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Richard Stallman steps down as as head of the GNU Project, effective immediately (stallman.org)
187 points by sigio 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 318 comments

Someone on Reddit says that his site might have been vandalized, and that it was previously vandalized yesterday: https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/dambxx/stallman_step...

It's a bit suspicious because a) he just said two days ago that he has no intention of stepping down from GNU https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2019-09/msg00008... and b) there's another copy of the entry dated yesterday, deeper on the page: https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#27_September...

It 100% wouldn't surprise me if he didn't have adequate security for his personal website. He comes from a culture of leaving doors unlocked and passwords unset, and he also doesn't actually participate in the modern web (he has a daily cronjob that emails him text dumps of web pages he wants to read, he doesn't "browse" the web in any me), and his personal site is probably not actually run by the FSF or anyone else with experience in running websites.

I feel like I remember him running Unix servers back in the 1990s that were deliberately insecure, because computer security was itself immoral. I don't know that he actually runs this site, though.

Check the last section of https://ftp.gnu.org/old-gnu/Manuals/coreutils-4.5.4/html_nod...:

"Why GNU su does not support the `wheel' group

"(This section is by Richard Stallman.)

"Sometimes a few of the users try to hold total power over all the rest. For example, in 1984, a few users at the MIT AI lab decided to seize power by changing the operator password on the Twenex system and keeping it secret from everyone else. (I was able to thwart this coup and give power back to the users by patching the kernel, but I wouldn't know how to do that in Unix.)

"However, occasionally the rulers do tell someone. Under the usual su mechanism, once someone learns the root password who sympathizes with the ordinary users, he or she can tell the rest. The "wheel group" feature would make this impossible, and thus cement the power of the rulers.

"I'm on the side of the masses, not that of the rulers. If you are used to supporting the bosses and sysadmins in whatever they do, you might find this idea strange at first. "

GNU Project founded out of persecution complex.

I've heard a story from an MIT staffer that the Morris worm of 1988 was first released from a public workstation logged in as username rms, password rms.

I tried to verify this but couldn't find it. However, I did find that counter-hackers changed Morris' username from RTM to RTFM to get back at him [1], so I'm not sure he used the username 'rms'. Maybe the staffer got mixed up?

[1] Page 155: https://books.google.com/books?id=oLHMBK0iGkkC&pg=PA155&lpg=...

The implication is that Morris used Stallman's (publicly well-known) username and password to log in at MIT, in order to cover up his tracks. Morris was a Cornell student at the time and wouldn't have had a login at MIT at all.

If you trust the SSH banner, it's running the OpenSSH version from Debian wheezy (end of support April 2016, end of LTS May 2018).... I feel like that's more likely failure to upgrade than a deliberate choice, though :)

In the late 80's the FSF had some machines at MIT you could telnet to without a password. they were a mess.

A user on r/StallmanWasRight writes, "I've been in email contact with him and he asked me about this a couple of days ago." and "I don't think it's a money issue, anyway... it's a bit strange. I'm not sure what the issue is or why he's asking for help with housing.

The GNU resignation statement no longer appears on his website.

For some reason, the the GNU resignation was posted on both the 27th and the 28th. The 28th post that OP linked has been deleted, but the first one remains at https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#27_September...

Still does for me.

There is a non-zero possibility that a rogue employee did this. He does not sign his web stuff with his GPG key after all.

Also, it is there twice https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#27_September...

There seems to be something weird going on. Check archive.org's recent version on the site:


"What's bad about" section has a "Richard Stallman" link to the Medium post, and the "donate to the Free Software Foundation" link goes to the "Richard Stallman Eats Something From His Foot" Youtube video. The Youtube link is especially suspicious because Youtube uses proprietary Javascript, which RMS has never supported.

Javascript proprietary? Are you, people, all <redacted-expletive> here?

"Youtube uses proprietary Javascript [code], which RMS never supported ..."

I agree. Would like to hear more confirmation before believing this.

Non-zero perhaps, but quite close to zero.

stallman.org has employees?

I should have said volunteer, but it could as well be a FSF employee. And yes, he does not manage the site himself.

His personal site is not related to the FSF. It’s hosted by Positive Internet in the UK.

I don't get why he doesn't simply apologize, take a few months break from publicity to think things over and then move on.

Instead he seems to prefer to step down from what he has been doing for the last 30 years. Does he really regret nothing?

On a human level I sympathize with the women he has offended (I know the story is also about his behavior over the years), but I also worry about him as well, I hope he stays in good health and spirit.

> I don't get why he doesn't simply apologize

He could give a fake apology with the hope that this would stop this whole drama, but I believe that he is more principled than that. Plus, apologising for something that you have not done wrong hurts.

How about "sorry that I hurt feelings with insensitive wording"?

Does only work though, if he is sorry, which is not likely.

Because the thing is, allmost all rapist defend themself by saying the victim presented themself willingly and when RMS just declared that the most plausible scenario that the epstein underage prostitute present herself willingly, then he should not be surprised if people understand that wrong and feel hurt, if he has some empathy.

Now whether he has some, remains actually unclear to me after all I read now (but I never met him in person).

Anyhow, for someone talking so much abouth ethics and leading a organization about it, I believe empathy should be a required skill for leadership, otherwise it can (and was and partly is) be seen as a bad joke.

> How about "sorry that I hurt feelings with insensitive wording"?

Good thing, he already did that. https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#14_September...

> allmost all rapist defend themself by saying the victim presented themself willingly

In which case they (the rapists) are lying, otherwise they would not be rapists. What about victims of false rape reports though? Do they say that as often?

> RMS just declared that the most plausible scenario that the epstein underage prostitute present herself willingly

Are you saying that this is implausible or even unlikely that she presented herself to be willing to Minsky? (note: he did not say that she presented herself willingly, there is an important difference between the two)

> if he has some empathy

Apparently I do not have any empathy for not understanding what the issue with this statement is, thanks. I believe that you have adopted a very neurotypical view of empathy.

Well, good that he apoligied. But why did not someone said to to the parent, and just to me 2 levels deeper? But also maybe a more worded apology, that shows what caused the "misunderstanding" would be helpful.

"Are you saying that this is implausible or even unlikely that she presented herself to be willing to Minsky? "

I am saying I don't know any of the persons involved personally, live far away, so I would never make any statements regarding what actually happened.

But in general yes, I believe when someone is coerced into prostitution, it should be obvious to spot real willingnes from forced one, unless you don't want to notice.

"Apparently I do not have any empathy for not understanding what the issue with this statement is, thanks"

And no, you do not, yes. Because the issue is sexism/patriacharlism. Strong men sexually abusing weak women/girls, what was the norm for centuries and was ok to do so (and in some parts of the world still is).

And apparently also partly in the MIT, if Epstein had so much connection there. So in this context, when a victim makes an accusation - and someone uses the defence, "the victim appeared willing" than yes, you clearly lack empathy, to not see how that might hurt feelings and has a high chance of getting misunderstood.

And that we have media, who does not care about truth, when there is a scandal and a scapegoat is a very sad other story.

Honestly I think the fixation on the Epstein comments is unhelpful for understanding what's happened here.

You ever see the science experiment where you supercool a container of distilled water, tap it, and then watch it instantly turn to ice? That's what's happened here. And just as the tap didn't actually freeze the water, neither did the Epstein reporting doom Stallman; rather, it was the long prior history of unfortunate comments about pedophilia and of allegations of harassment.

It was a running joke around MIT that women would place ferns in their office to repel him; his notoriety was enough to create special meaning for ferns. It's surprising he lasted as long as he did, just like it's surprising that you can get a jug of water below freezing without actually freezing it.

"Honestly I think the fixation on the Epstein comments is unhelpful for understanding what's happened here."

The comments were misquoted and RMS fans believe that this is the sole reason for him being fired and are outraged.

Stallman is the least hypocritical person I've ever seen. So, that's not happening unless he changes his mind about something he said.

Even if he changes his mind about some subjective things, he will keep saying other things that are objectively true but people don't want to accept.

Just because Stallman isn't a hypocrite doesn't mean things he says are "objectively true". Stallman advocated for the legalization of ("consensual") pedophilia, in those exact terms; that isn't a weird extrapolation of something he said, but rather words he put on his own website.

He is "correct" in a way. It is the inevitable logical extension of current society's view on sexual relationship (consent based). This is just a repeat of what happened in 70s with a bunch of intellectuals: Foucault, Derrida, Althusser, et al argued that age of consent should be abolished too [1]. Seems like the most rational men always come to same conclusion.

