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Richard Stallman Has Been Vilified by Those Who Don’t Know Him (medium.com/whoisylvia)
511 points by lelf on Oct 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 515 comments

Here[0] is a post by someone else who (by his own account) "worked for RMS longer than any other programmer."

While he obviously has had a long relationship with Stallman, one of his key takeaways was:

"RMS’s loss of MIT privileges and leadership of the FSF are the appropriate responses to a pattern of decades of poor behavior. It does not matter if they are appropriate responses to a single email thread, because they are the right thing in the total situation."

Which I think is very well said. So while Paull's assessment that people's reaction to some email quotes is out-of-proportion, this is really just the proverbial straw on the back of the camel.

[0] https://medium.com/@thomas.bushnell/a-reflection-on-the-depa...

And here [0] is someone else who (by his own accord) worked with both RMS and Bushnell and is saying Bushnell is bullshitting and grinding an axe:

[0] https://mobile.twitter.com/thomas_lord/status/11744336549420...

> Bushnell and I overlapped in our employment at FSF. ... The general culture of inclusiveness and tolerance that RMS fostered meant that, at least when I was there alongside Bushnell, that social circle in and around the organization was feminized and all the stronger for it. This does not mean, of course, that RMS (or any of us) never gave offense or acted stupidly. But Bushnell's portrait showing a depraved sexist coddled by this or that MIT prof. is simply bullshit, and Bushnell probably knows or should know that in his heart.

Frankly, Bushnell and the response to him clearly show none of this should be decided in the court of public opinion. Even if either of these people are correct, none of what we've read or heard so far is in any way sufficient to condemn Stallmann and ruin his career and none of us is in an appropriate position to make that determination. He underwent utter character assassination in the media who went to great lengths to pretend his argument regarding that other MIT professor was about defending Epstein and pedophilia and I'm still mad that so many people fell for it. Maybe Stallmann might possibly be a terrible piece of shit, but this wasn't the way to go.

The first I heard was about how he was a guest in Denmark almost 30 years ago and fouled up his room. Nothing bad happened to him, he was lucky.

Stallman had luck with public opinion many, many times. This time his luck changed.

It's unfair to deplore the bad luck and forget about all the times he had benefited from good luck.

Nobody is talking about luck. He was the victim of an unfair and unjust attack by the media, who distorted his words in a disgusting way. There is no way to justify that by referring to his other behavior, no matter how bad it may be.

Do you think it was okay that he escaped censure so many times for no substantive/relevant reason? Do you think it's okay that he now is unfairly harshly censured, again for no substantive/relevant reason?

What I'm trying to say is that the two answers should be the same.

> Do you think it was okay that he escaped censure so many times for no substantive/relevant reason?

If that is true, then no. I don't know the details of the other issues though.

> What I'm trying to say is that the two answers should be the same.

If the situations are truly mirror images, then yes my answers are the same. I'm skeptical that they are, though.

The guy is important for one reason only. He was extremely prophetic, and started an important movement that increased our computing freedoms significantly.

He was always socially maladjusted. I remember him eating his toenails while sitting on-stage a decade ago. That kind of thing shouldn't matter for what he represents and does.

Fouled up his room? What do you mean, like, he couldn't figure out how to operate the hotel room door lock?

No, he stayed as a guest at the home of one of the DKUUG regulars and his girlgriend, who afterwards wrote an angry article about it in the DKUUG-nyt. I see the early-nineties issues have been scanned, http://www.dkuug.dk/wp-content/themes/dkuug/arkiv, but I haven't the time to look through them now. The main issues were matters of personal hygiene and the way he treated the girlfriend.

Much the same all been posted later, again and again, https://daringfireball.net/2019/09/richard_stallmans_disgrac... links and quotes a bit.

I still don’t understand what you mean by “fouled up his room?”

Do you mean he messed up the furniture? Spilled tomato sauce on everything? Overflowed the toilet?

There's a reason all these stories stay so vague - as soon as the details come out, it turns out to be lies, exaggerations or really really minor stuff.

By keeping the narrative at the level of "fouled up his room", "made women feel uncomfortable", "drove people out of open source" the people who attack him can make sure that no one can prove them "wrong". Of course, they also ensure that they can't prove anything themselves, but it's not really about that.

I guess a good criteria for criticism should at least be something that passes AirBnB editorial review.

That archive is a gem on its own! I can't find the article about RMS though, and I've scanned through about 16-17 issues so far. Do you happen to know which issue it is?

Aside from that, this is a great magazine and it's so much fun reading through old articles from the 80s and 90s about Unix. I didn't know Denmark had such a large Unix scene back then.

I've clicked a fair few myself, looking for it... I read the story in 1994 or slightly later, but it was old already. I'm running the whole archive through pdfsandwich now to be able to grep.

Grep found it: Issue 121, dated long after 1994.

Thanks. Read it now. This is a great article and I laughed out loud several times. RMS is a true eccentric.

Note the footnote:

>> Det skal iøvrigt nævnes, at RMS til daglig bor på sit kontor på Massaschusets Institute of Technology, hvor han engang har arbejdet, så det er måske ikke så mærkeligt, at hans sociale evner er begrænsede.

Thank you for the link. My impression is that RMS mainly had some opinions which were leftover from the “free love” movement of the 1960s and 1970s which were not particularly shocking or out of line back then, but are considered job-losing toxic opinions here in 2019.

For the record, as someone who saw that whole movement first hand, I disagree with the whole “free love” movement and think sex should only be done in a lifetime monogamous commitment.

I have met and have had dinner with RMS; he came off to me as a very kind person who has very strong principles. I do not see the imaginary monster that the outrage clickbait media is trying to make RMS be in him.

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

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

> I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.


These are obvious examples of «things you can’t say», e.g. opinions that are considered normal in some societies and times, and anathema in others.

(For reference, in case someone hasn’t read it: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html)

Without saying anything about my own stance on these opinions, it’s intellectualy weak to consider it a firable offense to have uttered them thirteen years ago. People should be stronger than that, and have a wider perspective.

Those words didn't disappear and resurfaced from some secret tape or whatever. They're on his own blog, first-party information quoted all over the place, and recent email scandal just proves that he never really changed.

Also, here's a quote of his about people with Down syndrome:

> If you'd like to love and care for a pet that doesn't have normal human mental capacity, don't create a handicapped human being to be your pet. Get a dog or a parrot...


Seriously, everyone's better off with him gone, including free software as a whole. He's not worth defending. It was about damn time he actually faced some consequences for his shitty behavior.

The quoted sentence addresses the parents or potential parents who purposefully make mentally handicapped children, not the handicapped children.

It's easy to make these kind of reading/comprehension mistakes when one gets caught up in cancel culture and their outrage mobs.

He just called a human being with down syndrome the same as a pet. a human being, nobody is having problems with reading comprehension except the people that have the same mentality as him (pedos, topminds, etc.)

I mention this elsewhere in this sub-thread, but RMS was not completely out of line in 2003 or 2006 writing those kind of things. It was an era when it was still an open question whether the Wikipedia should have pro-pedophilia advocacy in their entries.

For the record, I have never endorsed those positions [1], but I also see that they were on the fringe of acceptable discussion at the time.

[1] See https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Pedophile_mo... for how I felt about pro-pedophile advocacy back in 2004, in an era when a small outspoken fringe worked really hard to make it part of the Wikipedia.

Just because a few people where discussing this doesn't make it out of line. I remember 2003-2006 well enough. There was no discussion in society about this.

This - it may be the case that Wikipedia was discussing this, but mainstream society was just the same as now.

The episode of Brass eye lambasting the scares about it actually came out in 2001, so the assertion is nonsense.

> It was an era when it was still an open question whether the Wikipedia should have pro-pedophilia advocacy in their entries.

NAMBLA and similar will take every opportunity to push pro-paedophile[1] and pro-abuse positions. Your example just speaks to the nativity of Wikipedia (and a bunch of other US tech companies) around people who commit contact offences against children.

But we need to be clear: this was not in anyway a mainstream position. It was a smallish number of child abusers gaming a system.

The most recent example isn't just about what he said though. It's about how he said it. And it's this that people find unacceptable. The discussion was about how to manage the potentially serious image problem when a high profile member of the organisation has been accused of sexually assaulting a child.

Either he doesn't know that this is the wrong time to say those things, or he does know and doesn't care, but either way it made it harder for other people to do their job - managing the comms of having your organisation financially linked to a high profile sex offender.

[1] I guess we need to say that some people with a sexual interest in children will not commit offences against children, and so some pro-paedophile commentary is acceptable.

>I guess we need to say that some people with a sexual interest in children will not commit offences against children, and so some pro-paedophile commentary is acceptable.

this is just incredibly stupid to believe, pro-paedophile commentary is acceptable? why in the ever living fk would that be aceptable? because a pedo might not actually commit those acts? are you stupid?

We've banned this account. Posting like this will get your main account banned as well, so please don't.


Damn, he actually wrote that under his real name? That was unwise. I wouldn't even say that as Mirimir. Except about prostitution and adultery, of course.

There was also one that I can't be bothered to find that goes something along the lines of "teens sext each other, therefore child pornography should be legal".

Well, there was that recent case about the tween girl who got convicted of distributing child pornography for sexting another tween.

So it's obvious to me that underage sexting itself shouldn't be prosecuted as child porn. Because if they're old enough to prosecute as adults, they're also old enough to legally share naked pictures of themselves.

But of course, it's arguable that third parties -- especially adult third parties -- who distribute such images should be prosecuted.

Look, this conversation right here that you're making is exactly why people beiing willing to take a stance against these sorts of "thou shalt be dumped upon for even mentioning" things is necessary.

He's not a fool in that regard. He understands that as long as you can attach paedophilia to something, this type of outrage phenomena can completely sink any attempt at civil discourse, and can be weaponized in order to force through liberty/civic rights destructive measures. Think about it.

We could frame an Act to implement Panopticon for the sake of catching Paedophiles, and then poof! Resistance disappears because if you dissent, you're now pro-paedophile! Yet every last civic minded person who values personal freedom/liberty should be able to tell that the inevitable result of such a system being implemented is inevitable abuse.

Now replace that with LGBT rights, or women's rights, or sexual assault, or any other controversial theme under the sun.

You cannot have the Nazi exception. In any form, or on any topic. Freedom is Freedom. And you can't even dismiss it with a handwave to the freedom to experience consequences either, because you're just perpetuating the sin you're willing to punish Stallman for by tolerating the outright lies of the reporter which fueled the whole thing in the first place.


People need to put the pitchforks down, and go about your day. You should advise the people who started the entire hubbub that the proper place to deal with that disagreement was with Stallman himself in private, maybe with an administrator.

If we resort to mob justice to get our way, we end up throwing out any semblance of Order to our country, instead we just end up with a reflexive gaggle of inflammable passions waiting for the next match to be struck.

I hate to say it, but you really can't fault Stallman on this one. You can be annoyed. You can find it distasteful; but in the end he is exactly right. It is important that the more heinous the accusation, the greater the pains needed to be taken to ensure that we specifically and only read into what is actually there, and adhere to what is actually actionable by law.

Otherwise you see exactly what has erupted here. An outburst of rage against someone completely uninvolved, combined with the burning down of the metaphorical village for what?

A Five Minute Rage?

Christ, how Orwellian! 1984 isn't even being misused as a manual. It's here and now. God help us.

This is incredibly dramatic. Orwell warned us of governmental censorship. Huxley warned us of government and citizen complacency. What we are experiencing here is something else, and it's NOT in the form of a law, or a punishment, or anything else. The government is not enforcing these actions on anyone. People are free to mob around an idea and attempt to actuate results. You can still speak your mind. It has nothing to do with 'Our Country'. Your equating of the two is worrisome

>People are free to mob around an idea and attempt to actuate results. You can still speak your mind. It has nothing to do with 'Our Country'. Your equating of the two is worrisome

You are free to "mob" around an idea. Yes. You are free to actuate to generate results. I do not contest that.

>Equating of Our Country

I'm merely referencing a collective investment and faith in a system of Law and Order as set forth in the Constitution.

Everyone is free to believe as they want, but reality demands it's toll when your "belief" begins to extract cost in the form of pursuits of extrajudicial justice. When you start seeing the lynch mobs gather (which make no mistake, this type of escalation isn't that far off from; reputational violence is still violence), I put my foot down.

It darn well should be concerning. There are clearly battle lines being drawn. There is a growing corpus of individuals that see fit to utilize internetworking and information warfare through disinformation to cause harm; without due process, or respect to any authority or attempts at officially mediated redress.

Civilization depends on mutual restraint, and unity in the agreed upon means to the redress of grievance. If individuals cannot come to the table to resolve their issues in a private manner, or do something novel, like calling each other out on something without outright lying in a public forum, or maliciously smearing each other in a manner unable to withstand basic scrutiny, but leading to a widespread disruption of the peace, then battle lines are well on their way to being drawn. Voicing the truth is one thing. Sometimes, it is unpleasant, but needs to be spoken. ; but to spread lies and slander maliciously to the end of tormenting hatred is another.

I have no qualms with any of these people's causes. My beef is with their means. Given the increasing frequency with which people seem to be taking rather cavalier positions with the truth, and asserting that others should be deprived of their station without due process of any kind (the nigh inevitable result of a malicious false media campaign), a boiling point is clearly coming.

