EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.19.19

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 1:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A publication from the Free Media Alliance

Overview

  • Part 1: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Introduction
  • You are here ☞ Part 2: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech
  • Part 3: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education
  • Part 4: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Narcissism in The Community
  • Part 5: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing
  • Part 6: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead
  • Part 7: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Distro-libre and feature-schema
  • Part 8: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: A Free (as in Freedom) Library, and Federation of Advocates

Freedom of speech

Summary: “While a new breed of so-called anarchists campaign against expression that even the state allows, people are also foolishly overplaying the relevance of the state to free speech issues — as if it’s not a freedom issue when a project is increasingly thought-policed, because the thought-policing isn’t on a state level.”

The FSF used to say “Free as in Speech”, and now you hear a lot of “Free as in Freedom”. This is subjective, and perhaps they say plenty of both. But “Free as in Speech” made more sense in the earlier days of Free software.

Free speech isn’t just the basis for Free software, it’s the basis for all expression technical, political, philosophical and artistic. So many people are bent on creating new exceptions to free speech and free expression, and this is already bleeding into censorship of art and even code repositories. The threat to Free software is real, but the people who want such a threat of course do not think it is a problem.

“Free speech isn’t just the basis for Free software, it’s the basis for all expression technical, political, philosophical and artistic.”While a new breed of so-called anarchists campaign against expression that even the state allows, people are also foolishly overplaying the relevance of the state to free speech issues — as if it’s not a freedom issue when a project is increasingly thought-policed, because the thought-policing isn’t on a state level. This is pedantic and misguided for so many reasons.

First of all, it is technically true in some ways — that’s where the ignorance starts. From a purely technical point of view, the Constitution protects against laws that abridge the freedom of speech. That’s all.
So the First Amendment has very little relevance, technically speaking, if someone comes into your house and insults you, and you tell them to get out. You don’t really have to explain this to people every time this conversation comes up, but it’s understandable why people do that. It’s because they don’t care about the issue enough to be honest.

“It’s a deeply condescending, stupidly narrow definition of free speech to limit it exclusively to “whatever the state does not infringe is (sufficiently) free.””When people talk about free speech outside of this narrow but primarily correct definition, they are talking about the absence of censorship. This is not a usage that comes out of ignorance or lack of education, as the minimalists and pedants imply. Rather the Constitution protects natural rights from laws, liberty is a natural right, and free speech is a subset of liberty. (Free software in turn, is a subset of free speech.)

You can certainly look at this in various other ways, but to constantly insult and negate what people are saying based on ignoring the validity of this perspective, merely insults the intelligence of everyone you bother about it. It’s a deeply condescending, stupidly narrow definition of free speech to limit it exclusively to “whatever the state does not infringe is (sufficiently) free.”

That sort of pedantry only demands that we throw away the words “free speech” as being as limited as they insist it is, and focus exclusively on matters of “censorship.” This is pointless, when Wikipedia begins its article on “Freedom of Speech” with the words:

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an
individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas
without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction.

Far be it to suggest that quoting one line of a Wikipedia article proves anything at all, but can anyone honestly insist that it’s ridiculous to treat free speech as the opposite of censorship? Or is it the pedants who are being deeply dishonest? Either way this goes, what good are they?

“The (more honest) truth is that free speech is a more complex and nuanced issue than Randall Munroe has painted it in the most ignorant XKCD ever shared online.”If the FSF lent more credence to the relationship between modern copyright and censorship, and the relationship they themselves established between Free software and free speech, they wouldn’t likely be looking for exceptions like whether we should be able to freely adapt “works of opinion” or whether you should be able to make unlimited paper copies of a manual under an allegedly free licence.

Alas, the FSF has painted too many exceptions to free speech (or for you pedantic idiots — the lack of censorship) and is likely already having key figures (including Stallman and Torvalds) stifled over those exceptions. This is self-defeating, but it also harms other movements that promote works that are “Free as in Speech.”

“You are free to lie, until the fraud does enough harm to the freedom of others, but when you twist reality to limit a quest for freedom you make an enemy of yourself.”The (more honest) truth is that free speech is a more complex and nuanced issue than Randall Munroe has painted it in the most ignorant XKCD ever shared online.

