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javert 781 days ago | link | parent

... please just kill yourself now

I don't think someone who actually knows what it's like to experience suicidal thoughts would ever say something like that to people in a technical/professional context.

There is something to be said for the "tough love" Linux culture, but IMO, language as extreme as what I just quoted is just not acceptable.

For me, this is crossing the line from "Linus has an interesting and entertaining character" to "this person seems to be mentally disturbed."



dirtyaura 781 days ago | link

I suppose it's more a cultural issue - no Finn would read that post as seriously as you did. Many would consider it hilarious. It's quite typical in informal Finnish way of speaking to use "dark" metaphors, and granted they come out a little bit clumsy in English, but I know a lot of Finnish coders who express themselves with similar language that Torvalds does. I remember a few incidents from my Nokia career where this caused "issues" when we were communicating with Nokia employees in US over the email.

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lurker17 781 days ago | link

It's the same in US English. The issue is just that there are 1-10% of people who are sensitive to the issue, and computing has grown from a small club of close friends/enemies/frenemies to a more mainstream activity, there is a growing call for being more welcoming and "politicallyy correct" tone in conversation.

For example, on the official Mozilla Bugzilla, diverting from technical debate to non-technical vitriolic commentary is a bannable offense, regardless of the value of the user's technical contribution.

It's just a toxic way of communicating, and if someone can't package their thoughts for public consumption, it may be better to keep their thoughts (semi-)private and leave it to someone more tactful to spread the word more widely and effect positive change.

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AndresNavarro 781 days ago | link

I don't think it's the same in US English, I think the parent is right. Here in Buenos Aires one can say "kill yourself" (which would be "matate" in the rioplatense dialect of Spanish) for almost anything and nobody would bat an eye. In English, it sounds/looks pretty harsh, at least to my non native ears/eyes.

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pavanky 781 days ago | link

That is his personal Google+ profile. I am not sure if he would ask people to kill themselves (even if he is harsh) in a mailing list or other open forums..

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weff 780 days ago | link

I guess you could also reverse the idea: if someone is offended by every cultural difference, maybe one should refrain from... living in a multi-cultural world?

What is "public consumption" anyway? I don't want to have everyone communicating through death threats but I also want even less for everyone to sound like a PR representative.

Maybe the solution is to simply understand the cultural differences?

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javert 781 days ago | link

I think this is quite different from "political correctness" as the term is typically used, which is regarding issues of gender, ethnicity, political opinion, etc.

It's the same in US English

I don't agree. I've never thought of it before, but to be honest, in my 25 years of life, I've never seen the kind of behavior Linus is famous for on the part of anyone besides Europeans. (Most of whom, I should add, do not appear to be this way.)

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jlawer 781 days ago | link

That dark and exaggerated sense of humour is common at least amongst Brits, Irish, Aussies & Kiwis.

However I wouldn't say it isn't in the US. Most Boston & some New York stand-up comedians I have seen seem to have a similar personality. Maybe this is self selecting, but the US comedians I have seen from these areas tend to have that same personality.

I really don't think this is a big deal..

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javert 781 days ago | link

I'm not talking about comedians, for pete sake. I'm talking about software development in a professional context.

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icebraining 781 days ago | link

So why are you talking about professional context on a story about a post in a personal profile on a social network?

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beedogs 781 days ago | link

Apparently people in the public eye are not allowed to have personal opinions.

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javert 781 days ago | link

Come on guys, this was fully intended to be a public statement and I think there are hundreds of comments on it (too lazy to check now).

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toadi 780 days ago | link

In case you didn't know everything you post here is also public.

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javert 778 days ago | link

Yes.... what's your point?

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toadi 780 days ago | link

Is a google plus posting proffesional context. He didn't like how suse implemented it and then flames bigotted secrutiy people in general.

don't see any personal attack.

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LinaLauneBaer 780 days ago | link

In the professional gaming scene when you beat someone in a match you also say "I raped him hard" and nobody thinks of it as a real rape.

