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September 23rd, 2019

Yesterday’s Man: The Fall of Richard Stallman

Although the consensus seems to be that it was time for the founder of the GNU project and the Free Software movement to step down, we shouldn’t forget his many contributions aimed at keeping tech free.

Richard Stallman

Everyone has been talking about last week’s resignation by Richard Stallman’s from MIT and the Free Software Foundation over his comment that one of Jeffrey Epstein’s underage victims willingly prostituted herself. [Change to: “…over his comment about one of Jeffrey Epstein’s underage victims.] Why should I be different? It’s not Stallman’s first mis-step in the sexual arena, but the comment and his reactions to the response suggest that he should have gone long ago.

I only met Stallman once, when he gave a couple of talks in Vancouver. As I wrote in a blog at the time, I found him an extremely ambiguous character, and had difficulties discussing him fairly. At the time, most of my dealings with the Free Software Foundation (FSF) were with Peter Brown, the executive director, an activist who did his best to ally free software with other social causes. Some months later, Stallman wrote an aggrieved email to me because in an article I had described as sexist his joke about “EMACs virgins” in a keynote at the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit in 2009. I refused to apologize and that was the last contact we had.

What strikes me now is how closely that incident a decade ago resembles this most recent one. In both cases, Stallman’s response was all about him. Nor did he show any awareness of how much his behavior harmed the free software movement he founded.

Stallman is rumored to be on the autism spectrum, and from the way he has acted, I could easily believe that. To suggest that a young woman would willingly engage in prostitution suggests a fundamental lack of understanding of human nature, to say nothing of the dynamics of power between a young woman and a powerful older male
[In the interests of accuracy, this last sentence should read, “To suggest without proof that a young woman could convincingly pretend to be willingly engaged in prostitution suggests a fundamental lack of understanding of human nature. Moreover, to imply that a middle-age man might honestly believe that a teenager was interested in him suggests an even deeper ignorance of the dynamics of power.” Neither version seriously changes the point.]

. Yet what I noticed most was how Stallman presented his ideas as a dispassionate academic discussion. When people recoiled, his reaction was to express his hurt. Although he was pressured into resigning his positions, when he announced his resignations he insisted that events were all “a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations,” His reason for this emphasis? The fact that headlines said he had defended Epstein. He seemed honestly confused about how blaming the victim removed culpability from Epstein.

Moreover, Stallman has never once apologized to the movement he helped to found, nor all the people he let down by his comment. Stallman has benefited hugely from the movement, receiving a salary, free world travel, and an assistant within the FSF, yet apparently it has never occurred to him that he had any obligation in return.

This type of leadership might have been acceptable in the past, but it is both damaging and embarrassing today. Yet if Stallman was aware of the expectations and obligations of his position, he showed no sign of that awareness. Even an elementary sense of diplomacy might have told him that, if he held such opinions, he should keep them to himself. But Stallman never once showed any sign of self-restraint.

Put out to pasture

Probably no one would ever admit the fact, but I suspect that for at least a decade now, Stallman has been shuffled sideways in the free software movement, left to circle endlessly on the lecture circuit while the actual work was done by others. His stubbornness, which probably keep free software going in the early years, has more recently proved harmful. It seems no coincidence that modern technologies like cell phones or the cloud, which Stallman rejects, are precisely the areas in which the FSF was slow to get involved. Similarly, the decision not to reach a consensus over the revision of the GNU General Public License seems to have something to do with Stallman’s animosity for Linus Torvalds, who saw no need for the revision. Both positions left free software and open source weaker and more ineffectual.

Yet the greatest result of Stallman’s stubbornness and ego is his continual insistence on referring to the major free operating system of our time as “GNU/Linux.” Not that he was wrong — in all fairness, credit should be spread around. However, for years now that cause has obviously been lost. Yet often, it seems that getting credit was all that interested Stallman. He constantly uses the point to derail discussion that might have educated people, and to ignore more pressing issues, making it clear that getting credit for the Linux operating system takes priority over almost everything else. Now, in 2019, the main purpose of insisting on “GNU/Linux” seems to be to help advocates to identify each other and to give young free software fundamentalists something to berate their allies with. Like so much about Stallman, the issue is a sign of misplaced priorities.