There are people who want to add to the censorship in the world, they are successful in actively doing so, and they are eager to get away with it using flimsy justifications and dishonesty. You are free to lie, until the fraud does enough harm to the freedom of others, but when you twist reality to limit a quest for freedom you make an enemy of yourself. At that point you are no better than a politician, and you have earned the disdain reserved for the worst among them.

In the past, the FSF has found it necessary (and rightfully so) to turn to philosophy while Open Source relies on sophistry. These days, when you argue against censorship you find the Internet is overrun with sophists and trolls and armchair authoritarians. If that truly represents what Free software has become in this century, then you can keep it.

But that is not how Free software began, what made it viable, nor what it needs to be in order to fight against censorship.

There is no Free software, without free speech. And if that’s not true, then Free software ought to be dropped as a movement, and replaced with free culture, which is a superset of Free software and still a subset of free speech.

Natural right begets Liberty,
        Liberty begets free speech, 
                Free speech begets free culture and Free software, 
                        Free culture (by definition, if not common
                        practice) includes Free software.

Free software advocates ought to be able to understand this. If they cannot, it is one more area where the Free software movement has failed and become sterile.

Of course even if Free software were dropped for free culture, the specific areas where free culture pertains to software would be no less important. All that would really change is the sacrifice of greater idiocy for greater honesty.

“On matters related to Free software directly, the FSF deserves its recognition as the authoritative voice of the Free software movement.”As it happens, free culture (broadly speaking) cannot seem to wrap itself around the importance of using Free software, either. So both movements are hampered without the other. And too few can appreciate this, or bother to promote it — both movements cost themselves key allies and success in the process.

If they were really at odds, like Free software and Open Source, such alliance would be a false compromise. Since they are ultimately working for the same freedom, Free software and free culture should acknowledge their similarities and help each other. But neither side wants to admit the truth about their existence and philosophical heritage.

Just as Open Source does not want to admit that it co-opted Free software (even when OSI co-founder Bruce Perens said they had when OSI was no more than a year or two old) Free software does not acknowledge the importance of a broader copyright reform movement, when Free software was only necessary due to regressive expansion of copyright itself.

Free software is far more honest than Open Source, but on this matter it too rewrites history to make itself out to be (a little) more authoritative and central regarding a subject than it is in reality — that of copyright reform.

The FSF has — and should have — no monopoly on copyright reform. Its lack of willingness to find its true context in matters of liberty leads it to overplay its hand regarding non-software matters (“Why this license?”) and to misrepresent arguments about copyright reform in other areas. It should not be allowed to perpetuate such dishonesty, even if dishonesty is rarer indeed for the FSF than most organisations.

“With no culture of free speech, there will be no protection against laws that limit it either.”Either the FSF is a secular non-profit with a mission to promote what it says, subject to the same scrutiny as all other institutions — or it is a cult with a leader and devotees that cannot err. Sadly, on matters of broader liberty barely outside of software, it behaves less like a secular institution and more like a cult. Some of its largest competitors are cults as well, but they are cults to corporation and control, rather than to Software Freedom.

On matters related to Free software directly, the FSF deserves its recognition as the authoritative voice of the Free software movement. For purposes of (among others) the unfettered and scientific expression of ideas, we will challenge their authority — but not deny or negate it as Open Source has unjustly done for decades at a time.

As for the Code of Conduct, it is a Trojan horse that in practice lets corporations limit Free software along lines that the government will not. It is a shot in the foot, and all for a false promise. “Love thy neighbour” it was once said, is the whole of the law. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you should remain free to speak against your neighbour as long as you speak the truth.

With no culture of free speech, there will be no protection against laws that limit it either. For a government claimed to be of the people, for the people, by the people — it is delusional to assume or rely on the government to protect and preserve anything that people are not willing to stand for themselves.

“Freedom 0 is the freedom to use the software for any purpose, but what we are inching towards is a future where software repos will be divided along political lines.”You cannot reduce “free speech” to the Constitution, without dooming it to lose further ground to censorship. The FSF may continue their mission, though their followers, bylaws and customs are increasingly eroding the Free Software Foundation’s foundation.