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bkirwi 780 days ago | link

I'm aware of several people that have been driven away from gaming by this kind of culture. It's not as harmless as it seems from the inside, I think.

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LinaLauneBaer 779 days ago | link

If you say it in-game at an official tournament you may be punished for that. But casters say this from time to time without feeling bad.

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batista 781 days ago | link

I don't agree. I've never thought of it before, but to be honest, in my 25 years of life, I've never seen the kind of behavior Linus is famous for on the part of anyone besides Europeans.

Really? Does Lenny Bruce qualify? How about Dennis Leary? (Well, he is of Irish descent, I'll give you that).

Hani Suleiman, of the Bile Blog fame?

http://javablogs.com/views/ViewBlog.action?id=11454

Definitely not a European.

How about The Filty Critic?

http://www.bigempire.com/filthy/

And don't get me started on Hunter S. Thompson and co.

[EDIT] Fk, how could I forget Maddox and the "Best Page in the Universe": http://maddox.xmission.com/

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jacquesm 781 days ago | link

You forgot Bill Hicks. Given the original quote that Javert took offense to I think it's a pretty good example. And I'm not 100% sure he was joking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

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javert 781 days ago | link

Not familiar with those people except Thompson.

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batista 781 days ago | link

Well, the Filthy Critic is quite known on the interwebs. And BileBlog was quite read back in the day by Java devs. But, ok, those are minor websites.

But, you must have heard of Lenny Bruce (they even made him into a movie starring Dustin Hoffman) and Denis Leary. Comedian, had starred in a few movies, and had a tv series that made it into 7 seasons...

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javert 781 days ago | link

I think you're talking about a totally different context than I am.

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batista 781 days ago | link

Not sure. You wrote "I've never seen the kind of behavior Linus is famous for on the part of anyone besides Europeans.", which in the context of the threads, means things like him saying "kill yourself".

Well, those guys, all non Europeans and most Americans, are some random and well known examples of similar --if not identical-- harsh talk as joke/commentary.

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javert 781 days ago | link

My point is that these OpenSUSE guys, software developers, created a free distribution (some were employed by SUSE no doubt and some not, doesn't matter), and Linus shows his thanks this way?

I'm actually talking specifically about the context of kernel hacking. I always thought it was just the "kernel hacker culture" and it never occured to me to see it along geographical lines until someone pointed out that it's apparently commonly accepted in Finland to talk to people this way in a professional context.

Now, of COURSE comedians and schoolyard bullies and people like that say all kinds of nasty shit, all over the world. I really had the Linux kernel hacking community in mind, which I follow somewhat, but I assumed it was clear from context that I was talking about "software development" at least.

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batista 780 days ago | link

I'm actually talking specifically about the context of kernel hacking. I always thought it was just the "kernel hacker culture" and it never occured to me to see it along geographical lines until someone pointed out that it's apparently commonly accepted in Finland to talk to people this way in a professional context.

Oh, sorry, I took the thread was meant to address the whole geographical/cultural difference, not just with regards to the kernel list.

I mean, other guys commented in general that "That dark and exaggerated sense of humour is common at least amongst Brits, Irish, Aussies & Kiwis." etc. And it's not as Linus posted that on the kernel list either.

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ajb 780 days ago | link

When I see Torvalds say these things in a video - the one where he slags off subversion being the famous example - it's obvious to me that he's not being serious. But it seems much more arrogant, threatening even, written down, without the other cues.

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tygorius 781 days ago | link

Been there, done that, got the meds. It taught me the valuable distinction between normal mood swings and out-of-whack brain chemistry.

Seriously, if you have a strong bout of suicidal thoughts in reaction to flippant remarks such at Torvalds's then you need to bring this up to a mental health professional because your current coping mechanism isn't working.

If you're merely tut-tutting with disapproval however I simply disagree. Wanting a world where people never get their feelings hurt is a fruitless quest.

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javert 781 days ago | link

Your speculation on and advice about my mental health is rude and insulting.