I hate it. I don't know what to do about it, but it is written on the wall clear as day. There is very serious change on the horizon. This digital age has brought forth the new lynch mob. A veritable army of people can rebroadcast the worst types of untruth about you with little or no redress. I can't even say I can endorse their behavior from an ends justifies the means point of view. If everyone got these types of posses together and went after everyone else all the time, I don't see a reachable equilibrium. The sides just get larger, and wider until you either have the very quintessential example of the oppressed minority (thereby the minority deserves legal protection), or both sides get large, polarized, and energized enough where should violence break out, it's a threat to the entire system.

I'm afraid our civilization is in the fits of a social anaphylaxis; and I have no idea what the anti-histamine would be. The adrenaline analog, however, is something we all know, and history has demonstrated time and again.


I don't want it to come to that. If we can't stop making war against each other with words, there is nothing to keep us from falling upon each other with fists when the time comes that patience wears thin.

Stallman, for all everyone is enraged at his gall and supposed insensitivity, said what absolutely needed to be said.

I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't care for everyone involved. I understand. I may not agree, but damnit, I understand. I wish the entire thing never happened. That Epstein and his shenanigans would have been dealt with years ago instead of being allowed to fester. That none of those girls had to go through what they did. That two men of great intelligence weren't caught in the middle of it.

But letting things devolve to this level of incivility is unacceptable. I cannot, and Will not on any last scrap of good conscience stand by and let this travesty play out without being heard.

If all it means, is that everyone reads this, and waves me off as a crank so be it. I can accept failure. I tried. It is my hope that maybe, just maybe; even if it isn't in this issue in particular, mywords can act as a seed.

A seed from which others may find that within the fertile landscape of their minds will burst forth a renewed commitment to treat each other with decency, respect, civility, and forgiveness.

I don't care who you believe in, but if you can muster at least those four qualities,and maintain them to any degree, there is naught to be feared.

Good night, and may whom you worship (if any) bless.

> There was also one that I can't be bothered to find

Then please don't post it. Lazy citation of original material is how we got here.

There are lots of them, and they're easy to find. They're all on his website. Here are a few.

RMS has made a few comments saying that images of child sexual abuse should not be illegal.


> Rick Falkvinge joins me in demanding an end to the censorship of "child pornography", and points out that if in the US you observe the rape of a child, making a video or photo to use as evidence would subject you to a greater penalty than the rapist.

> The article does not mention that it's common practice for teenagers to exchange nude photos with their lovers, and they all potentially could be imprisoned for this. A substantial fraction of them are actually prosecuted.


> 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.

> Some rules might be called for when these acts directly affect other people's interests. For incest, contraception could be mandatory to avoid risk of inbreeding. For prostitution, a license should be required to ensure prostitutes get regular medical check-ups, and they should have training and support in insisting on use of condoms. This will be an advance in public health, compared with the situation today.


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

> I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.


> In the US, people convicted for having copies of child pornography tend to get longer prison sentences than those convicted of having sex with children.

> Mere possession of child pornography should not be a crime at all. To prosecute people for possessing something published, no matter what it may be, is a big threat to human rights.


> "Child" pornography is being used as an excuse to threaten all American internet users' privacy.

> The term "child pornography" is dishonest. The censorship of it puts young lovers in direct danger of prosecution.

> Many published works are disgusting, but censorship is more so. In the Internet, enforcement of censorship puts other rights in danger.

> Please support demandprogress.org's campaign against this bill.

There are loads of these. Stallman takes a hardline anti-Censorship view, and he sees any prohibition on possession or distribution of images of child sexual abuse as censorship.

His argument about criminalising children who share images of themselves with other children has a simple fix: stop prosecuting children for doing stupid shit.

> His argument about criminalising children who share images of themselves with other children has a simple fix: stop prosecuting children for doing stupid shit.

That would be less rule of law, and more blind faith in the benevolence of public officials.

Those views are pretty far outside the Overton Window even for the free love movement.

Can you explain why these opinions are inappropriate? What makes someone with aggressively libertarian views unsuitable to lead the Free Software Foundation?

Should a 10 year old be allowed to smoke, drink, and do harder drugs? If no then why should a 10 year old be able to pick their adult sex partner(s)?

There are plenty of anarchists in the world who would respond with an emphatic "yes".

Should we be taking steps to ensure anarchists aren't allowed to write software or work at a university?

Did I say he should not be" allowed to write software or work at a university"?

It is concerning to me that RMS would allow kids to make adult decision while at the same time saying that adults selling software to other adults under licenses he doesn't like should be punished.

I think it's reasonably sound logic from a libertarian perspective.

The more concerning thing is he's not allowed to simultaneously discuss that line of thinking while working at MIT.

Libertarians typically believe in a right of contracting something which RMS doesn't so it may not be totally correct to examine his ideas from a strict Libertarian viewpoitn.


My point is that I find it strange to give RMS rights he would not give others if he had the power to stop them from making those decisions.

That is absolutely a false equivalency. I don't think you'll find any evidence that RMS believes people shouldn't be able to _discuss_ selling propriety software, or disagree with free software, or anything else.

He thinks people should be punished for selling proprietary software correct?

He also isn't sure than "voluntary pedophilia" is harmful / that people before puberty should be able to pick their sex partners despite not even being a teenager.

Limiting this to being just a discussion on what can be "discussed" isn't valid. He appears to support actions that harm others by some of his statements.

> He thinks people should be punished for selling proprietary software correct?

No? I'm not really sure what you mean by "punish" here. He advocates for Free Software -- to my knowledge he's never advocated for punishing anybody.

> He appears to support actions that harm others by some of his statement.

How? Where's the harm? What's harmful about questioning the age of consent being 18 (which, may I remind you, varies from 12-19 worldwide). Why are some aspects of US law declared beyond the scope of acceptable discourse? You can disagree with him (I certainly do) but I don't see why we should shame him for even broaching the subject.

"I'm all in favour of the principle that it's good to reward people who do things that contribute to society and it's good to punish people, one way or another, if they do things that harm society. This means that people who develop Free Software that's useful deserve a reward, and people who develop proprietary software that's attractive deserve a punishment."

That is from this interview https://fsfe.org/freesoftware/transcripts/rms-fs-2006-03-09....

We aren't talking about the age of consent. RMS explicitly said children before they hit puberty / sexual maturity which is a bit different than a 17 year old to most people.

> Why are some aspects of US law declared beyond the scope of acceptable discourse?

They're not, it's fine to talk about these things, and there are plenty of places where people discuss all aspects of law around sexual offending.

The wrong time and place to talk about them is when your organisation is discussing potential problems because a high profile person linked to your organisation has been accused of raping a coerced child. People in that thread needed a useful way to deal with "MIT has links to Epstein, and Minsky is accused of raping a child". RMS's diversions into "is it rape?" and "is it assault?" were not helpful to that thread.

Either RMS was oblivious to the distress and distraction his comments would cause, or he knew and didn't care. Neither is good.

Wouldn't it better for MIT's reputation if people weren't jumping to the conclusion that one of their professors would willingly rape people? Did anyone actually believe Marvin Minsky of all people would do that? I wonder what he will have to say about this when he gets unfrozen.

> Either RMS was oblivious to the distress and distraction his comments would cause

First, the conversation was internal, it was leaked to the public. Second, it's nothing new. He's been documenting his opinions for decades. Third, it was a relevant discussion because he was talking about the characterization of the events by the media.

If you just have a bone to pick with RMS I'm not sure what there is left to discuss.

If there is a requirement that the head of the FSF is easily understood by ordinary people there can't be a head of the FSF. Ordinary people don't understand or care about software freedom. The acknowledgement of that was why the Open Source people split from the Free Software people back in the day. The best anyone can do is make arguments that are correct if someone takes the time to read and think through them. Stallman is that sort of person, and that is likely the sort of person who is going to be at the head of the FSF if they are effective and not just a vague cheerleader. This current 'scandal' is probably a sign that the Free Software movement will die and be subsumed into the Open Source world - anyone promoting freedom is going to be a radical.

In this case, I expect but don't have time to check that Stallman is using a very wide definition of coerced that captures most or all of whatever you are uncomfortable with and he is going to be technically correct on most if not all of his original points. That is completely in his style.

And more to the issue at hand, these are questions that are irrelevant to Stallman's position as head of the FSF or his role in MIT. He is not using his position to push pro-adultery themes. He is calling on people to think about what words mean and what the implications of those meanings are. People can't kick up a stink for something that happened 10 years ago and claim that nothing has changed. Stallman is perfectly happy to stand up and say that he's changed his mind on many points. A couple of lines on a personal website are just not that insightful into his character.

Also, whether alcohol or drugs should be available for consumption by anybody is still an open question. That is a different debate. Most of the arguments as to why a 10 year old shouldn't be drinking can actually be applied to a 40 year old. The major difference (brain development) is a big deal but there are a lot of other problems with addictive substances that are not age dependent. Why should it be acceptable for a 40 year old to drink but not a 10 year old? There are interesting aspects to consider there and to logically pin down the reasoning to a moral framework requires quite a bit of thought and probably discussion with others.

If I have the wrong opinion on the matter, will you assassinate my career for it regardless of the rationality of any argument I might make?

How do you reach that conclusion from what I posted? If punishing people for the wrong ideas is wrong is RMS wrong for saying those who release closed source software are deserving of punishment?

My guess is he means punished in the marketplace, ie, not buying proprietary software - not punish as in throw them in jail for buying/selling proprietary software.

It's a perfect example of where our society seems to be heading. Taking words and sentences out of their context and publishing the fragments over and over leads to incomplete understanding and misinterpretation.

To me, this is similar to the recent cases where some public figure said the N word 10 years ago, and so their present company fired them. Remember the phrase from childhood "Stick and stone may break my bones but words can never harm me." That's the principle of free speech. We sure don't have that anymore.

If you are a media person and use the N word in your position, and it's against your employer's policy to do that, fine - you're fired. But if you personally are a racist or hate gays or whatever, that should be your choice, and if you say the N word to your neighbor and they record it, your employer should not be able to fire you.

We have become way too sensitive IMO, and the fact that news is on 24/7 (they have to fill that time with something!) and is more about evoking feelings, spouting opinions and prophecies, and sensationalism than it is about facts, is a big part of the problem.

man, taken seriously most of it does sound awfully wrong of course, no argument here. Yet about taking it seriously - this is the quote that follows yours a bit later :

" Necrophilia would be my second choice for what should be done with my corpse, the first being scientific or medical use. Once my dead body is no longer of any use to me, it may as well be of some use to someone. "

Ah, the old "it's just a joke" justification.

That's not a joke. He's serious.

You may be responding to the wrong comment, because that was the point of mine.

Yeah, from someone who was there, that's almost it. I'd add hacker punk as another key influence. But seriously, you don't say that stuff in public these days.

Edit: Even if you're joking, or just doing it to light people up. Which was, you know, quite the thing. Back in the day.

And damn, had to work at it, but I found a couple BOFH episodes that actually mention women.[0,1]

0) https://bofh.subversivedata.com/story/2009/4

1) http://bofharchive.com/1998/bastard98-21.html

Yeah, I agree that you don’t say that stuff in public these days, and I have always felt that, with Romeo-and-Juliet exceptions, the age of consent should be respected.

Keep in mind that, around the time RMS posted those more controversial blog entries (which I still feel are being quoted out of context [1]), the Wikipedia was allowing out and out pedophiles to post their disgusting and repulsive pro-pedophilia advocacy [2]. And, yes, I found that advocacy repulsive back then and find it repulsive today. [3]

[1] https://sterling-archermedes.github.io/ No, I did not write this article, but I think it makes some legitimate points.

[2] https://archive.is/iG9KX (Trigger warning for victims of child sexual abuse)

[3] At https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Pedophile_mo... (Again, trigger warning) I expressed my opinion in 2004 that what the Wikipedia was allowing w.r.t. pro-pedophile opinions back then was repulsive, an opinion I still hold today.

What’s considered toxic about the free love movement?

It normalized the objectification of women [1] and allowed sexual predators [2] to flourish.

[1] Objectification: instead of treating a woman like a person, they were reduced to being a body to satisfy a man’s base urges.

[2] Sexual predator: Men who do not care about women as human beings but merely see them as potential sexual conquests, and who do dishonest and manipulative stuff to get a woman to have sex with them. Dishonest stuff includes getting a woman drunk so they will consent to sex; lying about one’s wealth or achievements (the canonical example is someone who never joined the military claiming they are a Navy SEAL); etc.

I was there, and part of it.

You may find it hard to believe, but there were lots of young women who were just extremely promiscuous. Just as promiscuous as the young men were. Free sex was a political statement. A form of rebellion against the status quo. And of course, it was enabled by the ready availability of antibiotics and hormonal birth control.

I saw a lot of that movement too, probably not as much as you.

My sense is that no one was finding any real satisfaction from having short term strictly sexual relationships, and my sense in this day and age of #MeToo (which I very strongly feel has become a witch hunt) is that some men were hurting some women emotionally by only wanting them for sex.

Right. I was an illegal immigrant from Russia. And an LSD dealer. I was also ~homeless, and living out of a VW bug.