Stallman’s early achievements not withstanding, in the end, his behavior in the last thirteen years or so have divided free software supporters, and made common goals harder to achieve. Why, for example, does the Software Freedom Conservancy even exist? True, it is a responsible non-profit that does many necessary tasks on a limited budget. Yet, all the same, while its goals are worthy, they are identical to those of the FSF, and having two non-profits devoted to the same cause only means that donations are spread thinner. But when you notice that the Software Freedom Conservancy includes two former executive directors of the FSF and many other former members of the FSF, the inevitable conclusion is that it consists of people who could not work with Stallman.

Any lingering doubt is removed when I consider that the FSF simply announced Stallman’s resignation without comment, but the Software Freedom Conservancy released a statement declaring that “we are appalled at recent statements made by the president and founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, in his recent email to the MIT CSAIL mailing list. When considered with other reprehensible comments he has published over the years, these incidents form a pattern of behavior that is incompatible with the goals of the free software movement.” Where the FSF seems to protect Stallman by reflex, even when admitting the reality, the Software Freedom Conservancy is not afraid to admit the harm he has done. Perhaps that is why I keep hearing of people who no longer take out FSF memberships but do donate to the Software Freedom Conservancy.

At any rate, Stallman’s resignation comes as a relief. Like Joe Biden with his unconscious racism, he is yesterday’s man. Although Stallman’s behavior is an embarrassment to the entire free software movement, at least his resignation means that more contemporary leadership can start to emerge. In the end, Stallman’s resignation may be the best thing he has done for the movement since he started it thirty years ago.

Bruce Byfield has been involved in FOSS since 1999. He has published over 2000 articles, and is the writer of "Designing with LibreOffice," which is available as a free download at http://designingwithlibreoffice.com/download-buy/

41 comments to Yesterday’s Man: The Fall of Richard Stallman

  • Chris

    Hi, great article, one small nitpick. It’s disingenuous to represent all of human nature with your comments. I know two young women involved in prostitution entirely of their own will, and they tell me they aren’t uncommon. It’s work they enjoy and not to mention it pays well, certainly a motivating factor for any profession. And then there is the whole nebulous area that is pornography which in many ways is just prostitution with a camera (not to denigrate or trivialize either group)

    I have nodetails about the specific circumstances that he was talking about and frankly I really didn’t pay very close attention to what he actually wrote so I’m not saying anything specific to this particular situation, however it is wrong to assume the moral high ground based on an assumption that your feelings around prostitution are universally shared

  • Chris

    Hi, great article, one small nitpick. It’s disingenuous to represent all of human nature with your comments. I know two young women involved in prostitution entirely of their own will, and they tell me they aren’t uncommon. It’s work they enjoy and not to mention it pays well, certainly a motivating factor for any profession. And then there is the whole nebulous area that is pornography which in many ways is just prostitution with a camera (not to denigrate or trivialize either group)

    I have nodetails about the specific circumstances that he was talking about and frankly I really didn’t pay very close attention to what he actually wrote so I’m not saying anything specific to this particular situation, however it is wrong to assume the moral high ground based on an assumption that your feelings around prostitution are universally shared

  • Mike

    I’m sorry. I didn’t read your article because the first thing you said is literally incorrect. He did not suggest than any of Epstein’s victims willingly prostituted themselves. He suggested that, from Minsky’s perspective, the victim may have appeared willing.

    There’s a decent argument over whether he should have even discussed this, but please represent the problem correctly.

  • Emma Pam

    Hi.

    My understanding is that Richard Stallman believed that the victim was coerced–and not that she was “willing.” However, he believes that the victim was required/forced/coerced to maintain the appearance of being “willing,” in order to trick Minsky into believing that she was willing.

    Here’s the full quotation:
    “We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that
    she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was
    being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her
    to conceal that from most of his associates.”

    The key phrase seems to be “presented […] as entirely willing,” which some people seem to be interpreting as “was entirely willing,” yet Stallman seems to be using to mean “maintain the appearance of being willing.” His second sentence clarifies this.