I'm not merely "tut-tutting". I don't think telling people to commit suicide because of a legitimate technical disagrement or hurdle is acceptable. If you disagree, put up a reasoned argument or shut up.

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tygorius 781 days ago | link

Sorry. No aspersions on your mental health were intended. I was using "you" in the general, hypothetical sense. You and I are not the only ones reading this thread.

One of the things I learned from depression was that one (not "you") could intellectually realize that a stimulus was trivial and yet still have a near-overpowering emotional response. People in such a situation would be well advised to deal with the underlying electochemical issues instead of thinking their depression is merely the result of circumstances and something they can just conquer with more will power.

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javert 781 days ago | link

I came back to apologize for telling you to "shut up." I don't think it was worded too too rudely and necessarily requires an apology, but that's not my style, either. I just lost a ton of karma on this (not that that matters, but it stings a bit!) and felt like a lot of people were attacking me on disingenuous grounds. Anyway, I do appreciate the apology, so thank you!

Your point about depression is actually quite interesting. My personal belief is that your emotions reflect the mental content of your mind. So if something is making you depressed, you need to think about what's wrong with the ideas you hold that's causing you to be depressed, and change your ideas. It seems to me that if you just treat it with medicine, the underlying wrong ideas will potentially linger. (OTOH, I've heard it said that taking the medicine gives you strength to confront the things that are bothering you when you lack it.)

FWIW, I haven't been able to confirm or deny my belief, but I suspect it's basically correct, but that not all people can address the intellectual disconnects they have in all situations without some form of outside help.

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tygorius 780 days ago | link

I used to have the same view of where emotions come from. But after getting brain snapshots and diagnoses from medical doctors and a psychologist, I had to confront my personal history and conclude that habits of thought were only part of the solution. Hence the research findings that talk therapies and meds are more effective than either alone. (Not to mention that an effective therapy is one that produces a 30% solid success rate balanced with a %30 negligable response. Not something you want to hear if you're looking for magic pills to make your problems disappear.)

Anyway, as famed neuroscientist Ted Nelson once put it, "Everything is intertwingled." Just a couple of months ago I read an item about a rodent memory experiment in Helsinki that supported the theory that the reason antianxiety drugs work is that they stimulate neuroplasticity. The results would seem to explain why those drugs could show up in our bloodstreams within hours and yet take weeks for real results to show up -- and it also supports two-pronged approaches to improvement.

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javert 778 days ago | link

This is truly fascinating. In case it's useful for anyone besides me: I searched for the article and came up with [1]. Haven't read it yet, though.

Thanks so much for being so tremendously forthcoming about what you've been through. As I'm sure can be inferred from my first response to you, yes, I'm going through a similar place, and I really appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and empathize.

[1] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6063/1731

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vacri 780 days ago | link

Your speculation on and advice about my mental health is rude and insulting.

vs

For me, this is crossing the line from "Linus has an interesting and entertaining character" to "this person seems to be mentally disturbed."

That's a nice trick you have there, where you're allowed to be rude and insulting about a person's mental state while taking offense at anyone doing the same to you.

You strike me as the kind of person who chooses to take offense at things.

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akira2501 781 days ago | link

I think the problem is that you honestly believe that he was genuinely telling people that they should die. It's an expression, and not terribly uncommon, either.

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javert 781 days ago | link

Honestly, I've never heard that kind of thing (as in "kill yourself" not "you're a moron" - that one is par for the course among kernel hackers) said outside of Linus Torvalds, Ulrich Drepper maybe, and comedians and the like that are in an explicitly comedic situation. I realize he doesn't mean it literally. Anyway, this is just to clarify, not to argue further.

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VMG 780 days ago | link

In case you are wondering: if somebody tells you to "go fuck yourself" he doesn't literally want you to do that.

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javert 778 days ago | link

If someone tells me in person to "go fuck yourself," fine, that's a normal turn of phrase in my neck of the woods. "Please kill yourself now" is going to lead to an immediate knuckle sandwich, though, unless I don't have the balls to do it. I will try to make an exception to this if it happens when I'm travelling in Europe.