Society slowly unravel that consent is such a fragile concept, and they have to resort to some finite number (age) to strengthen that stance. But, as the most rational amongst us found out, those numbers are indefensible too.

A better and more defensible stance is the one Catholic's have (Humanae Vitae).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_petition_against_age_of...

> It is the inevitable logical extension of current society's view on sexual relationship (consent based).

No, it's not; a consent based view does not logically imply that children are capable of consent; in fact, the view that intoxication, mental disability, and other factors can make adults incapable of consent at least strongly supports an approach where children (to, perhaps, an age above the common ages of consent) ought to be viewed as at least presumptively, and possibly conclusively, unable to consent to sex; the dominant legal position is consistent in outline, though there may be room to debate the particular details.

> A better and more defensible stance is the one Catholic's have (Humanae Vitae).

Humanae Vitae didn't even reflect the most defensible stance within the Catholic intelligentsia, which is why the Pope had to dump the position adopted by the Second Vatican Council workgroup on the topic to issue it, and why the document is widely disregarded by the faithful and even large segments of the clergy and even heirarchy (see, e.g., the Declaration of Königstein).

As you realized, you have to add bunch of qualifiers to make consent works: age-of-consent, condition-of-consent, etc. The defense then shifted into defending those qualifiers.

From system design perspective, it operates on lower level rule-based design. This is weaker. I understand there's debate internally about Humanae Vitae, and it's good. But at least it gets the core design stronger by operating on higher level goal/paradigm constraint (the purpose of procreation)

> But at least it gets the core design stronger by operating on higher level goal/paradigm constraint (the purpose of procreation)

That's actually not how it works; the intricacies of the dual procreative and unitive function model in the theology under Humanae Vitae is no less complex than that of the consent-based system, but it's just based on a moral system with a larger number of specialized axioms; the consent-based system is based on a simpler set of axioms, because it doesn't need a specific set of axioms for sex; the principle of consent underlying the consent-based system of sexual morality is the same one underlying all of the liberal enlightenment political/social/economic ideology.

This conflates paradigm of a system with its rules (axiom). It's not the same.

Isn't the more obvious way to defend his belief pointing out the cases where teenagers above the age of consent, in consensual relationships with each other, keep getting arrested and jailed for making child porn because they took nude selfies on their phone?

That seems like the most bizarre and harmful outcome of deciding there's no such thing as consenting 'paedophilia' - something as normal as two 16 year olds hooking up and using their smartphone can turn into a disaster. That can happen any time the definition of child for sexual consent is different from the definition of child for child porn laws, something that you'd think would never happen in any rational legal system, but does!

> He is "correct" in a way.

Perhaps if the age difference is very small, but see hereunder.

However, there is a good reason why a minor isn't able to sign a (legal) contract. Because they're not an adult. The brains stop growing at around age 25. The body at around age 20 / mid 20 (depends on gender and differs per person). So at age 18, teenagers are still growing up. A teenager is unable to consent to an older adult because the relation isn't equal. The adult (presumably) is grown up. It has the huge potential to create a power vacuum.

Which is why we need to be very careful to protect our minors. Which is why if the age difference is minor, its often tolerated even if it isn't exactly legal. Alas, the law is not perfect, but the lawmakers did did try their best to make the law as far as possible for all parties involved.

> 4 famous men came to this conclusion.

No links provided. From there we get the leap

> most rational men always come to the same conclusion (the age of consent should be abolished)

Motivated reasoning much?

Out of curiosity, do you have a link?

I read: https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-fec6ec21...

And from a cursory search I didn't see him exactly advocating.

I didn't say that everything he says is objectively true.

Some things he says are objectively true.

Advocating for the legalization of "consensual pedophilia" (whatever that means) is not an objective truth, it's an opinion.

That is literally the thing he says that other people don't want to accept; it's the example you yourself referred to. Besides advocating for pedophilia, the problem people have with Stallman is his behavior, not what he says. If you're talking about his problematic words, then what you're talking about is in fact his repeated defense of pedophilia.

I never referred to that example.

Stallman has said many "problematic" things apart from defending "consensual pedophilia".

I don't think you meant to refer to it; I think you just don't know enough about Stallman or his critics to understand the position you backed yourself into. I assure you, the people calling for Stallman's ouster aren't doing it because of what he thinks of proprietary software, or his support for Bernie Sanders.

For example. Selam G., the author of the article that sparked the controversy said:



…and then he says that an enslaved child could, somehow, be “entirely willing”. Let’s also note that he called a group of child sex trafficking victims a ‘harem’, a terrible word choice.

    [>] We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that
    she presented herself to him as entirely willing.


The only opinion stated here by Stallman is that "it's the most plausible scenario", but it's an objective truth that it's a possible scenario (even if not the most plausible) for the underage girl to be coerced into presenting herself as willing, given the public knowledge of the situation. Then, Selam gets angry because he stated that possibility.

Note that she doesn't disagree with it being the most plausible scenario, she disagrees with it being a possibility at all (an objective truth, because coercion is a thing), and then she twists Stallman's words (presenting oneself as [something] vs being [something]).

This is a direct quote from Stallman, on his own website:

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.

I don't have an opinion about the recent reporting of Stallman's comments on Epstein, other than to note that they are, in effect, about pedophilia. I don't have to; Stallman has done us all the favor of being outspoken about his belief that pedophilia should be legal.

I think a lot of advocates for Stallman don't know this about his history, and think they can hang their entire argument on the Epstein pedophilia drama. If that's all that had happened, Stallman defending Minsky, he might be fine. But it's not. If you want to talk about Stallman saying things that others don't agree with, be mindful of what it is he's saying. You probably don't actually want to be defending it.

Does him changing his mind change anything for you or is that a sin he can't erase?


> 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.

It should be noted a) that Stallman doesn't have much history of changing his mind 180 degrees on stuff and b) that this was posted a day or two after his comments made the news.

> I didn't say that everything he says is objectively true.

He doesn't care.

> Even if he changes his mind about some subjective things, he will keep saying other things that are objectively true but people don't want to accept.

Saying something can be objectively true, entirely non-hypocritical and completely idiotic, all at the same time.



Just a tip (with no offence intended), you may want to avoid terms like "SJW" in the future if you want your post to be taken seriously or engage in honest discussion with others.

There are plenty of people, myself included, who won't discount someone's ideas just because he used a word. I don't agree with language policing, especially if it's done with subtle threats to one's reputation.


That's quite the claim. Where's your evidence?

I'm only stating a name many of them have branded themselves as, and proudly at that. It's a point of discussion and quite frankly disturbing people make assumptions as to those who use it.

Everything is presented verifiable with the smallest of effort.


And here is the root of many problems, the assumption that someone is "right wing", or "left wing", or whatever, just because of one view or idea known. With the following assumption that their personality, behaviors and thoughts can be predicted.

It's usually associated with come kind of bigotry and used as put down describing someone as being in another camp to the writer.

There are people in the world who have opinions based on critical thinking that are individually arisen at, per item.

Many are just pragmatic.

Some just don't have the ability to form a different view in some cases because they have not witnessed or experienced various forms of prejudice, persecution, being exploited and so on.

And that doesn't make them privileged, at most it makes them luckily ignorant.

There is no "side" or "group" that holds the entire high morel ground in anything.

"What if I told you that a bird needs both wings to fly?".


Does not need to be inaccurate in order to make other people assume that you are yet another alt-right nutjob and avoid engaging in discussion with you.

Unfortunately that's their shortcoming and not mine as I can at least correct my mistakes. Other people aren't keen on correcting theirs nor can I force someone to recognize their own.

Usage of said word will only get your posts to be [flagged] [dead], it is up to you, if you want your post to stay on hackernews or not.

Mind you, I do not have any authority in this matter. It is just my personal observation that posts that call people SJWs end up dying, just like posts that call people nazis.

> posts that call people SJWs end up dying, just like posts that call people nazis.

And it's not a coincidence.

You're right. Contrary to popular Twitter opinion, HN is not especially welcoming to Nazis.

My feeling about Stallman is that he is that rare creature, a fundamentalist lefty. Its a pretty lonely island and I'm actually a little surprised he has lasted this long

> My feeling about Stallman is that he is that rare creature, a fundamentalist lefty.

Fundamentalist lefties aren't uncommon, but Stallman isn't really typical for that group, as he's a fundamentalist of a particularly niche ideology that, while on the left in a broad sense, isn't typical of leftism (fundamentalist or otherwise.)

Just FYI,

I saw an old interview where RMS goes bananas when the interviewer calls him a communist.