It wasn't about having "meaningful relationships". It was about having fun. And forgetting about dying in a nuclear war. For those who weren't alive in 1962, you really have no clue.

Just wanted to say it’s fantastic to see this perspective expressed so clearly, when many have taken the puritanical aspects of feminism to heart as something that’s obvious and certain in educated society.

It’s as if certain aspects of preferences and free will are now inconceivable. Refreshing to see a more accurate historical account.

>> hurting some women emotionally by only wanting them for sex.

I can definitely say as a man that in the context of some women in my life I would be hurt if sex is the only thing they wanted from me, too.

I don't necessarily see how the whole free-love movement is supposed to be responsible for my delusions about what kind of a lover I am currently hanging out with, though.

Hmm, I think those are pre-existing pathologies in society that free-love folks have worked really hard both to prevent—by empowering women, by frowning upon non-lesbian couplings, by talking extensively about informed and enthusiastic consent, and by fostering cross-gender friendships the monogs were suspicious of—and to reduce the harm from, for example, with birth control, condoms (and strong norms against not using them), and by socially supporting single motherhood. Sex parties in free-love circles very frequently have strict rules against alcohol, while many serial monogamists can only copulate when intoxicated. So I think you're probably mistaken.

The “free love” movement of the 1960s and 1970s, as I understand it, did not really have people widely using condoms. It was assumed that women were on the pill or used a diaphragm.

Condoms only really became a thing in the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic hit the world.

Your post gives me a lot of hope; I really hope that we can reverse the trend of people, particularly young people in their 20s, having sex less and less. [1]

I personally would not partake in such a free love movement, but I really want to see, post-#MeToo, a world where it’s OK for a man to sexually desire a woman, as long as he also sees her as a person with feelings, is not being manipulative to get sex, and fully respects consent.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/02/well/family/millennials-l...

I’m pretty sure both those things existed before the sixties.

Bushnell calls himself a "social justice warrior". These exact words. And in my experience, he's lived up to the common meaning of that phrase. Does this behavior affect how you should regard Bushnell's recent article? Make up your own mind.

> "The general culture of inclusiveness and tolerance"

That was not the Stallman I saw at CSAIL. There are many good things to be said about Stallman, but in multiple years there I never saw either tolerance or inclusivity.

It’s almost as though two people can see the same situations or behaviour and come to different conclusions as to the nature and motivation behind them. What is obviously sexist to one person might be normal behaviour to another.

Bushnell* writes a very reasonable piece. It deals with a number of issues with Stallman as a leader of the FSF and MIT and suggests Stallman is unlikely to come back to either of those institutions.

But he doesn't deal with what the big problem here is - the way this was done is concerning. Stallman wasn't forced to resign by people like him - who are quite happy to say "Look, Stallman, you've dedicated your life to this, you've done good work, but we want to take the movement into a more mainstream place".

Stallman resigned in the middle of a press firestorm, based on lies, with people publicly accusing him of supporting someone he called a 'serial rapist'. He is now facing large numbers of people retroactively justifying his treatment by spreading various rumours that may or may not be true but certainly can't be enumerated and assessed for accuracy. They are unfalsifiable and undebunkable because so far there is very little substance and a lot of hearsay. I've seen the odd comments justifying all sorts of weird assumptions, in one case literally because 'he was an eccentric bloke'. This is gross pigeonholing and stereotyping.

This is not a reasonable process and the outcomes are horrible. Stallman has literally dedicated his life to trying to make the world better for other people. He was bought down by leaks by someone who now says "Did I even really know who Richard Stallman was before those emails? To be honest, not really" [0]. This is not how these things should be done and it bodes very poorly for the future of the FSF. Not only is there no particular reward for leading the FSF, there is also the risk of being publicly shamed and driven out.

There is a difference between leadership change by mob rule, and leadership change by voting and process. This isn't a sustainable way of doing things. It is really bad.

[0] https://medium.com/@selamjie/remove-richard-stallman-fec6ec2...

* EDIT - Thanks yakshaving_jgt for pointing out I said Paul. Moment of confusion, although fortunately not one that obscured the point.

Stallman resigned in the face of people who had always known who he was being faced with the reality that the rest of the world also knew. The motivation wasn't the misquotes of his already abhorrent argument.

(source: former FSF board member)

Why do you consider his argument abhorrent before it was misquoted?

Because attempting to redefine "sexual assault" such that it only applies to cases that involve physical violence is an attempt to reduce the perception of the seriousness of the crime

Quoting Debbie Harry from an interview published just yesterday [1]:

> She is similarly dismissive of another horrific incident. In the early 70s, when she and Stein were coming home after a gig, a man followed them and forced them at knifepoint to let him into their apartment. He was looking for drugs and equipment. He tied up Stein, then Harry. Once he had piled up the equipment he was going to take – guitars, Stein’s camera – he raped her on the bed.

> In her book, she writes: “I can’t say that I felt a lot of fear. In the end, the stolen guitars hurt me more than the rape.” Can this be true? “Yes,” she says. “I mean, I was angry and I felt victimised. I wasn’t beaten or harmed physically, it was all emotional or mental. Being raped – or fucked – by some stranger against my will at knifepoint, you know …” She pauses and sighs. “It wasn’t a happy moment in my life, but I really, seriously, empathise with women who are beaten. That would be something that [would lead to] emotional ramifications for the rest of my life. But this doesn’t.”

> She knows it may seem hard to believe. “It is ludicrous,” she says, “and it is kind of funny that I would say it, but, truly, I wasn’t physically molested. Afterwards, I was with Chris, and I was, you know …” She makes a sound to signal the horror she must have felt. “I went on with my life. But as I say, I wasn’t beaten or assaulted and I think that, coupled with being sexually violated, is truly awful. Then you are really made to feel powerless.” But she was tied up at knifepoint. Didn’t that make her feel powerless? “Yeah. Not the same. It wasn’t for me anyway.” She didn’t have counselling, and says Stein was supportive “and we moved on”.

So Debbie Harry is certainly making a distinction here between forced sex alone and forced sex with physical violence. And for her that distinction makes what she suffered less serious than if it had included physical violence. Do you want to discount her opinion too?

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/01/debbie-...

It can be taken that way. But if "sexually" is omitted from "sexually assaulted" a statement can easily be misunderstood. If you add in the context that there was no direct accusation of sexual assault by the victim towards Minsky, I do find reasonable to talk about how these terms are used. I even understand his argument that these terms best not be used in accusations because there are better ones.

I find your interpretation of "an attempt to reduce the perception of the seriousness of the crime" a highly incharitable reading of what he says!

The definition of "sexual assault" covers what allegedly took place. Yes, if you change the words used, you end up with an inaccurate statement. Why is that something that needs to be pointed out?

Stallman's entire point is that he feels the use of the word "assault" causes people to believe the crime is more serious than he believes it is. Pointing that out isn't uncharitable.

Using the word assault causes people to believe a different thing happened. It says nothing about the gravity of each kind of crime except that they shouldn't be the same.

The only reason "sexual assault" covers what allegedly took place is because the expression was redefined in the first place to cover two separate things, which is exactly the problem. Stallman called not for redefining "sexual assault" as you put it, but for undoing a redefinition that puts it at odds with how those terms are conventionally used and causes unnecessary confusion.

And "free software" makes people believe that the software costs nothing, but Stallman's position there isn't to suggest that we should always use a different term. Why not?

I agree the expression "Free Software" has the same problem. However the alternatives also have some problems. He discusses that here: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.... (I'm sure you've already read it, but it's always worth a re-read)

I'm partial to the term "Libre" myself, though in this case it doesn't matter much, since it's a concept that people aren't familiar with anyway and you have to explain it no matter what word you use.

> Yes, if you change the words used, you end up with an inaccurate statement. Why is that something that needs to be pointed out?

Because he is criticizing that exactly this mingling of terms happened!

> Pointing that out isn't uncharitable.

I'm beginning to feel that you're being willfully incharitable but give you the benefit of doubt that you could be merely misinformed.

Stallman's position is pretty clearly that we should use precise language always. It seems a pretty impeccable position to me. The only people I can think of who benefit from conflating coercive and non-coercive crimes under the same term are the ones who profit from the confusion.

The language used was the correct technical term. There's no imprecision in using it.

It's unfortunate that the legal definition became broader for the same reason I think the common definition shouldn't.

I imagine however that most legislatures get around the issue by having explicit paragraphs establishing harsher punishments for violent rape vs mutually-accepted statutory rape.

source: Google employee. FTFY!

That Google, the Ad company threatening user's privacy, abusing user's rights, collecting user's data.

The company fined for 5 billion dollars in an anti trust case in EU.

The company behind YouTube, fined for 170 million dollars for collecting kids data [1]

The company behind Chrome, that recently proposed a change to stop ad blocking extensions from working (did I say they sell ads?)

AFAIK Stallman never worked for or at any company the like of Google.

Neither did Eben Moglen, who still offers pro bono legal support for free software at the Freedom law center, which he founded.

For those that do not know him, Moglen was member of Philip Zimmermann's (PGP creator) defense team.

Strangely enough, he was another target of Garret, a couple years ago he declared him "no longer a friend of the FSF".

He was already working for Google.

[1] https://variety.com/2019/digital/news/youtube-ftc-fine-170-m...

Yes, the Eben Moglen who is suing another free software organisation for trademark infringement, threatened to sue them for copyright infringement under a ludicrous misreading of the relevant license, threatened to ruin the life of an FSF board member, and who was fired by the FSF for briefing against the FSF's interests while being paid by Oracle.

> suing another free software organisation for trademark infringement

Trademarks have to be enforced or you lose them.

> threatened to ruin the life of an FSF board member

Can you please backup this claim? I've found nothing to validate it.

> and who was fired by the FSF for briefing against the FSF's interests

According to every source I've found he resigned himself and voluntarily stepped down and left "on good terms" to take care of SFLC which he had recently founded.

It might be political jargon, but there is no way to prove he was fired.

> FSF's interests while being paid by Oracle.

AFAIK Moglen never worked or took money from Oracle.

Can you please clarify what you mean?

> Trademarks have to be enforced or you lose them.

His trademark is on "Software freedom law center", and he's suing the Software Freedom Conservancy. He doesn't hold a trademark on "Software Freedom".

> Can you please backup this claim? I've found nothing to validate it.

I was there when it was reported and had confirmation from a witness.

> According to every source I've found he resigned himself and voluntarily stepped down and left "on good terms" to take care of SFLC which he had recently founded.

> It might be political jargon, but there is no way to prove he was fired.

I was on the board when he was fired.

> AFAIK Moglen never worked or took money from Oracle

Why would you be in a position to know?

> He doesn't hold a trademark on "Software Freedom".

Has he ever claimed that?

> I was there when it was reported and had confirmation from a witness.

It is true because I say so it's not really an answer to the question.

> I was on the board when he was fired.

So you can confirm you fired him?

That's interesting.

Back then you wrote

> This, in conjunction with his behaviour over the ZFS issue, led to him stepping down as the FSF's general counsel.

You did not say "fired" anywhere.

Why didn't you just say "fired"?

> Why would you be in a position to know?

I'm in the position to ask why you're accusing someone of taking money, without proof.

It's just human decency, I happen to be a contributor (a tiny one, but sill one) of both FSF and FSLC and I would like to know if Moglen took money from Oracle to sue other FSF foundations.

You seem to know though, but you don't say.

And even if it was true, is taking money from Oracle a crime per se?

What about taking money from Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft? more than a few FSF folks work there.

> Has he ever claimed that?

You said that it's necessary to sue to protect trademarks. In this case, where is the necessity?

> It is true because I say so it's not really an answer to the question

You can choose to believe me or you can choose to believe I'm lying - entirely up to you.

> So you can confirm you fired him?

Eh. Asked him to resign with the understanding that he'd be fired otherwise.

> And even if it was true, is taking money from Oracle a crime per se?

It's not a crime, it's just inappropriate to take money from a company and provide legal opinions that serve their interests while serving as general counsel for an organisation that strongly and publicly holds a different opinion.

> You said that it's necessary to sue to protect trademarks. In this case, where is the necessity?

I understand you don't like questions.

Moglen founded SFLC and helped SFC come to the light.

He even registered SFC trademark, he asked for the cancellation of SFC, not the trademark of "Free Software".

Now it's sure that no one will try to register a trademark similar to FSLC or FSC dealing with free software.

With that move he protected both.

There's no need to double down on the false accusation line.

Facts are well know by now.

> You can choose to believe me or you can choose to believe I'm lying - entirely up to you.

I'm not a believer.

I prefer the sane way of doing things: reviewing evidence.

You are not providing any, just "believe me or not", which is not what I'd like to do when it's about my money.

You said something about Moglen that upset me, I've just asked for a clarification, that you refuse to provide.

> Eh. Asked him to resign with the understanding that he'd be fired otherwise

So you did fire him, but issued a different statement.

Good to know.

> It's not a crime, it's just inappropriate to take money from a company and provide legal opinions that serve their interests

When did this happen exactly?

Wasn't Moglen providing legal opinions to Debian, the FSF, Canonical, but not Oracle?

And What interests are you talking about?

Is Google any different from Oracle?

One of my favourite programmer ever, Alan Cox (who also kinda look like Stallman), worked for a long time on the Linux kernel but was also being paid by Intel for a few years. What's wrong about that?

