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10.13.19

“Widespread Adoption” (Did You Mean: Takeover by Monopolies?)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 11:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By figosdev

Summary: “Quite a few of them are people that would rather replace David with Goliath, just because he’s bigger. Quite a few are already taking money from Goliath.”

Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” tells the story of a man at the crossroads between this world and the next, “down on his knees” as he watches everybody else pass him. What’s holding “poor Bob” back? We assume it’s a deal he made with the devil.

Atheist Richard Stallman has a number of things to say about the devil — one is that Microsoft is not “the Great Satan” (though some of us aren’t as confident) and more recently, the FSF invited people attending Free software install-fests to consider a “deal with the devil” by including non-free software in their installs.

“…the FSF invited people attending Free software install-fests to consider a “deal with the devil” by including non-free software in their installs.”It’s not at all unusual for atheists to play with religious imagery; as a collection of metaphors and morals, religion has a significant footprint in our cultural and societal backgrounds.

I’m agnostic myself, with sympathy for both theism and theists, and though I’m strongly against the idea of theocracy and pushing religion on people I consider religion just another aspect of culture. It should be optional, whether you choose to reject it or choose to have it in your life. It’s probably no coincidence that this is the position of the First Amendment as well (I’ve always been a fan of it.)

“The church did the same to Galileo for the blasphemy of saying the earth was round, and society did the same to Socrates. Now we do it to Stallman.”As for meaningful concepts of evil, I think they’re often oversimplified. Once you stop paying heed to the fanatics who think of sin in terms of black and white, you are left with some interesting (possibly even amusing) stories of Adam getting “set up” by his own all-knowing creator. Adam’s weaknesses and strengths were known — under the right circumstances, he was arguably more than likely to eat the forbidden fruit.

Adam’s first sin, humanity’s first known imperfection — tells a story far more interesting than the simple prohibition of a particular food. And treating that imperfection superficially is perhaps the first big misunderstanding that leads religious zealots to persecute others for their own imperfections.

“Society too has a compulsion that involves building up heroes and then tearing them down, when it externalises virtues and then projects failures onto a deity or celebrity.”This link between superficiality and unjust persecution is extremely relevant when you are witnessing the rise of the Malleus Hackerum or “Hacker’s Hammer” that is the Code of Conduct; seemingly designed to create a relatively nerdless society by condemning and then banning the autist from his own creation in the name of “inclusion.” The church did the same to Galileo for the blasphemy of saying the earth was round, and society did the same to Socrates. Now we do it to Stallman.

Present-day scientists, engineers and doctors know that if you don’t understand the problem, you’re likely to get the solution wrong too. A way to work past this superficiality is to find a bigger picture as a framework and then pay special attention to the context of facts; because context is everything.

“This is a witch hunt, and the reason it’s a witch hunt is that nothing less — and nothing more just or more honest would be enough to take him down.”We can argue that both Adam and Stallman were “set up” — Adam with foreknowledge of his nature and Stallman with false witness, Adam (humanity) was condemned to death as a result, while others are pursuing the social and political death of Stallman. If you examine the origins of this story, whether you focus on the Judaic aspects or delve into connections with Egyptian mythology, the greater contexts of this “death” are about distance from the creator rather than simple mortality — there is a theme of death and rebirth, of distance and return.

Society too has a compulsion that involves building up heroes and then tearing them down, when it externalises virtues and then projects failures onto a deity or celebrity. Stallman is a great man, he is being defended by feminists and followers while the media places things he didn’t say into contexts that other things he actually said were not said in. This is a witch hunt, and the reason it’s a witch hunt is that nothing less — and nothing more just or more honest would be enough to take him down.

“This is an angry, frothing medieval mob that keeps tacking on additional sentences even as guilt of the crime is being brought more into question.”But we know that he is guilty of blasphemy, and the sentence is public stoning. How far we’ve come in the 21st century.

“We’ve found a witch, may we burn him!”

“How do you know he’s a witch?”

“He talks like one!”

“These aren’t my words, these are deliberate misquotes. And they imply things that are the exact opposite of what I actually said. Large media outlets are saying I defended Epstein, when actually I called him ‘serial rapist.’ How exactly is that defending him?”

The public’s reaction to finding out that the funny hat isn’t his and the pointy nose is a false one?

“And the tech press is dancing and popping champagne corks. Why shouldn’t they? They never worked for Free software in the first place, they work for Big Tech.”“Buuuuurnnnnn him anyway!”

It’s not enough to step down as president — no, he’s got to resign from the board (Bad move, FSF. Like someone said “Reload! Now aim for the other foot.”) No, that’s not enough, he still controls GNU!