Almost like he is a person that thinks about principles and morals a lot and doesn't have a position that can accurately be summarised with a ready made label...

[edit] if you follow any of RMS's thinking he is generally quite precise and careful in his writing, choosing words carefully, eschewing ready made labels and coining his own with more precise definitions.

So it would not surprise that referring to Stallman as say a "lefty", "communist", "libertarian" or a whatever would annoy him, since there is no good consensus on what those terms actually mean.

I would posit that the use of over-broad popularly contentious labels is generally counter-productive to actual thinking and one of the major problems in modern political discourse - it promotes tribalism over thinking about issues.

Labelling is a poor substitute for reasoning.

So what does "freedom" mean, he uses so much? Is there a clear consensus on that? I believe allmost everyone says he or she is for "freedom". Slavers and Nazis used the term freedom as well as the actual slaves, workers, whatever.

So yeah, he also defined his version of "freedom", but labelling sounds very RMS to me. Also the strict wording of "ethical" software, meaning only the licence he favors is ethical and good and everything else, not.

A good place to start would be this essay: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html - which he wrote because the term "free software" (as you correctly observe) would be too fuzzy.

RMS has his faults but ambiguity is not one of them. He really bends over backwards to be careful about explaining what he means.

Was it Revolution OS by any chance?

He's not a lefty. He's a fundamentalist libertarian.

A libertarian who says Americans should vote for Bernie Sanders and Australians should vote for the Greens?

Stallman's politics cannot be easily captured with a label. Here he is endorsing the most leftist well-known candidates for US president and British prime minister: To put an end to this oppression of workers, vote for Sanders and Corbyn.

He is the opposite of a libertarian. Copyleft requires, supports, validates, the state.

An actual libertarian would be pro: "there's no copyright nor copyleft; my computer -> my rules, I do whatever I want with whatever files I empirically have. And the only way to decisively stop me from doing that is to actually kill me."

Libertarians don't oppose the state, they just want its function constrained far, far below what any modern government offers; contract law and intellectual property often fall under roles libertarians consider suitable for government.

not even close:)) he is a fundamentalist statist.

Here's what he thinks of "libertarians":


I'd say he's more communist, since he seems to believe that private property just shouldn't exist. Libertarians by contrast would tend more on the scale of "you should be able to do whatever you want with your private property."

Some argue that copyright undermines private property: https://mises.org/library/against-intellectual-property-2

The latter is what he wants. He is happy for people to charge for software, but he advocates that the owner must have full control.

> since he seems to believe that private property just shouldn't exist

Although I'm sympathetic to that idea myself, that just isn't true in Stallman's case. He's a Bernie/Stein voter and he's read something by Emma Goldman, but I think that's the extent of his "lefty" gland.

But what does that have to do with him needing to step down? Was he mis-handling the GNU project? Did he abuse people? Did he force anyone to accept his social views (communist/libertarian/whatever) outside the extent to which those are manifested in the GNU project per se?

I am saddened by this occurrence, and am worried about the ability to pressure people like Stallman like this.

Keep in mind that it's pretty likely this is just vandalism. That said: if a critical mass of the people you need to work with at your project refuse to do so, it doesn't so much matter how you're "handling" the project; you won't be able to lead it effectively. If Stallman hasn't stepped down from GNU now, he may yet do so in the near future, as it dawns on him that his resignation is in the best interests of the project itself.

"if a critical mass of the people you need to work with at your project refuse to do so, it doesn't so much matter how you're "handling" the project"

If a critical mass of people refuse to work with you, that is itself a mishandling of the project. Getting people to work with you is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader.

Maybe they refuse to work with you because - for example - it's a religiously-conservative society and you have been outed as a homosexual?

Also - you're right that this is an important characteristic, but if there is active outside pressure to get people to _not_ work with you, that should not be ignored when evaluating someone's ability to lead.

RMS is an important historical figure.

Having his inevitanle departure reduced to collateral damage of Jeffrey Epstein is a shame.

These resignation messages are really short (the one from FSF being the other)!! Not much context in there. I get that he said a lot of things which some think are so-so, some think are terrible. Maybe he decided he’s so bad at this he won’t even try to explain what happened, choosing to resign without saying a word.

The Internet has created in all of us an expectation that other people's lives happen primarily to enlighten and engage us, the bystander audience. In reality, most resignations are approximately this concise.

I’ve been in industry for 32 years now and not single one of my resignation letters contained any reason beyond “decided to pursue other opportunities”.

I'll sometimes include a "Thank you" or "I enjoyed working with everyone," if it's true. But even with that, none of mine since I graduated University have ever been more than two to three sentences tops. Resignations should always be short and to the point.

Nixon's was one sentence: https://watergate.info/1974/08/09/nixons-resignation-letter....

Yep. “I wish $company all the best” etc. Just never a reason.

My last two resignations:

- "As discussed, this is my notice of resignation effective February 28."

- "Further to our conversation, this email confirms my resignation from <X> effective today."

The interesting conversations about resignation happen in private. The paper trail for administrative reasons doesn't have to have the gory details.

Resignation notices should be short. Their sole purpose is to provide notice of the resignation. If anything more is said, there could be grounds to refuse the resignation and/or invite legal action.

I think the two recent resignations are specifically over the mailing lists posts where he quibbled on using the term rape in the case of statutory rape, and specifically the departments that had continued to take funding from Epstein after his original convictions.

Who is his most likely successor? Will GNU strategy change(the kernel coming to the front of my mind) or will things basically be the same?

> Will GNU strategy change(the kernel coming to the front of my mind)?

Hurd? Who cares?

Linux has always been and will continue to be its own thing; it isn't a GNU project.

The beauty about the free software movement he created is that is doesn't require a leader!

Which is good, since it hasn't really had one since 1990 or so.

Has anyone else noticed that Stallman hasn't been effective, outside of the hard-core FSF, in a very long time?

I'm a big fan of the GPL licenses. I'm a moderate fan of the FSF. But geeze, Stallman has been a liability in terms of the outside world for a long time.

How relevant is any GNU project today really?

What is activly maintained and being used?

I'd say the most used are Bash, GCC, glibc, Make, GRUB, Grep, Gnome, Emacs, Gettext, GIMP, GTK, Gzip, Less, Screen, Sed, Tar, and Wget. But that's just a small sample, you can see the whole list here: https://www.gnu.org/manual/blurbs.html

bash, gcc, coreutils, make, ...

For GCC, less Stallman influence, if it happens as a result of this, might have some consequences. E.g. there was some discussions about (not) having features giving deeper insight into internals some years ago, which are helpful to e.g. make code inspection tools, but also could be used to feed a non-GPL codegen backend.

Many "GNU" projects are really run independently though, with little influence.

"Many "GNU" projects are really run independently though, with little influence"

Ok, I meant GNU projects, with actual ties to the organization and not just the name. If there is no real connection, then it does not really matter who leads GNU

Emacs is a core project and is being heavily developed. Version 27 is about to be released soon.

Is there some context I'm unaware of?

Definitely peculiar. Three days ago, RMS stated that he intended to stay on as head of the GNU Project: https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2019-09/msg00008...

[EDIT] Quoting the text of the above link for convenience:

> "On September 16 I resigned as president of the Free Software Foundation, but the GNU Project and the FSF are not the same. I am still the head of the GNU Project (the Chief GNUisance), and I intend to continue as such."

Earlier discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21088690

Today, Sarah Mei called for RMS to resign as GNU project leader as well, and started putting pressure on the FSF as nominal funders of the GNU project.

Again, first they go to you, and if you will not comply they go to your boss.

>Dr Richard Stallman

why does he sign this way? he doesn't have a PhD.

edit: i have never (ever) seen someone with an honorary doctorate actually call themselves doctor.

It’s not appropriate to call yourself Dr. with an honorary degree so I’m not sure why you are being down voted.

This is a pretty silly debate. Plenty of people have done far less far-reaching CS work to obtain "actual" PhD's; it's not like computer science doctorates are medical degrees. Let him have his "Dr." title.

I really don’t care, but it’s yet another convention he ignores, in a terse resignation letter no less.

To add to that, he was in the process of a physics PhD at the time he started his free software stuff. I'd say his work since then, in a spiritual sense, has "completed" his PhD.

Conversely, those who earned their doctorate conventionally sometimes need reminding of it.

This came up at my wedding. After the ceremony we had a bunch of silly "group of X" photos. All the musicians, all the writers, the lawyers, the grandparents, the athletes, the tech folk, the doctors, and so on.