> as general counsel for an organisation that strongly and publicly holds a different opinion

The different opinion was a minor difference though.

I remember the OpenZFS problem: the only difference was that Moglen believed that users can legally distribute copies of OpenZFS binary blobs as the result of the compilation of an openly licensed source code, while FSF said no.

They had the same opinion on everything else.

Even Linus said in the past “But one gray area in particular is something like a driver that was originally written for another operating system (ie clearly not a derived work of Linux in origin). At exactly what point does it become a derived work of the kernel (and thus fall under the GPL)?”

Is this enough to fire people?

BTW Canonical have been distributing OpenZFS for years now and the sky has not fallen, nor Oracle have become richer thanks to that. They still distribute the real ZFS (the proprietary one) which is a much better implementation of ZFS.

> With that move he protected both.

He protected the Software Freedom Conservancy by accusing it of violating the Software Freedom Law Center trademark? You're going to need to explain that more clearly.

> I've just asked for a clarification, that you refuse to provide.

I've clarified as much as I can. When there's no other public evidence available, what do you want me to do?

> The different opinion was a minor difference though.

It really wasn't.

> Is this enough to fire people?


> You're going to need to explain that more clearly.

I think you are intelligent enough to understand it on your own.

BTW, I know asking question is good, but sometimes try to answer other people's questions, it's good too!

> When there's no other public evidence available, what do you want me to do?

So we can safely assume he did not do anything you say, he's innocent until proven guilty, like any of us, right?

> It really wasn't.

It really was.

I'm with Joshua Gay (former employee of the FSF Licensing & Compliance Team) on this:

    It is not clear to me that there is any contradiction between the SFLC statement and the FSF’s statement on the matter of Linux and ZFS. That is, I can’t really find how the SFLC and FSF differ in their interpretation GPLv2 and CDDL.
The complete comment can be found here https://blog.halon.org.uk/2017/11/software-freedom-law-cente...

>> Is this enough to fire people? > Evidently

That's why it is bad, if it wasn't evident.

FSF should not act as evil corporations do.

> I think you are intelligent enough to understand it on your own.

I wouldn't be asking if I could. How does "Software Freedom Conservancy" damage the "Software Freedom Law Center" trademark?

> So we can safely assume he did not do anything you say, he's innocent until proven guilty, like any of us, right?

Given the lack of independent corroboration, it's certainly reasonable for you to assume that I'm mistaken or lying.

Paull* and she*.

I must admit I didn't know who Mr. Bushnell was, so I looked him up. Finding out about his dismissal from GNU Hurd back in 2003 was quite ironic to me:

> RMS has now "dismissed" me as Hurd maintainer because I have publicly spoken against the GFDL, saying that a GNU maintainer must support and speak in favor of GNU policies. If this is really RMS's reason, then it means that he demands the right to control the speech of every GNU volunteer when it comes to GNU project policies. He wants not merely to set the direction, but also to require that each and every one of us publicly support a GNU policy when asked to.

[1] https://lists.softwarelibero.it/pipermail/discussioni/2003-N... [2] https://lwn.net/Articles/59147/

Keep in mind that Stallman maintained that Bushnell stopped answering emails for two years, and that was the reason for firing him.

Seems like he still holds a grudge.

Interesting. Not to entirely doubt what you're saying, but the source for that statement on Wikipedia doesn't have a primary source. Do you happen to have more reading? I would love to have the complete story between them.

(Aside: Now that I look into it, Mr. Bushnell's Wikipedia page has basically been rewritten on September 22nd [1] after his article) [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Thomas_Bushnell&a...

One of the issues whenever this sort of cancelling occurs is of the people who come out of the woodwork to join in the calls, it turns out some of them have personal issues with the person aside from their contentious conduct. This is why these things, as others have mentioned, should be tried in official channels, not merely be executed in response to public attitudes and press releases.

What official channels? Nobody has accused RMS of anything that constitutes a crime. (But it's not surprising that the necessary qualifications for leading the FSF are stricter than the qualifications for not being in jail.)

The board could have met, deliberated, have an honest discussion, reviewed evidence. Not simply oust him a week later.

Are we sure he didn't just resign to take pressure off the FSF? Are we sure the board didn't deliberate?

It's not their job nor their responsibility to handle issues this way

So it is safe to say that at least some of the people eager to see Stallman burn have a grudge with him. In other words, they are not being objective.

Bushnell authored GNU Hurd:

"RMS: I am not very optimistic about the GNU HURD. It makes some progress, but to be really superior it would require solving a lot of deep problems. However, mainly what I think about the HURD is that finishing it is not crucial."


I think Bushnell makes some good points but:

(1) he’s biased.

(2) a Googler calling out Stallman is just rich (given the debt Google, its employees, and all modern tech companies owe free software and the relatively little they repay).

> a Googler calling out Stallman

Isn't it stange that the other one calling out Stallman, Matthew Garret, is a Googler too?

Totally. I get that the OP is from Stallman's publicist. But I think a good publicist shouldn't at worse be selective about the truth, not say outright false things like this.

Plenty of people who know Stallman have made it clear that Stallman's behavior is consistent, harmful, and willful. E.g.: https://twitter.com/mjg59/status/1172422966904160257


> And who, if I may ask, is this person

"This person" is Thomas Bushnell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bushnell

> who is so eagerly ventilating his opinions to feed the wolves? To me it sounds more like he's upset

This is just my reading, but "A reflection on the departure of RMS" does not have the tone of someone who is upset nor someone who is eager. It has the tone of someone who feels like they have a unique perspective that ought to be shared on a difficult subject.

To be fair, he may have motive for being "upset" since he was dismissed from being GNU Hurd's official maintainer by Stallman.

From the Wikipedia link shared:

"Bushnell was Hurd's official maintainer from its instigation until November 2003, when he posted to the GNU project's discussion mailing list saying that he had been dismissed by Stallman for criticizing the GNU Free Documentation License.[5] Stallman said the dismissal was because Bushnell had been inactive since 2001 and wasn't responding to mail."

I'm not sure which person you didn't bother to Google, but the one I quoted is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Garrett

Stallman is currently a topic of public interest, so it's unsurprising that people are commenting on his situation, just like you're doing here.

This quote from the opening paragraph "I recommend in particular Selam G’s original articles on this topic for background" doesn't do much to endear it to me. I'd hardly call the original article a very accurate representation of Stallman's words or even his overall point. Far be it from me to defend Stallman's outrageous statements and opinions, I don't feel that the original article or the subsequent media frenzy stirred up in its wake is a fair representation of the situation. The author then goes on in the subsequent paragraphs to talk about how the media circus mischaracterised Stallman...

He worked with rms longer than any other programmer and said nothing for decades? Then after this fall from grace, he piles on and acts superior?


Yeah, where are all those articles and opinions about his bad behavior from before the recent debacle? Why are they all being written now?

And not a single word about his dismissal from RMS beforehand? And looking at the older entries on his Wikipedia entry, it seems that the dismissal itself was a controversial topic, with Bushnell claiming disagreement with licensing and RMS claiming communications blackout.

I highly doubt his recount is objective, or even tried to be.

He could've admitted to potentially being biased beforehand, that would've redeemed his account in my eyes, but having me find out that they didn't part on the best of terms leaves a bad taste instead.

How is this different than police planting evidence on a known bad guy and saying, well he was a criminal anyway so who cares, justice was done by putting him in jail with falsified evidence. As long as you get what your deserve, process is irrelevant.

One is a criminal investigation where evidence is planted. The other is not.

What got Stallman taken down was a false claim that he said Epstein's victims were "willing". That was totally a lie, and the equivalent of planting evidence.

"Famed Computer Scientist Richard Stallman Described Epstein Victims As 'Entirely Willing'."


Was something planted in Stallman's case? Blowing his quotes out of proportion isn't the same thing as planting evidence. I suppose a better analogy is being on your second strike and doing some minor crime to get your third. Some would argue people on two strikes should keep their head down.

Furthermore his quotes are pretty fucking creepy.

Twisting a quote into a different meaning is a lie, and pretty similar to planting evidence. You are saying two strikes, and then we have license to make up a third to take you out.

Selam G wrote that Stallman considered that Minsky's victim was actually willing.

That's not "planting evidence" in a legal sense because sure, that's not evidence at all. Mainly because it isn't true and it's easily verifiable. But in this context, by these people, it has been taken as actual evidence against Stallman. I guess that's the rationale behind the analogy.

It's called "libel".

If you read the article she notes that the infamous "hot ladies" photo was the result of someone else writing and then snapping that shot of his office door.

People only see what they want to see. I see a bunch of people beating up on and attacking an awkward "nerd". It reminds me of high school.

> I see a bunch of people beating up on and attacking an awkward "nerd". It reminds me of high school.

That perfectly captures my own impression of this whole debacle.

People keep piling on RMS because he's "weird" rather than anything objectively bad that he's done - notice how often his travel binder is being raised even though it's really completely harmless. That's literally witch-hunt behaviour: persecuting somebody because he's different.

And of the things he was attacked for that would be objectively bad, so much of it turns out to be either a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or outright fabrication (like apparently the "hot ladies" sign).

I can believe that there is a true kernel of bad behaviour from RMS, but it's blown way out of proportion by all the other stuff around it, and that gives this whole affair the stench of persecuting somebody merely for being different. It's very frustrating.

Hey now, I was the proverbial awkward nerd in highschool, but you know what I've never done? I've never implied that child pornography is okay.. or bestiality.. so I see this differently.

I've heard nasty things come out of that man and I have no interest in listening to him.

This comment also reminded me of highschool - "Yeah, I'm a nerd who gets bullied but hey, at least I'm not like this other nerd who gets bullied. Actually, I agree with the people who bully him that at least he deserves it."

You're just as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything.

Sarah Mei alternates between aggressive, mocking, and combative. She has no sense of humor. Her worldview is unbelievably bleak and threatening. And she views herself as special -- someone "woke". It's terrible to behold.

The truth is that people make mistakes. People are entitled to their own opinions, however much you may disagree with them. The world exists outside one's self, and any one person just a small, small part of it. The world is not to blame if I feel hurt or threatened, and life is not fair. But within this world we have complete freedom. Do not try to take that away.

Sarah Mei is just defending her own freedom to want to exist in a professional capacity without harrassment.

Who's taking freedom away? RMS is still a free man. He's just lost his privileged positions.

Yikes, what an awful group of self-righteous people. Bullying and slander is perfectly fine when the virtuous do it I see.

Funny how much you can tell about these people from their twitter profile. These people are so privilidged that they have so much time to spend on the most trivial of subjects.

That thread definitely has a lot of interesting information. Some things seem kind of off though... but in general it seems mostly fair.

There is nothing fair about it.

On the contrary. She's being quite fair.

Keep in mind that the premise of the thread (the picture of the name tag on the door) is actually a setup. Someone graffitis on Stallman’s door, and that mob justice character assassination spews forth from it.

If you think that this situation has much to do with that door tag, you really are reaching.

Not in the least.

Assuming that's correct, and that the "hot ladies" thing happened as she describes, how do you excuse away all the other inappropriate and harassing behavior he's displayed over the years?

Such as?

Most of "examples" that were in circulation for past days were usually misunderstood jokes that others made at his expense. Seriously - how can one treat somebody mentioning "if he ever hits on you, just tell him you use vim" as an example of what's wrong with rms seriously? Stories about plants being kept by female professors just to scare him away? Please. You need to be completely missing the context to interpret it even remotely close to how it's being used now.

If you haven't seen the actual quotes from him by now, theres no chance you will pay attention to them going forward.

The point is - I've seen plenty thrown around, most very clearly manipulated. What's more - some small amount of them made me doubt in Stallman a bit, like the "knight for ladies" thing, but after a while it turned out it was manipulated as well, so... it feels like standing on rms side here might be a pretty safe bet after all.

If you're too lazy to do the research yourself, I've even found a page that collects it and does proper justice to objectively present them in full context: https://sterling-archermedes.github.io/ (although this text could do just as well with a few less "paid to write, not to read" repetitions...)

Either you've been not paying attention (in which case, why are you so self-righteously claiming there's nothing else that happened), or you have been paying attention, and you're deliberately ignoring or are mischaracterizing all the actual, real accounts of bad behavior that have been reported over the past week or two.

Either way, I'm not really in a mood to educate you.

"inappropriate and harassing behavior"

What exactly are you claiming he did to harass people?

What exactly did he do that was inappropriate?

Stallman did nothing to harass people. It's all hearsay. Some of the supposed harassment stories contain verifiably false details, for example, that Stallman was in an open marriage. Stallman was in fact never married. There is a very good reason that we do not admit this level of evidence in courts of law.

You know all the people on Twitter claiming that "numerous" women have confided in them that Stallman kept them out of tech? It's all fake. These claims are identical in structure and purpose to Joseph McCarthy's famous "I have here in my hand a list" line. What the mob is doing now to Stallman is exactly the same thing that the mob did to everyone suspected of communism in the 1950s.

Why isn't the harassing behavior being brought up through the right channels? Is internet rage the right way to do this?

Who says it hasn't been? In general, universities and non-profits and companies don't disclose private reports of abuse or harassment. Who says MIT, the FSF, and GNU Project haven't all been getting private reports in addition to the people tweeting and blogging about their misadventures with RMS?

