10.01.19

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Guest Post: What Stallman Wants

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 4:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By figosdev

Please stay on path

Summary: “Don’t forget, we are trying to keep something important alive.”

If you know me, you will often find me critiquing the FSF or talking about how to create alternatives in the event of a catastrophe. I still think those are good things.

Richard Stallman has asked several people to make a case for joining, or not leaving the FSF; I have agreed to do so. I am mostly addressing those contemplating leaving in protest. For those who might think of joining, some of these points may also apply and I invite you to consider them as part of your decision.

First off, I can’t tell you what to do with your time or your money. That’s up to you of course. I can’t make you read this article or consider its points either. My job is to urge you to consider the points made here, I really can’t do more about it than that.

“We are against the sort of witchhunt that happened.”For those who have already left — particularly those who are leaving the FSF because they feel as I do, that Stallman was wronged — I understand. I’m angry too.

Those who can’t understand why we are upset for Stallman, I have very little to say to you right now. We are against the sort of witchhunt that happened. This entire circular argument that we can’t talk about why someone isn’t guilty, first requires us to assume they are guilty. It is a loaded argument that goes against every concept of justice fought for over several centuries, to forbid such discussion or make it taboo to make (or even attempt) the same arguments that a lawyer would in court. When exactly did that become a special right only for lawyers, anyway?

This is particularly true when specific accusations are made that are problematic in certain detail or in their overall nature. I suppose there are many people these days who really believe they are going to start widespread inquisitions that demand everyone face their accusers while bound, gagged and unrepresented — but that’s not how we are supposed to do things in the western world, the free world, or in any semblance of a just civilisation where people have rights.

“I suppose there are many people these days who really believe they are going to start widespread inquisitions that demand everyone face their accusers while bound, gagged and unrepresented — but that’s not how we are supposed to do things in the western world, the free world, or in any semblance of a just civilisation where people have rights.”If we cannot speak in Stallman’s defense, then there is no purpose for justice at all. Truth is a prerequisite of justice. Honest discussions, not one-sided arguments that make unconditional demands for their own premise, are a prerequisite of truth — and they happen to be part of a very clearly established human right. It’s astonishing and even Machiavellian that anybody would argue against this.

Others are moving the bar, saying that it doesn’t matter if Stallman’s words were twisted — because the untwisted words are “bad enough.” They make it clear that no matter how dishonest the attacks on him were, that he isn’t going to be left alone until a justification is found for what’s already been done to him.

There is plenty of time to talk about why witchhunts are the precise opposite of justice. But what about those of you who are already eager to help Stallman?

“There is plenty of time to talk about why witchhunts are the precise opposite of justice.”The silence of the FSF has upset me too, I’ve even called for people to protest their lack of message about several important issues by boycotting before. If you’re leaving now, I can’t blame you for anything I haven’t called for in the past. If I thought it was the best thing to do right now, or in the future, I would call for it again. So I can really only argue about whether it’s the best thing to do at the present time.

Of obvious note is Stallman’s actual request. You may have seen this already, particularly if you emailed him yourself:

I wasn’t forced. Based on the way the FSF was being attacked by people outside, I agreed I needed to resign. Blame them, not the board.

I appreciate your moral support. What is needed now is to convince the FSF to stick with the principles I set and avoid harmful changes.

Would you like to help out in a practical way?

1. If you support the Free Software Foundation’s work, you could (1) join as an associate member and (2) tell the organization that you want it to stay true to the way I have led it. See fsf.org.

If you can’t afford to join, you could still state your views to the FSF. I suggest keeping it short!

2. You could speak up in mailing lists and discussions (don’t bother with Twitter), to inform people that the articles misrepresented my views, then demonstrate that by showing what I really said.

Either one, or both, could make a difference. So thank you for whatever you do.

Like many people, I prefer to avoid quoting private emails, though other people have already quoted this information and I feel comfortable doing that here.

This is definitely the difficult part to believe:

I wasn’t forced. Based on the way the FSF was being attacked by people outside, I agreed I needed to resign. Blame them, not the board.

We’ve heard rumours. We’ve watched a lot of things happen. I’m not encouraging anybody to give up an investigation into what happened — I’m entirely in favour of that. People are trying to change history, not in a good way, and the best time to start paying attention to what’s going on is right now. By all means, keep watching.

What you do with the information you find is important as well. When Stallman first said he wasn’t forced out by the board, I didn’t believe that. I wanted to — I didn’t think he would lie, but he’s mistaken, obviously — right?

“He still insists that it wasn’t the FSF at fault, and I’m really starting to believe that.”It’s not easy to trust anybody, even those we are defending, when this many unfortunate and shocking things have happened. So intellectually, I believed Stallman. Emotionally, I was not very strongly moved at first. “Okay, I’ll try,” but it’s not going to be easy for me. I’ve even included this in some of the things I’ve said about it already. I’m saying it again right now.

What’s changing is I’m still looking, I’m coming around to really believing him, while his request has not changed. He still insists that it wasn’t the FSF at fault, and I’m really starting to believe that. I could still be wrong. But I believe enough to keep advocating that members remain members. That is what I really believe is the best thing to do right now.

I honestly don’t care if you agree. If you don’t, I’m not saying you should be hounded or argued with. Sure I would still try to make the point for other people, but your money and time is yours.

“A lot of us are angry — I’m still angry. We want to know who is responsible for these attacks.”For everybody else, I don’t think it’s a good time to go. It’s not what Stallman wants, and at this time I really don’t believe there is a good reason to leave. If you are considering leaving the FSF, I only ask that you really consider staying first. Consider again what Stallman wants, if you are doing this for him.

If you can’t be convinced — I think the most suspicious thing going on right now is the website problem on stallman.org. There is a rumour now that someone at the FSF is responsible. I don’t have any information about that, others might — I do think the speculation is getting more over the top than is probably useful.

Probably. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be speculation, at least one person ought to consider the wildest most exotic possibilities I guess, but I feel if and when we get to the bottom of that, it’s going to prove to be on the more mundane side of things.

If you don’t believe the wording that it’s “an error” I don’t either. I mentioned this to Stallman as a point that people might feel particularly restless about.

It’s possible that he doesn’t want to tip off what he knows for strategic reasons (this is speculation on my part, I’m just throwing that out there) and I want answers just like you do. A lot of us are angry — I’m still angry. We want to know who is responsible for these attacks.

“Let’s not, if we can help it, let that emotion override our patience in getting to the (actual) truth about this.”I will gladly quote balduin’s recent post on this topic, where he says:

“The practice of emotion-before-thinking is the reason why RMS resigned at the end.”

Personally, I believe that emotion and logic work together to help us find truth and meaning. There is a time for emotion and you’re not alone in feeling betrayed — many of us do. Let’s not, if we can help it, let that emotion override our patience in getting to the (actual) truth about this. I want answers right now. I am routinely demanding them, and I know I’m not the only person who wants them immediately.

You are certainly free to continue to make those demands. It is not Stallman’s wish, nor my advice, that you attach those demands to your membership at this time.

I think all you will achieve by leaving now is reducing the ratio there, of people who care about Stallman to those who don’t.

“Don’t forget, we are trying to keep something important alive.”It is of course, still your choice to make. Part of what I’ve committed to at this time, is to try to keep as many people from leaving as possible. If you go, I hope people will have the good sense to be polite to you and show you every reason to come back as soon as possible.

Don’t forget, we are trying to keep something important alive.

Long live rms, and happy hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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