The raising of voices in conversation does not have a context
independent or culturally universal emotional valence. For
some it is normal and expected. For some it borders on a
Taking the complaint about RMS raising his voice at face
value: it borders on antisemitism. I don't mean that every
Jew communicates in the style of RMS (of course). Perhaps
we can step back and think about this complaint in that
Here is a story that might help: Long ago, in the very early
days of the FSF, I was an employee and there was more or less
one person handling most of the operational day to day
corporate business. One day, I had done something that
(understandably) pissed RMS off. You see: after a brief chat
with a board member other than RMS, I unilaterally decided to
work remotely. I packed up and moved several states away,
almost overnight, to be near my sweetheart (who is now my wife
- it's a very romantic story, in retrospect). I did not
notify RMS I was doing this. It upset him. He called and
yelled. I was very distressed by this - I didn't expect it at
all. I sought and received consel -- very good consel -- from
that woman who was running the day to day business. "Just
hang up on him if he gets like that," she advised. Later I
understood this could be generalized: walk away, if need be.
One can also really productively engage, sometimes, also, just
by yelling back if you have something relevant and coherent to
say. As an older person now, I realize that part of RMS'
reputation comes from him being actually a better and more
dynamic conversationalist than most people have ever met --
and yes, that can be hard to come to grip with at first.
This doesn't mean that RMS or anyone has free reign to be a
constant holy terror, always screaming and yelling, but that
is not what I ever saw RMS do and is not what any of the
complainers have said he does. Raised voices among
friends and allies typify some cultural backgrounds --
including mine, ironically enough. It can, when in those
cultural contexts, a bit creepy if someone does not communicate
this way. One asks: what is that quiet person hiding from
Interruption is a similarly culturally variable communication
style. In some cultures I mix in, it is expected and is often
a sign of engagement with what one is saying - silence comes
off as rude / checked out. In other cultures, the opposite --
interruption is not allowed. In a multi-cultural world, we
should all be tolerant and flexible in our communication
styles. (RMS, meanwhile, is being made to do the limbo by
people who think they get to define the One True Civil
Converstation Style. Flexibility in style is a two-way
None of this means that people making complaints have invalid
feelings that should be ignored. Of course not. But it does
mean that the particular demands against RMS, and the
relentless character assassination, need to stop.
Lastly, neither Deb nor any of us is qualified to assess
whether or not a single person, RMS in this case,
"drives people away from the movement" on balance.
That's an incredibly arrogant assertion that centers
one own cultural expectations and projects them onto
an entire planet of people. Can we end the pointless
debate of such assertions once and for all?
On 2021-04-14 12:28, Deb Nicholson wrote:
I can't comment on the censored email that no one saw.
> It actually serves the opponents of free software quite well to
> someone who pushes people away and facilitates a hostile
> environment, be in charge of the FSF.
Quite opposite is true, RMS was never facilitating hostile
environment. FSF is not public, but privately founded non-profit,
founded by RMS, it is equal as his own, and legally he could, if he
would want, keep it totally under his control, but he did not, it is
gift to mankind.
The FSF is a public charity. It is bound by it's US tax status to
the public good, not a personal goal although of course there is
As for a hostile environment, I have witnessed repeated hostility
(bullying, ad hominem attacks, dog-piling, etc.) on the GNU mailing
lists. I have seen RMS shout at people at least a dozen times in
public. He inspires others to also interrupt and shout at people in
middle of their public presentations. Those are hostile acts. You may
say they are justified, but they are undeniably hostile.
That you come here with this perversion of truth without any facts or
evidences is disgrace.
I'm not "coming here." I've always been here. I'm a former FSF staff
person who built LibrePlanet into a multi-day event and helped set up
the LibrePlanet wiki and this list. You calling me a liar is a perfect
example of the hostility that I'm telling you pervades the FSF and GNU
> Also, RMS is not the free software movement.
RMS is the core and heart of the free software movement.
> It's dangerous to conflate an individual with a movement. To say
> that the "free software movement is being attacked" when what's
> actually happening is that a bunch of individuals are calling for
> one person to take responsibility for their behavior is a sloppy
This is just trolling. But censor will like your trolling, as that
why your message pass through.
More ad hominem. Ok.
> It's disappointing that so many people have chosen to disbelieve
> former FSF employees, hundreds of women who have encountered RMS
> conferences or MIT and many, many free software creators. The vast
> majority of the people who signed the letter asking for RMS to
> down, care deeply about free software. I wish more of you would
> to consider that.
I am also researcher Deb, and I say, if he did something illegal,
those people handle that with him. I have not found anything related
to RMS that justifies that type of cyber-bullying online harassment
Buf if he did not do anything illegal, and somebody complains on his
behavior, don't mix that with his capability to lead FSF or speak
free software, it is not related.
If free software is a public good and the goal is for more people to
use free software, then having a leader who drives people away is at
odds with that goal. It's not illegal to poorly mismanage a public
charity, but it does break the trust that donors and volunteers have
places in the organization and they have a right to speak up about it.
Take action in Free Software Foundation campaigns:
Sign an open letter in support of Richard M. Stallman
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