And regardless, this behavior has apparently been going on for decades without anyone taking action. Can you blame people for thinking that "the right channels" aren't working?

Exactly what channels? The police? A lot of what RMS has done isn't illegal and generally there's a very high legal bar for harassment.

So people eventually share their stories through social media and even that doesn't work sometimes (see: Riot). His behavior doesn't have to cross into illegality to be reprehensible.

For a start just leaving a paper trail of formal complaints at MIT would help ascertain this has been happenning for a long time. I just find it shocking that there is no formal complaint. Instead, what we have is just random people claiming that other people got harassed. None of this is verifiable and honestly if internet has thought us anything it is that everybody lies in social media just to get a few likes.

You realize that that very well could be the case and reason why Stallman stepped down, correct?

MIT could likely get into deep trouble if they chose to publish all of the formal complaints against Stallman for obvious privacy reasons and this incident could've just been the proverbial final straw.

And regardless: Apply Occam's Razor here. What is more likely: A group of random people consisting of professors and students bringing grievances against Stallman, or some sort of conspiracy where all of those people are lying, embellishing etc for some form of revenge? If multiple disconnected people are calling someone an asshole, maybe there's an issue here. It's amazing to what lengths people will attempt to create a narrative defending RMS.

> A group of random people consisting of professors and students

A group of random people with a certain radical ideology, most of which work at google[0][1][2], the military[3], or have personal issues with him due to their history[4][5], etc. I certainly do not believe that it is a conspiracy - ie they are being honest on the fact that they do not like him (not necessarily on why they do not like him though) and that they are not being paid by someone to do it, but they are far from random people.

Also, I personally saw no professors being involved, although I might be mistaken.

[0] https://medium.com/@thomas.bushnell/a-reflection-on-the-depa...

[1] https://twitter.com/mjg59/status/1172422966904160257

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20995556

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21090851

[4] see 0 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bushnell#GNU_Hurd

[5] https://twitter.com/migueldeicaza/status/1173981287037751297 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miguel_de_Icaza#Advocacy_of_Mi...

Seriously, for a public figure you accept evidence this weak? No, Occam's Razor wouldn't let you make this conclusion at all.

I'm not even sure I have a problem with the hot ladies comment irregardless of whether he wrote it or not.

I agree with you, but it is being used as one strike against him. Given that there is evidence that he didn't even do it himself, it further proves how desperate the people who dislike him are to drag him through the mud.

You shouldn't. There's nothing wrong with it. Having an interest in the opposite sex is the most normal thing in the world and there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to state it.

> He takes everything literally and doesn’t necessarily take feelings and the reactions of others into account when making statements that are outside the bounds of his expertise in free software.

Whelp, then no one should be that surprised when people stop taking his feelings into account and decide they no longer want to be associated with him.

Not being an asshole is a two-way street.

He’s autistic. Suddenly the people who were annoyingly vocal about being “inclusive” are forgetting Stallman’s disability. He says “creepy” things because he doesn’t understand social cues or casual communication at a certain level. Everyone in this thread demonizing RMS should be ashamed of themselves. This is the same reason why he can’t hold a relationship, or why he sleeps in his office. He’s just far out there - This doesn’t take anything away from his hard work, his genius, or his dedication. He never had a chance. People look at the “evidence”, but refuse to look at it with the proper context.

If you have a condition where you have trouble interacting socially with people, while also running an influential organization and acting as its figurehead, you need to be able to mitigate these issues. If this means you have an assistant who you run emails by before sending them, so be it. If your assistant also takes a look at your office (given to you as a favor by a respected educational institution) and tells you that "Knight of Hot Ladies" is not appropriate, then you take it down. If female colleagues are putting plants in their offices because they know you don't like plants and it will deter you from visiting them, you either need to recognize that on your own and do something about it, or allow a trusted someone to help you fix the situation.

Autism isn't an excuse for bad behavior. It can explain some bad behavior, but that bad behavior cannot continue over decades; it must be dealt with in some manner.

I cannot believe people keep defending him given the accounts of what he's actually done (assuming you believe the accounts). What about the women who have been creeped out or harassed by him, or who have left the field because of him? Don't they get any consideration?

As Matthew Garrett has pointed out (through personal experience with RMS), "the problem isn't that he's unable to understand, the problem is that he's unwilling to"[0]. So I don't buy the "because autism" line here.

[0] https://twitter.com/mjg59/status/1172422966904160257

At what point is your work no longer your own? FSF wouldn't exist without Stallman's vision and subsequent decades of tireless effort. Who gets to decide that Stallman no longer deserves stewardship over his own life's work because of a poster and some tired anecdote about plants?

At the end of the day, the FSF board had to decide what they wanted to do, either a) let RMS continue to do his usual thing without repercussions and become a less-relevant organization that people don't take seriously, or b) clean house and maintain some level of trust. Presumably they also considered a c) let RMS continue to do his thing and hope that there's no fallout. But I guess they considered (c) wasn't realistic, didn't want (a), and decided on (b).

No one is saying that RMS's work with GNU or the FSF is somehow invalidated. He's done some absolutely fantastic and amazing work, and I honestly do believe that, without him, we are actually losing something valuable. But we're also losing some bad stuff too. My feeling is that the bad stuff outweighs further good that he could do, but of course that's open for debate.

> ... because of a poster and some tired anecdote about plants?

Deliberately minimizing and dismissing the allegations against RMS is a bad-faith way to push forward your argument. Please don't do that here.

What makes it bad faith? Read through this thread. There's a lot of hearsay and misrepresentation and obviously some people just plain uncomfortable with RMS's persona regardless of what he did or didn't say.

And that's why I think this argument:

> a) let RMS continue to do his usual thing without repercussions and become a less-relevant organization that people don't take seriously

doesn't hold any water. First of all, as a lay person, I don't take the FSF seriously anymore because of this move. How can an organization defend our liberties when it's not willing to stand up to a witch-hunt targeting it's founding member? Second and more importantly, I think the people who do matter don't care: they have the reference point to know that this culture shift is fleeting and that, more importantly, FSF wouldn't even exist without someone who stubbornly, aggressively defends digital civil liberties. You can't _have_ the FSF without a Stallman behind it, and my bet would be this is the start of the FSF's slow fade into obscurity.

> First of all, as a lay person, I don't take the FSF seriously anymore because of this move.

I get that, but you're just one person (as am I). If we take all of the people who previously had some respect for the FSF, my guess would be that more than half of them will continue to respect them after this, or actually respect them more (as I will). If all of this had come to light and the FSF have done nothing, I'd respect them less and take them less seriously. I suspect that's true for a lot of other people as well.

Of course, I don't know this for sure, it's just what I think. But that's all we're doing here anyway: just throwing around our opinions.

> the problem isn't that he's unable to understand, the problem is that he's unwilling to

This is a common line used to attack non-neurotypical people (and not only!). They have not considered the possibilities that their explanations or arguments are weak however.

Or, the simpler explanation, given that MJG has known RMS for many, many years, and had interacted with him often, is that his assessment is actually correct.

But still, regardless: assuming all the allegations dredged up about him over the past couple weeks is true, do you actually believe it's ok for him to behave that way? If so, then we should just stop discussing this, because it's not going to be productive. If not, then what would you suggest instead? I presume you'd suggest something less harsh than pressuring him to step down from his leadership roles. But what exactly is there that we can do to improve his behavior, after decades of his lack of desire to change? Would you be fine telling women who have to interact with him that they just have to deal with his harassing behavior? I certainly wouldn't be.

> If your assistant also takes a look at your office (given to you as a favor by a respected educational institution) and tells you that "Knight of Hot Ladies" is not appropriate, then you take it down

The top-posted article/parent says this is exactly what happened to the Hot Ladies remark though! Someone else wrote it on his door, took a picture, and it was taken down!

Yet here you are referencing it as if it was something RMS actually did. How many other lies are being spread and believed due to the game of twitter telephone being played here?

We have one person (this article) claiming this, and others claiming RMS put it there. I'm not sure who to believe, but given the other allegations, it doesn't seem out of character.

But ok, let's assume for a second that the article is telling the truth, and that someone put that there to mess with RMS, and it was promptly taken down, unfortunately too late to prevent a photo getting taken.

So what? How does that invalidate all the other bad stuff RMS has done?

Allow me to substitute autism for a different handicap and see if you still agree:

If you have a condition where you have trouble not swearing, while also running an influential organization and acting as its figurehead, you need to be able to mitigate these issues. If this means you have an assistant who you run emails by before sending them, so be it. If female colleagues are putting plants in their offices because they know you don't like plants and it will deter you from visiting them, you either need to recognize that on your own and do something about it, or allow a trusted someone to help you fix the situation. tourettes isn't an excuse for bad behavior. It can explain some bad behavior, but that bad behavior cannot continue over decades; it must be dealt with in some manner.

Yes, I absolutely still agree. A mental illness does not absolve you of responsibility for your actions. If someone is a well-known member of some community and is in a position of power and influence, and they have a condition where they have trouble not swearing, I would think that having someone (without that condition) vet their public communications before sending them out would be a minimum logical, smart thing to do.

I think your analogy is a little bit fallacious, though. We're not talking about a verbal tic here; we're talking about actual actions that make women feel unsafe in his presence.

Put another way, I would be far far more comfortable telling someone "hey, yeah, he has a verbal tic that makes him say 'fuck' a lot; it's weird, but just ignore it" than I would be telling a woman, "hey, yeah, he's [something] and that makes him inappropriately hit on you all the time in situations where he has power over you; it's weird, but just ignore it". Yeah... nope.

For what it's worth, since anyone can predict what Matthew Garrett's opinion on this was going to be, it is in the Bayesian sense very weak evidence for anything.

This is a perfect example of an ad hominem attack which adds little to the discourse: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem

The comment I was replying to was also using the fact that mjg is a specific person who knew Stallman as a reason they are credible. When the thing being discussed is how reliable someone is at conveying private information they have, rather than them making some argument devoid of experience, ad hom is not a fallacy.

That’s not how your comment reads. It reads as “well, we know how he feels, so keep that in mind.” Which, is an ad hominem attack.

If you didn’t mean it that way, than please consider that your word choices come across as mocking, which changes the received meaning.

It absolutely is an ad hom, I'm just claiming that that is not a fallacy in this case, since the trustworthiness or bias of the dude is the thing we are discussing. Ad hom isn't always a fallacy. Nobody has even discussed any arguments coming from mjg, they're just chalking him up on a tally of who is on whose side. And I think the dude is super biased, and that whose side he is on isn't evidence of anything since he picks sides based on ideology, not on a case-by-case basis.

If you have cancer, you need to mitigate these issues. Cancer is no excuse for dying…

Yes – autism is a perfect explanation for behavior not following typical social norms. That's more or less exactly the core of this disability.

From my point of view RMS really tackles his disability as far as he can: Announces his preferences, choosing interaction forms appropriate to him (email), openly telling that he'll refrain from group discussion…

Besides that I still don't see, where RMS really crossed the lines which requires actions to actually destroy his life. In the same time someone like Trump permanently crosses really vital red lines in all aspects… every… fucking… day…

> I cannot believe people keep defending him given the accounts of what he's actually done (assuming you believe the accounts). What about the women who have been creeped out or harassed by him, or who have left the field because of him? Don't they get any consideration?

No, because obviously, his contributions to free software are more important then him making women uncomfortable in their workplaces/places of study/conferences. /snark

If he had the capacity to comprehend any of this he wouldn't be the sort of person who talked about the Knight of Hot Ladies at work. Unless Garrett somehow turned out to be a some kind of medical expert, his opinion on Stallman is about valid as Stallman's on anyone else.

Even if that's the case, so what? People seem to have been trying to help RMS fix his behavior for decades, and he hasn't. It doesn't matter if that behavior stems from a mental health issue or just him being an asshole. The behavior needs to stop. Ejecting him from MIT, the FSF, and the GNU Project are certainly drastic actions to remove him from places where he can do harm, but at some point, after literally decades, maybe you just give up on trying to change or moderate someone, and get them out of your life.

You don't have to be a doctor to diagnose asshole behavior.

But you do to judge what people with any given type of mental health issue can and cannot do.

I think that's fair, but I think there are also a lot of people in this discussion who reject out of hand the idea of: "this person shouldn't ever be in a position of authority over people because their mental health issues cause them to act around those people in ways that end up being construed as inappropriate at best, and actively making people feel unsafe at worst".

A handicap might mean that you just can't do certain things. No, it's not fair, but it's not like we expect the a quadriplegic person to be a long-distance runner... at least not with the medical technology available to us today. I hear a lot of rhetoric (that I agree with) around how a mental illness should be treated just like any other illness and not stigmatized as something to be embarrassed about. But it goes both ways: if a mental illness is just like any other illness (or handicap), then it's perfectly possible that some mental illnesses might mean that some activities aren't feasible, at least not until we understand them well enough to provide better treatments.

I don’t mean to sound snarky, but this really discounts so many factors in how autism is dealt with and even worse it makes it sound as if autistic people are unable to learn how their actions impact people around them, which is of course completely untrue. Autistic people may have difficulty interpreting things such as social cues, but they are absolutely not incapable.

