Artificial truth

The more you see, the less you believe.

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WTF FSF
Mon 12 April 2021 — download

As more-or-less Gunnar said:

  1. Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software movement, and committed his life to making what seemed like a ludicrous idea into a tangible reality. We owe him big time for that, and nothing somebody says or does will ever eclipse the fact.
  2. But Richard Stallman has a very toxic personality. There is a long, well-known published list of abuse cases; if you must read more into it, some regarding his views on sex, consent, gender, and some other issues are published as a part of the open letter I am about to reference. I have witnessed quite a few; I won’t disclose here the details, as many other incidents are already known. And I don’t mean by this sexual abuse, although that’s the twig that eventually broke the camel’s back, but ranging from general rudeness to absolute lack of consideration for people around him.
  3. In September 2019, Stallman was Forced to resign, first from his position at MIT, then as the president of the FSF. The direct cause was a comment where he defended the accusations on Minsky (a personal friend of his, and deceased three years prior to the fact) of sexual abuse.
  4. Last week, 18 months after he was driven out of the FSF, and at LibrePlanet (FSF’s signature conference, usually held at the MIT, this time naturally online only) Stallman announced his comeback to the Board of Directors of the FSF.

Today, the Free Software Foundation published a blogpost boiling down to "We decided to bring RMS back because we missed his wisdom." I'm not making this is up, this is a direct quote from the article.

Moreover:

In his position on the board, RMS has the same responsibilities as other members. He is an unpaid volunteer and subject to the organization's policies, including prohibitions against conflicts of interest and sexual harassment and those outlining whistleblower processes and fiduciary duties. The responsibilities of the board are described at https://www.fsf.org/about/the-role-of-the-fsfs-board-of-directors.

We believe his views will be critical to the FSF as we advance the mission and confront the challenges that software freedom faces.

The FSF board will continue to pursue additional ideas and actions designed to improve transparency and accountability.

So in order to improve accountability, transparency, and to illustrate how well its policies are working, the FSF is bringing back a notoriously uber-toxic person in a position of power.

RMS acknowledges that he has made mistakes. He has sincere regrets, especially at how anger toward him personally has negatively impacted the reputation and mission of FSF.

So, he's sorry that people are angry. The only thing the FSF board regrets is that the people actually doing the work are annoyed with this entire incident and no longer want to work with FSF.

While his personal style remains troubling for some, a majority of the board feel his behavior has moderated and believe that his thinking strengthens the work of the FSF in pursuit of its mission.

Nice to read that the FSF considers harassment as "personal style".

Many people (me included, naturally) in the Free Software world are very angry about this announcement.

The FSF's goal is to "promote computer user freedom.", while most of the high profile open source/free software projects like the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the GNOME foundation Mozilla, LineageOS, the April, Fedora, the FSFE, KDE, Outreachy, Red Hat, Riseup, GCC, Suse, the Tor Project, the EFF, the OSI, … are not only calling from the removal of RMS from "all leadership positions", but also for "the removal of the entire Board of the Free Software Foundation".

At least the director of the FSF got the point and resigned, but he seems to be the only one.

Free software was once the arena of young, raging alpha machos where a thick skin was an entry requirement. A good thing about growing up is that our community is now wiser, and although it still attracts younger people, there is a clear trend not to repeat our past ways. Free software has grown, and there is no place for a leader so disrespectful and hurting as many of us have witnessed Stallman to be.

Again, the free software movement –and the world as a whole– owes a great deal to Stallman. He changed history. I admire his work, his persistence and his stubbornness. But I won't have him represent the free software movement.