The programmers made jokes about type checking, of course.

(I was, on the sly, also gently nudging strangers to connect. Our friends are pretty scattered and don't know each other.)

However, several of the PhDs had forgotten they had one, particularly those that had not subsequently remained in the ivory tower. When the Call for Doctors went around, we had to remind them them individually.

> However, several of the PhDs had forgotten they had one, particularly those that had not subsequently remained in the ivory tower.

Hah, yeah, sometimes PhD's don't stress their "Dr." title to avoid being mistaken for a medical doctor in miscellaneous medical emergencies.

For example, I'd heard one professor say that after checking the "Dr." title on an airline ticket, he was called upon in-flight to deal with a medical emergency, only to have to explain that he wasn't that kind of "Dr.". Thereafter, he reverted to "Mr." in such informal situations.

Then in professional environments, we often go by first names anyway.

To be scrupulously honest we allowed the medical doctors into that photo as well, partly because wedding, but some of them had both anyway, including the bride's father, who like many people possessing more post-nominal characters than a French grand opera enjoyed a most commanding personality, which would've made any objections quite impossible even if they hadn't been ungenerously contrary to the celebratory spirit of such a day.

> Thereafter, he reverted to "Mr." in such informal situations

"Oh! So you're a surgeon!" [1]

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1119265/

In Germany it’s even illegal (Dr. h. c. is fine though).

Technically he doesn't have; but the whole GNU work would be worth of 10 PhDs and I bet many people did their own PhDs on top of work he did. If he was awared 1 or more honorary doctorates (implying the person is a doctor honoris causa), it might be acceptable to call himself a doctor, but not a PhD, which he didn't.

> edit: i have never (ever) seen someone with an honorary doctorate actually call themselves doctor.

I don't know about you but I don't think that I have ever seen anyone other than stallman with an honorary doctorate, they tend to be pretty rare after all.

Harvard alone has given out 2300. They are not exactly rare.

They are common, Theodore Hesburgh had 150 of them, Bill Cosby had ~60 though most of his have been rescinded. Stephen Colbert made jokes about his on The Covert Report[1]

They are usually (though not always) given to the speaker at a graduation ceremony.

[1] http://www.cc.com/video-clips/irk0rv/the-colbert-report-hono...

By rare I mean people with honorary doctorates, not the honorary doctorates themselves. I would assume that there is a higher chance for someone to have more than two than exactly one.

They are rare among the general population, but among celebrities they are common. They are given for speaking at the college's graduation ceremony so they are used to draw celebrities to speak at graduation. Sometimes they are even used to reward big donors.

> i have never (ever) seen someone with an honorary doctorate actually call themselves doctor.

You're right that this is abnormal in American academic culture [1]. Apparently German culture would afford him the title "Dr. h.c.", where the "h.c." qualifier clarifies that it's an honorary degree.

To be fair, [his Wikipedia page][2] seems to suggest that he's done enough work to have potentially earned a real PhD, had he been enrolled in a PhD program.

Plus we're often loose with the "Dr." title anyway. For example, we'll often call a college-level instructor "Dr." even if they don't actually have a doctorate.

All that said, it's still a tad less-than-dignified. I mean, it does have a hint of puffery behind it for someone whose work would seem to otherwise stand on its own. Plus a PhD is an early honor; for example, we don't bother saying Dr. Albert Einstein because Einstein's later accomplishments were so much greater than merely earning a PhD that the title seems more like an understatement than an honor. So, it's a bit weird for an older guy who doesn't have an earned PhD to use the "Dr." title, given that it's a bit of a stretch and almost feels like he's leaning on it whereas other famous names don't.

Not really a big deal, just kinda neat to examine.

[1]: https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/72504/

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman#Selected_publ...

> To be fair, [his Wikipedia page][2] seems to suggest that he's done enough work to have potentially earned a real PhD, had he been enrolled in a PhD program.

I see nothing to suggest that. A PhD is fundamentally about doing research to push the boundaries of knowledge. He may be responsible for an impressive amount of software, but replicating what already exists (most of the GNU tools were about rewriting the UNIX utilities from scratch) doesn't qualify a whit towards a PhD.

Looking at his biography on Wikipedia, it seems that he:

1. Earned a BS in Physics from Harvard with a near-perfect GPA.

2. Got into a PhD in Physics program.

3. Dropped out of the Physics program to pursue a non-degree-track research program in AI.

4. Published stuff and gave talks.

His work around that time sounds like what a typical grad student would be doing, i.e. performing research as a research assistant to a principal investigator:

> While working (starting in 1975) as a research assistant at MIT under Gerry Sussman,[13] Stallman published a paper (with Sussman) in 1977 on an AI truth maintenance system, called dependency-directed backtracking.[17] This paper was an early work on the problem of intelligent backtracking in constraint satisfaction problems. As of 2009, the technique Stallman and Sussman introduced is still the most general and powerful form of intelligent backtracking.[18] The technique of constraint recording, wherein partial results of a search are recorded for later reuse, was also introduced in this paper.[18]

Without looking into precisely what he did, that sounds like the sorta thing someone could type up as a dissertation and defend to earn a PhD.

An English University gave Roy Hodgson an honorary doctorate [1]. You know, the guy who managed their football (soccer) team for a while.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35382864

He has a number of honorary doctorates: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman#Honors_and_aw...

If you consider Wikipedia and its citations to be reliable sources, it would generally be considered bad form to expect others to address you as Doctor.


Of course, Stallman is on that list as one of the people who does so anyways.

I must admit... I chuckled when I went looking for clarity and a wild Stallman appeared.

Maya Angelou did, her Twitter handle was DrMayaAngelou.

Most obviously don't, otherwise we'd be talking about Dr. Kylie Minogue, Dr. Kanye West, Dr. Bill Gates, Dr. Oprah, etc., etc. It would be insane.

It is particularly infuriating to me that he signed every email he sent to MIT's CSAIL mailing list that way. MIT doesn't issue honorary doctorates, on principle.

(And of course the result was everyone called him "famed MIT computer scientist" and was asking about him being a professor when he had no paid affiliation with MIT for decades.)

That's an incredibly minor thing to find infuriating.

You might want to seriously examine the mechanisms which inform that emotion.

Well, I went to MIT, I worked hard to get a degree (and not even a doctorate) there, I was on the mailing list because it was the mailing list for my own department, and I watched this guy email the list basically every other day with some inane comment signed "Dr. Richard Stallman," often with a lot of genuinely smart people patiently explaining to him why he was wrong, none of whom he would pay any attention to.

Is that enough examination for you, or would you like more?

That makes a lot more sense to be infuriated by and is very different from getting worked up over the appropriation of two sylables.

He has a dozen or more honorary doctorates

He has at least one honorary phd.

It's basically follow-on from the previous ousting from MIT and the FSF.

A few days ago, for whatever reason, he blogged that his resignation from the FSF didn't mean he was stepping down from head of GNU.

I have to assume this post means someone let him know that he was no longer welcome as head of GNU, either.

Or he got fed up with something and said "Oh, fuck you."

This is a man who was intermittently homeless and sleeping at his office while establishing the foundations of his work on free software and GNU. He's not likely to cave to demands he feels are ridiculous over something minor in his mind like his need for income or housing -- minor compared to his principles, it seems.

He's also seeking interim housing: https://stallman.org/seeking-housing.html

This will give some context and plenty of commentary https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21088690

He's 66; maybe he wants to retire?

His earlier posts have made it clear that he does not.

While I thought RMS's technical knowledge wasn't updated properly since he pivoted his activities to be an evangelist of freedom rather than being a programmer.

I believe he was directly responsible of the development stall of GCC, Emacs and various other projects. It's also his fault for not abandoning the Hurd sometime around the early 1990s.

His forced resignation should better be happened earlier for the lack of skill, not by his opinion on the definition of pedophile and the correct understanding of intention in criminal law system.

Very sad. I hope he is able to take some loyalists with him.

Stallman forever.

It's not on the linked site. Fake news?

Whoa. It was there an hour ago. I wonder what's up?

>So let's talk about Richard Stallman, because it has come to my attention that people outside of a certain segment of the tech scene have no idea what horrible behavior he routinely engages in.

that whole thread is a pretty gross social lynch mob, if I do say so myself.

not condoning RMS, but I don't feel too great about any get-together where the topic at hand is , quite literally, let's speak ill of someone.

