain why she should have to put up with shit like this, while her male peers do not.
Also I'd say she wasn't complaining, or trying to condemn him. The facts kind of speak for themselves though--this is not a guy who makes women feel welcome.
It seems, that she acted in an acceptable and correct way. Nothing wrong with rejecting someone. The only bad thing is, that some Internet person will come around and interpret her actions with an exclusive view on superficial appearance issues.
Is the above comment in the glibc manual something to be upset about? I don't understand why.
Has Freeer Software Foundation been started yet?
This is only about the publications on medium, Vice, and The Daily Beast, not this new one in Wired, who apparently also discovered there's good money in selling pyres.
I sincerely hope we'll reach that point very soon.
Hahaha! Oh my, what utter crap. Zuckerberg, when did he ever show a true conviction to some higher ethical standards? Where is the positive ingenuity in anything Zuckerberg created? Is there even one thing that man did, that has not turned out to be an abomination? Tell me, what that man did, that _positively_ influenced anything besides human greed and his own wallet. That comparison is the most laughable that I heard in a loong time.
Up to that point, I already had a feeling about the tone of the article, but this then finally shows, that the author does not even know what they are writing about. The article is rubbish.
If there is wreckage around Stallman, then it is caused by him expressing himself in ways, which people tend to misunderstand, although he argues quite mathematically, maybe it is especially, because he does so. He does not care about gender stuff. He cares about what is getting done. Today's socialization is _unfortunately_ in a way, that not _many_ women get into computer science. When he then states something about more men contributing code to some project, he is making a mathematical statement about numbers, not about a gender issue. Why are people unable to understand that? Here is a typical example of people not being able to understand him and his way of making a logical argument: https://youtu.be/eG4HrOpzQXY
I very much doubt, that Stallman is in general against women in tech or anything similar claimed in the article and have never seen him saying anything like that.
Seriously, what kind of crap about "female professors keeping plants, because Stallman does not like plants". Go to any office, where women work and check for plants. It is called socialization. We don't have to like it, but saying, that it does not exist, is certainly not going to help solving the issue.
Then we have the usual stupid writing going on about how the OS might be called "Linux", but Stallman wants it to be called "GNU/Linux". As if he was the only one person in the world wanting that. Download Linux and from the repositories and run your computer with that!
What is wrong with these people? Can't they acknowledge _years_ of work in his youth and later on, basically life, this man put into creating something, that now they rely on every single day of their comparatively unproductive lives? Can we stop being uninformed and call the OS the name of the kernel? Can we prevent uninformed authors from writing more articles about tech, so that technically correct terms can finally win over wrong usage and being uninformed and work done is finally given appropriate credit?
The ungratefulness some people show towards Stallman is just so unbelievable.
Well, should not have expected a fair account from magazines like Wired in the first place.
Disagree with the author here. Freedom in the tech world and indeed in the 1st Amendment is absolutely about the right to express objectionable views. The problem was that historical cultural norms permitted misogynistic bigots to maintain positions of power - it was a lack of political coordination to root out these leaders. Now there is a political wave driving sexual equality. But just like we learned with racism after Obama’s election, these things don’t move in one direction, they are wars, Trump is still in the Whitehouse and his poll numbers aren’t too bad. So if you care about the long term improvement of sexual equality, best to follow a laser sharp political strategy and discern that a principle like freedom of speech brings allies to the cause, it helps far more than it harms.
Free speech means permitting people to say hurtful things. We should protect everyone’s opportunity to reveal who they are. The main focus should be on what we do with that information.
He'd reached the point of being nearly forgotten until he shot his mouth off inopportunely and caught the full force of the outrage mob.