06.17.20

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Free Software Will Need a Public Face Like RMS or It May Face Extinction

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 11:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Tear down the man first, the ideals he promoted will follow.”LWN comment

RMS page in 2020
Yesterday I spent over an hour browsing YouTube for Stallman videos more recent than his departures (MIT and FSF); it’s hard to find any at all (even prior to COVID-19 lock-downs and apparently his speaking engagements too are curtailed)

Summary: Richard Stallman (RMS), the founder of the FSF and GNU Project, has hardly been visible since mid-September/early October; “Open Source” continues to perish as well because “Open Source” nowadays refers more often than not to proprietary software with an openwashing marketing slant

Yesterday I came not even close and ended up almost empty-handed, having researched Stallman’s activity since what some Free software enthusiasts dub “Free software 9/11…” (notice when the media started its attacks on Stallman, twisting his words and distracting from the real MIT scandal)

“Seeing what I saw yesterday, which was actually rather depressing an experience (I hadn’t expected this negative outcome or low yield, results-wise), I am growing more worried about Free software as a concept and as a movement.”There were two things I wasn’t able to find: 1) good videos about what actually happened with Stallman at the time and 2) videos of Stallman made since then.

As the screenshot at the top shows, his talks are being canceled or postponed (for reasons other than himself) and months ago he told me he’d come again to the UK; but I cannot see any evidence that he did at the end.

Some right-wing-leaning “Media Action Network” posted this video about how the media had dealt with Stallman at the time. It’s the only video I was able to find that was marginally OK if one ignores the right-wing slant.

Maybe it’s premature and hasty a conclusion to reach, but it certainly does feel — and based on shallow (unscientific) evidence also seems — like he was ‘canceled’ to the point where his main activity (public speaking, speaking to television etc.) nearly came to a stop/halt. An FSF without a face or an effective, recognisable spokesperson won’t manage to attract supporters; maybe corporate ‘supporters’ (like “campaign contributions”), but not sponsors who pay out of their salaries. Seeing what I saw yesterday, which was actually rather depressing an experience (I hadn’t expected this negative outcome or low yield, results-wise), I am growing more worried about Free software as a concept and as a movement. Free software without a public voice would allow “Open Source” (nowadays just openwashing redefined) to take over the narrative entirely. I find solace in the fact that more blogs than ever before (that I read daily) nowadays say “Free software” (they mean libre, not gratis) rather than “Open Source” — I presume because they recognise “Open Source” became a junk term.

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