We have indications from many of those closest to RMS that he was willfully dismissive of others feelings. It wasn’t that he was unaware, he was both aware of his difficulties reading others, and made a choice to be dismissive.

It’s painful, I get it. I met RMS many times and still consider him to be one of our era’s great minds and one who’s actions have had nothing short of an incredible impact on society. However, he has–despite this article from his publicist–a long history of bad actions.

I believe there should always be a path forward if people wish to remain a public figure. But this path can’t start with easily disprovable excuses.

The ability to overcome the effect of a disability is partly how severe it is, partly how much and what kind of support one gets and partly time and effort. It's a constant effort and during times of stress it's hard or impossible to maintain.

An awful lot of so-called "normal" men manage to offend women right and left. There are raft loads of women very up in arms about "normal" male behavior.

The world generally has a very long way to go to resolve that question.

Sorry but I'm going to have to ask for the basis of your claim here. It is wellknown that autistic people's lack of selfawareness is varying and inconsistent and how much they can overcome this depends heavily on how much help they received. Normal people misread the intentions of each other on a regular basis yet are somehow experts on the autistic mind?

I offer http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/tact.html

> he was willfully dismissive of others feelings

I can't see why this is considered this bad honestly.

> how autism is dealt with

Stallman was born 67 years a go.

Autism wasn't even a thing.

Until the 1980 it was diagnosed as schizophrenia and only in 1987 a checklist for diagnosing it was proposed

Anyway, not caring too much about other people's feelings when people don't care too much about your medical condition is perfectly acceptable

> Autism wasn't even a thing.

Just like in the middle ages, there was only a single illness that caused fever (aptly named "fever"). More advanced illnesses required bacteria and viruses which were not invented until 1676 respectively 1892.

I wonder how genetic disorders worked back then considering genes didn't exist yet.

I've come to a very similar conclusion. Outrage culture does have a way of disproportionately targeting those on the spectrum as well as people who might suffer from ADHD/ADD. People who fall into those categories will often be a bit more impulsive when saying whatever's on their mind and will by definition have quite different ways of thinking about things. Simply telling one of these people to stop saying stupid things isn't going to work and makes the person come across as being just as ignorant.

This is bull. He had decades to learn not to make women uncomfortable by doing one single thing - calling his business card his "pleasure" card when he handed it to a woman - and he still does that. That's not autism. Autism might hypothetically lead to doing that until someone pulled him aside and told him it was creepy and made others uncomfortable. After that it's just being an asshole.

> Autism might hypothetically lead to doing that until someone pulled him aside and told him it was creepy and made others uncomfortable.

It's not with autism, but I have first hand experience telling a mentally ill person (diagnosis was schizoaffective) that certain behavior is creepy and made women uncomfortable. They didn't listen. They argued it with me very intensely instead. In some cases part of the illness is not realizing there's a problem. It's not always going to work to politely flag a behavior as off putting and they get it right away.

Such person is then not suitable for leadership position nor any position where communication matters. The way leaders interact trickle down and creates culture. People mimic leaders more then we care to admit.

And when you put such person in position where women have choice between leaving and being undermined by his behavior or being insulted or have to work around potential danger to reputation etc or what it is that he was doing, you are in fact disadvantaging women in that organization. You dont get to claim there is no sexism here nor claim that it is all meritocracy nor fair nor babble about natural self selection.

It makes not just women leave, it makes men who dont care about being members of such culture to leave.

For the record, a person that mistreats males would be same case.

I don't think what you've written is in conflict with anything I said.

In the case of this person I am referring to, it's been rather self-selecting and he's not in any positions of authority. It's pretty different from Stallman's purported autism-spectrum behavior too.

But it's also important to note that with the right medications, people like the case I'm describing can do better. So I'd like to afford that, while we agree that people don't make great leaders, authorities, communicators in that state or condition, they don't necessarily get there by being bad or totally irredeemable people, help is available to them and we should hope that they find it and stay "on the wagon", to use a metaphor from somewhere else.

> they don't necessarily get there by being bad or totally irredeemable people, help is available to them and we should hope that they find it and stay "on the wagon", to use a metaphor from somewhere else.

I agree with that and I did worked with people who are on the spectrum.

My pet peeve in these discussion is the argument that boils down to "he is autistic therefore everyone else should bend over and take whatever abuse that person unleashes on them and be understanding back". This argument is present up thread.

That does not work and just makes situation worst for everyone.

Was the argument about whether the behavior made people uncomfortable? Because I'm thinking that after 10, 20, 50 people told him that it did, it might sink in.

Well, with this topic I am getting far from Stallman, who if we assume is on the autistic spectrum is quite a bit different from my experiences with delusional people or psychotic disorders.

But if you've ever argued with a delusional person, they don't give up their beliefs easily. Frequently what happens is they'll turn it on you. So if I say, "you're making those women uncomfortable", he'll argue and say there is a problem with me, that I am too prudish or jealous of his romantic success. And they get very angry and obsessive about being confronted.

I don't know what it'd be like for 20 or 50 people to question these beliefs, but 10 definitely won't convince him. And with the nature of this complaint, a lot of time people are either too polite or too scared to tell him. It seems to me though, the best way to get it to sink in for him is an atypical antipsychotic.

I'm copy-pasting a comment from earlier on because I got late to that discussion and it's doubly relevant when the standard here has gone down from "hindered the work of MIT/FSF" to "made XX-class people uncomfortable".


I think the most interesting part of this gotterdamerung is the claim in “Remove Stallman appendix A” that if the work of a Great Genius hinders The work of some number of talented skilled folk, then society is ultimately at a loss. I’m not certain that this is necessarily true. Or false for that matter. I have an intuition, possibly colored by an overall culture of hero worship, that it is false.

This is the rationale: the dynamics large groups of people inevitably approaches that of a committee. Committees are averaging devices that smooth potentially groundbreaking ideas out of serious consideration. Genius on the other hand is not only extraordinarily capable of such groundbreaking ideas but is able to insist on them doggedly.

OTOH it means that one true genius (and maybe Stallman isn’t one, but true geniuses have very very often been assholes) is worth almost an infinite number of merely talented folk.

The ultimate question: what lifted us from mere animal status 10-15K years ago? A handful of geniuses or a general society awakening?

But also; how may “young talented physicists” it takes to change a lightbulb?

The problem with your argument is that it implies that the people who were chased away from CSAIL, MIT or CS in general by people like Stallman were all planning to pile into a giant ineffective committee with each other and thus can be assumed to be No Great Loss, which is... a rather peculiar leap of logic.

There's no reason to suppose this. Even accepting your logic, the people he discouraged from CS might have wound up being highly effective solo contributors or worked in small teams.

> people who were chased away from CSAIL, MIT or CS in general by people like Stallman

Stallman never chased away anybody from CSAIL

I doubt he was the sole cause of someone leaving CSAIL or CS, but I've met plenty of women who were discouraged from CS by constant "weird dudes leering at my chest" or "constantly asking me for dates" etc. Based on the tales of his behavior the balance of probabilities are Not Good that he hasn't been at least partially responsible for some people deciding "well, maybe CS isn't for me".

Probably a general society awakening, my gut says to be honest with you. I think quality of life, progress, and stable economies/societies are ones that efficiently organize themselves into groups or orders.

What about all the women he made feel unsafe, should we not be inclusive of them too?

If someone cannot handle social situations without making people feel unsafe they should not be in a leadership position.

So by that logic, if there was a group of mostly autistic/aspie men and they felt unsafe around one neurotypical woman, she should be the one to lose her position at a university, lose her position at a nonprofit that she founded, and be kicked out on the street, right?

"Feeling unsafe" is an absurd metric to use. Lots of things feel unsafe but are actually extremely safe. Many people feel unsafe flying on airplanes. Though they may not admit it publicly, lots of people feel unsafe around black men. Also, since one can't introspect another person's feelings, the metric of "feeling unsafe" is ripe for abuse. If you don't like someone, simply claim you feel unsafe around them. You can't reliably tell the difference between a liar and a fragile soul.

There is only one thing that generalizes: objective rules and encouraging people to be more understanding. And part of becoming more understanding involves growing a thicker skin. That's the only way that you can have a functioning community that includes communists, libertarians, young earth creationists, Muslims, Mormons, Quakers, atheists, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, Trump supporters, and Bernie supporters. We may not be able to converge on beliefs, but we can get along and work towards common causes. That is, provided that people in the group aren't catastrophizing and looking for any possible reason to be upset at one another.

Well, if she had a decades-long pattern of abusive and tasteless behavior towards people with less power than her, such that people went out of their way to avoid interacting with her at all, then yeah, I’d say hit the bricks.

You’re tilting at strawmen to get around the fact that Stallman can’t seem to control his inappropriate behavior. This isn’t a hypothetical, perfectly spherical, frictionless situation, this is documented patterns of behavior. Not that it should be necessary for understanding, but would you want to explain to your wife/daughter/sister/mother/aunt/any other woman in your life how a sign reading “Knight of Hot Ladies” is at all an appropriate thing to display in an office at MIT? Imagine being gay and Stallman had a sign that read “Knight of Bashing Homos”. Try to imagine how that would make you feel if you were gay.

People feel unsafe because he says the same things abusers say, and act the same way they act. Abusers don’t treat women like people or colleagues or equals, they treat them like objects. And, if I take the gold medal in mental gymnastics I can imagine years of Stallman not realizing that all of the stuff he says and does is harmful, but that doesn’t make it any less inappropriate.

The "hot ladies" photo was by someone who vandalized his sign and took a picture. He didn't do that. I looked around quite a bit, but I could not find a single instance of abusive behavior. No unwanted touching, no abuse of power, no coercion. I did find quite a few outright lies, such as John Gruber claiming that Stallman had an "open marriage" and "made overt sexual advances to women" while on the board of VA Linux.[1] Of course, Stallman has never been married and he was never on the board of VA Linux. There are many stories along those lines, and they've been repeated over and over despite being either unverifiable or verifiably false. You'd think that after 30 years of abuse, there would be a single person who would tell their story to a respected journalist (so that their report could be trusted while still having their identity protected). Hell, considering how famous Stallman is, you'd think one liar or crazy person would have tried this already. Still, nothing.

1. https://daringfireball.net/2019/09/richard_stallmans_disgrac...

Sounds like someone has attributed their experiences with ESR to RMS.

1. You apparently didn't read the article. Otherwise you would have read that he didn't make that sign.

2. It's very peculiar that you would equate admiring/objectifying women with violence against homosexuals.

> if there was a group of mostly autistic/aspie men and they felt unsafe around one neurotypical woman, she should be the one to lose her position at a university

Yes, if her behaviour was not workplace appropriate.

That's a different question. None of the stories about Stallman are from coworkers. They are from people who shared meals with him, people who attended talks he gave, or people who went to his office. In his position at MIT, Stallman did not teach classes. Anyone who didn't like his behavior was free to tell him off and/or leave. They would suffer zero consequences to their career or schooling.

Also, I replied to someone who said, "If someone cannot handle social situations without making people feel unsafe they should not be in a leadership position." That commenter did not seem to care about whether the behavior was workplace appropriate; only about the feelings of some people who encountered Stallman. That was my point of contention: feelings are too subjective and too easily faked to justify what happened to Stallman.

One thing that has really annoyed me throughout this whole kerfuffle is how slippery the anti-Stallman arguments are. First people claimed he supported Epistein and child rape. Once those were revealed to be blatant lies, people fell back to anonymous emails claiming weird (but not coercive or harassing) behavior from decades ago. When none of those stories could be confirmed (and many of them were disconfirmed, such as the "hot ladies" photo and John Gruber's claims of "overt sexual advances to women"), people fell back to, "He made women feel unsafe." These claims of unsafe feelings lacked objective quantifiable behavior. I feel unsafe around my CEO. It's possible that he could be having a bad day and fire me for no particular reason. Does that mean my CEO should be forced to step down from his position? I don't think so. In Stallman's case, there wasn't even a power differential. He had no influence on the livelihoods of those who felt creeped out by him.

Now you put forth the standard of acceptable workplace behavior in non-workplace environments. If that makes one guilty then none of us are innocent.

The fact that the arguments are so slippery makes me want to automatically disbelieve any new arguments that surface. The motivation of those attacking him obviously have nothing to do with the actual content of the arguments, they already know they want to unperson him, and are then going looking for reasons. The result is selection bias and vague criticisms that could be levelled at pretty much anyone if you had the motivation to dig deeply enough.

It's character assassination as a show of political strength, and as a warning to anyone else who does not submit completely to the narrative, that they will come after you. Well, warning received. I'll ramp up the pretending to be super woke in public. So will everyone else, and we will all know everyone else is pretending too, but there'll be nothing we can do about it because if we deviate from the narrative, most people will come after us to keep up the act in order to save themselves.

I'll be sure to only express opinions anonymously and in the privacy of the ballot box. The far left will keep wondering why it loses elections when everybody outwardly appears to agree with them, and will continue to fight to prevent anonymous forums, but tech will stay ahead of them . Note that Sarah Mei claims to be a die-hard contributor to open source, but has three github contributions in the last year. Yeah, these are not the people who are going to win the arms race when it comes to fighting this battle with technology.