This looks nothing like justice, nor due process, nor fair anything. This is an angry, frothing medieval mob that keeps tacking on additional sentences even as guilt of the crime is being brought more into question. And the tech press is dancing and popping champagne corks. Why shouldn’t they? They never worked for Free software in the first place, they work for Big Tech.

Some people will dismiss what I’m saying by calling it a religious sermon, but for them any excuse to dismiss it will do. As a boy, I didn’t predict USB drives with Tarot cards or a divining rod. I was a strong atheist myself at the time — I declared religion to be the antithesis of science at age 4. (I didn’t use the word “antithesis” of course. I didn’t even know the word “atheist” at the time.)

“None of this was a result of Stallman simply being misquoted — it was a result of long-standing effort to remove him.”I predicted USB drives because as a boy, floppies seemed really impractical as a medium and I was interested in EEPROMS. It seemed far more likely to me that when it became practical, we would use chips instead of magnetic devices. Well, what can I say? (I do prefer spindrives to SSD, but for portability — or the modern equivalent of floppies, you can’t beat solid-state.)

Similarly, there was already writing on the wall before Red Hat was purchased (a few months after I mentioned it) and Techrights was already talking about the problems Stallman faced before this all happened. None of this was a result of Stallman simply being misquoted — it was a result of long-standing effort to remove him. If you think all humanity suffers death for “just an apple” or that Stallman is being put through this because he deserves it, I think there’s very obviously a story that makes a lot more sense. One that’s not going to be impossible for people to fit together.

I’ve talked about Stallman being in a public stoning, because they haven’t stopped throwing them yet — and being burned as a witch, because it was necessary to dress him up that way first — and I think it’s very fair to say that what some people really want for him is a crucifixion.

“I don’t ever want to support a company that poses an existential threat to libraries, by reserving full control of titles by the publishers and booksellers.”After all, we stone heretics and blasphemers and we burn witches, but we crucify beloved teachers and prophets. When Stallman wrote “The Right to Read” he didn’t predict DRM in ebooks any differently than I predicted USB drives or the purchase of Red Hat.

Like any science fiction author, he looked at the present day, made notes of the problems that already existed and considered the reasons they exist — and made predictions based on likely next steps. For an atheist, this is no more divination than an expert game of chess is.

And though we would prefer that he had not been right, DRM in ebooks exists today. I started boycotting Amazon the day I heard they were doing this to books, because at the time I considered adding DRM to books nearly the most evil thing they could do with the technology. I don’t ever want to support a company that poses an existential threat to libraries, by reserving full control of titles by the publishers and booksellers.

“If the New Testament tells us anything, it’s that literally no amount of virtue can make you immune from being crucified by an angry mob sponsored by a threatened empire.”As for my interest in mythology and religion, Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix” talks about how Star Wars was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. I already knew about that connection, but “Everything is a Remix” is really worth a watch; you can find it on invidio.us.

If the New Testament tells us anything, it’s that literally no amount of virtue can make you immune from being crucified by an angry mob sponsored by a threatened empire. I’m certainly not implying that Stallman is Jesus; I would sooner point out the commonalities between Big Tech and Rome.

It’s not a metaphor I spend a lot of time on, but consider the reaction of the Church to the printing press — or possibly the matter of lead pipes (a great technological achievement, you can’t deny it) versus today’s backdoors in our network technology.

Will Big Tech fall as Rome did, due in part to the failure inherent in digital plumbing? I don’t know, and I don’t even know enough about Roman history to be sure it’s a good metaphor. I do know that the Tech CEOs are as arrogant as Nero. Somewhere there’s a scholar who is rolling his eyes right now, and I’m sorry. But the point of history is to learn lessons from it, if we can.

In various cultural traditions, there are great crucifixions — not only of Jesus but Rabbi Akiva’s death by torture and the crucifixion of Osirus and Horus.

The cross itself, prior to its use in Christianity (for example, the Celtic cross) can be a symbol of the sun, and by extension the seasons, and by abstraction the heavens (where the sun is) or time itself.

“You can’t simply take the life of a hero — if you want to truly destroy him, you have to first steal his virtue.”When you crucify a beloved hero, you create a martyr; you symbolically bestow timelessness and immortality. You can’t simply take the life of a hero — if you want to truly destroy him, you have to first steal his virtue. Replace his halo with a crown of thorns, spit on him and mock him as a “king.” Bear false witness, and attack his legacy and teachings. Only when you succeed in that is he destroyed.

This is not a sermon dressed up as a history lesson, it is a history lesson dressed up as a sermon.

There are a few instances, at least — of religious stories with a hero dying in a crucifixion and gaining immortality. There are cliches of artists “suffering for their art” or even literally dying from their own soul’s torment as they try to become immortal as well.

