09.02.20

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It’s Time for RMS to Come Out of the Closet

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux at 9:04 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

On Not GNU
Mocking Assange in exile

Summary: Richard Stallman (RMS) is still quiet and it’s not helping software freedom one year after the ‘lynching’

No, not that closet; rms has in fact had more girlfriends than some people assume. I on the other hand, consider Lawrence Lessig marriage-material — from his brainy brain to his adorable beard. (I actually think he’s nearly the most attractive man alive).

Having spent years complaining about the FSF selling out (around the same time Debian did — this is a bigger problem than just the FSF, to be certain) I started a small organisation with a goal of lobbying and reforming the FSF to renew its commitment to both users and freedom. When I realised this was not possible, I disbanded it.

“I know what rms thinks of my position, he thinks that I am being too pessimistic. That’s understandable, I think he is being (rather uncharacteristically) too optimistic.”As a result of this (some might argue “ridiculous”) act, I learned more about the FSF than I ever thought I would. I (along with others) predicted the ousting of rms — but all that’s changed is thinking that the FSF could be reformed and that the problems were a result of excessive devotion to one person, when actually it was the precise opposite. The FSF has had problems for a long time.

I know what rms thinks of my position, he thinks that I am being too pessimistic. That’s understandable, I think he is being (rather uncharacteristically) too optimistic. He asked several people, including everybody really, to continue to support the FSF. And I really gave it my very best effort. But the FSF continued to betray both rms and us.

I think I know what’s going on now. For one, rms underestimates the scale of the coup. I believe he sees it as isolated incidents caused by a few troublemakers, the same way that Douglas Adams’ factory planet of Magrathea was commissioned to build Earth by “mice”. However, it is bizarre to conclude that these things must have happened at Debian, FSFE and the FSF both simultaneously and by sheer coincidence.

“For one, rms underestimates the scale of the coup. I believe he sees it as isolated incidents caused by a few troublemakers, the same way that Douglas Adams’ factory planet of Magrathea was commissioned to build Earth by “mice”.”Instead, the “few troublemakers” are actually “protrusions” into the Free Software world by corporate corruption on a broader scale — even Perens knows that. Mako Hill’s comment at LibrePlanet about Open Source reminds me of Eisenhower’s famous farewell address. Instead of a science-fiction world where the “mice” are actually a facet of interdimensional beings, we simply have manifestations of corruption from multinational corporations. It’s really nothing new at all, only the specific examples we face are new.

On the surface it sounds of course like a really grandiose claim. But harder to believe is that it could “happen here”, when we know Free Software is “the real thing” and unlike Open Source, would never corrupt itself this way.

But as wild a claim as it is on the face of it, believing that Free Software was ever 100% immune is even wilder. RMS himself is quoted as saying he doubted it would ever get as far as it did, so it is time to face the failures. They will never get fixed if we don’t (and that’s exactly that point).

If I thought nothing could be done, I would stop talking. I stopped lobbying the FSF when I decided nothing could be saved there. The only thing I still advocate trying to salvage is the GNU Project, and Stallman’s legacy.

“The only thing I still advocate trying to salvage is the GNU Project, and Stallman’s legacy.”Although I am against treating him as a has-been (it is chiefly in the interest of Open Source to do so) his legacy is of both historical and symbolic importance to what we still do right now — and that’s why they’re attacking it — to hurt US. If you want to destroy Free Software as a movement, you strike at the root. That’s what they did.

Of greater relevance to this article than anything else, is the way that rms was lied to by lots of people he considered friends and confidants — a reality he was ultimately made aware of. Given the number of people who lied, it is possible some people he still calls friends attacked some people he now thinks of as betrayers, due to some of the traitors “poisoning the well” for those defending him. This is definitely not a defence of anybody in particular.

I’m not trying to make it sound more complicated than it is — but it is at least possible that one or two key allies were actually cut off from rms by someone pretending to protect him. This isn’t a hint that I know of that happening. It is only a possibility, but I have no examples of this (not even ones I won’t name).

But either way, I think rms underestimates the scope of the coup and the betrayal. I do of course think there are still people who care about Free Software and rms, obviously — but many of them also underestimate the scope of this, because they are focused primarily on what happened inside the FSF. The best reason to think it is bigger than that is to look at what happened outside it.

“But either way, I think rms underestimates the scope of the coup and the betrayal. I do of course think there are still people who care about Free Software and rms, obviously — but many of them also underestimate the scope of this, because they are focused primarily on what happened inside the FSF. The best reason to think it is bigger than that is to look at what happened outside it.”I sympathise with the situation rms is in. After he was attacked by his own organisation and some treacherous volunteers and/or staff, here are the things he has to figure out what to do about:

1. I think he would (very naturally) like someone who represents Free Software properly and sincerely to represent the FSF.

2. I think we all would like the GNU Project to remain viable. I personally think it is more important than the FSF itself.

3. The FSF holds copyright, officially maintains the FSD, and can create policies (if left in the wrong hands) to do to rms what Debian has done to Daniel Pocock, trying to get between rms and the rest of the community. I think 1 & 2 are more prominent issues, but this is worth mentioning. (You could argue this has happened already).

I can’t know for certain if the people in charge now really intend to help rms, but I know that he was lied to already. He was lied to before and during the coup. It’s possible he is being lied to now, as a carrot for him to go along with things that he normally wouldn’t:

“This is temporary…”

“When people are desperate, organisations will at times work with an attitude that they can do no wrong.”That is a classic lie used to manipulate people who stay on the right side of something: just be patient, this will all get sorted out.

Sometimes it isn’t true, and is used as a stalling tactic to allow for continued corruption.

I think this is more likely than the FSF coming back. If we imagine any kind of promise being made to rms for his silence, it is almost certainly a promise that can’t be made. We don’t have to question the honesty of the people making these promises directly then — only the ability of anybody to make such promises.

I’ve heard lies about the capabilities and lack thereof with regards to the organisation before. These are things that anybody could look up for themselves (such as whether or not something can be said without putting the mission statement and organsiational status in jeopardy) but they were used as excuses before.

The people who fell for those lies could be innocent, but such lies were used to convince rms to step down in the first place.

I’ve actually read in detail about people who lost their own families due to such lies about official policy. Someone would call an organisation about a problem and would be told (incorrectly) that they were required to take certain actions, or they would end up in court. In fact, taking those actions created entirely new problems, leading to the person calling for advice to end up separated from their family.

“Plea deals are used to coerce people who happen to be innocent…”I do not think it is any stretch to say that this is the real reason rms is no longer the president or on the board — I’m very fairly confident of it. So promising him some return if he plays his cards right sounds like a similar, and very dubious lie to manipulate him and get his cooperation.

I’ve volunteered with both the homeless and the mentally ill. Drugs and alcohol sometimes get people into cycles of trouble that they can’t find their way out of. I’ve seen people turn their lives around too, but it’s given me many glimpses into the ugly side of “assistance” and help from well-meaning volunteers and organisations. I’m really not against the fact that organisations exist, but it is important to know that they come with their own pitfalls, and sometimes make things even worse.

When people are desperate, organisations will at times work with an attitude that they can do no wrong. After all, some think they are the only chance that a person will get, and they should just be grateful under any circumstances. Organisations that operate with that attitude certainly should not exist.

But given the situations of some of these people, they will find themselves in various kinds of trouble, including legal. Plea deals are used to coerce people who happen to be innocent (there are plenty of guilty people too, but they’re guilty people who have a chance to turn around for themselves and to be there for their families — and this also happens to people who were in fact innocent) to take the fall, in return for promises that are not always kept.

“As a matter of principle, censoring the founder of a movement for strategic (and allegedly sympathetic) purposes is no better than censoring him out of spite, betrayal or mutiny. RMS should be able to speak!”I think rms could easily be the victim (metaphorically) of such a deal — not based on his guilt, but based on his stature with the organisation.

So they will keep him silent (while Bruce Perens — yes, at least it’s someone! talks about problems that rms should be speaking about Right Now) but the FSF remains in damage control mode an entire year later; give or take a week or two.

