11.10.19

The Linux Foundation Brought as Keynote Speakers People Vastly Worse Than Those Whom It Now ‘Cancels’ for Purely Political Reasons

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux at 1:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Selective outrage, especially when that suits one’s political agenda

SJVN on Dan Lyons

Summary: A lot of people are very upset about the Linux Foundation’s alleged ‘witch-hunt’ and even press coverage has caught up with the outrage; but our position is that it distracts from vastly bigger Linux Foundation scandals

THE Jim Zemlin-led PAC has been under heavy fire for about four days. People didn’t seem to mind all the very major scandals of 'Jim the Great' (at selling out); but suddenly they found an ‘epic’ scandal (far less of a scandal than things we’ve covered throughout the year).

“This whole “Cancel Culture” thing has been mentioned a lot in relation to Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman. It’s a mixture of sanctions and public shaming.”I’ve had to think twice or thrice before writing about this for two main reasons: 1) any attempt to criticise the Linux Foundation (in this particular context) can be spun as ‘supporting’ Donald Trump and 2) we don’t know the full story/facts because it’s lost in a trail of ‘social control media’ noise and apparent witch-hunts, maybe bi-directional (accusations of racism have flown in both directions). Let’s be clear about something: This post is not political. My views on Donald Trump and those stupid “MAGA” hats are well documented online (a matter of public record). I’ve sort of decided to patiently wait until a journalist (or several) sorts out the chronology and underlying facts that can be derived from this ‘social control media’ mess (we try not to rely on "tweets" as "sources" as they often turn out to be false or 'semi-truths' due to concision or one-person bias emitted emotionally, in a hurry).

We think that this new article (published a few hours ago) highlights the key points, unless the author is intentionally dishonest and we have no reasons to doubt her motivations. Included in the article are key photos and screenshots as well. Here’s some context (who’s who):

If you were asked to name two things that make Linux different from any closed-source, proprietary solution out in the world today, those two surely would have to be: for one, Linux has won – as the internet’s and therefore, the world’s tech infrastructure, used by operating systems based on this free and open-source kernel.

And, two – however carefully the custodians of the Linux kernel, the Linux Foundation – that has some of the biggest tech companies among its platinum sponsors, anything from Google, Microsoft, Huawei, to Cisco and IMB – might work to “moderate” the Linux development space – it’s still a system by and large developed by free people expressing their thoughts and opinions freely.

There are, from time to time, controversies and soul-searching issues, but thankfully, they always take place not in some obscure conference room or secret internal communication channel. Free and open source is not only used, but also developed, and discussed, out in the open, for anyone to see.

However, should that hold true even when real-world politics wade in, and when the issue concerns the organization’s own code of conduct? That’s an exceedingly interesting dilemma for anyone invested in the Linux ecosystem, and one now posed by programmer Robert Martin, one of the Agile Manifesto authors, who published a letter on his blog addressed to Linux Foundation’s figurehead Jim Zemlin, and other high-ranking representatives of the organization.

In it, Martin asks why the Foundation decided to act on a tweet denouncing KubeCon – a conference dedicated to a leading open-source containers system – for allowing programmer Charles Max Wood (@cmaxw) to participate. The complaint had not to do with Wood’s professional history, but with his political persuasion.

[...]

Could this possibly be enough to exclude a software engineer from an industry event? According to the Linux Foundation, the answer is yes. A tweet confirming this mentions such things as “code of conduct” and “safe spaces.”

This whole “Cancel Culture” thing has been mentioned a lot in relation to Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman. It’s a mixture of sanctions and public shaming. The Foundation did both because it tweeted about it. Was that tweet necessary? Is the Foundation a ‘speech tribunal’ now? Who made the judgment? Do appeal rights exist? That mere tweet took a minute to type, but it’s not so innocent or harmless. It can be very ruinous. A lot of people are upset about this. But the Foundation is rogue for a lot of reasons more important than the above. It’s a shame that media does not explore those reasons as much as we have.

There’s another lesser-explored issue with the above incident. Jim Zemlin/Foundation invited anti-Linux provocateurs like Dan Lyons, who supported SCO‘s libel against Linux. It invited him to give a keynote speech. Understandably, at the time, this caused some controversy if not uproar. Why would the Foundation reward anti-Linux people if this foundation uses “Linux” as its name? SJVN was among the ‘targets’ of Lyons; He told me (as I recall it) that Zemlin had apologised to him, but only when it was too late (Lyons giving his talk, distorting his record; here’s a piece from Linux.com, akin to “Microsoft loves Linux”).

“Thought-policing is a dangerous concept for a lot of reasons. It’s often not necessary either.”There were non-political reasons — possibly even technical — to shun Lyons.

There’s another profound issue with what the Foundation did. Neutrality is likely more important unless someone’s physical (not emotional) wellbeing is at risk. Thought-policing is a dangerous concept for a lot of reasons. It’s often not necessary either. The Foundation’s staff did not have to get involve in any of this feud; they could let accusations and public shaming (consequences for one’s speech) go on in the ‘noise machine’ which is ‘social control media’ without having to get involved or be ‘blackmailed’ into getting involved. And if they honestly cared about “safe spaces”, they wouldn’t have become a Microsoft 'proxy' (considering what Microsoft does with ICE, Pentagon and so on). To some people a “safe space” means literally a safe space, e.g. hospital where you don’t get bombed.

“Dear Linux Foundation,” I wrote to them some hours ago, “what other ‘wrong’ political opinions would the Foundation ban people for? Views on Kashmir? Palestine? Crimea? China? Hong Kong? Taiwan? What next? Who decides? A slippery slope. Will the Linux Foundation ban people for wearing a MODI hat like it does MAGA hats?”

“People who are upset at the Foundation for what it did some days ago ought to explore the much bigger scandals. There’s no lack of them.”Kashmir politics are also very divisive after all. Remember that Microsoft propagandists wanted Stallman 'cancelled' for not liking Netanyahu/Likkud policies in Israel. Do they want to forbid political speech altogether? Even if such speech or such views are expressed well outside the context or platforms of technical projects?

This “Cancel Culture” scandal (Stallman used this term) is just the edge of a much, much bigger iceberg. People who are upset at the Foundation for what it did some days ago ought to explore the much bigger scandals. There’s no lack of them. By the way, the Foundation continues to violate the terms of service of Twitter; it's selling "tweets".

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