    It’s as if someone pointed a gun at a victim, told the victim to text her mother, and to tell her mother that everything is okay. Even if the text message gives the appearance of the victim not being in peril, clearly the victim actually is in peril.

    Furthermore, I kindly suggest that I think you’re wrong about what Stallman means by “misunderstandings and mischaracterizations.” I think that the “mischaracterizations” are about the phrase “presented as.” Given the news coverage, that interpretation would make the most sense to me.

  • Max Pearl

    For all of you nitpicking, the truth of the matter is that Stallman has expressed many problematic opinions over the years, and drove women away from free software (and software development more broadly) for literally decades. This last thing that brought him down is not the most important story, it’s just the thing that undid him. He should have been removed years ago.

  • 90% of prostitutes say they would leave the profession if they could (https://womensenews.org/2000/09/prostitution-not-victimless-career-choice/). So leaping to the conclusion –without evidence–that Epstein’s victim was willing is a case of special pleading, to say the least. That a minority of prostitutes claim to be willing does not change the likelihood.

    We don’t know enough to judge whether the contention that the victim was coerced into pretending she was willing is likely. But, in general, the idea that a teenager under coercion could act convincingly should raise some skepticism. The pretense could only convince someone who wanted to believe she was willing — after all, the average middle-aged man simply doesn’t meet many teenagers who want to have sex with them.

    So, while I thank Emma Pam for the correction, it doesn’t actually change anything.

  • Your phrase ‘free software fundamentalist’ betrays your real desires. And those are to weaken the strong moral case for free software.

    I’ve been at talks Stallman gave. I found him weird and off-putting. But the fact is, he has an uncompromising moral position. I recognized that and realized he was right. Subsequent events have only strengthened that conviction.

    I can’t help but think that’s your real problem with Stallman.

    And that seems especially true given your eagerness to spread a subtly but damningly false narrative about the statements the mob strung him up for.

  • “Your phrase ‘free software fundamentalist’ betrays your real desires. And those are to weaken the strong moral case for free software.”

    Thank you for giving me an illustration of what I mean. I couldn’t have asked for a better example if I had planned your reply myself.

    For the record, I have supported free software for twenty years now. I just don’t have any patience for those who attack their allies for a perceived lack of ideological purity.

  • Clifford Kaur

    It sounds like there are plenty of significant, truthful criticisms of Stallman, including (obviously) this most recent email, but only in part. So why not edit the article to be based on these? Bruce, it’s great that you’ve acknowledged your error, but as it stands this article is still spreads significant lies and falsehoods.

  • Andrew McGlashan

    In this world today, it is neigh on impossible to play devil’s advocate. In any case, the public only ever hears what the media wants you to hear, so it if foolish to take any particular view so strongly based on what the media presents. Then there are clearly organizations that have their own beat to drum on matters; again, you can only take what they say with a pinch of salt (however well their intentions seem).

    So, unless you are 100% privy to all the facts, you are better off being 100% silent and you should definitely not be judge, jury and executioner.

    The very fact that the Judge for Epstein allowed “victims” to rant at the court in absence of the so called perpetrator (which, may, in fact have been murdered, even though many believe he committed suicide), is another potential and serious mis-justice. Now it is “presumed” that Epstein was guilty and no court of any land is going to prove otherwise, ever. I am not saying he wasn’t guilty, but perhaps he could never get a fair trial anyway and that may be why, if he did himself, commit suicide.

    Once Epstein was dead, irregardless of how he actually died (via his own hand or by others), it then become something that should have ended there and then or better still remain in private conversations, perhaps counseling sessions if the counselors themselves can be trusted to not aggravate the situation.

    Nothing is as simple as it seems, especially when you are not truly in possession of all the facts.

  • Anonymous

    The dude ate foot crud while giving speeches… Should have gone a long time ago

  • DM

    The dude ate foot crud while giving speeches… Should have gone a long time ago

  • VectorVortec

    Why would the open-source movement want to ally with the SJW or any other movement? That harms both movements. Stallman is very smart (though I hardly ever agreed with him), and he no longer fit into the MIT world which is striving to “dumb down”. It’s like watching a train wreck where the whole institution and other colleges are in a race to the bottom in a bottomless pit which this article fully supports. When I was in college, the last half of the book on circuits at MIT was incorrect, and it has all been downhill from there.

