Gemini version of this post
I have decided I won’t keep lying to myself, nor I will cancel myself because of people whose respect I will probably lose after writing this. Remember I said I supported him but thought he should resign? Guess what? It was bullshit, I was lying to myself and to everyone.
I dare to say I sincerely support Richard M. Stallman, the Free Software Foundation and the Free Software movement. I support his position on the FSF and GNU. I won’t keep my mouth shut only to please people, what I say I will always try to keep it consistent with my real personal mission, vision and values.
I believe the main reason why a lot of people are supporting the hate campaign is because of the context that has been presented to them for years, instead of the actual facts. The claims of the hate letter are inaccurate, product of intentional mischaracterizations and quotes taken out of context, by people who want him removed for strategic reasons.
My intention is not to downplay the impact this whole thing has had on people who constantly suffer abuse and discrimination at first hand. I believe they are the only ones entitled to talk about how certain actions can affect them. That’s why, in the following sections, I will include testimonies from people who belong to the “affected” minorities or groups, and have worked closely with RMS for years or even decades. I will also do especial emphasis on the real intentions behind RMS' actions, and the real actions as well.
It is so unfortunate and disappointing how a person can do a lot for the people, but as soon as they says or does something slightly off, a small group (mob) of “important” people take it as an opportunity to spread FUD about that person in order to disparage them; and when everyone believes it, people put the responsibility onto that person and say they has caused them harm. Meanwhile, the person turns into a “criminal” and the mob and all its members turn into “heroes”. The real harm was done by the mob creating the illusion, not by the victim who has been taken out of context by it.
The letter and the mob
I’m deeply against misogyny, ableism, racism, transphobia, homophobia; and irrational hate in all its forms. My life goals include loving and respecting marginalised people, and fighting for them… including Richard Stallman, who is absolutely not a “misogynist, ableist, and transphobic” and is being badly and unjustifiably attacked, defamed and vilified.
Richard Stallman is not what the mob is trying to make him look like. The people who wrote that letter deserve to apologise and resign from their positions, because what they did was extremely immoral, cruel, unfair and disrespectful. I’ve lost all my respect towards them. If what they wanted was RMS off the FSF, there are better ways.
You need to know this: Richard Stallman is not our enemy. He does not deserve any of that hate. Those who are defaming him do. A lot of the people who wrote and signed that letter are not even friends of the Free Software movement: they believe in exploiting people’s work for free, for their own capitalist and evil interests, and stubborn people fighting for people’s rights represent a threat for their aims. Yes, I’m talking about Open Source®.
I’m not saying I hate all those 3,000+ people who signed it, because I don’t—a lot of them probably didn’t even read the letter, were fooled by it, or simply wanted to be part of something—, but they should probably read the actual facts and reconsider their position.
Richard M. Stallman
The man in question fights for everyone’s rights and respects everyone. He has done bad things and said or written stupid things, sure, who hasn’t? But most of what the mob is seriously accusing him of, are nothing but intentional mischaracterizations facilitated by his lack of social skills and obsession with terminological correctness. He has apologised several times, he has changed a lot of his ways and learned from his mistakes. He’s not perfect, but who is?
He denies being autistic, but has a lot of important traits. He says things that may offend people, but not INTENTIONALLY. His social skills are broken, but he strives to improve them. He says things in a very direct manner, shouldn’t we all? He gets obsessed over minor details, but that’s also an important trait of ASD (autism spectrum disorder). What’s with all those claiming to respect neurodivergence while also completely ignoring the struggles of an autistic person?
One could say that a person with such “disabilities” is not suitable for a leadership position (I used to think that way too), but I believe honesty, commitment and congruency are a lot more preferrable in leadership over the public relations (PR) jargon (e.g. “We at Facebook give you control of your privacy”) that companies commonly use to fake empathy, mislead people, deny wrongdoing and avoid criticism.
Pedophilia and child abuse defender?