The tools Free software produces to liberate the user, are promoted and run primarily by people dedicated to using them to control speech, not make it more free. Freedom 0 is the freedom to use the software for any purpose, but what we are inching towards is a future where software repos will be divided along political lines. The recently-adopted GNU Kind guidelines include a welcome glimpse of Free software’s past, when words like this rang true:

The GNU Project encourages contributions from anyone who
wishes to advance the development of the GNU system,
regardless of gender, race, ethnic group, physical appearance,
religion, cultural background, and any other demographic
characteristics, as well as personal political views.

Those words do not reflect the politics of Free software today, nor do they reflect the reality of the culture of the Free Software Foundation. It is an ideal we should strive for, to have diversity of contributors as well as diversity of opinion, but just try having your own political views.

Free software should be looking for more ways to enable free speech. At the moment, all communication platforms related to the Free software movement are focused on controlling it, which is endemic to the so-called Fediverse.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (Public Domain)

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 18/9/2019: Fedora Linux 31 Beta, PCLinuxOS 2019.09 Update

    Links for the day



  2. Links 17/9/2019: CentOS 7.7 and Funtoo Linux 1.4 Released

    Links for the day



  3. EPO is Not European

    Internationalists and patent trolls are those who stand to benefit from the 'globalisation' of low-quality and law-breaking patents such as patents on algorithms, nature and life itself; the EPO isn't equipped to serve its original goals anymore



  4. The EPO's Central Staff Committee and SUEPO (Staff Union) Respond to “Fascist Bills” Supported by EPO President António Campinos

    Raw material pertaining to the latest Campinos "scandal"; what Campinos said, what the Central Staff Committee (CSC) said, and what SUEPO said



  5. Storm Brewing in the European Patent Office After a Hot Summer

    Things aren't rosy in EPOnia (to say the least); in fact, things have been getting a lot worse lately, but the public wouldn't know judging by what media tells the public (almost nothing)



  6. Why I Once Called for Richard Stallman to Step Down

    Guest post from the developer who recently authored "Getting Stallman Wrong Means Getting The 21st Century Wrong"



  7. As Richard Stallman Resigns Let's Consider Why GNU/Linux Without Stallman and Torvalds Would be a Victory to Microsoft

    Stallman has been ejected after a lot of intentionally misleading press coverage; this is a dark day for Software Freedom



  8. Links 16/9/2019: GNU Linux-libre 5.3, GNU World Order 13×38, Vista 10 Breaks Itself Again

    Links for the day



  9. Links 16/9/2019: Qt Quick on Vulkan, Metal, and Direct3D; BlackWeb 1.2 Reviewed

    Links for the day



  10. Richard Stallman's Controversial Views Are Nothing New and They Distract From Bill Gates' Vastly Worse Role

    It's easier to attack Richard Stallman (RMS) using politics (than using his views on software) and media focus on Stallman's personal views on sexuality bears some resemblance to the push against Linus Torvalds, which leans largely on the false perception that he is sexist, rude and intolerant



  11. Links 16/9/2019: Linux 5.3, EasyOS Releases, Media Backlash Against RMS

    Links for the day



  12. Openwashing Report on Open Networking Foundation (ONF): When Open Source Means Collaboration Among Giant Spying Companies

    Massive telecommunications oligopolies (telecoms) are being described as ethical and responsible by means of openwashing; they even have their own front groups for that obscene mischaracterisation and ONF is one of those



  13. 'Open Source' You Cannot Run Without Renting or 'Licensing' Windows From Microsoft

    When so-called ‘open source’ programs strictly require Vista 10 (or similar) to run, how open are they really and does that not redefine the nature of Open Source while betraying everything Free/libre software stands for?