  • William Warren

    sounds like the contemporary generation is solving its employment problems by removing the gate keepers through forced retirement

  • Heisenberg

    Free software + Free speech = ?
    SJW + Liberal = ? (resignation)
    A forced out with the old in with the new to make way for more pliable talking heads…SJW wins again. I find my soul getting squeezed tighter every day by letting communists have a foothold in our society and a decisive voice for societal “problems”.

  • Who even cares anymore.

    It’s (almost) Q3 2019, Windows 10 holds 79% market share and is about to reach one billion devices soon, the race to the top was lost by FSF/GNU a long time ago.

    Who would have thought that people don’t care that software is proprietary and exploitative and evil as long as it works wonders for them? Waoh! No way I could have foreseen that! (sarcasm)

    He’s just one old man at 66, but even if he is replaced or if Linus Torvalds dies in the future and is replaced by someone else, the point is free software will never succeed.

    Yes Windows may very well one day see its downfall to a linux-Kernel based OS, but I can assure you it’s gonna be NOTHING like good old pure 100% free software “ganoo/Linux”

    Anything that succeeds will in fact look more like the Androids and the Chrome OSs and the iOSs and macOSs of our time.

    Essentially, free base but everything else proprietary mounted on top.

    So yeah, as far as I’m concerned, a literal asteroid could come crashing down on every single FSF AND GNU office on earth leaving behind little green FSF supportive aliens from outer space and I would still not give a single tiniest f***

  • S Anderson

    Best I can tell he was sticking up for a friend who is dead. I can’t find fault in that, very much to the contrary.

  • Sam

    Bruce, your comment sounds so ironic

    “I just don’t have any patience for those who attack their allies for a perceived lack of ideological purity.”

    And here you are, attacking one of the guys who did most work behind free software with lies and intentional misunderstandings about ideology. Even you agree your article tells lies.

    You even said not to assume or judge, and proceed to assume and judge by yourself

    Is this a joke?

  • Sam

    Bruce, your comment sounds so ironic

    “I just don’t have any patience for those who attack their allies for a perceived lack of ideological purity.”

    And here you are, attacking one of the guys who did most work behind free software with lies and intentional misunderstandings about ideology. Even you agree your article tells falsehood.

    You even said not to assume or judge, and proceed to assume and judge by yourself

    Is this a joke?

  • I wrote a piece about this development, with a layman’s summary and a response to people who said this means OSS was always rotten to the core:

    The Stallman affair and what it means for Open Source

  • NonSequiTourDeForce

    The whole article does not mention a word about Minsky. He’s very much dead and unable to defend himself, and the accusation comes from an anonymous (but highly reliable, I believe) source. Simply associate Minsky with Epstein, and the mob will do the rest.
    Stallman’s main mistake was to take the bait. He is out of touch with the current requirement of political correctness, so he should stick to technical issues.
    But what is most troubling is how everyone takes for granted the success of Free Software. I wouldn’t want to live in the alternate reality in which Stallman’s work did not exist. Just like in the hardware world would not like the alternate reality where Intel’s Itanium had replaced x86. Not because of the technical side of things, but the legal one. Intel is forced to license the x86 instruction set, but with EPIC it would have had no restrictions.
    Bruce Byfield simply saw an opportunity here to kick someone who’s already been floored. Low. Very low.

  • I am Spartacus

    What a bunch of dis…. No point in using big words for such little minds. This is nothing more than a personal attack as “revenge” for some implied in the psyche slight. Misrepresented comments and wishy washy soap opera style dialogue to put down a far superior human being. Pathetic at best. BTW what do you mean with the statement about being on the Autism spectrum? Some kind of put down perhaps? We are all on a spectrum, that’s why it is a spectrum…. Spartacus? I am Spartacus finish off in your head with whatever comment fills your personal void with outrage where there should be shame for writing this pointless frivel

  • Elizabeth

    Minsky wasn’t friends with Stallman. There’s no evidence at all. They didn’t work in the same department, didn’t have the same intellectual goals, never partnered on projects. What they both have in common is young women running away from them – they’re conventionally unattractive.