Miguel de Icaza agreed to allow Stallman to stay at his place for a couple days. Stallman grossly overstayed, and later invited another person(!) to stay with him in the room he was borrowing from de Icaza. That is, to say the least, relevant information for anyone else who might consider lending him a guest bedroom.

>That is, to say the least, relevant information for anyone else who might consider lending him a guest bedroom.

Sure, but that's not what's going on in that thread.

It's basically just a pissing contest, with participants across the internet, about 'ridiculous' stories involving RMS.

A link to the famous rms-foot meme is by no means a warning to future hospitable folks.

It's not some neighborhood watch newsletter to warn about a predator, it's just a bunch of people who have been given the social go-ahead to share stories that they wouldn't otherwise have -- while simultaneously vying for social credit from others with regards to how hospitable they say they were.

In other words, i'm not buying the supposed good intentions 'we must warn others' perspective here.

If anything, it seems like group therapy for those that feel scorned by RMS to get together and share war-stories. That's fine -- but let's not paint it like they're adamantly trying to prevent RMS from victimizing someone.

Back in my day it was called 'gossiping', and it was usually poor form.

I've described literally the first comments in the thread, which are what was actually linked here. It seems a little weird to hold an HN comment accountable for every random thing anyone on Twitter said in response to de Icaza.

You were responding to a comment that stated

> that whole thread is a pretty gross social lynch mob

The comments I'm referring to are a part of the whole thread and are obviously not a "gross social lynch mob". "I offered this person a bed for a couple days, they stayed for months, and invited a stranger to live in my house" is a pretty straightforward kernel of useful information.

Now what's the ugliest, awful story about your behavior? Kindly share it publicly along with proof of your actual identity.

This is relevant information for anyone who might consider giving you a job, having a relationship with you, or renting you a place to stay, so it's totally appropriate to air your dirty laundry in a entirely public forum and associate it to your real identity. Thank you.

Hm. When I was 17, I cut things off very poorly with a girl I was interested in. (My real name is associated with this HN account.)

I suppose for fairness we should count only being over age 18, so, I once hit my best friend with a car because I was picking them up from the airport, they were loading luggage, and I took my foot off the brake without realizing it was in reverse instead of park. (They were not injured.)

Do you regularly associate with people for whom having Stallman-level worst behaviors is common?

Also, it's generally common to apologize after doing something bad, to acknowledge that the behavior was mistaken, as a step to forgiveness. I did not apologize to the girl (it seems more harmful than not at this point to reconnect) but I did apologize to the friend immediately. Did Stallman apologize to de Icaza for his behavior?

There's a name for things like "the ugliest, awful story known about your behavior"; they're called "your reputation".

You misquoted me. I didn't write known.

The whole point of my request was to show the absurdity of justifying spreading rumors about someone simply because their bad behavior is known.

A firsthand account is not a rumor.

It's not objective fact either. We don't know Stallman's side of the story.

Besides which, you're dodging my point.

Stallman is free to provide his side of the story. Miguel de Icaza doesn't need Stallman's permission to provide his own story, nor does anyone need anyone's permission to point out that de Icaza told that story.

Stallman isn't obligated to swoop in and give his side to the story everytime someone says something nasty about him. That's a ridiculous standard especially for someone as famous and controversial as he.

Yea, I agree you don't need anyones permission to post this kind of stuff, it is free speech, afterall. I just object to you justifying it as somehow being moral, just because it's relevant information to someone who might interact with him in the future.

This is a public forum, and posting this kind of stuff here is being an asshole. That's my only point.

It's literally a thread about people potentially lending guest bedrooms to Stallman, and a comment from someone who did that.

So? A group of people all getting together to dig out the dirty laundry of someone together, doesn't make your participation any better. I'm not trying to single you out, but there is no "reply all" button.

It used to be possible to reform one's reputation. Now, people with a grudge will spread old stories about you to strangers for as long as you live and make it impossible for you to get back on your feet. Is that a just society?

The guy is an old man who's already been stripped of all positions of influence. Why do you want to make him sleep on the street too? At what point will you believe justice has been served? Attacking the defenseless and powerless is cruelty itself.

You're hyperventilating. I don't want anyone to sleep on the street and very much doubt Stallman will meet that fate. At the same time: Stallman has a reputation as a houseguest, and it is relevant to this branch of the discussion.


You're breaking the site guidelines in multiple ways. Would you please review them and stop doing this? We've had to ask you several times before.



It is cowardly, if he actually did not ask him to leave. But it seems you don't know that, just made the assumption and jumped to the conclusion.

No, I think it's cowardly regardless to spout his grievances at this particular moment. If he did not ask him to leave, that would make it despicable in my eyes.

Even if he did not dare to ask him to leave directly, because he is a weak coward, then this still makes RMS an asshole for not caring about the unwillingnes of his host.

On the other hand, he at least had the courage to sign his name to what he had to say.

> he at least had the courage to sign his name to what he had to say.

Which is neither here nor there, but thanks for playing.

he didn't, really.

Only after the hordes were finishing RMS, he found the "courage" to speak

Yes, because before he was scared of being finished by the hordes of RMS, for citicicing their idol.

So yes, a weak person, but it is still telling, that now so many speak up who did not dare to do so before. Weak and pathetic? Maybe yes. But still telling about RMS.

I do not understand your argument. Criticizing RMS harshly has been a regular past-time for thousands of people in computing since forever, even by close collaborators. It's not that the man had a police force to protect him, but he used to take criticism with dignity. I cannot see how anybody could have ever been afraid of criticizing RMS (unless, say, they were one of the handful of FSF employees, which is not the case).

It is only when RMS has shown some "weakness" by resigning from his two alma maters due to journalistic pressure, that the rats jump in the criticism to finish the job.

Yes, there are many rats and attention whores jumping in and it is truly disgusting.

But FSF definitely also had and has some cult like mentality, with not much tolerance and not much restraint sometimes. So I can understand that people with low self esteem tried not to cause a shitstorm by speaking up.

There's a subtle, complex space between publicly talking shit for petty reasons about somebody who has just made mistakes, and sharing stories about somebody who is truly immoral for the purpose of helping others avoid suffering the same consequences.

I don't claim that this is near either extreme of the spectrum, but it seems closer to the latter end, in my brief interpretation.

Or, just, if you're going to lend Stallman a guest bedroom, be aware of what might happen. Everything doesn't have to have a soaring, far-reaching philosophical purpose.

The problem here is that when one person says something, it is an isolated incident, when a group says something it is a pile on.

Many people seem to have rms bad behaviour stories, but a quick glance shows that there there is no shortage of people to respond antagonistically to any bad word spoken.

I have only met rms once in the 90's, he made quite a poor impression. While it was nothing to condemn, it was enough to keep a skeptical eye on the cult of personality that surrounds him. Over the years that followed I encountered enough people who have stories that they were not prepared to share publicly because it would be more detrimental to themselves than rms.

In my opinion I am much less concerned about the hypotheticals shared in emails that precipitated the current situation. The issues that worry me are the stories of inconsiderate, manipulative, or outright bullying behaviour.

I have no accusations to make of my own, but I support those who feel like they now have an opportunity to be heard.

>I don't feel too great about any get-together where the topic at hand is , quite literally, let's speak ill of someone

Oh, I don't know, that thread read more like relatively mild commiseration between people with first-hand experiences hosting RMS - which all sounded rather chagrined/amused more than anything, at least in retrospect.

(Admittedly such talk is better in person over drinks, but it's hardly the "cancel culture" type mob you see nowadays.)

> but I don't feel too great about any get-together where the topic at hand is , quite literally, let's speak ill of someone.

People saying RMS shouldn't be leading open source projects are now stuck.

If they don't give details of all the times RMS has behaved unacceptably someone will say "but what has he actually done?", and if they do give details of poor behaviour someone will say "the social lynch mob is unpleasant".

“There is a sort of camaraderie that rarely exists except between men who have fought the same enemies and known the same women.”

Back to the pet store with Crackers then :(


It's not so amazing that a professional journalist might have autocorrect on the device they use to Tweet on their personal account.

Didn't Stallman live in his MIT office for awhile?

lol talk about out of touch. doesn't mention paying either. it's astounds me that people can be so dense that even after clear contradictions (don't be so obnoxious that you lose your job) they persist.

Have you considered the possibility that he might not be able to pay?

Also, I am sure that there are many people who would offer him somewhere to live, he has quite a few fans.

I’m not sure... I'm not even American, but RMS came to my city once to give a talk, lived for a few days at a student's house (who volunteered ofc) and apparently it was such a bad experience that rumours of it spread through the whole university - mainly hygiene issues. The host mentioned that he threw away the blankets rather than cleaning them. I didn't experience it personally, but rumours on the internet make me believe it's a relatively common experience...