  14. All About Control: Microsoft is Not Open Source But an Open Source Censor/Spy and GitHub/LinkedIn/Skype Are Its Proprietary Censorship/Surveillance Tools

    All the big companies which Microsoft bought in recent years are proprietary software and all of the company’s big products remain proprietary software; all that “Open Source” is to Microsoft is “something to control and censor“



  15. The Sad State of GNU/Linux News Sites

    The ‘media coup’ of corporate giants (that claim to be 'friends') means that history of GNU/Linux is being distorted and lied about; it also explains prevalent lies such as "Microsoft loves Linux" and denial of GNU/Free software



  16. EPO President Along With Bristows, Managing IP and Other Team UPC Boosters Are Lobbying for Software Patents in Clear and Direct Violation of the EPC

    A calm interpretation of the latest wave of lobbying from litigation professionals, i.e. people who profit when there are lots of patent disputes and even expensive lawsuits which may be totally frivolous (for example, based upon fake patents that aren't EPC-compliant)



  17. Links 15/9/2019: Radeon ROCm 2.7.2, KDE Frameworks 5.62.0, PineTime and Bison 3.4.2

    Links for the day



  18. Illegal/Invalid Patents (IPs) Have Become the 'Norm' in Europe

    Normalisation of invalid patents (granted by the EPO in defiance of the EPC) is a serious problem, but patent law firms continue to exploit that while this whole 'patent bubble' lasts (apparently the number of applications will continue to decrease because the perceived value of European Patents diminishes)



  19. Patent Maximalists, Orbiting the European Patent Office, Work to 'Globalise' a System of Monopolies on Everything

    Monopolies on just about everything are being granted in defiance of the EPC and there are those looking to make this violation ‘unitary’, even worldwide if not just EU-wide



  20. Unitary Patent (UPC) Promotion by Team Battistelli 'Metastasising' in Private Law Firms

    The EPO's Albert Keyack (Team Battistelli) is now in Team UPC as Vice President of Kilburn & Strode LLP; he already fills the media with lies about the UPC, as one can expect



  21. Microsoft Targets GNU/Linux Advocates With Phony Charm Offensives and Fake 'Love'

    The ways Microsoft depresses GNU/Linux advocacy and discourages enthusiasm for Software Freedom is not hard to see; it's worth considering and understanding some of these tactics (mostly assimilation-centric and love-themed), which can otherwise go unnoticed



  22. Proprietary Software Giants Tell Open Source 'Communities' That Proprietary Software Giants Are 'Friends'

    The openwashing services of the so-called 'Linux' Foundation are working; companies that are inherently against Open Source are being called "Open" and some people are willing to swallow this bait (so-called 'compromise' which is actually surrender to proprietary software regimes)



  23. Microsoft Pays the Linux Foundation for Academy Software Foundation, Which the Linux Foundation is Outsourcing to Microsoft

    Microsoft has just bought some more seats and more control over Free/Open Source software; all it had to do was shell out some 'slush funds'



  24. Links 14/9/2019: SUSE CaaS Platform, Huawei Laptops With GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  25. Links 13/9/2019: Catfish 1.4.10, GNOME Firmware 3.34.0 Release

    Links for the day



  26. Links 12/9/2019: GNU/Linux at Huawei, GNOME 3.34 Released

    Links for the day



  27. Links 12/9/2019: Manjaro 18.1 and KaOS 2019.09 Releases

    Links for the day



  28. EPO: Give Us Low-Quality Patent Applications, Patent Trolls Have Use for Those

    What good is the EPC when the EPO feels free to ignore it and nobody holds the EPO accountable for it? At the moment we're living in a post-EPC Europe where the only thing that counts is co-called 'products' (i.e. quantity, not quality).



  29. Coverage for Sponsors: What the Linux Foundation Does is Indistinguishable From Marketing Agencies' Functions

    The marketing agency that controls the name "Linux" is hardly showing any interest in technology or in journalism; it's just buying media coverage for sponsors and this is what it boils down to for the most part (at great expense)



  30. Watch Out, Linus Torvalds: Microsoft Bought Tons of Git Repositories and Now It Goes After Linux

    Microsoft reminds us how E.E.E. tactics work; Microsoft is just hijacking its competition and misleading the market (claiming the competition to be its own, having "extended" it Microsoft's way with proprietary code)


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts