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Re: Support RMS

From: Aaron Wolf
Subject: Re: Support RMS
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2021 10:39:40 -0700

Thomas, I imagine Deb posting here to share her thoughts on the ways she
sees RMS as a problem for the movement, but she's not saying that it
personally drives her away from the movement. She's been involved in
various orgs like Software Freedom Conservancy and is now at the OSI. I
think her point is to help people simply understand the concerns about
RMS that are not related to the unfair stuff around his political views.

On a side note, I very much appreciated your description of your own
dealings with RMS, and I see some merit to your points. I don't see
myself as on one or the other "side" of this debate. I think we're all
in this together, and I think if we can get past (or through) our
initial reactiveness to things we read or hear, we can end up finding
common understandings to help us work together best.

Maybe the most productive outcome is some situation where the FSF and
RMS do continue with only some reforms and still with RMS' leadership
and antagonism dies down over time, and different aspects of the
movement collaborate constructively. Maybe it's not absolutely hopeless
to end up with RMS continuing to provide his positive inputs without
turning people away. Certainly that's my wish, but I don't know that to
be realistic.

On 2021-04-15 10:23 a.m., Thomas Lord wrote:
> You seem to be complaining that you can not work on
> free software without closely associating with the FSF.
> That seems nonsensical. What's stopping you?
> -t
> On 2021-04-15 09:13, Deb Nicholson wrote:
>> Hi,
>>    As you know, I've spent many hours in FSF booths and many hours
>> running
>>    FSF events. I've personally spoken to many, many more than "a half
>>    dozen" women and others who have told me their stories about RMS
>>    treating them differently, hitting on them at a conference, loudly
>>    interrupting a young person's talk or involving them in a mortifying
>>    public joke about virginity. In particular, I have had several young
>>    women say to me, "Oh, I could never give a talk at LibrePlanet because
>>    RMS might yell at me."
>>    Others have told me that they can't bring their wife or girlfriend to
>>    these events because the last time they did RMS or other free software
>>    representatives were awful to them. Having a leader who inspires
>> others
>>    to treat potential newcomers rudely, or with contempt is not a net
>>    positive for the free software movement.
>>    Perhaps it would not surprise you to hear that almost none of the
>>    people who've had these interactions with RMS or his representatives
>>    choose to donate to the FSF or support it through their volunteer
>> time?
>>    I'm not surprised that the people who are left at the FSF mostly still
>>    support him. What's sad is that the free software movement should be
>>    much, much bigger and it won't be able to grow if it is only accepting
>>    people who don't mind harassment, bullying and belittlement. We should
>>    be able to work on free software without that gate.
>>    You mentioned that a public letter is a hostile act. I understand that
>>    it feels that way to you. Collectively the signers of that letter have
>>    spent many, many hours trying to "call in" or improve free software
>>    *with RMS.* He hasn't listened. It's completely false to draw a
>>    parallel between that action and acting rudely to complete
>> strangers at
>>    an event where the primary goal should be bringing in new free
>> software
>>    supporters.
>>    RMS did come up with free software and many tools for achieving it and
>>    that is great, vital, visionary work. He did not invent the struggle
>>    for freedom though. And there are many aspects of even computer
>> freedom
>>    that the FSF does not work on; some of the EFF's work against
>>    persistent surveillance, campaigns to popularize Open Hardware,
>> pushing
>>    for reform of EULAs and TOS agreements, resisting the use of
>> algorithms
>>    that reinforce racism and sexism in job opportunities or the criminal
>>    justice system or pushing to be able to work on things like drones or
>>    amateur rockets without being labeled as criminals. The struggle for
>>    freedom has to be more than one person and more than one organization.
>>    If the FSF is unwilling to listen to people's concerns, then I fear
>>    that it will cease to grow and become irrelevant. I think that
>> would be
>>    terrible because software freedom is extremely important and that's
>> why
>>    I'm continuing to engage here.
>>    Best,
>>    Deb
>>    On Thu, Apr 15, 2021 at 4:21 AM Alexandre Oliva <[1]>
>>    wrote:
>>      On Apr 14, 2021, Deb Nicholson <[2]>
>>      wrote:
>>      > It's disappointing that so many people have chosen to disbelieve
>>      former FSF
>>      > employees, hundreds of women who have encountered RMS at
>>      conferences or MIT
>>      > and many, many free software creators.
>>      That's a real peril, and would have been wise to take into account,
>>      before deciding to form a coalition with known liars and attackers,
>>      and
>>      before resorting to false allegations, exaggerations and distortions
>>      to
>>      spark an explosive reaction that facts have or would have failed to
>>      spark.
>>      These decisions have contaminated and shed doubt on the legitimacy
>>      of
>>      claims advanced by those who joined the coalition, or who
>>      opportunistically timed their action to coincide with those of the
>>      corporate-funded coalition.  That may be illogical, but it's often a
>>      valuable heuristics.  Call it karma if you wish.
>>      Now, if there were any true, first-hand accounts of actual sexual
>>      harassment, I'd be very interested in getting them straight from the
>>      source.  Giving out pleasure cards, politely asking people on dates,
>>      keeping foliage or mattresses in work offices, reports of the
>>      existence
>>      of institutional sexism at universities, advising caution against
>>      leaps
>>      to unsupported condemnation, tasteless jokes, getting angry and
>>      being
>>      loud are not it IMHO.  Hearsay about the same half dozen rumors over
>>      a
>>      period of 40+ years isn't either, unless your own investigations
>>      haven't
>>      hit a dead end before something concrete popped up.  I encourage you
>>      to
>>      let the FSF board know if that's the case, and please keep me on
>>      copy.
>>      > The vast majority of the people who signed the letter asking for
>>      RMS
>>      > to step down, care deeply about free software.
>>      I encourage them (you) to behave as such, instead of associating
>>      with
>>      historical opponents, and working so hard to divide us.  It's become
>>      really hard to believe in that commitment, and in good intentions
>>      behind
>>      the actions, given the present circumstances.
>>      --
>>      Alexandre Oliva, happy hacker  [3]
>>         Free Software Activist         GNU Toolchain Engineer
>>              Vim, Vi, Voltei pro Emacs -- GNUlius Caesar
>> References
>>    1.
>>    2.
>>    3.
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