No. Those accusations are what caused RMS to resign from the FSF in 2019. Media started saying that he defended pedophilia, child abuse and Jeffrey Epstein; when in reality, he called him a “serial rapist”. He strongly condemned child abuse and encouraged punishment for abusers. Here are some excellent explanations:
- Claim #1 - Stallman Defended Epstein
- Claim #2 - Stallman said that Epstein’s victims were “entirely willing”
- Claim #3 - Richard Stallman defended sexual assault
- Claim #4 - Richard Stallman defends pedophiles and pedophilia
He has occasionally made women feel uncomfortable, and that’s absolutely bad; but I don’t necessarily blame him. Again, he has a very poor understanding of social cues and some of his remarks have been badly misunderstood, but he has apologised and made it clear it was not his intention to make women feel that way. If you ask a lot of women who have worked with him for years, they will tell you the opposite of what could be called misogyny:
- Nadine Strossen and Hannah Wolfman-Jones Rebut Accusations Against Stallman and Choose Him as Coauthor
- Richard Stallman Is Vilified by Those Who Don’t Know Him, Says Sylvia Paull
- Renata Avila: Trying to Understand the Lynching of Stallman
- Letter of Support for Richard Stallman - Doing Better in Community.
Of course, the mob didn’t include any of these testimonies, because they don’t fit with their narrative.
He once wrote about Down’s syndrome:
A new noninvasive test for Down’s syndrome will eliminate the small risk of the current test.
This might lead more women to get tested, and abort fetuses that have Down’s syndrome. Let’s hope so!
If you’d like to love and care for a pet that doesn’t have normal human mental capacity, don’t create a handicapped human being to be your pet. Get a dog or a parrot. It will appreciate your love, and it will never feel bad for being less capable than normal humans.
His point was not that people with Down’s syndrome should not exist or should be annihilated, discriminated or something, but rather that fetuses with that condition should be aborted because it is immoral to bring people to the world without having normal human mental capacity and a lot of health problems. And that’s understandable, who wants their children to suffer for the rest of their lives? What about the suffering of the parent(s)? Down’s syndrome is not just mental impairment, but it is also associated with the following things, in case you didn’t know:
Heart defects. Nearly half of them have congenital heart desease (CHD).
Vision problems. More than half of them have vision problems, such as cataracts.
Hearing loss. Up to three-quarters of them suffer from it.
Infections. Much more likely to die from untreated and unmonitored infections than other people.
Hypothyroidism. Occurs more on them than other people. Thyroid gland regulates a lot of bodily processes.
Hypotonia (poor muscle tone). Delays in muscle movements and low strength. Some find it difficult to eat and need to be fed from a bottle and given suppliments.
Problems with the upper part of the spine. Risk of injury when bones press on the spinal cord.
Disrupted sleep patterns and sleep disorders. Many of them often have obstructive sleep apnea.
Dementia. Almost all of them die with dementia and Alzheimer.
Epilepsy. Children with Down syndrome are more likely to have epilepsy.
Digestive problems. Digestive problems range from structural defects in the digestive system or its organs, to problems digesting certain types of foods or food ingredients.
And a lot more.
I personally wouldn’t like that for my children. Sure, it’s not the best way to say it; but he actually acknowledged it and corrected it:
A noninvasive test for Down’s syndrome eliminates the small risk of the old test. This might lead more women to get tested, and abort fetuses that have Down’s syndrome.
According to Wikipedia, Down’s syndrome is a combination of many kinds of medical misfortune. Thus, when carrying a fetus that is likely to have Down’s syndrome, I think the right course of action for the woman is to terminate the pregnancy.
That choice does right by the potential children that would otherwise likely be born with grave medical problems and disabilities. As humans, they are entitled to the capacity that is normal for human beings. I don’t advocate making rules about the matter, but I think that doing right by your children includes not intentionally starting them out with less than that.
When children with Down’s syndrome are born, that’s a different situation. They are human beings and I think they deserve the best possible care.
That’s much, much better. His point is clearer now. Unless you’re a pro-life advocate against women’s rights, you shouldn’t have a problem with that. What’s wrong with aborting a fetus that would otherwise suffer their entire life? Sure, whether aborting or not that’s decision of the parent(s), but I wouldn’t say it is immoral at all. He even says that if people with Down’s syndrome are born, “they deserve the best possible care”. What’s ableist about that?
Of course, the mob didn’t include that last statement, because it doesn’t fit with their narrative.
RMS has not spent years on a campaign “against using people’s correct pronouns”. It is not “poorly disguised transphobia”. If you read his entire post about it, you will notice that, sure, he said a lot of idiotic stuff I don’t agree with. But the article is not transphobic IN INTENTION at all.
He argues that using singular they pronouns is confusing because they can be misinterpreted as plural and “do not fit naturally into English”. He proposes some weird alternative gender-neutral pronouns (person/per/pers) to refer to non-binary people, and says we have no moral obligation to use people’s preferred pronouns (WHICH I ABSOLUTELY DISAGREE WITH, OF COURSE WE DO).