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batista 780 days ago | link

Not that it would be bad, if you did, though.

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jlawer 781 days ago | link

As someone who has had professional help to go through what I will only refer to as "the dark patch of my life" I think your over reacting. This might be a cultural thing but as an Aussie, this is viewed as pure exaggeration and has NO connection to reality. If there is no connection to reality then why get upset about it? If there is no intention for a slight then why care?

Maybe this is one of the subtle cultural differences, but surely you agree it isn't fair to judge someone on your own cultural standard on the internet over something simple as a few words? If your truely offended by him, just ignore him.

In my mind the conversation is richer if we don't need to be so careful about dropping to the "Lowest Common denominator". Let there be colour, excitement, rants and exaggeration. In the end I think it helps understand people more then putting on the facade of beige that so many politically correct people insist on.

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javert 781 days ago | link

There is a connection to reality.

What Linus is saying is: if you don't agree with me, you're an incompetent developer, get out of the way and shut up, and I don't want to hear any counter-argument.

It's a means of quality enforcement, to some degree. OK. But there is a point where it goes too far.

I don't insist on political correctness. I haven't complained about Linus' normal insults but he's telling people to kill themselves... it's a step too far.

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icebraining 781 days ago | link

You should read Your Mother's Tongue: Book of European Invective. You'd be surprised (and in your case, probably shocked) at what people call each other without any intention of actually insulting them.

For example, here in Portugal and in informal situations, it's reasonably common for a person to use an expression that essentially calls their mother a whore because they made something that somewhat annoyed you. Of course, no one is actually insinuating their mother sells her body for money, it's just an expression.

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javert 781 days ago | link

Thanks. I may actually read that, because it's clear to me that a lot of things really aggravate me that don't aggravate a lot of other people in the FOSS world, and if I want to get along, I'd better get over it. (Though that doesn't mean I will condone it or do it myself.)

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Sapient 780 days ago | link

Now THAT is a sensible attitude! Bravo.

Whenever there are large groups of people communicating, someone will find something to be offended at - and as long as it isn't personal or bigoted we need to just ignore it and move on. In this case, Linus' colorful use of language will almost certainly add some amount of weight to his statement.

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javert 778 days ago | link

Well, what Linus said IS personal, and I'd say it's bigoted, though that's harder to define.

But, if you have to put up with it to deal with these people, so be it.

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Sapient 771 days ago | link

Personal and bigoted? Really?

These words apparently mean different things to us.

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beedogs 781 days ago | link

...really? I use hyperbole like that all the time on the Internet, and I really don't consider myself "mentally disturbed".

That's a pretty bold accusation to be making of people who simply typed some shit on the Internet.

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simonh 781 days ago | link

"Linus Torvalds arrested for Suse security death threats".

Every time I think of travelling to America again, I read something like this and think... nope, not worth it.

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mongol 781 days ago | link

Yes I agree. And it is like every other quote from Linus contains similar exaggregations. I think it is his biggest weakness.

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flomo 781 days ago | link

This type of 'edgy' language was very popular back on Usenet in the 1990s, and the Linux kernel mailing list never really got away from it. Very much a Generation X thing - Kill yourself, they're smoking crack, those retards, kick em in the nuts, etc etc, yawn.

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roel_v 780 days ago | link

Ouch, now you're making me feel old, I still do those things, and yes have done for 15 years.

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vacri 780 days ago | link

The stuff people point at and post is highly selected.

Try reading further down the page - there are dozens of inoffensive posts by Torvalds.

There's been posts here on HN doing just what you're saying "Look, a quote from Torvalds where he's abrasive"... then people look back at the posting history where he's explaining his point, and he's had dozens of polite comments before reaching breaking point.

So yeah - try reading down the page further before you claim half of what he says is like this.

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beedogs 781 days ago | link

If the use of hyperbole you find discomforting, on his own personal blog, is his biggest weakness, then I'd say he's doing pretty well, as a human being.

