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Finally some concrete examples of what RMS is alleged to have done wrong.

All those references from stallman.org seems like perfectly reasonable opinions to hold and express though. Seems like you'd have to be fairly deep into radical leftism to read it as anything that "speaks for itself" that the author is due for an extra large helping of sexual taboo condemnations and being ousted from his job.

But if this is the level of differences that will cause cooperation-breaking conflicts these people can't work together.

Non-GNU Guile?




Many regular contributors to GNU projects didn't like RMS's involvement in the first place. He makes no technical contribtions, and he tends to post politically divisive flamebait-ey topics to the email lists. He'll also undercut his appointed maintainers by posting his own musings about decisions that have already been settled by the maintainers. More than once, he's used an effective "veto" power to force sub-optimal architectural choices in an effort to make sure GNU projects can't easily interoperate with non-GPL software. Refusing to expose gcc functionality through a library interface is the best-known example (which directly led many developers, researchers, and organizations to adopt clang and LLVM), but there are others, including a veto of Emacs features that would make it easier to talk to clang to power IDE-like features.

Most regular contributors found this behavior frustrating, and would discuss it privately, although rarely if ever discuss it on-list. These are people who are absolutely committed to free software, they were just sick of dealing with RMS. Wingo's stated attitude seems pretty typical: RMS was damage that needed to be routed around.

After developing this reputation, it's not shocking that most maintainers and contributors accepted his resignation from the FSF with a shrug. They were sick of dealing with him anyway - they're not going to protest to try to get him back.


If someone values optimal architectural choices even when it damages the political cause of software freedom, then what is he doing in the Free Software movement? There is a sister movement that was set-up explicitly to be technical and non-political: Open Source. The licenses are even compatible so if you discover you accidentally joined the wrong movement it is easy to switch to the other one!


The disagreement is over what hurts the Free Software movement more: letting people subvert your license and use it in non-Free ways, or having everyone simply switch to non-Free software.


Now, these are much more substantial complaints, in my opinion. But to the extent that sort of reasons truly drive the calls for removal, much of the rhetoric and all of the timing is extremely inappropriate.


Yes. I picked randomly three of the linked statements and completely agreed with them, and I see myself as being on the left myself.


The funny thing is, there is no calling for the heads of feminist philosophers and gender theorists like Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler, both of whom have expressed views on sexuality w.r.t. children that are more abhorrent than Stallman's. (Stallman could have even been using them as references.)

That makes me suspect that his personal political views are not the reason feminists want him out.


If by "feminists" you mean GNU maintainers and other free software hackers (who may well be feminists, but this is a sharp subset of feminists in society as a whole), then correct, his personal political views are not by themselves the reason they want him out. It's the fact that he is so committed to the advocacy of his personal views that he is harming the free software movement. See, for instance, this post from the author of this email (and linked in this email): https://wingolog.org/archives/2019/10/08/thoughts-on-rms-and...

> The great tragedy of RMS's tenure in the supposedly universalist FSF and GNU projects is that he behaves in a way that is particularly alienating to women. It doesn't take a genius to conclude that if you're personally driving away potential collaborators, that's a bad thing for the organization, and actively harmful to the organization's goals: software freedom is a cause that is explicitly for everyone.

and this, from a former member of the FSF Board of Directors who resigned so he could speak up: http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2019/10/15/fsf-rms.html

> More importantly to the FSF, I attempted to persuade RMS that launching a controversial campaign on sexual behavior and morality was counter to his and FSF's mission to advance software freedom [....] After years of conversing with RMS about how his non-software-freedom views were a distraction, an indulgence, and downright problematic, his general response was to make even more public comments of this nature.

and this, from another former member of the FSF Board of Directors: https://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/52587.html

> Stallman is driving away our natural allies. It's inappropriate for him to continue as the figurehead for free software.

It is not because they simply disagreed with his political beliefs - he can believe what he likes. It is about the fact that, as a leader in the free software movement, he was driving away more people with both his public advocacy of his views and his behavior (hitting on women at conferences as soon as he met them, etc.), i.e, he was not doing his job.


No, Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler are not GNU maintainers or other free software hackers, as far as I know. I mean I'm familiar with their philosophical and sociological work but don't know of any software they've written.


I don't see how that disagrees with / responds to anything I wrote. Unless Gayle Rubin or Judith Butler called for RMS's removal? I am responding to "That makes me suspect that his personal political views are not the reason feminists want him out" - are Rubin and Butler the feminists who want him out?


I'm sorry for causing confusion. I doubt either Rubin or Butler have even heard of RMS.