I don't see how "overt sexual advances to women" is by itself bad behaviour anyway. Sure, the appropriateness depends on the situation, but humans by and large do have sexual desire, often of heterosexual orientation. Is phrasing the "overt sexual advances to women" implying that covert sexual advances are better?

This way of phrasing it makes it seem as though "overt sexual advances" would necessarily be unwelcome, or part of a behaviour profile that constitutes harassment.

He is? Working in CSAIL for years, I would never have guessed that he was autistic. The email threads are lost to me now, but I remember him being unyielding and obnoxiously dedicated to free software, but he never seemed unaware of social cues. He always struck me as a very good communicator - someone who understood exactly how obnoxious he was, he was just a true believer so he didn't really care.

Is he actually autistic? Or is it a convenient diagnosis people give him to excuse his behavior?

(I can't find any actual reference to him being autistic on the web. Please enlighten me.)

I've been wondering that myself. I've yet to see anything from him that says so.

Easily the most autistic person I know. No contest.

Meaning he actually has a diagnosis? Or he just kind of behaves like you think an autistic person probably behaves?

I couldn't find any authoritative source, but it's hard to believe anything else if you've been following him for a while.

>He’s autistic.

I keep hearing this - has he ever been diagnosed?

Why do people keep saying this?

IIRC, in a biography about him, his mother suggested that autism would certainly make sense given some of his childhood behavior. As far as I know, he doesn't have a formal diagnosis, but I'm hardly some expert on RMS.

Found a few passages in Free as in Freedom (https://static.fsf.org/nosvn/faif-2.0.pdf):

>A December, 2001, Wired magazine article titled “The Geek Syndrome” paints the portrait of several scientifically gifted children diagnosed with high-functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome. In many ways, the parental recollections recorded in the Wired article are eerily similar to the ones offered by Lippman. Stallman also speculates about this. In the interview for a 2000 profile for the TorontoStar, Stallman said he wondered if he were “borderline autistic.”

>In recent years, Lippman says she has taken to reading books about autism and believes that such episodes were more than coincidental. “I do feel that Richard had some of the qualities of an autistic child,” she says. “I regret that so little was known about autism back then. ”Over time, however, Lippman says her son learned to adjust. By age seven, she says, her son had become fond of standing at the front window of subway trains, mapping out and memorizing the labyrinthian system of railroad tracks underneath the city.

>Watch the Stallman gaze for an extended period of time, and you will begin to notice a subtle change. What appears at first to be an attempt to intimidate or hypnotize reveals itself upon second and third viewing as a frustrated attempt to build and main-tain contact. If his personality has a touch or “shadow” of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, a possibility that Stallman has entertained from time to time, his eyes certainly confirm the diagnosis. Even at their most high-beam level of intensity, they have a tendency to grow cloudy and distant, like the eyes of a wounded animal preparing to give up the ghost. My own first encounter

Twice exceptional individuals have especially frustrating lives. Their high intelligence masks their difficulties and then other people claim they are making excuses and not trying hard enough.

No one wants to cut any slack for a smart person with disabilities. They just want to double down on "Smart people are lazy, arrogant, over entitled asshats and you need to behave better!"

There are generally too few resources available for such people. Most resources help with one issue or the other (giftedness or disability), not both at the same time. Such resources are a poor fit for the needs of 2e people.


To drum up sympathy for his behavior, by blaming it on a medical issue.

You make it sound as though autistic people are unable to learn appropriate social behavior. That is not only false, it does an extreme disservice to the entire community of people on the spectrum.

Well it's a spectrum, right? Some can, some can't - or refuse, for reasons related to them being on the spectrum.

I'm not sure that interpretation accurately represents the abilities of someone on the spectrum that is able to do productive work in society. But regardless, not everyone with all disabilities are qualified for all jobs. In this case, whatever the cause of Stallman's unwillingness &/or inability to behave in a way that doesn't make people feel uncomfortable or bullied, it also makes him unsuitable for these leadership roles. While some of GNU & FSF can be laid at his feet, in many ways they became successful despite him, not because of him.

As a non-neurotypical person, I will have to honestly say that teaching autistic people ""appropriate"" social behavior is comparable to abuse, steaming from the unwillingness of neurotypical to accept something that is not them and consider logic above their feelings for once.

Autistic people do not actually interact in logical way. They are unaware of own emotions and unaware of other peoples emotions. Their behavior or opinions are not more logical nor more correct. Angry yelling autistic is as illogical as angry neurotypical. Just because autistic is totally convinced he or she is super right, does not make it so. Just because neurotypical do not share autistic preference does not make him illogical, does not make his code "objectively" shitty or crappy. It does not make non-autistic illogical to not keep same routine nor to unintentionally disrupt autistic routine. No matter how much autistic calls neurotypical doing something different as yesterday stupid or irrational.

I agree that neurotypical should accept autistic needs and personalities, but not to the point that they allow themselves to be bullied. And vice versa.

Autistic people do have feelings and react to them. Quite strongly. Autistic do get insulted too.

I think this is an undervalued and very important aspect in the whole discussion.

In the meantime a completely mentally disabled person is leading the country and attacking every imaginable person in the world for years and… nothing happens at all!

Weird times.

>He’s autistic.

this is literally the "we need better mental health facilities because of gun violence" argument. the vast majority of autistic people do not behave like stallman. it's not a pass. if he's so fucking smart why didn't he figure out how to comport himself better amongst the normies?

Plainly spoken, he probably underestimated the mental abilities of his listeners and wasn't prepared for his statements to be misinterpreted in this way.

You can start by reading something about the condition, instead of assuming and insinuating, and making inacurate similies.

> He’s autistic... He never had a chance.

That's quite bleak.

Autism has become the junk drawer of disorders everyone seems to think they're somehow qualified to diagnose.

Could you provide some actual evidence of RMS being formally diagnosed as autistic?

Because otherwise you're basically spreading a rumor that RMS has a mental disorder, which is not right.

The other term people are using is "neuro-atypical". That might be a good phrase here. Whether its autism or not, its pretty clear there's a great deal of neuro-atypical happenings in that brain, and many of those clearly impinge upon his social abilities in a really extreme way. There is years of public evidence to support that (including the current crap-storm).

There's a lot of neuroatypical people who don't defend pedophilia or harass people. Don't make it an excuse, it ends up making you sound like you're saying all autistic people are harassing assholes who can't help being assholes. Which is patently untrue.

> He’s autistic.

Please. He's not been "autistic" in that conversation thread. He's been rational. That's not a kind of disability that needs to be excused.

there's a large contingent of people on hn (in tech, in the world) that fetishize "logic" and believe it always trumps "feelings". i put both in quotes because to this contingent both of those concepts have absolutely zero relation to their actual form.

i too used to be quite fond of making completely dispassionate arguments about controversial things (race, gender, class, etc.) because i believed that the entire content of a thing was what i understood about it in my oh-so logical way. what i was missing was experience (and often context), which is not neatly captured by syllogisms and facts. e.g. ask the jews who's entitled to palestine. now ask the palestinians. there is no theorem prover that will enable you to resolve that one no matter how many historical facts you feed it because ultimately the significance of each fact is refracted through personal experience (i.e. feelings).

this was as a result of being young and arrogant. i had the luxury of dispassion because none of these things had affected me in any way - i was lacking in experience of the injustices of the world that can't be written down using a set of "objective" facts. in retrospect it's a shameful mistake to have made.

this kind of bullying with "logic" is abhorrent to me now, especially when coming from someone who abuses their "logical" authority ("i'm very logical at x so trust me when i reason about completely unrelated y"). i always do my best to fight that kind of fire with fire. i believe if you have abilities (oratory, "logical") your responsibility is to aid those that don't, that don't get the same kind of attention, room to speak, credence, that you do simply because what they've experienced can't be formalized.

The whole point of rational dispassionate discussion is exactly because everyone has their own subjective feelings and experiences and biases. You have to put them aside to have a useful discussion. Prioritizing personal experience and saying “you cant know what its like if youre not X” is a bad bad social meme. I mean lets pretend its true. So what? It doesn’t advance the discussion at all, its only purpose is to end discussion. If a persons feelings trump logic and they cant have a level headed discussion because of that, then frankly they shouldn’t be treated as an adult, they should be treated like a child.

People are excellent rationalizers -- smart people especially. Basically smart people can use reason as a cudgel to win any debate -- not because they've actually constructed a good proof or considered all relevant evidence.

Ok, but you can also "win" a debate by beating people to death with strong feelings. Ever watch a toddler throw a temper tantrum?

Similarly have you ever watched a teenager argue "logically" from their limited experience?

It goes both ways (can fail in both ways) because discourse isn't theorem proving. There is no universal set.

There lies the issue. Let's take the extremes:

No two people share the same experience, therefore discussion is not possible, because one cannot share exactly the viewpoint of the other. That's the extreme on one end.

On the other end, we can only take "rational facts" into account. In order to do this, we must discard completely all personal experience, which is first of all actually impossible between two human beings sharing a discussion, and second of all, will transform both participants into what amounts to deterministic computers who will arrive at precisely the same outcome given the same input.

Now clearly if we are arriving at a shared conclusion between two people discussing a shared input, either extreme is impossible.

Some nuance is required.

> everyone has their own subjective feelings and experiences and biases. You have to put them aside to have a useful discussion.

You don't have to "put them aside." You have to incorporate them into the reasoning. It's true that some people are petulant and try to end discussion with the "you can't know what it's like" meme, sometimes it's really just what it looks like: a plea to try and understand what it's like to be me, instead of the caricature of me I see being constructed.

> its only purpose is to end discussion.

Yeah, and that would necessarily be a bad thing if your only priority was pwning people with facts and logic. However, some people care more about things like being kind and getting along with others. Such people have to be willing to stop doing things that hurt others, even if they can't understand why those things are bad.

Eg. It's very hard to explain what gender dysphoria feels like. If a trans person isn't able to do this to your satisfaction, that doesn't mean that you can just go on misgendering them. It means you just have to take their word for it.

> Yeah, and that would necessarily be a bad thing if your only priority was pwning people with facts and logic.

I'm not interested in "pwning" anyone. But if someone says "this guy needs to be fired/resign" (which actually, in the rms case I kinda agree with), then they need to be able to articulate things in a manner that's not just "you're not from [some group] so you don't get it". It's just lazy and disrespectful to other people.

>I mean lets pretend its true. So what?

there are things you don't know that you can find out by listening to people.

Sure. Agreed. But the entire point of the "you can't possibly know" is that they're saying the exact opposite. That it's a waste of time for them to explain anything to you because you are apparently incapable of human empathy.

Logic is great if you want to shoot a canon at the right target or design a circuit. But our current logical tools -- and especially that extremely simple set of 2000+ year old syllogisms designed by Aristotle to help him classify bugs that you're probably referring to when you say logic -- are not even a remotely good tool for analyzing anything that involves humans or society.

Maybe logic can be useful in the way you want it to be, but first you'll need to figure out how to serialize a person's entire life experience into some sort of sequence of symbols.

> Prioritizing personal experience and saying “you cant know what its like if youre not X” is a bad bad social meme.

But you don't know what it is like, and logic alone cannot help you know what it is like, because the full range of human experience is not expressible is any extant logical system.

hell, you can't even beat SoTA object detection if you don't have tons of actual experience in the form of labelled data.

And object detection is trivial compared to "being a human".

Is it really so hard to believe that you need actual experience in order to really understand how someone experiences the world? Or that your experience might make certain completely true things seem false to you, in a way that would make others experience your view of the world as akin to that of a child?

> So what? It doesn’t advance the discussion at all, its only purpose is to end discussion.

Sometimes that's true, but very often it is not true at all.

Very often, conversations about social/political topics end exactly when someone refuses empathize and instead imposes what they view as "logical" based on their "obvious experience of the world". E.g., "being gay would make me feel bad, and no healthy person wants to feel bad, so therefore gay people must be somehow sick". Completely logical from the priors, but immediately ends the conversation because the speaker assumes their experience of being a human in society is the only valid one.

> If a persons feelings trump logic...

Try replacing "feelings" with "experience". And then consider all those annoying arguments where someone says "but A is of course true and A clearly implies B so B must be true!" Even though you can go out and verify -- with reproducible experiment -- that the earth is in fact really, really not flat. i.e., that B is false.

And look: in this case, logic does not matter! If you can check with experience that B is false, then you don't need to look through the chain of logical deductions that resulted in a derivation that B is true. When people say "logic doesn't matter", what they usually mean is "your conclusion is prime facie false based on how I experience the world"; not "I'm not a blind child, you're a blind child!"

This doesn't mean that there is no room for logic. It just means... when talking about topics that involve how other people experience the world, try walking in other people's shoes.

And if they come to different conclusions that you do when you try to empathize with them, consider that perhaps they're not just dumb children. Perhaps you're not using enough synthetic training data to really understand where they are coming from. Or even that you can't do this task of imagining the other person's experience with purely synthetic training data.

Logic is a bad tool for solving social and political problems. Empathy is a much better tool. Especially empathy grounded in the realization that even empathy isn't quite enough to really understand how other people experience life. Logic can sometimes help you empathize, or explain to yourself why you need to empathize, but logic is just a tool for thinking. And it's not even always the best tool.