    There’s no good reason why Stallman had to go on and on blathering about sexual violence and victimhood, defense of predators, or speculation.

    He wasn’t there, he’s never been sexually assaulted, let alone experienced sexual Stockholm syndrome. His perspective is completely useless and it’s such a waste of precious time to devote any more thought on him. I’m completely disgusted that a man can pontificate on situations they’ve never experienced. Learn E.M.P.A.T.H.Y.

  • NonSequiTourDeForce

    @Elizabeth

    Don’t you find a bit cheap to reduce those two men to sexually frustrated animals ? Unattractive ? Young women running away from them ?
    Let me tell you something about my own experience. I am not unattractive, I am repulsive. I was told that to my face, many times by many women, both young and not-so-young.
    Yet nothing stopped those very same young women mobbing me when they wanted something from me. Did you ever have to do the work of a woman brought on board simply for political correctness reasons? To achieve gender equality, while doing nothing at work all day?
    Those two men rolled up their sleeves and did work that few others did.
    Yet it is perfectly fine to be publicly shamed with accusations brought by an anonymous accuser. Simply associate them with Epstein and suddenly the accusations are by definition true.

  • Mike

    “To suggest that a young woman would willingly engage in prostitution”… Stallman must have said that in a parallel reality but not in this one. Stallman litterally said: “We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him (Marvin Minsky) as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.” https://itsfoss.com/richard-stallman-controversy/

    So you twist his words Bruce Byfield. He doesn’t say she’s willing but being coerced to appear willing. That’s something completely different!

    This whole charade seems to be cooked up by some rich and famous (pedophiles) to move attention from the Bill Gates’, Bill Clintons’, Donald Trumps’s of this world who all made use of Epstein’s services and shift it to some patsy being Stallman.

  • Julian

    The scary thing is that in most of his writing Rms was more on the left side of the spectrum. He was not a fan of Trump. And he fell a victim of the same left wing mob, this time hiding under slogans of diversity, equality,…

    As for what was written by RMS, I can sign my name under 90% of it, definitely under whole his defence of Minski. Even his old idea that age of consent should be 14 years is very reasonable. Check Wikipedia – half of Europe has in fact age of consent 14 years, most of the rest is at 15,16 and 18 is a rare exception. Even Confucian country like South Korea is at 14. It happens that Florida and Epstein’s island are located at age limit of 18, so that’s why he is guilty under Florida law.

    RMS pointed that all this Minski stuff is in fact inflated and he is 100% correct.

  • Psynokhi0

    Not sure if Paco’s post was bait, however the “closed source software holds the lion’s share of the market, hence most users don’t care” has always struck me as a textbook case of correlation vs causation… I’d argue that, rather, most users don’t know. Not caring implies they took a good hard look at alternatives. Doubtful.

    Anyway, back on topic, to me RMS always acted as a beacon. While I may not always agree with his die-hard stance/take (most with regards to software), I’ve always been thankful that he wouldn’t budge in that regard so I in turn wouldn’t stray too far and conceed too much for the sake of “pragmatism”.

    As for his take in the matter at hand, it struck me as RMS (arguably awkwardly) pointing out – in hinsight somewhat ironically – a potentially poor choice of words.

    Apparently mainstream media only seem to spotlight FOSS when the smell of dirt to throw is in the air… What a sad sight to behold.

  • What corwards we have become.

    This article is yet one more that twists the facts to suit the mob. What’s the matter? Afraid that if you don’t satiate the blood lust of the woke crowd, you will be next?

    Well, any of us could be next. Stallman was an ultra left-wing Socialist…and yet that did not save him.

    F u c k the PC crowd.

  • Wow. Look at all the Stallman fanbois blindly defending him because of muh First Amendment! Epstein is a well known child sex trafficker. He didn’t decide to become one last year, 5 years or even 10 years ago. He is well known in globalist elite circles of which Stallman has at the very least known about directly because of his high profile status. That very fact alone makes him a scumbag by association.

  • Mike

    I’ve posted on here for a long time as Mike and I just wanted to mention that none of the posts above are from me. I hardly have exclusive use of the name.

    I’m not saying I agree or disagree, just that it is not me.