While most of the GNU maintainers appear to have tried to resolve things amicably with RMS, the social-justice contingent within open source have been calling for his removal for at least a year now, probably much longer, and they usually cite his views on sexuality as the reason why he is "problematic".

However, there have to my knowledge never been similar calls for the removal of the likes of Rubin and Butler from leadership positions in their field by social-justice advocates (within open source or outside it), despite them publicly expressing even more abhorrent views about sexuality with respect to children than Stallman has. The work of Rubin and Butler is foundational to queer theory and gender theory, so modern feminist activists are likely to be at least passingly familiar with them. Stallman may even have been referring to their scholarship when he made his controversial (and imho very wrong) paedophilia statements.

This tells me unpleasant things about the relationship between social-justice activists and paedophilia. They're made more unpleasant by the fact that I have seen at least one social-justice advocacy group defend a known, active paedophile within their ranks.


FWIW, I don't think what you said was confusing. It was clear to me that you were discussing Rubin and Butler as potential targets of criticism, not potential sources. It's a reasonable point, it's just explained by

- Rubin and Butler's jobs are to make controversial statements about sexuality, Stallman's isn't (i.e., the call is to remove him as leader of the free software movement, not to get him to take down stallman.org; if he wants to wage a campaign to change social norms about pedophilia, it's a free country, but people ate equally free to point out that he can't also wage a campaign to change social norms about free software and be successful at both)

- while there may be a group more closely associated with the academic feminism community than the free software community who is dissatisfied with his statements on the merits, and we can discuss whether they are hypocritical in not criticizing Rubin and Butler (or whether there is a fourth wave of feminism and they are in fact criticizing Rubin and Butler, or whatever), the successful campaign to remove RMS from the FSF was not solely or primarily their doing. It was the work of free software hackers who a) have made it clear their concern wasn't solely views but effect of RMS's advocacy of those views on the health of the free software community - a concern that doesn't analogously apply to academic feminists advocating such views - and b) aren't obligated to have opinions about Rubin and Butler anyway.

Or put another way, if a feminist thinks Rubin and Butler's advocacy re pedophilia harm the feminism movement, they can start fourth-wave feminism with differing principles and values. If a free software hacker thinks Stallman's advocacy re pedophilia is harming the free software movement, they can't meaningfully start second-wave free software because there are no different principles and values with respect to free software.


Good points, but uh... second-wave free software has already been started. It's called "open source".


I find the most interesting and concerning part of the post from Bradley Kuhn to be in the end.

> I still think the FSF is a valuable institution worth helping and saving

Worth saving, as is heading towards implosion and it need to be saved.

If you told members of the FSF Board of Directors that FSF would destroy itself over a political dispute over a question like "was metoo a media frenzy", it would had sounded silly. If I would had said after the 2016 election that FSF would need to take a side, left or right, no one would even consider it. FSF a year ago would never had said if they are pro-feminism, pro-MRA, pro-socialism or pro-liberalism. The closest to a political affiliation that FSF had done in the past has been their occasionally aligning with the goals of the natural allies EFF and ACLU, but even there it has only been in technical topics such as patents, copyright, forced backdoors, and crippling of software. To my knowledge FSF has never commented on non-technical ACLU work.

One thing I completely disagree with the above quotes however is the implication that he equally advocated his political views on sex as with free software. I have been to a couple of his talks and seen several on video, and sex is not a topic he mentioned. His talks are often transcripted and put online so I am open to be proven wrong, but here is a few examples: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-digital-society.html, https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-versus-community.ht..., https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/danger-of-software-patents.ht...


> If you told members of the FSF Board of Directors that FSF would destroy itself over a political dispute over a question like "was metoo a media frenzy", it would had sounded silly. If I would had said after the 2016 election that FSF would need to take a side, left or right, no one would even consider it.

I don't think this is true - my sense is that 10-20 years ago, claiming "in the future, the FSF will destroy itself because RMS waded into a controversy he didn't know how to back down from" would have gotten responses of "oh, yes, of course," and at least as far back as Gamergate, "the FSF will get caught up in the broader 'culture war'" would have sounded totally plausible too. (I'm not sure "culture war" is exactly the term I want to use, but it serves the right denotational purpose here.)

Relevantly, "is RMS subject to the LibrePlanet code of conduct" seems like a thing that also touches on the "culture war" - and that was an issue in 2017. https://announce.asheesh.org/2018/12/libreplanet-speakers-as...

Oh, and people had accused free software of being socialist/communist as far back as the '90s. The whole reason the "open source" movement got started was to rebrand free software in a corporate-friendly way.