I believe in human empathy so much that I think I'm capable of understanding a persons struggle even if I haven't directly been through what they've been through. Indeed I think almost all of us are capable of this, even if we don't practice it. I think the argument that you can only talk about things you have personal experience in is essentially a pessimistic view about human empathy.

There is a huge difference between empathy and experience. Ignoring that difference is an important failure of empathy. It's the confusion that lets you say that you believe in empathy while also literally infantilizing people who disagree with you.

Furthermore, realizing this gap exists is not synonymous with claiming that "you can only talk about things you have personal experience". Where in my above post do I say that?

Imagination is powerful, not magical.

There's actually a well-developed practice at holding discussions where people's feelings are deliberately included--marital or group counseling, integrative negotation, conflict resolution strategies, etc. Recognizing that people's feeling are always somewhat involved, we have the dialectical tools to work with them, because the purely dispassionate approach you believe is the sole path to truth is something that most learn, sooner or later, rarely works and rarely satisfies.

I'm amused that this very wise very true comment is downvoted on HN. 20 year old me would have downvoted it. 40 year old me recognizes it as obvious and has a divorce to show for it. There's no way 20 year old me would have believed 40 year old me, though.

This was very much my take on the comment. I also think that, if you're over 30 and don't look back on a lot of what you thought at 20 and cringe a bit, you're probably missing something. Same goes for being over 40 and looking back at 30, etc., etc.

From my perspective, it did not seem wise to make a reductionist analogy to how Israelis feel about Palestinians, and vice versa.

what exactly was reductionist about my analogy? which features of the conflict did i reduce? is it not the case that both sides having contrary perspectives on many of the same objects facts? did i imply somewhere that i endorse one side or the other? (which i do but i haven't in any way let on which).

Both points of view are “wrong.” As always a balance taking context into account is best.

Not sure why you're being downvoted; I think you're exactly correct.

Certainly we can't discount logic, but praising logic as some sort of solution, while ignoring people's emotions, is a great way to be completely ineffective at, well, nearly everything.

> i put both in quotes because to this contingent both of those concepts have absolutely zero relation to their actual form.

Indeed, and that deserves some emphasis, I think. Applying "logic" to complex issues in real life is fraught with difficulties, because there aren't really any obviously and fully true premises to base logical arguments on in the first place, and a lot of common sense or "self-evident" inferences are either false or only weakly or unreliably true.

Experience and feelings encode a lot of implicit knowledge about how the world works. When someone makes a dispassionate "logical" argument, they essentially throw these heuristics away and instead work their way up from axioms. Which sounds good in theory, until you realize these axioms are simplistic assumptions that often fail. For example, you might base an economic theory upon the axiom that economic actors are rational. In reality, though, that's not true, and you'd be better off incorporating some of your personal experiences and feelings because they may give you an intuitive grasp of when to trust the axiom, and when not to.

Logical, dispassionate arguments are (not always, but often) like arguments about spherical cows. Sure, they are technically valid, but they rely on simplifying assumptions, sometimes to the point of uselessness. The people who do that have undue confidence in a lot of platitudes, which makes them blind to the fact they are building their arguments on sand.

Hell is sitting in a meeting where a consensus decision is reached that is demonstrably wrong, and everybody treats you like the asshole because your very real and verifiable reasons are making everyone else feel bad or stupid.

The worst thing when that inevitably fails, sometimes with loss of innocent life if stakes are high, you can't even feel good you were right. Being right is completely useless and pointless there.

I'm rather young, so I might be exactly the kind of person that you were.

I think it's right to shut up when "logic" hurts people's feelings AND there's nothing to gain from saying it, but when there's an injustice and we can at least try to fight back, I think the right thing to do is just saying the "logical" truth, even if people's feelings get hurt.

I don't mean to say that my view is always the correct one, but rather that there's some subjacent right, "logical" system that we should strive to discover and apply. My opinion is simply my best effort at trying to discover that subjacent truth.

You may find, as you age, that this viewpoint takes on nuance. Yes, we should root our world in scientific thinking. We should approach problems logically. We should make our decisions rationally. We should be efficient in how we allocate our resources.

But there are times when being human outweighs those interests. There are times when we should be deliberately inefficient because too much efficiency can cause harm. There are times when we need not investigate rigorously, because by picking apart someone we might do them harm. There are times when we should accept that there might not be a logical underpinning to a behavior, because we will never be capable of operating free from emotions.

And most importantly, there are times where you need not pursue a truth. That sometimes the quest to understand can be much more harmful than simply being present and accepting.

I used to be a hardline 'logic only, logic always, efficiency above all' person. I'd plan my routes to optimize path efficiency. My relationships left me scrutinizing every interaction, guessing at double meanings and challenging assertions by people. It was unbearable to be around me. I've had to learn that sometimes people want to engage with me in diving deep, sometimes people really hate doing that, and rarely it's for everyone's best interest to override those interests.

But ultimately in those alienating conclusions you were _right_, how do we forget this? What does it make us to disregard uncomfortable truths?

It’s not about disregarding uncomfortable truths, it’s recognizing that speaking truth in an uncomfortable way accomplishes very little. To get someone to change their behavior, you need to first show them that you understand their perspective, even if you disagree with it.

Otherwise, they’ll mentally dismiss your arguments as coming from a different tribe without really listening— emotions and group identity are very strong psycological forces, so you need to take them into account when crafting your own actions.

A nuanced response, but my main point is about self censorship, what does one do if ultimately their conclusion is contradictory to their opponents. Acquiesce to maintain the peace or state their claim? I personally will always back truth regardless of its comfort to the audience whoever they might be

Pragmatically, you will achieve less this way. Eventually, you will hit the limits of others tolerance for what they will perceive as arrogance.

Perhaps this is of little concern to you, but if you absolutely want to maximize your accomplishments, you must be sufficiently flexible so that when you do speak truth it carries weight and import.

This sounds like how I used to think. A question from a mentor of mine: what does being right accomplish?

> what does being right accomplish?

Not being wrong.

Which is often bad, sometimes very bad, like "you're dead" bad or "you killed somebody else" bad.

Being right is just like epidemic prevention or vaccines: if they work, you don't even notice.

Thank you!

> I think it's right to shut up when "logic" hurts people's feelings AND there's nothing to gain from saying it

Given that your logic train might inspire others to get more insight and work on expanding your argument - or refuting it - "nothing to gain" is something that never happens.


Why so black and white? OP’s saying that there are other things besides “logic” (which is often itself just masked “feelings” from someone unaware of their own biases) that are relevant to the problems of the world; not saying that logic altogether is abhorrent and shutting “all logical arguments that come their way” down.

You ought to inspect why you yourself are getting defensive over that statement.

I'm not getting defensive I'm pointing out an argument that stems from feelings and is only supported by feelings has no basis in discussion, since they are not axioms for discussion but subjective.

The OP starts out dismissing logical arguments and then pats himself on the back for seeing through the grand conspiracy of analytical thought.

Like it or not, feelings drive most people’s decisions. Even if you use only the most rigorous logic to come to your own conclusions, it’s naieve to expect that to sway other people. Making a logical argument connect with people on an emotional level is a hard but invaluable skill to learn.

Similarly, it’s often helpful to recognize that there’s some social currency to be gained by compromising on low-priority issues that you can spend to get people on board with your high-priority ones— people will pay more attention to the objections of someone who’s generally agreeable than someone who has a reputation of complaining about everything.

> I'm pointing out an argument that stems from feelings and is only supported by feelings has no basis in discussion.

Is this so? Let’s call the statement above P0.

Let’s start from first principles. A discussion is performed by agents (peer interlocutors, a speaker and its audience, etc). I believe we can make it an axiom of our discussion that there are at least two sentient agents involved. Assume two (A1 and A2), without loss of generality. Focus on one of them, A1.

A1 joins the discussion in pursuit of a goal G1, and for that purpose puts forward an argument, as does A2 in pursuit of G2. G1 and G2 might or might not be the same.

Lets not concern ourselves much with the mechanics of the argument, but with the goals and their relation to P0.

Focusing on A1 and G1, it its trivially true that if G1 involves convincing A2 of some fact F, then P0 is trivially false except in the specific case in which A2 is the sort of agent which can only be convinced by a purely logical argument.

Empirically, most humans are not such agents.

Unproven conjecture: No human is such an agent.

Empathic communication (communication relating to feelings) is known to be an effective tool in convincing human agents [1].

Therefore P0 is invalid, arguments based on feelings are likely to have a use in discussion when the goal is to convince.

Let’s, however, assume that G1 is the goal of the idealized logician, to “arrive at the truth, whatever it might be.” Two cases arise:

Either A1 holds all the facts and the means of reasoning required to arrive at the truth, in which case communication with A2 is unnecessary. Or else A1 requires information or processes from A2 to arrive at the truth.

In the later case, if G1 == G2, meaning both agents seek the truth as their primary (perhaps only) objective, and this remains true through the whole discussion, then P0 could apply, under those strengthened premises.

However, if the goal of A2 is not initially the pursuit of truth, or if G2 ever changes after becoming the pursuit of truth, then A1 must attempt persuasion on A2 to (re-)align their goals. This could benefit from an emotional argument.

And this is all assuming A1 has the pursuit of truth as its only goal, and not, say, a performative goal of showing its command of logic, at the expense of the optimal process for arriving cooperatively at the truth. It also assumes that persuasion from one agent might not be used to move the other closer to the truth, or more receptive to future logical arguments, which might be possible in situations where the agent’s internal process is not perfectly logical (consider e.g. the practice of psychotherapy).

As a side note, when the goal G1 is performative, an emotional argument can be cloaked in the language of logic, for example the argument put forward by A1 might on the surface be about the subject of discussion, while intending in truth to convey information about A1’s social standing, for example, to show off education or intelligence by means of elaborate language not otherwise needed to make the argument persuasive or logical (e.g. [2]).

Other possible goals include, e.g. the didactical, the parodical, or that of artistic expression.

[1] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b879/4bf1a7e6845f87824c52a3...


[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21122793 (can't edit, for some reason)

p.s. By the way, the above throwaway comment is also a self-demonstrating example in another way. I wrote it only to make a point regarding the idea that "logical arguments are the only kind of worthwhile communication, talking based on feelings is incorrect/unacceptable". However, this still shows up in a thread about recent news involving RMS. This comment is neither pro or against RMS or the reasons for his resignation(s). I don't believe it will be read as either, but it certainly could be read in that context. Given part of the discussion is about reading the social cues, particularly during an emotionally charged topic of discussion... I do wonder if this is an example of what not to do (strategically)? And, if so, whether that is a good thing or not (normatively). Provided as food for thought, I have not arrived to an answer nor am I engaged in seeking one.

I don’t really want to discuss further, but after rereading OPs post I don’t really see how he’s making an argument exclusively supported by feelings that flatly dismisses logic as a tool for discussion. I encourage you to step away from this for some time, and calmly reread the comment later.

In particular, OP does not claim that logic is not a useful tool for discussion. OP seems to claim that it’s use to shut down important voices and experience that isn’t framed in those terms, by people who don’t have the power to be heard, allows those who do to deny those people inclusion into discussion. OP even says that he fights fire with fire, ie uses logic against logical people to try to bring those silenced people’s experiences into conversation.

I see your dismissal of OP’s argument, as an example of OP’s point. Not only does the “facts” your pointing out seem awfully defensive to a personal, emotional image of “logicalness” that OP’s point calls into question (ie your “facts” aren’t just “facts”), but the next step is to call for that line of thought to be dismissed entirely because it stands outside your personally invested framework.

Nor do I fundamentally agree that statements made from feelings have no place in discussion just because they aren’t framed in the same logical framework as the hyper rational people who shoot those types of statements down. People’s feelings are typically based on lived experience relevant to a topic and contain content that, while not neatly packaged into the cogent, easily digestible logical argument you’re looking for, remain informative for ethically ambiguous topics.

To tie it to the literal situation that Stallman has found himself in, he has made dispassionate arguments about things like children being able to consent to sexual encounters with adults. If you’re expecting an abused child to give you a well formed, logical argument for why those actions are or are not ethical, then you’ve found quite the exceptional victim. Otherwise, the lack of that argument effectively silences the child’s ability to convey the importance of their trauma, and empowers influential people like Stallman to make those hyper-rational arguments that ignore and actively erode those people’s legitimate experiences.

It’s the adults who listen to the incoherent pain of those children, who are able to have those children’s voices heard in discussion, and therein lies the value of listening to, not dismissing, “emotional” appeal in debate.

Stallman’s case is a very cut and dry example of the kind of dispassion that represents my take of OP’s post, about how excessive application of “logic” corrodes productive discussion. This doesn’t just happen to children, this happens to capable adults whose cultural backgrounds (non-Western bluntness? doesn’t speak your language?), or complicated circumstances (traumatized rape victim?) make speaking clearly, logically and dispassionately about an ethical issue difficult.

What even is a logical authority? Someone who is right factually? Is that bad somehow now?


As someone with friends and family personally impacted by that conflict, I’d wager quite a few people care and think that resolving that geopolitical issue is very contributive to society.

>Who cares who is entitled to Palestine?

~5 million people. how can you be so blithe as to completely discount the existence/experience of that many people. i challenge you to empathize with someone living there. truly imagine it and then tell me it's completely trivial.

Similarly, what you wrote hurt my feeling.

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