02.26.20

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Alexandre Oliva: Courage is Contagious

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 3:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Original blog post by the FSF's interim co-president

Previously:

Those who have been reading the daily inStallmants of the FSF Odyssey may be wondering why I’m doing all this.

Having a proposal rejected at a conference is nothing unusual, but the surrounding circumstances and the conflicting versions are. Overcoming the ongoing communication difficulties is far more important than a conference speech.

As for any imaginary concerns about secrets I might (but had no plans to) expose at LibrePlanet, given an opportunity to address the public or not, I figured that by publishing facts that I experienced not under the board’s confidentiality policy, I could alleviate any such concerns, while complying with my obligations and duties.

Now, if I write “I’m told X”, the fact is that I was told so; it might turn out that X is false, another symptom of our communication difficulties. I acknowledge some of the facts seem quite damning. I believe that makes it more, not less important to bring them to light: actual science is built through public debate, not obscurity. Free Software supporters understand that.

I’ve also been moved by loyalty to my friend. He had to leave one of his children under someone else’s care. He entrusted me with that responsibility, and I don’t intend to fail him. Besides, the FSF needs his support: many have joined or renewed FSF membership because he asked them, despite their suspicions on the FSF. That’s how much he’s trusted and supported. If he withdraws his support, it won’t take long for the FSF to find itself in dire straits. Betraying RMS is a losing strategy for the FSF.

Caring deeply about Free Software and software freedom for all, I wish the FSF to remain loyal also to these goals, and I think it has largely done so, despite the slips on the free speech building block. Should the organization ever find itself in dire straits due to lack of community support, it would likely turn to corporate donors, or others who do not share its values. An FSF hostage of this kind of investment would not be one that could bring about the very social changes it was built for.

The FSF must therefore remain both loyal to and trusted by RMS and by the community that has always supported him and the values we share. Even if “it’s not a coup”, the FSF’s cautious silence and decisions influenced by fear are undermining that trust and limiting our potential to advance our mission.

I have long believed and insisted that the fear was exaggerated, that we had to conquer it because ceding the ground for fear has been self-defeating. RMS and the FSF are not expendable, though, so we couldn’t risk testing my theory with them; I, on the other hand, am expendable, despite being told I’m perceived as a voice of the FSF.

I could thus confirm, to myself and to the FSF, that my speaking in favor of Richard would not bring about any reaction much different from anything we’ve faced and overcome before, and that is to be expected of our long-time opponents. My duties to Richard, to the movement and to the organization compelled me to take that chance.

For days, I have been very outspoken in favor of Richard, and there has not been any of the feared instant nightmarish reaction. Given internal reactions, it’s not believable that outsiders wouldn’t have known about it. The silence was predictable: who’d promote the exposure of their own secret plot?

Then I showed an earlier draft of this post, to reassure concerned insiders (Honest! I’m not that smart and cunning; I rather tend to trust too much!). In it, I explained how the lack of response thus far “proved” the fears were unfounded, and how this very post (as in that draft) would trigger a certain reaction. Boom! It didn’t take long for my internal sharing to precipitate the predicted public reaction, from within the very cluster that jointly moved most quickly to oust Richard, with the same tired tactics of twisting facts into outrageous lies known to spread like fire without any checking. Predictable much?

Since I’m expendable, if my plan fails, the FSF can just get rid of me and move on without consequence; even if it works, we might choose to do so, though probably not so soon as to, erhm, dispell the notion that it’s not a coup.

Meanwhile, voice of the FSF or not, if I can stand for Richard as I have, especially over the past few days, with reactions that match my predictions, the FSF might as well learn to take my advice, and break free along with everyone else who was previously scared into silence. Courage is contagious, I’m (not) afraid.

So blong…


Copyright 2007-2020 Alexandre Oliva

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this entire document worldwide without royalty, provided the copyright notice, the document’s official URL, and this permission notice are preserved.

The following licensing terms also apply to all documents and postings in this blog that don’t contain a copyright notice of their own, or that contain a notice equivalent to the one above, and whose copyright can be reasonably assumed to be held by Alexandre Oliva.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons License BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) 3.0 Unported. To see a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.

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