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javert 781 days ago | link

I've seen a lot of his stuff before, and nothing has "shocked" me like this did. That said, he's probably used this particular phrase a lot before, but maybe it just seemed particularly unexpected and worthless here.

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rimantas 781 days ago | link

Going down this path you will find yourself in a place where you cannot say or do anything without offending someone.

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batista 781 days ago | link

Actually, the above comment immediately tells me: "oh, another American, why can't the guys take a bloody joke, we're not all 9 year olds". It rarely is a French guy or a British complaining on such matters.

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javert 781 days ago | link

Umm, Linus is not "joking." This is his normal manner of speaking. This is not supposed to elicit laughs; it's supposed to emphasize his point.

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batista 781 days ago | link

This is not supposed to elicit laughs; it's supposed to emphasize his point.

Of course, I know that. Not all jokes are there to elicit laughs --unless one is a clown or a stand-up comedian. It's a joke in the sense that it's not meant seriously.

As, in, if somebody DID kill himself following his advice, Linus would be genuinely upset, sad, and most of all surprised.

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javert 781 days ago | link

You need to look up the definition of "joke" before you insult Americans in general and call them "9 year olds" based on an incorrect usage of that term.

Telling someone to commit suicide, even if not meant literally, because of a technical disagreement, should not be (in my opinion) considered acceptable in any culture. Unless it's just an established colloquialism of everyday speech, as maybe it is for Finns. I don't think that should be brought to other cultures.

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vacri 780 days ago | link

He was speaking on his personal blog, in a nondirected fashion. He was not directing the comment at anyone in particular, nor was in in technical debate in an appropriate forum.

As someone who has depression and a past history of suicidal thoughts, you insult me by suggesting I can't tell the difference between a turn of phrase and someone genuinely wishing I was dead.

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dalke 780 days ago | link

The most 'culturally accepted' form of the expression in America is to say 'hari kari' instead of 'suicide'. For two examples:

Representative Joseph Cao said to BP America CEO Lamar McKay: "Mr. Stearn asked Mr. McKay to resign. In the Asian culture we do things differently. During the Samurai days, we would just give you a knife and ask you to commit Hari-Kari."

Glenn Beck: "There's not enough knives. If this, if the IPCC had been done by Japanese scientists, there's not enough knives on planet Earth for hara-kiri that should have occurred. I mean, these guys have so dishonored themselves, so dishonored scientists."

I believe the difference is that, in the US, suicide has a strong association with moral and internal failings, while 'hari kari' is associated with honor despite external failure.

In either case, and as you rightly point out, this is your own opinion. It does not appear to be outside the pale to the US at large, else the above two quotes would have been major reports.

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javert 778 days ago | link

It does not appear to be outside the pale to the US at large

No, you will be likely to get hurt badly if you speak to a US developer like that in person.

The reason this is tolerated for Linus and select others is because if you try to speak out about it as I did, you will get verbally raped by 800 Europeans who totally misrepresent what you said, as happened to me in this thread. (Specifically, relating it to "political correctness" and "American's can't take a joke," neither of which is the issue here; I hate political correctness, and Americans can take jokes, believe me.)

Seriously, I'd like to see Linus try that language on the street here in the US. If a bartender gave him the wrong drink and he said "Please go kill yourself now," he might have to be sent to the hopsital afterwards.

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dalke 778 days ago | link

I think saying "go kill yourself" is wrong. I prefer "go fuck yourself" if someone wants something strong and rude. I think that "go kill yourself" makes a status claim, as in, "you are not worthy to live", which is too easily believed. I think that's why saying 'hari kari', which reverses that to be 'you are too honorable to continue living', is more acceptable in American culture.

Nevertheless, there are examples of people saying 'go kill yourself' in American culture, as in:

Bill Hicks, to a class of people: “If anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. ... There's no rationalization for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, seriously.” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

Rush Limbaugh to a specific person: “Mr. Revkin, why don’t you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?” - http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/limbaugh_suggests_nyts_re...