And let’s not ignore Assange or Aaron, as other recent examples that paint a picture of this happening a bit too often.

Along with this recurring story of crucifixion and immortality, history contains far more examples of building up a hero so that they can be destroyed. Sometimes that hero is false, though he doesn’t have to be. Often the reason is jealousy, spite, or simply unreasonable hopes (or impossible standards) that were dashed when they went unmet.

“Unfortunately, we live in an increasingly superficial and narcissistic society — it demands heroes in its great desperation, and destroys everyone who falls short of impossible standards.”The narcissist is also constantly building heroes and producing metaphorical idols — of idealised people who let him down and must be destroyed and punished for their sins. In the too-rare instance where someone discovers this habit and turns away from it, they can try to become fair and rational in their expectations of other people.

Unfortunately, we live in an increasingly superficial and narcissistic society — it demands heroes in its great desperation, and destroys everyone who falls short of impossible standards. I’ve heard people say that this attitude signals a coming dark age. But aren’t we in a dark age already? Aren’t we surrounded by the gradual slaughter of everyone good and the triumph of evil?

History tells us things will get worse before they really improve, but the path of the hero is to live and sometimes suffer, for better things and higher purposes regardless of the state of the world. Or as George Bernard Shaw tells us, “all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

After Stallman “dies” the manufactured death of his virtue, many will rush in to take his place and demand your loyalty and expect your praise.

There will be arguments and debates about what it truly means to be “free.” But false Stallmans and real-life Judases aside, freedom is fundamentally very simple. You don’t stand for freedom by worshiping idols but by seeking the truth. The truth will not be handed down from Goliath-like corporations, but expressed by David-like individuals who serve as an example to others. Freedom is a struggle, it is not the medals they give you for it.

“But Stallman was not our God, he was (and is) a messenger of freedom. That message is a threat to power, and history makes it very clear how that often works out in the end.”You can choose to stand with the Roman Empire, if you believe it has more virtue than those they prefer to see crucified. But Stallman was not our God, he was (and is) a messenger of freedom. That message is a threat to power, and history makes it very clear how that often works out in the end.

Watch the people who try to make an example of him — and watch carefully what they propose now that he has fallen. Those of us who think freedom is the most important thing, will not crucify the people who stand against us — but we will never follow them either. We will fight their lies with truth, their rabid, drooling spite with reason, and their efforts to destroy Stallman with a renewal of his effort to make all software free. Even Michael Jackson has a project to defend his legacy — you can guarantee that Stallman will. Billionaires have their philanthropy, most likely for the same reason.

Free software is for everybody that wants freedom, regardless of their beliefs.

“Quite a few of them are people that would rather replace David with Goliath, just because he’s bigger. Quite a few are already taking money from Goliath.”There are people who don’t agree with that, who don’t include Stallman and want to exclude him. They don’t speak for us, and they never will. If you try to find the context of what they really want, you barely have to scratch the surface. Quite a few of them are people that would rather replace David with Goliath, just because he’s bigger. Quite a few are already taking money from Goliath.

Of course, it’s very much up to you what you do with your freedom — the purpose of a watchdog isn’t to boss you around, it’s to alert you to problems. We can work on the solutions together, when it suits us to voluntarily do so. We propose and advocate our ideas — you propose and advocate yours. We all decide what to do with what we know. That’s a big part of what freedom is.

When we agree on something, we struggle together. When we can’t agree, we struggle apart. It’s very useful to find our commonalities, and understand our differences. For many of us, Stallman and freedom are two things we are not willing to compromise on.

Compromise can be a wonderful thing, when nothing vital is sacrificed and the net benefit to each side is positive. When the level of compromise exceeds what is net beneficial, the word becomes synonymous with failure, security issues and misplaced trust. The more trust people demand, especially when it is one-sided, the more likely it is that trust is misplaced.

I believe we have put too much trust in the wrong people, and particularly the wrong ideas, and those mistakes have left Free software compromised. And I don’t believe that either fundamentalism or becoming too lax will help, nor do I disagree with Stallman on the matter of making money with Free software.

“I believe we have put too much trust in the wrong people, and particularly the wrong ideas, and those mistakes have left Free software compromised.”But I do think the secular cults of Mammon (who worship wealth and power over goodness itself) are the real reason our respected teacher now lives in exile. He’s only a man after all, but he’s certainly greater than many who enjoy the idea that they’ve finally beaten him.

He’s already fallen, but this has gone on for 20 years — they won’t stop until he’s dead, and they will continue even after that.

Perhaps that’s justice for a dictator or mass murderer, but we do it for folk heroes too. Say what you will about the scale of Stallman’s legacy — but if you think he’s anything less than a folk hero, you are truly fooling yourself.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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