    I am making a choice not to get involved in this “discussion” which I can see is already attracting the Internet’s best and brightest.

    That is all.

  • CH

    I want to focus on the central point of what was surely the reasoning behind RMS getting fired.

    It is a combination of the mail content, and broadcasting the content to an audience including 17 or 18 year old young students, from his position as a tenured professor.

    As for the content, RMS completely trampled Minsky’s reputation by framing the conversation as though Minsky had almost certainly had sex with the girl, even though the leaked information in the NYT only said the girl was “ordered to have sex with Minsky”, not that he did. IMHO, Minsky like most men of his type would have said no – but I could be wrong. In RMS mail there is an implicit judgement: “he could have, if he had the chance”, or even, “he SHOULD have, if he had the chance”. That possible interpretation is entirely the fault of RMSs failure to understand the reality that Minsky, with wisdom of age, would have been possessed of sufficient analytical powers and morals to make the right judgement and turn down the offer just because it was fishy – even though Minsky didn’t know the whole story.

    A tenured professor sending an implicit message “Minsky could or should have done it if he had the chance” to a broad mailing list including young undergrads is why RMS got removed. Same for FSF.

    Apart from that there is the flame war and media spin, which shouldn’t be confused with the actual technical reason for dismissal.

  • Marius

    I stopped reading after your error “(…) over his comment that one of Jeffrey Epstein’s underage victims willingly prostituted herself”.
    Wow. What is wrong with you people? Nobody takes the time to verify facts anymore? We have become a copy-paste thinkers nowadays; that’s worrying for the future of mankind.

  • Paul

    Did you even read his remarks?

    He never said the victim prostituted herself. He even assumes she was coerced by Epstein.

    He is defending his friend. He said Minsky did not know she was being coerced.

  • This has been framed as a response to a single bad comment Stallman made (on a work mailing list). It’s really not that.

    Stallman made a bad comment on a work mailing list, and in response, a number of women came forward and made detailed allegations of decades of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior (see https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix-a-a7e41e784f88 ).

    Stallman behaved inappropriately, with impunity, for a very long time; he made coworkers and students uncomfortable. His insistence on calling the OS “GNU/Linux” is a pretty insignificant entry on the list of reasons he needed to stop being the face of the FSF.

    As for Minsky, well, danah boyd (no relation) says he introduced himself to her with a line about how love is a mirage but sex and pleasure are real ( https://onezero.medium.com/facing-the-great-reckoning-head-on-8fe434e10630 ). Regardless of his contributions to AI, defending his reputation is not a hill I’d choose to die on.

    And to those in the comments ranting unironically about “SJWs”, I’ve got an initialism for you, too: RYL.

  • anAngryDotCommer

    This post really seems to miss the point of Stallman’s long standing history of abusive and coercive behavior toward women. Leveraging one’s reputation and influence to curry romantic or sexual interlude is a zero tolerance line that must not be crossed. Having a mattress in his office and a sexist tiding stuck to his door is reason alone to question his role having any authority. The stories that have since come forward from young students are nauseating, unforgivable, and unsurprising given his public comments and corroborated witness of inappropriate behavior.

    And about that bit of playing the “genius” and contributions to the field of software engineering and development? The reality is that FOSS licenses have long served as a blockade against any real progress in rehabilitating the US patent system and its approach to software based intellectual property.

    Stallman’s legacy isn’t one of genius, it’s one of damaging obstructionism and a refusal to engage with either the commercial sector which funded his early career and claim to fame, or the same government agency tasked with regulating market abuses he supposedly railed against. GPL’s “gift” to the software world led to the creation of the MIT, BSD, and Apache licenses which have allowed corporations to draw enormous benefit from free labor while including the IP under those licenses into their private benefit and subsequent market valuations that number in the hundreds of billions and legitimized intellectual theft.

    Lastly, Stallman has failed to address the monopoly of online services, the role that “free” software played in their meteoric rise and the fact that Microsoft was beaten by leveraging his own narcissistic, Marxist fueled game for commercial, private benefit in a way that he completely missed and still fails to grasp.

