The Free Software Foundation and Richard Stallman

I served as a director and as a voting member of the Free Software Foundation for more than a decade. I left both positions over the last 18 months and currently have no formal authority in the organization.

So although it is now just my personal opinion, I will publicly add my voice to the chorus of people who are expressing their strong opposition to Richard Stallman’s return to leadership in the FSF and to his continued leadership in the free software movement. The current situation makes me unbelievably sad.

I stuck around the FSF for a long time (maybe too long) and worked hard (I regret I didn’t accomplish more) to try and make the FSF better because I believe that it is important to have voices advocating for social justice inside our movement’s most important institutions. I believe this is especially true when one is unhappy with the existing state of affairs. I am frustrated and sad that I concluded that I could no longer be part of any process of organizational growth and transformation at FSF.

I have nothing but compassion, empathy, and gratitude for those who are still at the FSF—especially the staff—who are continuing to work silently toward making the FSF better under intense public pressure. I still hope that the FSF will emerge from this as a better organization.

11 Replies to “The Free Software Foundation and Richard Stallman”

  1. What has RMS done wrong that warrants his cancellation? He’s not perfect, sure. None of us are. I think we have to see beyond differences in opinions and come together.

  2. More of the same, you give something that nobody asked for and on top of that with vague statements were you from the FSF? Well, you had your position and you left it (not that you would have lasted that long either) that shows that apparently you didn’t get the job or you were not prepared for it, not enough.

    I don’t mean to offend you or anything, but the cancellation movement is missing something pretty big and that is “agreeing” to at least have a solid argument as to why Richard Stallman should not return to the FSF and not just because he is “unfit” or considered “controversial” is he serious? How many leaders don’t have this kind of smear propaganda? I would even go so far as to say that you wasted your time at the FSF by not truly knowing RMS’s style and not throwing shit behind his back.


  3. RMS was one of MIT’s greatest hackers at the real AI Lab, and unlike Joi Ito at your “alma mater” Media Lab and his politically-correct friends down the street in Harvard, he didn’t actually take money from Epstein.

    So you are more than happy to go against Richard Stallman and see the poor old man pushed into the street. Sounds like an easy bit of virtue-signalling as a professor whose made a comfy career off of relatively minimal “contributions” to free software. Go back to teaching kids “how to program” in a language with little scientific efficacy in Scratch – gotta keep those corporate and government “research” grants flowing!

  4. This is probably not going to convince anyone, but here goes:

    Bradley Kuhn, former FSF executive director, is among those calling for his resignation.

    This is more than ‘differences in opinion’ and the ‘cancellation movement’. As a side note: cancel culture always existed, the only difference is that a different group of people are doing the canceling. The US Red Scare was cancel culture, 1950s style.

  5. While you were gently supporting the removal of RMS, the anti-RMS side is now coordinating on Twitter how to dox and blacklist everyone who signed the statement in support of RMS, all 5000+ of them.

    Does nobody see how dangerous the claims “RMS makes women feel ‘uncomfortable'” really is? Anyone can claim to feel uncomfortable, for practically any reason. There is no evidence anyone can present that could prove someone didn’t feel uncomfortable, and many people—apparently—feel uncomfortable at the slightest provocation.

    Add to this the simple fact that many of the most talented coders, certainly a significant contingent of coders, are borderline aspie, and you have quite the explosive combination. Men like this, almost by definition, have the capacity to make women uncomfortable with their clumsy and importune advances. Meanwhile, these men are often the ones holding up the inner structure of complex software projects.

    The moral and social takeover of coding culture isn’t just about ‘inclusion’ and ‘tolerance’. Very clearly in the case of RMS, it is also about exclusion and intolerance. And ingratitude.

    And it is about replacing male notions of due process with feminine notions of power grabs through gossip, innuendo, “spilling tea” and “throwing shade.” I read the “evidence” provided by the cancellation document (the thing everyone is signing) and there is not a single actionable claim. It is all shade.

