Richard #Stallman a.k.a. #RMS is the founder of the Free Software Foundation (#FSF), author of the original versions of gcc and Emacs, and perhaps best known for his creation of the GNU Public Licence a.k.a. #GPL.
Thanks to the pioneering work of Richard Stallman, Android has a freely available kernel that can boot it, and companies like Samsung are forced to release their augmented kernel source code to us every month, so that we can build — using Stallman’s compiler — a working custom recovery like TWRP.
Richard Stallman is currently under coordinated attack by the cancel culture mob. They have him firmly in their sights and have set their hearts on trying to get him removed from the board of the organisation he founded in 1985, and which has been his life’s work.
The reason for the attack is that Stallman is alleged to hold views that are “problematic” in the eyes of his detractors.
My own stance is that to even engage in debate of Stallman’s views would be to lend credence to the notion that they are somehow germane to the work that Stallman does in support of free software. I contend that they are not, which is not to imply that the accusations leveled at Stallman would otherwise require intellectual or moral contortion to refute. They would not. Stallman’s views, even if they were relevant, have been grossly misrepresented.
The attempted silencing of free speech is always painful to behold, but this ill-conceived attack on Stallman is particularly stomach-turning, given how much of his life he has devoted to the freedom of others, including those who accuse him now.
His contributions to free software and his consistent, uncompromising commitment to his beliefs regarding software freedom have made millionaires of others, including many among his accusers now, while Stallman himself continues to lead a life of subsistence.
#Android would not exist if it hadn’t been for Stallman.
Without Stallman, we would not have the assurance that important software like #Magisk will continue to exist long after the project’s creator has moved on.
Without Stallman, #TWRP would not now exist.
Were it not for Richard Stallman, most of the cheap electronic appliances and gadgets in your home would simply not exist.
Without Richard Stallman’s groundbreaking work, the world would be a different and much worse place.
Now you can do something in return. Richard Stallman needs your support.
Please consider signing the petition below:
If you need more background before signing, please take the time to do your own research and reach your own conclusions.
@ianmacd I disagree.
Someone would have had the same needs, and the same skills.
Without this individual's behaviour creating a toxic environment for many, I think we'd have many more projects that do many more things from many more people.
As it is we have a handful of useful things from one person.
We could have had a handful of things each from a whole range of people.
@M0YNG Skills are just the tip of the iceberg.
What about RMS's unwavering lifelong commitment to the cause of free software? I don't see anyone else who even comes close.
The contribution of the GPL alone eclipses what most other hackers will achieve in their careers, and constitutes far more than a "handful of things" in itself.
I would contend that Stallman has, across 35 years in the service of free software, enabled and inspired far more people than he has scared off or otherwise demotivated. This cannot be quantified, of course, so I won't argue the point.
@ianmacd I do see your point, but of we look to other areas we see "great works" repeated.
For example the theory of evolution was independently conceived by Alfred Russel Wallace.
All I'm suggesting is that someone else could have inspired just as many for the same reasons whilst also not alienating even more people.
Alternatively you could consider the good has been done and he is now a detriment to free software and would serve it better by stepping aside.
I would argue that while some ideas are "great works repeated", others are not. There are plenty of ideas that do not appear in multiple places at once: the idea of Diophantine equations, for instance, seems to have been particular to Diophantus of Alexandria; there would have been no major reason for people in his time to consider algebraic equations with solutions confined to integral or rational results. (As a citation for this remark, I must give credit to Underwood Dudley's *Mathematical Cranks*, specifically page 106, where Dudley discusses this very question at length)
In many cases, ideas can appear earlier than they would have otherwise: a good example would be the mathematical works of Galois, whose work was not even understood until the rest mathematics had advanced enough to understand it, decades after his death at the age of 20. Still other ideas are so bizarre and so weird that they in all likelihood would not have been discovered by anyone else: in my opinion most of the myriads of results Ramanujan found fall into this category.
Now the problem I have with the movement against Stallman is three-fold:
First, almost all of the allegations against him are at the level of hearsay, with few of them having much in the way of evidence to support or refute them. This may be suitable for rumors on Twitter, but it should not be suitable levels of evidence for corporations to sign on demanding a resignation.
Second, Stallman's work --- creating what would become the modern FOSS movement as we know it, writing software, espousing philosophy --- has very little to do with the allegations against him, which mostly if not exclusively center on things done totally outside of his role with the FSF or GNU Foundation. I would call for his removal if he had done things that made his role as a leader of one or both of those foundations suspect; but outside of those roles, I can't support such a response to these allegations unless it turns out he did something grossly wrong, and as out-of-touch and inappropriate as his Epstein comments were, they do not rise to that level for me.
Third, Stallman is clearly not a perfect or even a particularly pleasant person. But how flawless does one have to be to not be problematic? While we can all agree the Weinsteins, and Shkrelis of the world deserve condemnation, the same level of agreement clearly does not hold for Stallman. Isaac Newton was described as an "arrogant misanthrope", but the good in his life both exceeded and outlived the bad. Cauchy was a "bigoted Catholic", yet he is remembered for his revolutionary (and very novel) work in complex analysis, rather than those less pleasant ephemera I mentioned.