    I say good riddance to Stallman and the FSF. This organization doesn’t really deserve to go on, and it will be another decade of abuse from “free” software advocates before the US patent system comes to terms with its unsustainable effort to prop up Silicon Valley’s contribution to the national GDP.

  • Bruce Byfield

    ““I just don’t have any patience for those who attack their allies for a perceived lack of ideological purity.”

    And here you are, attacking one of the guys who did most work behind free software with lies and intentional misunderstandings about ideology.”

    The difference is that the fundamentalists attack people for not completely agreeing with them. Stallman showed bad judgment and some appalling views — and that is no lie. Nor was my error intentional. The fact you immediately leap to the conclusion that it was is just another example of the fundamentalism I mentioned.

  • Don Barry

    Byfield’s typically slippery and dishonest reply misrepresents both the facts and the social responses to the witch-hunt against Stallman. Byfield’s own career has followed no particular defense of anything save his own interests.

    It is unsurprising that he would jump on the current bandwagon and declare a “consensus” against Stallman — a consensus which exists only in his mind and in the minds of a currently au courant group of upper-middle-class aspirants who would reduce all social issues to gender and race.

    Stallman has proven right time and time again on issues of software licensing. His views on other areas (many of which I disagree with), are of little concern to me, and in any event are his right to express. The wholesale suppression of speech and “cancel culture” is not a healthy development, and in fact is intended more broadly to suppress political thought outside the pseudo-left promoted by the Democrats to eclipse the actual left.

    I support Stallman. History will show who leaves the greater imprint. And the organizations who have broken with him for their own petty economic and careerist reasons have already reduced themselves to coattail-chasers, contributing nothing novel or of enduring value. The role of the SFC is particularly despicable in this — the actions of the opportunists at Gnome, of Google and Apple and RedHat careerists, are on the contrary completely predictable.

    And I no longer support the FSF, despite Stallman’s (mistaken, in my view) hope that they will prove capable of maintaining his vision without him. The current political climate, among the social layer from which the board has been drawn, does not have the ability to maintain the firm independent vision that Stallman has. The climate that allowed such organizations to be created and grown in the 1980s is considerably different, given the commidification of free software.

    If Stallman forms another organization, I will support it and him. For the moment, I call for the casting out of figures like Bradley Kuhn and others who did not close ranks in defense of Stallman from the FSF board. They no longer enjoy my confidence.

  • @Don Barry: It sounds like you understand that you have a right to withdraw support from an organization based on staffing decisions it makes that are not directly related to the work people do as a part of that organization.

    It also sounds like you’re very unhappy that other people are exercising that same right.

  • L.M. Houlden

    I admit some of Richard’s “eccentricities” were not the very best to begin with,I feel a sense of some loss as to his “Stepping down” from his post with the free software foundation. Gratis is for all who worked with him and under him in different areas. He was iconic but eccentric. Lest we do forget his was the last MIT hacker and his ideology created the free software foundation / the GNU project. We also tend to forget that even by his own admittance,the first GNU operating system they created was a flop (as to why the Linus Torvald’s partnership with gnu was a welcomed change).Still,One Point does stand. That distributorship of the linux distros and the linux kernel should always be free and that as a user of linux myself,should never have to fall prey to the spying eyes of Micro$oft or apple (both with origins from either linux or UNIX).Ubuntu at one time managed to be a spying OS but later fixed that.
    Mind You,This is all about the software and not the actions of his eccentricities. Making note of his eccentricities and behavior only serves to change the scope from “where is open source going to head to?” to “Wow,Richard Stallman was a sleaze”. I admit this was unfortunate but it does bring the question up about where open source will be headed.Will Open Source loose itself or it’s Vision? Remember how Steve jobs was when Apple,a company he and Steve Wozniak created,had gone near Bankruptcy and Came back? He Mentioned this “What apple lost wasn’t the fact that in order for apple to win,Microsoft had to loose. It was a matter that Apple lost who apple was and lost it’s vision.” this is exactly the same thing.It is seeming that the open source community is loosing the vision of what it is because it’s visionary is now gone. Linux hadn’t lost it’s visionary,that is Linus Torvalds.It was Both Gentlemen,Richard Stallman and Linus Tarvalds who helped Linux.

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