>10-20 years ago, claiming "in the future, the FSF will destroy itself because RMS waded into a controversy he didn't know how to back down from" would have gotten responses of "oh, yes, of course"

This is an excellent way to view recent events. My compliments to the author!


>All those references from stallman.org seems like perfectly reasonable opinions to hold and express though. Seems like you'd have to be fairly deep into radical leftism to read it as anything that "speaks for itself" that the author is due for an extra large helping of sexual taboo condemnations and being ousted from his job.

Alright, I guess we're gonna have to unpack this.

In the item "prudish ignorantism" [0,1] Stallman suggests that a British woman having sex with adolescents is not an issue as long as they used protection, and that adolescents don't need to be "protected" from sex. The adolescents involved were reportedly as young as eleven. It is not perfectly reasonable to consider sex between a sixty year old woman, her seventy year old husband and children as young as eleven to be appropriate.

[0]https://web.archive.org/web/20170612074722/http://stallman.o...

[1]https://web.archive.org/web/20170612074722/https://www.thegu...

In the item "pestering women" [2,3] Stallman dismisses the behavior of a man who constantly pesters women for sex as not being an issue because he didn't force them to have sex, or punish them for refusal. While it is true that both of those would be worse than the behavior described, the behavior described is nevertheless a form of sexual harassment and it is not perfectly reasonable to consider such behavior harmless.

[2]https://web.archive.org/web/20180131020215/https://stallman....

[3]https://web.archive.org/web/20180124091250/https://www.thegu...

In the item "age and attraction" [4,5], Stallman is upset that men should ever be expected to find a woman over the age of eighteen to be attractive, and likens the societal norm that considers relationships between older men and younger women to be akin to an attempt at conversion therapy for gays.

[4]https://web.archive.org/web/20180911075211/https://www.stall...

[5]https://web.archive.org/web/20180911103348/https://www.thegu...

In the item "sex according to porn" [6,7] Stallman believes adolescents should be allowed to pursue sexual relationships and are harmed by the unrealistic image presented to them in pornography.

While I do actually agree, in theory, that pornography creates unrealistic sexual expectations, especially for men (but I would have to bring up certain trigger words that HN doesn't like to read to have that conversation) most reasonable people would consider the "cure" of having adolescents pursue sexual relationships with adults for the sake of sexual education far worse than the problem of adolescents being exposed to, and misinformed about sex from, porn to begin with.

[6]https://web.archive.org/web/20181113161736/https://www.stall...

[7]https://web.archive.org/web/20181113190231/https://www.thegu...

In "Respecting people's right to say no" [8, 9] Stallman expresses outrage that anyone would condemn someone claiming he cannot be attracted to a woman over 50. In a vacuum, this probably wouldn't be an issue - he's right, there's no accounting for tastes. But given Stallman's prior views on the sort of relationships that most would consider pedophilic at worst, or maybe (because some people like to be pedantic on this point) ephebophilic, it implies that he is once again defending what many would consider inappropriate relationships, not simply someone liking women a few years younger.

[8]https://web.archive.org/web/20190325024048/https://stallman.... [9]https://web.archive.org/web/20190321061957/https://www.thegu...

In "stretching meaning of terms" Stallman does not accept that a doctor who reportedly secretly spied on young male athletes at Ohio State, was engaged in sexual abuse of any sort, because he wasn't actually touching them while doing so. In other words, he wouldn't consider spying on women without their consent to be harmful either, so long as physical contact wasn't involved.

I'm not going to continue because I shouldn't need to, but the point I'm trying to belabor is that all of these examples, anecdotal evidence [10] provided by others regarding their interactions with Stallman, the emails which led to the viral outrage[12] leading to his resignation [11] and his infamous (and now redacted) belief that pedophilia is not harmful [13], all point to views on his part which would not require one to be "fairly deep into radical leftism" to object to, and would not be considered perfectly reasonable by most people.

One can object to such views leading to his dismissal, but it is simply not the case that RMS's views and behavior are harmless idiosyncrasies blown out of proportion by radical feminists, leftists, a secret cabal of corporate agitators looking to undermine Free Software, or whatever bogeyman the community chooses to latch on to. The fact is, the culture around tech and RMS in general simply does not consider his "sexual taboos" or objections to his behavior to be relevant in the light of his status in the community of Free Software.

[10]https://mobile.twitter.com/_sagesharp_/status/11736371384133...

[11]https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6405929/091320191...

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

[13]https://stallman.org/archives/2006-mar-jun.html#05%20June%20...




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