Here’s a blast from the past. A tale about RMS from back in the days when Roblimo was young — younger than he is now at least — and Stallman was…well, Stallman.
This is a true story about something that happened at a Department of Commerce treaty hearing in Washington D.C., the kind of event that gets (nearly) zero press even though it’s important. In fact, I was the only reporter there, covering it for Linux.com because some of the proposed treaty language had to do with software patents and licensing — and also because two people I knew were testifying, namely Jamie Love and Richard M. Stallman.
Most of us think of RMS (as he is known to both Sundry and All) as a dour person, always ready to hurl bolts of GNU Lightning at anyone who disagrees with his principled stance on software licensing or his many other strongly-held beliefs. But that’s just in his day job. Once he’s done with work, he turns the lights down low and the pleasure card comes out. Not business card. Pleasure card. I’ve provided a picture of one in case you don’t want to believe me about this bit of RMS trivia.
I first saw an RMS pleasure card when the above-mentioned Commerce Department hearing broke for lunch. Suddenly, on a surprisingly nice day in our nation’s capital, we were sitting in front of the building on a low retaining wall between a circular driveway and an inviting lawn. Besides Richard and me, most of the people eating there were young, attractive Commerce Department female attorneys. Richard said the grass looked inviting and immediately flopped down on it. So did I. “But you’re supposed to stay off the grass,” one of the pretty lawyers said.
“I don’t see a sign,” said Richard (or words to that effect). I didn’t see one either — and besides, as a taxpaying US citizen, I figured it was my lawn and if I wanted to sit on it, I was damn well going to.
Such rebellion! Such manly virtue! The young ladies, to a lass, were as impressed as if RMS had run a sportsball 200 yards for a bases-loaded home run touchdown. They crowded around him, and he ate it up. And handed out pleasure cards. Wow!
Now, I had heard before that RMS attracted groupies, same as any other rock star. But when you picture RMS groupies, what comes to (my) mind is a group of stocky girls in jeans who are all carrying O’Reilly books about GNU Emacs, not a bevy of beauties in pastel dresses and skirts carrying attache cases.
But there they were. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. But once I did I started to wonder if, perhaps, the rumors were true about RMS no longer being able to crash where he worked at MIT, years ago, because so many women ran in and out of his sleeping hideaway that they disturbed both faculty and students.
I also remember sitting at home in Elkridge, MD, where I lived until a decade into this century, and having an unexpected, quite attractive female visitor who claimed to be Richard’s girlfriend. She was there with a young man I knew well, who was a devout Stallman acolyte, so I had no reason to doubt her. Plus, I later heard her name (which I am withholding out of kindness) mentioned in common with his, so yes, she was who she said she was.
Have you ever met a man you didn’t see why women would cozy up to, but they did? Or, in the interests of non-sexism, a woman you wondered why men liked, but they did?
That is RMS.
I suspect women are attracted to him because he is steadfast, moral, and more than a bit of a hero in his own way. He is also a genius, for real, in the sense that he is the only person I have ever known personally who won a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”
Wow. If there is ever an all-star team for Mental Sportsball, RMS is sure to be on it. I’d vote for him. Wouldn’t you? And I’m sure a whole lot of attractive women — not necessarily all Free Software devotees — would, too.
Appendix: A description of the perfect women attributed to RMS:
“I’d like to meet a woman with varied interests, curious about the world, comfortable expressing her likes and dislikes (I hate struggling to guess), delighting in her ability to fascinate a man and in being loved tenderly, who values joy, truth, beauty and justice more than “success”–so we can share bouts of intense, passionately kind awareness of each other, alternating with tolerant warmth while we’re absorbed in other aspects of life.”
Robin “Roblimo” Miller is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief at Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned SourceForge, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, ThinkGeek and Slashdot, and until recently served as a video editor at Slashdot. Now he’s mostly retired, but still works part-time as an editorial consultant for Grid Dynamics, and (obviously) writes for FOSS Force.