    Men do not function like this, and coding culture did not function like this until women showed up. It is not at all clear to me that this mode of power and organization isn’t more destructive than constructive. It is all about designating a line, and destroying everything and everyone on the other side of it. Men historically have waged the wars (and died in them), but they have also figured out ways of living and cooperating with one another. These attitudes and norms of male cooperative behavior are being thrown out by a feminized culture that has taken over the managerial class all throughout American society.

    And if one dares to mention that this is a feminine power grab, that it has something to do with feminization or feminism, then one is immediately accused of being misogynist.

    But this is just one more lever in the feminist method of attaining power, to deny that a power grab is taking place.

    Today I have read a tweet that I found very revealing. It read (to paraphrase) that behind every jerk in STEM were 10 people waiting to shine. This is an assumption that has little basis in fact. It is a founding mythos of this political moment. Anyone who knows anything about the history of the Free Software Movement knows that RMS is unique. The idea that there are 10 replacements for every unique person is just stupid. And yet this is the assumption underlying the movement to get rid of all ‘problematic’ men.

    To close, I note that the attacks on RMS align very neatly with QAnon paranoia. Epstein was probably an intelligence asset tasked with drawing influential men in compromising situations through sex. We are right to be concerned about him. And yet what is actually happening is that all men are now suspects. RMS, who never took money from Epstein, is being painted with a vague and ever-alterable brush (the very nature of innuendo and ‘shade’) so that his mere words raising questions about the case are turned against him as an indictment, as if he were somehow on that plane, somehow having sex with underage girls, as if he were no different from Epstein.

    This is just insanity, gathered together in a mob, and given torches. This is what RMS is facing, and why any right thinking person should resist it.

    Nevertheless, it is clear that what we are really facing is the destruction of male organization. Look at the Atheist movement after the feminists got through with it, and falsely accused men, who eventually crawled back. The Atheist movement is a shadow of what it once was. And I could point to other examples, but we all know that if we start pointing to examples, we will be accused of being a this or a that. The accusations and slander never ends. Men are not allowed to talk about what is happening, to count up the bodies, or anything else. All men are allowed to do is accept defeat.

    The only way forward is to eschew all organization. Few will be capable of this, but those who are may discover a new way forward. Certainly the centralized corporate internet needs to be destroyed.

    1. If you read the second link I provided:

      “During discussion with the Board over a few weeks, the group expressed the critical need for LibrePlanet’s Safe Space Policy to apply to all participants, including all the members of the Board, which included Stallman, FSF Board President. During the discussion, the Board did not address the following specific actions we requested:

      * That the Board explicitly clarify that if RMS violates the Safe Space Policy again organizers will step up and impartially apply the rules to him.
      * That the Board appoint a disinterested ombudsman or committee with the power to oversee and handle safe space policy complaints, and enforcement, including for Safe Space Policy complaints against members of the Board.

      On November 8, 2018, the Board told us they were working on a response but that it would take time. In early February 2019, many of us got individual email replies from one of the FSF Board of Directors, representing the Board. The response from the Board said FSF was working with a third-party consultant to improve safety procedures. I hoped to see a public announcement of the name of the consultant, or a Code of Conduct transparency report after the con (example). We have seen neither. ”

      Those are not unrealistic requirements. That’s not an attack based on opinion. These are FSF members asking the FSF Board to apply *the same policy they require of Libre Planet attendees* to FSF Board members. The FSF Board declined.

      Many of the times that Stallman made women uncomfortable were publicly documented sexist comments and jokes. This is not just unsubstantiated accusations.

      My sixteen year old autistic son is bright. I’m sure Stallman is brighter. My son can still understand rules of etiquette. He can think all of the amorous thoughts he wants, as do I, without doing anything to make women uncomfortable. We must make some allowance for neuro-atypical people, but not to the point we allow them to harm others.

      I don’t feel comfortable taking my wife and daughters to Libre Planet. And because of that, I’m not going and I’m not taking my son either. I’m not alone. The free software community isn’t just losing women because of inconsistent FSF policy enforcement.

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