Bonum Certa Men Certa

Alexandre Oliva's Open Letter on Richard Stallman

Alexandre Oliva
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Summary: The person whom many consider to be the 'heir' of RMS responds to common accusations, which are sadly not based on actual facts

The other day, I sent email to a celebrated feminist leader in the FLOSS community, letting her know about some good news I'd just come across that I thought would be of her interest, and congratulating her for some of her accomplishments. My email signature, pointing to, caught her attention, and she mentioned her disagreement with it in her kind and respectful response. I thought a lot about how to respond, and I've finally sent her the following response.

I'm sorry it seems to have been the most relevant part of my email to you. I almost took it out, suspecting you might differ and be offended, but I ended up leaving it there because I didn't think you deserved dishonesty from me. This has been in my signature in emails I've sent out since May 3rd, and removing it didn't feel honest.

I've been close to RMS for over 25 years. I, my wife and my daughter have hosted him a number of times, and arranged for others to host him a larger number of times. People who admire him, and people who hardly knew him. He was never easy to deal with, he's persistent and often obsessed about issues that catch his attention. But harassment?

Harassment, to me, is ganging up on someone in a hate letter to bring them down. A hate letter that attempts to disguise its actual motivations by resorting to a bunch of shocking but false accusations, exaggerations and misrepresentations.

As for the experiences and reports you got... An FSF board committee whose members AFAICT all wanted RMS out investigated reports about RMS for over two years, before and after RMS resigned, and despite all the second-hand rumors, they could never get to any concrete findings. I have independently investigated various claims and invariably came to dead ends. Given how many false reports and ad hominem attacks on Free Software he's been targeted with, it wasn't at all unthinkable to conclude that this was yet another character assassination attack without substance.

He, clumsy, obsessive, meltdown-prone and sometimes harsh, as our shared condition makes us, has always been an easy target for this kind of discrimination. Besides, the movement he started and leads threatens various powerful monopolies, which makes him more of a target of such attacks. It's easy and disappointing to see how his supposed offenses don't seem to motivate action when committed by actual celebrities who work for the corporate forces who lead and who are served by the attacks on him.

Of course none of this proves him innocent, but that's what's suggested by the absence of credible evidence and the exclusivity of dead-end second-hand hearsay and fabrications. In case the people you know personally who have alleged harassment by RMS would like to report it to me, my opinion may change, and if they're willing, I may pass it on to the FSF board. But, so far, what I've seen has been limited to false and dehumanizing allegations to support the discrimination of a person who fights for freedom and justice untiringly, without regard for much else, and with some traits that are hard for neurotypicals to understand or like.

I'm disappointed that someone like you, who purports to fight for justice and against discrimination, would join the beating up, let alone to label him a celebrity to further dehumanize him. But then, I have only my experiences to go by, not yours, and certainly not the reports you heard and chose to believe. Not knowing what they are, I can't tell whether they justify mistreating him.

I can, howvever, tell that nothing justifies lying in false and exaggerated accusations: if the facts are not shocking enough to support that amount of mistreatment, fabricating alternative facts to carry it out doesn't make them so. It rather makes the attack itself unjustified, disproportional and dishonest.

Subscribing ot the letter might be understandable in the height of emotions, but refraining from revoking the signature once it becomes clear that it's no more than a collection of lies speaks a lot more about the moral alignment of the subscriber than about that of the target of the hate letter.

I hope these words and facts will find ressonance in your conscience and bring you to align your behavior with the rightful pursuit of justice and fight against the various forms of discrimination. Undoing the injustice you've been part of would be a long-overdue first step, even if other unrelated reasons remain to seek and pursue justice for or against this one person.

Happy holidays, and keep up the fights for good,

-- Alexandre Oliva, happy hacker Free Software Activist GNU Toolchain Engineer Disinformation flourishes because many people care deeply about injustice but very few check the facts. Ask me about

So blong

Copyright 2007-2021 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 or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.

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