I close with an admission of sympathy: having weird, wrong or even in some cases patently offensive social views is more common for those who, like myself, are on the autism spectrum; I can attest to this based on my own experiences with myself and with other people on the spectrum I have known. Even if Stallman is not on the spectrum and is just a jerk --- admittedly the more likely possibility --- the issue of outrage being mobilized against people on the spectrum is one that deeply concerns me; for I myself am on the spectrum, and while I have been told I come across as pleasant and nice, and good faith, understanding, and moral uprightness has always been my goal and intent, there were long stretches in my earlier life where I did not come off so well. Getting to my current state took years of work with many mistakes along the way; mistakes that I have acknowledged and learn from. I can only imagine what the effect of such backlash would be like on a person going through the same process today, if said person was met with anger, ostracism, and even harassment over a social error.
ML2, I pretty much agree word for word with your comments about #RMS. That will come as no surprise, given what I have already written here and elsewhere.
I do, however, want to address one thing you said, namely the phrase "as out-of-touch and inappropriate as his Epstein comments were, they do not rise to that level for me".
What's inappropriate to one person is acceptable to another, of course, but both in the tumult that rose over #Stallman two years ago and in the afterbirth pains of that discussion experienced over the last week, I can't help but suspect that many who claim to find Stallman's comments inappropriate actually find the summarised misrepresentations of those comments by others inappropriate. Those summaries are almost invariably caricatures of what Stallman actually said.
In other words, reports of Stallman's support for Epstein have been grossly exaggerated, and perhaps to even call them an exaggeration is hyperbolic in itself, because the term implies that some small kernel of truth was magnified out of all proportion. In reality, what Stallman said and how his words have been reported bear almost no resemblance to each other.
In the case of Stallman's comments on Epstein, the mainstream tech media reporting — both two years ago and over the last week — has been nothing short of sloppy and ignorant at best (using only secondary sources with no research into their accuracy), or wilfully misrepresentative at worst (people with a personal axe to grind against Stallman, and those seeking to further whichever agenda they deem worthy of slaughtering the truth for).
On 25th April 2019, Stallman wrote:
"Labor Secretary Acosta's plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein was not only extremely lenient, it was so lenient that it was illegal.
I wonder whether this makes it possible to resentence him to a longer prison term.
I disagree with some of what the article says about Epstein. Epstein is not, apparently, a pedophile, since the people he raped seem to have all been postpuberal.
By contrast, calling him a "sex offender" tends to minimize his crimes, since it groups him with people who committed a spectrum of acts of varying levels of gravity. Some of them were not crimes. Some of these people didn't actually do anything to anyone.
I think the right term for a person such as Epstein is "serial rapist"."
It's pretty clear from the above remarks that Stallman is not in support of any of the acts for which Epstein was prosecuted. Stallman argues only the specific legal applicability of the term "paedophile".
Note that the above remarks from Stallman were made 5 months before his comments to the MIT CSAIL mailing-list which led to the massive storm of protest against him.
In the wake of that storm, Stallman wrote again on 14th September 2019:
"I want to respond to the misleading media coverage of messages I posted about Marvin Minsky's association with Jeffrey Epstein. The coverage totally mischaracterised my statements.
Headlines say that I defended Epstein. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've called him a "serial rapist", and said he deserved to be imprisoned. But many people now believe I defended him — and other inaccurate claims — and feel a real hurt because of what they believe I said.
I'm sorry for that hurt. I wish I could have prevented the misunderstanding."
If there were any lingering doubts about where Stallman stood on Epstein after his earlier writings, the above clarification seems impossible for anyone acting in good faith to misinterpret. And perhaps that's precisely the reason that all of the melodramatic coverage of this affair over the last week has steadfastly chosen to ignore it.
Call me cynical, but I find it hard to give reporters the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to a mere failure to conduct proper research. We live in such politically charged times that I much more strongly suspect malice and the furthering of a specific sociopolitical agenda to be at the heart of the media's widespread misreporting of this story.
Ultimately, it's hard for me to understand how anyone could find Stallman's actual stance on Epstein to be inappropriate, much less worthy of the tsunami of condemnation he once again now faces; which, I hasten to reiterate, is a response that I could never find appropriate anyway, since I maintain that Stallman's views on anything unrelated to free software, palatable or not, are utterly irrelevant to his professional work.
@ianmacd I think the crucial point in such cases is that whether these allegations are supported by objective facts or merely from someone’s unfalsifiable account. The problem with cancel culture is that If all that matters are someone’s lived experiences or someone’s perceived feelings of offense that can be claimed by anyone, yet are unable to be proven by evidence, then anyone can be criminalized. I think we should assume one’s innocence until he’s proven guilty , instead of criminalizing everyone for the possible harm he might have done until he’s proven innocent.
Moreover, even the allegations made against him, in this case Richard Stallman are true (e.g. leering at a woman’s chest, asking a woman for a dinner by saying he’d kill him self if he was refused), I don’t think they would be sufficient reasons to “remove” him from his job and his membership from FSF, for he didn’t use his power and position to force anyone to have dinner with him or force them to show their chest in front of him.(prove me if I’m wrong)
What I do sense in the attempt to cancel him is a tendency towards authoritarianism, that is, if someone makes you uncomfortable, hurts your feelings, then even if they didn’t cause harms that are obvious to all, you should have the power to remove him, deplatfom him, make him lose the job. Given what’s been done by identity politics and woke movements, and given that the foucauldian idea underlying much of the broad Critical Social Justice movement, that all that matters is power. It’s doubtful whether this is a sincere effort to improve the condition of Free software, or simply another attempt to infect yet another field with their woke politics, to capture Foss communities in the same way they took over the Campus, the Media, and organizations such as the ACLU.
To everybody who wants to figures out what the heck has happened, before shutting down one's mental and moral ficilities by shouting "pedophile, crucify!", I recommend this text by Hannah Wolfman-Jones that includes a text by Nadine Strossen.
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