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."
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.
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.)
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..
don't see any personal attack.
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?
Definitely not a European.
How about The Filty Critic?
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/
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...
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But, if you have to put up with it to deal with these people, so be it.
These words apparently mean different things to us.
That's a pretty bold accusation to be making of people who simply typed some shit on the Internet.
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.
Every time I think of travelling to America again, I read something like this and think... nope, not worth it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
"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.