I honestly would love to offer him a room, but I'm nowhere near Boston. This guy is a FLOSS hero -- his thoughts and opinions beyond FLOSS do not matter to me.

>his thoughts and opinions beyond FLOSS do not matter to me

Why? That's an impressive amount of benefit of the doubt to give anybody, but so much more so if you're also willing to personally host that person. It's almost unbelievable. Do you in fact mean to say not that you don't care about his opinions, but that you simply have read about them and don't find them particularly condemnable?

I have attended his talks, listened to podcasts and read some of his conversations on mailing lists. I can see why people may not like him, or the way he talks. But we disagree with people all the time.

I would be willing to host him just for the conversations, and because I feel like it's the least I can do for a man who shaped much of the software that I use everyday.

RMS' bad opinions hold the weight of a handful of average people at most while his opinions on FOSS hold the weight of thousands.

What if those thoughts and opinions undermine the effects of FLOsS?

Do they though?

If they really do, only then it makes sense to remove him from a position of power.

>Have you considered the possibility that he might not be able to pay?

then maybe he should be a little more humble about what he expects? that's my point.

Are his expectation really that high? What I get from it is that RMS does not own a car and wants all places he frequents (city center, supermarket) be reachable on foot or by public transport. Plus he has mild paranoia about electronic devices spying on him, but that's one of the reasons we all love him, isn't it? :)

Low expectations and humility do not appear to be how he furthered free software as a movement in defiance of the world.

I haven't seen so much hostility from the world so much as 25 years of people becoming wealthy by working on free software, but then, I've only been paying attention since the mid-1990s.

My remark certainly wasn't hostile towards RMS, so I'm really not clear what you mean.

I didn't say you were. I'm responding to your remark about the work Stallman did "in defiance of the world". I rather think the opposite happened, that Stallman (like several other people) made a judgement about how the world wanted to operate, and was proved (at least for the time period we're in now) correct.

I used that phrase because his work did not get a lot of practical support (especially at first). It was quite a hard path to take. People were hardly throwing money at him and saying "You go!" or something.

I generally agree with what little I understand of the principles behind his work. But "selling out" for money (and locking up code to facilitate that) was the trend he was defying and it's a vastly easier path than the one he chose.

>his work did not get a lot of practical support

In 1990 Stallman received a MacArthur grant, which comes with $500,000. During the late 1990s, many of the founding fathers of free software were granted stock during IPOs. Here for example is documentation that Eric Raymond got stock that ended up being worth $36 million (for a couple of years until the bust in 2001): https://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/12/10/ipo_makes_va_linux_...

Now Eric Raymond got that stock for accepting a position on the Dot Com's board of directors, and I can well imagine Stallman refusing all such directorships on principle, but OTOH I would be surprised if none of the founders of successful Dot Coms during that period donated generously to Stallman directly or via the FSF.

In general, almost everybody with as much fame and public reputation for moral rectitude ("prestige"?) as Stallman has for as long as Stallman has had it is worth at least a million or 2 dollars (unless they're, you know, chronically mentally ill or some such). Fame and prestige for example get you much higher speaking fees, and public speaking has long been Stallman's favorite thing to do.

Stallman launched the GNU Project in September 1983.

So it took him seven years to get that money. Meanwhile, he was intermittently homeless and only succeeded in registering to vote while homeless due to his fame for his work. He submitted his voter application and listed himself as a "squatter" at his work address. The registrar of voters refused to accept this and changed their mind when an article about him came out in a national publication and said the same thing.

Meanwhile, I routinely hear that software engineers at FANG companies can make upwards of a quarter million annually in salary and he lives in Boston, not known for its low cost of living.

That should be common knowledge for the HN crowd, so I'm not going to try to back that up with a source.


IIRC in Steven Levy's book Hackers, published in 1984, he is described as renting a room in the house of a dentist or retired dentist.

I always thought the "squatter" description referred to his spending much of his time at MIT and keeping things at MIT without being employed by MIT. (Stallman quit his MIT job when he started GNU out of a worry that if he kept it then MIT might claim ownership of GNU; the legal ramification of the GPL weren't understood as well back then as they are today.) I don't think his use of the word implies that he had nowhere else to live.

I searched the page you linked for "home", "squatter", "vote" and "register" without finding any text the supports anything in your comment. I hope I don't come across as antagonistic to you; I am sincerely curious whether Stallman was ever homeless (i.e., ever lacked reliable access to private indoor space with a door that could be locked).

It was in a biography about him. (I read it a few years ago. No, I don't recall the name, author, etc.)

A quick search of the web also gives me nothing and I don't plan to spend a lot of time trying to prove this. Perhaps this will suffice as a source to satisfy your curiosity:


That helps me. Thanks.

ADDED. "Until around 1998, my office at MIT was also my residence. I was even registered to vote from there. Nowadays I have a separate residence in Cambridge not far from MIT." https://stallman.org/rms-lifestyle.html

Again, and not to perpetuate an unproductive argument, but the opposite is probably true; it appears in a lot of cases to be easier to make money not locking up your code, which is why open source software dominates so many markets today, and is integral to virtually every commercial product.

I'm not a software insider, but that's not my understanding of how that works. Free software seems to get used quite a lot to make money, but people actually working on free software seem to mostly not make (enough) money on it. It's a passion project and then it gets incorporated into things where parts are somehow locked up as a means to facilitate making money.

Not trying to argue with you. I just honestly don't understand it to work exactly like that, but some of your phrasing seems ambiguous and I'm wondering if I even understood you.

There's lots of huge companies doing Free Software.

IBM bought Redhat at a valuation of $34 billion.

> I haven't seen so much hostility from the world so much as 25 years ...

yeah, that’s a no from me, dog.


All I see there is a thread in which you proposed encrypted messages by XORing them with zeroes.

well i guess i just remembered it for over 8 years for literally no reason then ¯\(°_o)/¯

.. ok :)

Even though Stallman unfortunately has some bad opinions, he is still widely respected, and people are willing to forgive, particularly if he does repent.

I too hate people that devote so much energy to a cause they believe in, that they neglect their own well-being, financial and otherwise. /sarcasm

Hate? I hope that's hyperbole.

Some of the most significant human advances have been made by people obsessing over their passionate interests to the neglect of everything else.




That's not a great counter-argument. I mean, I could pull 20 names out of https://www.google.com/search?q=people+who+have+done+the+mos... that I think have done more good than Stallman, but it's somewhat subjective.

(I'd be hard-pressed to name 20 people you've heard of without Google. Why not ask for 1000 to be really sure the bar is absurd?)

That said, there are 7 billion people on this planet and I suspect rather more than 20 of them have done more good than Stallman.

I don't think 20 is absurd. But feel free to name 10. Here I can start the list for you:

- Bill Gates. For saving in the hundred millions lives through his foundation.

- Arunachalam Muruganantham. For low cost sanitary pads which have helped millions of women.

- Elon Musk. For starting a green revolution in the notoriously dirty car industry which will save millions of lives by saving the environment.

> For starting a green revolution in the notoriously dirty car industry which will save millions of lives by saving the environment.

I'm all for doing things that benefit the environment, I kow but I think this is a bit of a stretch.

The cars are too expensive for average consumer, so you will not see widespread adoption any time soon.

That's why I specifically mentioned starting a green revolution. Without Tesla current car companies wouldn't be racing to build cheaper electric cars. I didn't mean that people would all buy Teslas

Even so, hevy duty vehicles make up a majority of pollution caused by motor vehicles, which will most likely not be electric in the near future. Additionally, vehicles in general account for a relatively small percentage of all air pollution.

I think it will happen. Buses are already electric where I am from. Won't be long until trucks are too.

Depends on the type of "good". In computer software/ethics, sure why not.

What about compared to police officers taking criminals off the streets, firefighters saving people from burning buildings, people volunteering to build shelters in third world countries? There's a lot of good to be done in the world. I'm all in support of free software, but I would not put rms in the same category as those people.

Police officers taking criminals off the street is a small good. Same with firefighting. It's simply doesn't compare to the impact Stallman has had.

Again, I think in the software world sure he has made a big impact.

Would the lives of all the people who don't care about "free software" be much different if he didn't exist?

>name 20 X

>factually done more good

This honestly comes off as a satire of bad faith argument.

lol you're welcome to take him in then https://stallman.org/seeking-housing.html

I don't live anywhere even close to where he is looking for housing.