A court decides that it's protected speech with no implied physical threat: "Using various pseudonyms on Twitter and on blogs, Cassidy published more than 8,000 tweets and posts about Zeoli often wishing death upon her. (One tweet, for example, read, "Do the world a favor and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day.") ... The judge in the case, Roger W. Titus, agreed with Cassidy's assertion, concluding that the First Amendment "protects speech even when the subject or the manner of expression is uncomfortable and challenges conventional religious beliefs, political attitudes or standards of good taste." - http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/16/tech/web/stalking-on-twitter-p...

A quick examination of these plus 40+ written by people without any influence shows that 1) it is less used by politicians and people who are actually in a position of power, and 2) it is strongly accompanied with a sense of superiority.

This leads me to wonder if that "800 Europeans" you mentioned come from a culture with strong subgroup differences, wherein people from the other group are considered 'less worthy.' While in the US, there's a relatively strong cultural desire to remove those subgroup differences.

However, a third category of people is comedians, who manage to get away with it because it comes across as a joke. Based on what I've seen by Torvalds, he quickly comes across as exaggerating to get a rise out of people. This, many people are going to ignore that asked of what he says, because they know he can't seriously mean it.

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batista 781 days ago | link

You need to look up the definition of "joke" before you insult Americans in general and call them "9 year olds" based on an incorrect usage of that term.

I did. Have you? Definition #2 from Mirriam-Webster: "something not to be taken seriously".

Telling someone to commit suicide, even if not meant literally, because of a technical disagreement, should not be (in my opinion) considered acceptable in any culture.

You know what they say about opinions. Lots of people the world over enjoy the occasional colorful comment, and do not get their knickers tied up in a knot (UK-ism meaning they are not annoyed) when non PC language is used. Hell, lots of cultures the world over think political correctness itself as silly and/or prudish.

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tomp 781 days ago | link

> lots of cultures the world over think political correctness itself as silly and/or prudish.

Kudos to that. I find it hilarious, and very sad at the same time, that Americans can't say policeman/policewoman any more, and that they have at least 4, maybe more, words for for different values of "fat" (overweight, fat, obese, morbidly obese, ...). In Slovenia, one is just fat, maybe very fat.

Making a big deal out of irrelevant things... Now, someone that is not "tall" is "vertically challenged"? I mean, what's wrong with being short?

The point that "politically correct" people are missing is that you cannot really make someone "feel bad", because they already feel bad. You can only make them "feel worse" with your comments.

And the fact that you can get arrested/denied entry to the US because of Twitter messages, that's just fascist (England is in that club as well).

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toadi 780 days ago | link

Maybe they need to be politically correct because in some state they carry guns. Don't want to offend someone who's carrying one ;)

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donald_draper 781 days ago | link

People should actually cheer to this expression of the open source spirit. Like in 'if you find a bug, fix it', he proposes to you to kill yourself if you cause one. Nothing special. Off course, if this were corporate software, they would send somebody to your house to kill you, which might be more convenient.

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javert 781 days ago | link

I just can't believe that Linus' comment was made to be entertaining or is seen to be entertaining. The point of this kind of invective, as far as I understand, is for Linus to say:

"Shut up and go away, I don't want to hear any rebuttal or any other point of view, because I have waaaay more experience than you do, I know that I'm right, and I don't have time for it."

Basically: he's asserting his right as the "benevolent dictator" of Linux.

Which is fine by me until it goes so far as telling people to kill themselves. That seems unnecessarily and extremely harsh to me (guess it's just an American thing, maybe...), and it seems like something that would be said by a pure psychopath (or a comedian, or a young schoolyard bully).

I understand he doesn't mean "kill yourself" literally, of course.

Though I've always assumed that when he calls people morons, braindead, idiots, etc., he really means those things. Right? Although I can tolerate those things just fine, I'd be really interested to learn if other people interpret those things as not meant literally.

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fckin 781 days ago | link

Cool. I hope your Paki dyke mom dies of AIDS! LOL, am I right?

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batista 780 days ago | link

Well, ok. Am I offended? Not. I'm not even a Paki, but whatever.

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