I said YEARS AGO that the FSF was failing, but now it is stuck in that position. Just a little while longer, Chief, and you’ll be back where it counts.

C’MON! Fool him once, shame on you… Fool him — “you can’t get fooled again.” (Why not go with the Bush version? It almost sounds like The Who…)

People that assume this is just about my experience or instincts are missing a more important point — for me, this is a matter of principle.

“This is an organisation that just one year ago, was censoring its own supporters on the mailing lists. It still censors its founder — this is NOT how you fight for freedom.”Yes, it is important to freedom that we not ignore the long-term benefits of a choice for the short-term benefits of the alternative. But it’s not acceptable to abandon the mission (or ask rms to abandon the mission) now, for the promise of being able to speak later. As a matter of principle, censoring the founder of a movement for strategic (and allegedly sympathetic) purposes is no better than censoring him out of spite, betrayal or mutiny. RMS should be able to speak!

This is an organisation that just one year ago, was censoring its own supporters on the mailing lists. It still censors its founder — this is NOT how you fight for freedom.

Note that we were saying less than a month prior to his cancellation that “Free speech [is the] basis for Free software”. You aren’t fighting for MY freedom while rms goes censored!

But it’s also quite relevant that this scheme has every hallmark of a lie. It is a plea deal, a ruse, designed to keep rms quiet when it is most important for him to speak up.

Even if it’s not, it has that exact effect.

So whatever the real intentions of those involved are, to me this just like the coup continuing to do what it does — silence freedom, silence rms and keep his supporters hushed while we promise to fight for your freedom REAL SOON NOW.

Bullshit, it’s as good as a lie.

The title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to South Park teasing Tom Cruise by insisting he “come out of the closet”, but for me Tom Cruise’s preferences (I’m mostly certain the allegations regarding his sexuality were fake and media manufactured, actually) are not important — coming “out of the closet” to talk about organisational problems is what matters here.

The bottom line here: rms is still the founder of this movement, and rather than keeping him quiet (probably as a ruse) in his older years, he should be speaking on behalf of users and freedom — just like he always has.

And the FSF should know better, but of course it only pretends to care about your freedom — and the freedom of rms.

RMS has been defended by the former head of the ACLU, as well as book authors, software authors, Techrights, and others. The comments Perens made one year ago about rms are part of the reason I don’t trust him now, though I will say that some of the things he’s said lately are very noteworthy and I agree many are worth commenting on. Some are even worth considering.

The FSF’s “strategic” reasons for convincing rms to step down were lies. The “strategic” reasons for convincing him to stay down are also lies. And they aren’t just lying to one person, they’re lying to the entire world.

Stop the lies, get rms out of the closet, and let the man speak. If you’re afraid of him talking, you’re cowards — and you’re on the wrong side of freedom. Cowards don’t fight for us. They make lousy decisions and are swayed easily by liars.

And it’s as safe for rms (and Free Software) now as it will ever be. As with the Constitution and the PAT-RIOT Act, the worst thing that could happen is that we give up what really matters, due to what we fear could happen if we don’t.

The FSF is still selling him (us) out — and if they don’t know that, then they’re fooling themselves. They’re not fooling us.

We don’t get to keep rms forever — the last thing we should be doing is playing along while the same FSF that stifled him under FALSE pretenses insists that the right thing to do is continue along those same ridiculous lines. This is still a fraudulent imposed retirement, only now with icing on top.

We need more Stallmans as well — but either way, Silencing activists is NOT what people who care about freedom DO. If rms isn’t speaking up for your freedom, then the FSF isn’t either. The new de facto FSF policy hasn’t changed in a year — it’s nothing more than “Exile-in-place” (c/f Julian Assange). “Freedom” can do better than that, and the FSF could too, if it still cared about freedom.

If they won’t do it for rms, why won’t they do it for us? We don’t matter, so they’ll lie to us, too. “This is temporary…” Yeah, so when does it sunset, assholes?

Fool me — you can’t get fooled again!

Free rms, Free Assange, and Happy Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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