The people working to do evil (or things that are merely selfish) will opportunistically veil their actions. I wouldn't call them SJWs though.

That’s the problem with an unqualified group moniker, anyone can assume it. This is just another No True Scotsman.


Whoa, does he have a history I'm not aware of (honestly asking)?


I would be heartbroken if he killed himself, but it sounds like you're invoking the specter of suicide as a form of rhetoric, which is just awful. I don't think the social consequences he's experienced are comparable to Swartz's legal consequences, nor do I think it's fair to use the contextless term "homeless", which conjures the image of a person living and sleeping on the streets of a city, to describe RMS's position of needing a place to stay, which is something he's equipped for and experienced with anyway.

I know RMS, I met him in person and heard how much he had to suffer to bring his vision to life. Constant travel, begging people to let him sleep on their couches, being understood by maybe 1% of people he interacted with, most treating him as a weird celebrity without understanding his motives and dangers he wanted to prevent in the future etc. Now he is getting his life's work taken away basically because he's a "weirdo" and "had it long coming". This is quite often a situation that breaks humans; seeing it happening to him now it prompted me to express what I consider human solidarity instead of "a form of rhetoric" or "concern trolling".

Similar worries were expressed on /r/linux as well; I don't think any of us who were concerned about his well-being were doing that for other reasons than empathy.


Is it wrong to be worried about somebody's wellbeing? Or is it out of fashion these days? Or is it a privilege reserved only for pre-approved people?

It is wrong to invoke suicide simply to make a message board thread more exciting, yes. If you know something specific about Richard Stallman's mental health, then you know who to alert about your concerns. Otherwise, Internet psychiatric diagnosis is a trope, and is forbidden on Hacker News.


Saying "It is wrong to invoke suicide simply to make a message board thread more exciting" and calling it "concern trolling" both seem to me to break the guidelines in several ways (unkind, snarky, bad faith etc) whereas I can't see how bitL's comments being responded to broke any of them, or even came close.

Thanks for pointing out this rule to me and alerting me to the fact that my comment could have been interpreted that way instead of a humane expression of solidarity and worries about well-being in tough times!

I'm sure you did have that intention and that's a good thing. But mental health is a complex thing and publishing comments like that can have strange side effects. It's really best not to go there.


GPL is the biggest force that makes software bearable today. Have you ever worked back when everything was prop code? It was insanity. Getting devs change just one line of code would take months, and nobody knew where bugs are coming from because nobody could read the entire code.

I'm completely in awe with how a significant portion of this community believes (directly or indirectly) the accomplishments of a person makes being a decent human being optional. This leads to a "strong-rules-all" culture and I think what we're seeing is just modern barbarism.

Let me start by saying that most of my knowledge of this is from reading news posts and comments, I will not pretend to have an in-depth knowledge of this situation.

However, as a counterpoint, do you really want to live in a world where the leadership is not determined by how skilled you are at your craft, but how well you conform to a conventional morality? RMS has done some things that don't conform to that morality, and some things that go against my own sense of morality.

He doesn't lead a religious organization. He doesn't lead a political party. He was leading technical organizations, and seemed immensely successful in doing so. I have never once heard of him doing anything that was counter to the goals of those organizations.

Why do his personal beliefs even need to be brought into the equation? Do we really intend to digress back to some kind of Puritanical morality where your ability to do anything is first judged by your piousness, and secondly by your ability to perform the job?

Personally, this has somewhat diminished my interest in both the FSF and the GNU organizations. If witch hunts based on your personal sense of morality are going to be an entrenched part of joining that community. What I look for in a technical community is just that: technology. I'll save the witch hunts for organizations that purport some form a moral compass.

> Let me start by saying that most of my knowledge of this is from reading news posts and comments, I will not pretend to have an in-depth knowledge of this situation.

I'm in the same boat. I've been eyeballing things I've been seeing about him on HN as of late.

> However, as a counterpoint, do you really want to live in a world where the leadership is not determined by how skilled you are at your craft, but how well you conform to a conventional morality? RMS has done some things that don't conform to that morality, and some things that go against my own sense of morality.

I won't look at this in a binary way. True, I'd choose to live in a cave, rather than in a community where all leaders are selected solely on their social conformance. However, work or any other activity where it is done with a group, people bring merely more than their skills. They do bring their culture, their personal touch as well, and under circumstances where this social side is extremely irritating, it could override a decision on whether to include this person into the group. That being said, how much we should care about one's persona is a complex problem and I am refraining presenting an opinion about it. From the looks of it, in this particular instance, people think it was significant enough.

His resignations are going to be a net loss for everyone, but I refuse to believe this damage has been inflicted by the community. He is the sole responsible of his mouth. If you want to bring change, then the burden of being accepted lies with the individual, him, not the community.

What's "conventional morality"? Where's the line between a moral fashion and something more fundamental? If there's no one line, then isn't this all just an exercise in line drawing, and aren't the people who refuse to associate with Stallman simply drawing their own lines?

> aren't the people who refuse to associate with Stallman simply drawing their own lines?

It seems to me like he has enough allies to continue all of his organisations with some replacement of those who wont associate with him, so it seems to me like people are drawing lines for other people.

I have mixed feelings about his running of the organisations on a technical level, but I have more reservations about organisations after such a social coup. Similarly, I find Brendan Eich's political views distasteful, but I am more inclined to draw a line against interacting with Mozilla than Eich over people drawing lines for other people, and I would definitely shun Mozilla had they removed Eich for expressing political thoughts without making actual monetary donations.

I've worked with people far more distasteful in far more areas of their belief and behavior than those two, and I would rather the nonsense stop than empower one more moron on the web to bring someone to "justice". How is this mob going to sleep at night in a few months?

I'm not sure how they're meant to draw lines for other people; if they don't have a critical mass, Stallman can simply ignore them. If they do, he can't lead effectively, and it's their own personal lines that are the problem.

So you think a critical mass of people who actually work with Stallman in the FSF and Gnu did some secret ballots then discussed this with him their shared decision or you think a critical mass stopped showing up at work (is that online?) each independently?

More realistically, he was hounded by a loud minority with most people shruging and waiting. Given that his situation with MIT is somewhat more complicated and he has a limited amount of resources for handling simultaneous emergencies..

I think people who have come into professional contact with Stallman have had these problems for a very long time, and Stallman's extraordinarily ill-advised comments about Minsky and Epstein crystalized them.

>However, as a counterpoint, do you really want to live in a world where the leadership is not determined by how skilled you are at your craft, but how well you conform to a conventional morality?

We already live in that world. Within the boundaries of the law, any behavior which interferes with an organization's business, creates an intolerable work environment, or might invite a lawsuit or negative publicity can be grounds for dismissal regardless of a person's competence. Morality, politics and optics have always mattered, and matter more for leaders than others, because leaders are expected to embody an organization.

Stallman is an example of someone being given far more leeway than others when it comes to the effects of his his "unconventional morality."

I don't think it's strong-rules-"all."

I appreciate RMS for all that he has done. But unless he committed a crime, which he didn't, I don't think we should police his thoughts and opinions. The thresholds for decency may be different for you and me. And RMS is not a politician whose opinions could potentially affect all of us. If you don't link what he says, you can just ignore him.

He is welcome to his thoughts and opinions, and everyone else is entitled to their freedom not to associate with him as a result.

More to the point, everyone else is entitled to their freedom to associate with him, despite his thoughts and opinions. He is entitled to be the head of the GNU project because it's his fucking project. And if other people are willing to contribute money or code to that project, fucking FINE.

That's what this is about. Sarah Mei is coming from a place of, "Because RMS said this Very Bad Thing, no one should associate with him at all." Carrying with it an implied threat: if you continue to associate with a Bad Person, then you are a Bad Person and maybe whoever signs your checks should know just what a Bad Person you are.

FWIW I have never heard of Sarah Mei until today. I had a quick look at her Twitter account. There must be over 100 tweets and retweets about Stallman and the FSF over 10 days, that's when I stopped scrolling.

I have no horse in this race, this is too much of a hot topic to take a stance about personally, but I can't say I'm enjoying the modern viral Twitter shit-storm phenomenon very much.

The loudest campaign, wrong or right, wins by deafening everybody and amplifying their moral stance through that platform.

I have nothing against Mei personally, but I _loathe_ the modern Twitter driven moralism. Does everything have to be a crusade?

People have literally written the same thing about me and DNSSEC, both here and on Twitter. If you don't want to pay attention to Sarah Mei, you don't have to. People are allowed to decide what they care about, and to advocate for those things.