There are those who claim that we have an obligation to refer to someone using whatever pronouns person might choose. I disagree with that position, on grounds of principle and grounds of practice. I think we should respect other people’s gender identification, but which pronouns we use for any particular gender identification is a separate matter — a matter of grammar. We do not owe it to anyone to change our grammar according to per wishes.
As you can see, he explicitly states that we should respect people’s gender identification, although he argues that pronouns are a separate thing, a matter of grammar. He’s not TRYING to be transphobic, but rather to be grammatically correct (according to himself).
I respect a person’s choice of gender identification by using the pronouns and words that go with it. “Person” (or “perse”), “per”, and “pers” are gender-neutral; they respect any gender identification, just as completely as singular “they” would do. I would not presume to dictate to other people what pronouns they should use in their speech, but we can all state our preferences and the reasons behind them.
As for “they”, if you are plural by nature — for instance, if you are a colonial organism or a group mind, or if you wish to be known for having multiple personalities — I will use that plural pronoun to refer to you.
See? He defends gender identity. He even acknowledges plurality! He does not intend to dictate it to others (which invalidates the whole “campaign” thing). And although he wrote that he refuses to use people’s preferred pronouns, in real life HE DOES RESPECT THEM, according to Leah Rowe, a trans femme who leads the Libreboot project and worked closely with RMS.
Of course, the mob didn’t even include a link to RMS' article, because it doesn’t fit with their narrative.
The rest of the things?
If I keep refuting all the lies the letter said, I will never finish. So, instead, I will link you to a site with plenty of real evidence and people’s testimonies about him. I strongly suggest you to give it a read to its contents, especially the “Debunking False Accusations” section:
The last Free Software total devotee
Richard Stallman is probably the only person I know who is entirely consistent with his philosophy and principles. His core values have always remained intact and perfectly congruent with his actions. He will keep fighting for the same principles until his death, and not even death can stop him (?). The rest of the devotees were bought by Microsoft, IBM and other evil corporations, and distorted the Free Software movement to satisfy corporate interests and people exploitation. All surrendered to Big Tech in one way or another.
Those in the FSF board missed him so badly that they allowed him to return, because of his wisdom, humor and commitment with his ideals. People say all of them should resign; but they refuse to see the reasons why the man is crucial for the movement. If you were to put some OSI member on the board, the FSF would automatically belong to Microsoft and Big Tech, or would ignore or be unable to communicate the core values of Free Software as good as RMS does.
Richard Stallman is the person who made Free Software possible: he started the GNU project in 1983 and founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985. He convinced Linus Torvalds of releasing Linux under the GNU General Public License, so we could all benefit from a free operating system (GNU/Linux) that respects users and their freedoms. Were not for him, the decay of this world into a surveillance dystopia would be probably closer to complete.
The collapse of the Free Software movement
I dare to say that he’s the only person qualified for the job of leading and promoting the Free Software movement. As soon as he dies, the original Free Software movement will be gone. We’re doomed, and this whole witch-hunting didn’t help; it made things worse: it divided the movement and its community and now the most important players, the FSF and the GNU project, are losing people and supporters. If that was the goal of the mob, congrats, they’re doing a great job!
Okay, he’s probably not the only person qualified for the job and the Free Software movement isn’t doomed. But I would say that people as stubborn and committed as Stallman regarding tech ethics are extremely rare, others sometimes act in ways that put their intentions in doubt, don’t take it seriously enough or fail to communicate the important aspects and values.
What needs to change
There are a lot of ways in which Richard Stallman and the FSF can improve for the better of the movement, nobody is perfect, nothing is perfect; but we can all improve. Stallman and the FSF need to establish new priorities and quickly adapt to modernity, or they will become obsolete and die. Things change, and so we must. A better open letter would have addressed the problems instead of attacking a poor man and all of his supporters. Here’s a great article regarding the problems:
The Free Software movement definitely needs a more decentralized leadership, but we’re not there yet. Right now, creating hate campaigns will not do any favor to the movement whatsoever: it will split the community and destroy the movement. Creating an illusion that all those behind the movement are evil will delegitimize it and push people away a lot more than what the real words or actions of a single person could.
Attacking and defaming people is not the answer. Calling for the destruction of a whole organization because members supported a person they hate is not the answer, either. Creating a different organization because of disagreement with one is probably a better answer. Don’t go around attacking people! Don’t create new problems on top of the existing ones.