That being the case, Stallman is free to ignore his critics (and probably has; I think this is probably just vandalism).

Indeed. When he resigned from the FSF, I wondered myself -- was that a concession of defeat or a mic drop?

It was a concession of defeat; the Free Software Foundation does not belong to Richard Stallman.

> He is entitled to be the head of the GNU project because it's his fucking project.

Sure, but others are entitled to tell him he should step down, and he's entitled to do so if he feels like it.

Exactly. We could actually be more inclusive if we simply focused on people's actions within their domain, and ignored any flippant, tactless, or awkward _statement_ they may make when talking of other things.

That's a literal definition of the word "inclusive" that is at odds with its idiomatic meaning.

Yes! That is the paradox. The narrower the focus of your group, the more people you can include because they don't have to agree on all these other issues, too.

And that is precisely the problem - not that the Government or other explicit power structure is stepping on him, but that it's becoming fashionable for individuals to refuse to associate with anyone who has said or done anything they don't like, regardless of how much good they have done or how nice and helpful they have been otherwise.

Political changes tend to follow behind cultural changes here. If this cultural change has legs, then I have to wonder how long it will be before the Government does start acting more directly against anyone who has views outside of the mainstream. Social Credit score, anyone?

I really don't see anything "precise" in the way you've connected the dots from "people exercising their right not to associate with others whose behavior offends them" to "the Government is going to enact a social credit score".

Government Social Credit Scores are bad. It does not follow that people don't have reputations.

Heh, when your org’s image is a hostage of few short-minded haters, it is not particularly strong definition of freedom. Those haters could unassociate with him by simply not associating. “Remove <humanname>” is completely different.

That's true, I agree. But then everyone loses what he has to offer as well ...


Dude. RMS has a history going way back. No doubt people have been telling him (both in informal and formal settings) to curb his behavior in private for years. This was, as has been said before, the last straw.

You don’t have privy to his HR record at MIT and neither do I. But I’ll bet it looks closer in size and volume to Bart Simpson’s file than it does Lisa Simpson.

It is hard to fire people in academia. They found a legit, lawsuit-proof excuse to can him and took it.

If there were a credible case of criminal misconduct against him, you can be sure you'd hear the witch hunters cry it from the fucking rooftops.

In the hours I've spent reading this story, all I've seen is hearsay about women feeling uncomfortable about him having a mattress in his office; criminally stupid misreadings of his writings regarding Minsky; and of course various accounts him being a terribly unpleasant person, which we already knew.

It's obvious what ways the winds are blowing. There's no place for misfits like RMS in today's world. (But I guess there never really was.) That doesn't mean I have to like it.

There is no amount of evidence that would please alt-right types like you. That’s why it’s not worth discussing things with you. Construct whatever narrative helps you sleep at night.... if this was any other website, I’d have a significantly less measured response.... needless to say, get used to being on the losing side of the culture war.

Would you please stop posting in the flamewar style like this to HN? It just degrades this place even further. I'm sure you can find substantive ways to make your points, or simply the discipline not to feed egregious comments.


> If you don't link what he says, you can just ignore him.

If the contributors to the GNU project stop contributing since they do not like what he says, Stallman becomes a liability. Resignation is likely the only viable option.

It is also worth noting that there are reasons to stop contributing to an organizations for reasons other than policing the thoughts and opinions of its leadership. Sometimes people don't want to be associated with those thoughts and opinions, even if they are a strong proponent of the freedom of speech. Other people will want to limit their exposure to thoughts and ideas that they find revolting, which is difficult to do when the leadership sanctions them. While it is possible to argue that ending contributions results in the policing of a threshold for decency regardless of the motivation, the motivations are meaningfully different.

Yes, we should be grateful to Stallman for his contributions to Free Software. We should also be grateful for his resignations. Some of his viewpoints are truly harmful to both individuals and society, while his leadership role lent those ideas more credence than they deserve. If he recognizes the undue influence that leadership roles provide, we should offer him an opportunity to rebuild his reputation. Otherwise, he brought his own downfall.

Not only did he not commit a crime, he didn't even do anything other than awkwardly posit that maybe his deceased friend didn't realize he was doing something wrong. Certainly this was a tactless comment.

Now I don't personally like Richard Stallman, but the "one tactless comment and you're dead _and_ people who want to associate with you are dead, too" approach to modern Internet justice seems wrong.

In mob justice scenarios, it helps to have associates who are willing to defend you and stand by you. But it seems that Stallman has a history of wearing out his welcomes, so that rather than supporting him, his associates instead were saying "we'll quit if you don't push him out."

When you run a public organization, personal skills do matter.

1. How is Richard Stallman not a "decent human being"? 2. Assuming your answer is "I find his positions on the age of consent / incest / bestiality etc. abhorrent" - having a legal-philosophical view which is lenient on punishing certain acts as crimes does not make one an indecent person IMHO.

The case against Stallman, from the sources I've read, seems to be that he has a reputation for harassing women, so much so that there was a longstanding joke about placing ferns in offices to ward him off (he apparently finds them powerfully aversive), and that his defense of Minsky dovetailed in a particularly unfortunate way with some very stupid things he's said in the past about pedophilia (for instance, that consensual pedophilia should be legal).

If you put it to Twitter or a message board whether he's a "decent human being", you're going to get answers like "he's among the very best human beings because free software" and "he's among the very worst human beings because pedophilia".

I think it's worth interrogating whether "is Stallman a decent human being" is a question worth asking. The operative question is "is Stallman the right person to be leading the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project".

He doesn't have a reputation for harassing women, he has a reputation for weird off-putting behavior towards everyone, with many stories of being really bad at social etiquette towards men and women, not reading social cues, and getting away with behaving like a spoiled child. At the moment he was branded (falsely and maliciously) in the media with being an Epstein defender, a social media moral panic mob rose up against him, in which stories from women feeling uncomfortable with him predominated. It went into the general frenzy of "this asshole drove countless women away from the computer industry over the years" very, very quickly.

And yes, Stallman wrote twice in the past that he thought consensual pedophilia was not particularly harmful - about three lines worth among many thousands of entries in his inane "political blog" that approximately nobody reads or cares about (and on which of course nobody commented or cared about at the time they were made). These lines were lovingly collected and placed, with some other examples of his wrongthink, e.g. on the geek feminism wiki years ago. They did not play a significant role in creating the moral panic - the initial Medium article with the lie about him saying Epstein's victims were entirely willing didn't have them. The articles in the media with headlines like "Star MIT Scientist Calls Epstein Victim Virginia Giuffre "Entirely Willing"" mostly didn't include them, though a few did when the journalists went to dig for more fodder.

Thomas, I've never met you, but admired your writings over the years. Seeing you defend the mob against Stallman with well-worn platitudes like "He is welcome to his thoughts and opinions, and everyone else is entitled to their freedom not to associate with him as a result" is particularly saddening.

You say that, but I hear differently, from people with firsthand experience. My suspicion is that you believe Stallman doesn't harass people because you want it to be true, not because you honestly believe it is true.

Please provide references regarding Stallman's supposed reputation for harassing women - I have not heard about this (though TBH I have not looked into it).

I do not present any opinion about his decency. It is under scrutiny for sure, but I won't publicly judge him.

regardless of how i might feel about stallman's actions, the dishonest reporting and twitter mob-baiting leading up to his removal leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

while there are those who believe 'stallman did nothing wrong,' i suspect many in the community who object to his forced resignation feel the same way - that it was done in bad faith.

That's how the mainstream thinks all around the world; it's the rare position that believes principles rule society when consensus on any kind of vision for the human condition is so far out of reach.

Sadly, I reckon that even a lot of the folks who want Stallman gone are just as willing to turn a blind eye to someone doing the same things that he did if they have the right accomplishments and status, and that they just differ on who they're willing to do that for.

Do you reckon that? You look back over your recalled experiences and see example after example of the kinds of people condemning Stallman putting up with misogyny, harassment, and advocacy for pedophilia among higher-status people?

What about the US president? There's a recording of the president saying that he grabs women by their vagina. Surely it's not surprising to think that there's a critical voting demographic that believes such sexual violation isn't worthy of putting the country through an impeachment process.

The US President relies highly on evangelical voters. Surely this is because those voters have made a calculation on the balance of values, and despite honorable sexual conduct being an evangelical value... it didn't win in the sum of things.

RMS is more like "meek-and-bullied-rules-something-at-last" as a counterpoint to strong-rules-all culture. This witchhunt just keeps on giving :D I met RMS in person.

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