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Richard Stallman quits positions at both Free Software Foundation and MIT

The Free Software Foundation announced tonight that Richard Stallman has resigned as its president and a member of the board of the group - which he started in 1985.

The announcement gives no explanation, but separately, Stallman announced he was resigning his position as a visiting scientist at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory "due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations."

The past week had seen mounting criticism of Stallman's comments both on MIT AI guru Marvin Minsky's relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and on his past written comments on pedophilia and child pornography.

H/t Chris Devers.

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Comments

Somewhat more surprised about FSF.

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Voting closed 9

When I was younger I somewhat idolized FSF and Stallman. He wrote some amazing tools (Emacs, gcc, etc) and gave them away with the code for the good of humanity. They strive for the idea that everyone should be able to see how their machines work everyone should have the freedom to make changes and improvements to what they own and use. Every day society moves further away from this ideal. (For example, Apple/Google retain all control of their phones, denying owners the right to make any changes, let alone see how they work internally.)

RMS's view that government shouldn't track its citizens and people shouldn't be beholden to corporations is very compelling. There's be a lot more good in the world if the Free Software Foundation ideals where widely known and accepted.

Stallman was never the best spokesman. While his ideals on software and intellectual freedom are commendable, many of his views and mannerisms elsewhere are not. Given his dogmatic nature, change wasn't going to happen, so stepping down is right move.

Hopefully the ideals of GNU and FSF continue with a new generation.

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Voting closed 57

I was making FOSS software for science years back during the "GNUs not Unix" wars so I had some exposure to Stallman et all back then ...

... But it was not until today that I learned that Stallman was so darn creepy that entire legions of women at MIT and related organizations had a whisper network about him to spread word that the best defense against him was to keep plants around you and in your office.

Seriously, women warned each other never to be alone with him and to always have a plant or two nearby because he either hated them or was afraid of them. No joke.

He was a creep for 30 years and it's incredibly depressing to think about how many women he chased out of software engineering / CS fields or how many had their career trajectories altered because they ended up switching majors or moving to different organizations / fields because of him and people like him at MIT and FSF

Threads:
https://twitter.com/starsandrobots/status/994267277460619265
https://twitter.com/sarahmei/status/994010501460865025
and many many many more
...
...

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Voting closed 60

He had people running interference for him at high levels. Now we know why: they were creeps, too. The whole rotten lot of them needs to go.

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Voting closed 29

Imagine having to 'but actually' so many specific allegations of Stallman being a bad human first thing in the morning.

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Voting closed 14

I never said Stallman wasn't a bad human being. He is. In a lot of ways.

This wasn't one of them. It was tangentially one, at best. But everyone has made it one.

Congratulations, you got your bounty. Don't spend the reward money all in one place.

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Voting closed 8

You are enabling the whole system of harassment with your comments defending this well known serial harasser.

Protest to much?

Stallman's harassment of women is well known and long-standing. He's being sacrificed here, but now we know why it was permitted to continue ... Creeps all the way around cozying up to pedophiles. No amount of enabling fixes that. Time to clean house at MIT.

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Voting closed 22

It's literally in my first line you're responding to. He's a dickhead.

I'm not defending him. I'm stating that what you're outraged about wasn't what you nailed him to the wall for. You proved his point. Cancel culture paints with a broad brush. Words lose meaning. This isn't the path to equality or improvement.

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I Am a centRisT

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I'm a progressive liberal.

Makes you think...

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Voting closed 3

but your error continues to be that you think nobody understands the point you're making re: Stallman's views on pedophilia.

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Voting closed 8

This was a long time coming. You never went to MIT. You never had to deal with being shit on and shut out in tech for being female. Get over yourself...

He bailed while standing on his phoney high horse of horseshit reductionist rhetoric that you are sucking up here because he FINALLY drew too much adult attention to his past harassment and he was going to have to answer for it. He's now trying to play the victim and pretend it was about recent statements and WAHHH UNFAIR rather than have an inquiry show all that history that has been discussed here

And you are just lapping it up like honey. You are either a fool or yet another jerk who doesn't think he should have to work with women or behave himself professionally.

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Voting closed 25

So ad hominem. Much outrage.
Very Swirly. Socially justified?
Such false choice.

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Voting closed 15

Can you point to which specific example of the harassment and dehumanization of women should or should not have cost him his job? The first? The fiftieth? Whichever exponential number "having sex with teenagers is fine" was?

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Voting closed 7

And attacking a man's career because he voiced some crazy-ass opinions, that's the system you want to enable instead?

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Not sure where you work, but "voicing some crazy-ass opinions" where you're defending pedophilia is enough to get people fired at almost any job.

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Voting closed 5

This seems to be a response to something Kaz said that I can't actually find here.

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Voting closed 6

He's making a snide reference to my past comments on the initial Stallman article.

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Voting closed 2

When there were comments blasting Stallman for defending a guy credible accused of statutory rape, you went to the mat to defend him. Stallman did some good/interesting stuff in the software/hardware realm, fine, but he's not above reproach for that and gets no free pass for his other negative attributes and actions.

Let's look at this the other way. Put aside the Minsky thing - do you have anything to say about the multiple other comments/stories about him being viewed as someone to be extreme cautious around if you were a woman? He gets a free pass like Brett Kavanaugh?

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Voting closed 13

I can only comment (snidely) about this as a tourist as I'm not involved in MIT, software engineering, etc... but these three posts I think sum up why this matters and why the energy spent defending this guy is energy poorly spent, regardless of intention.

https://www.wired.com/story/richard-stallman-and-the-fall-of-the-clueles...

https://onezero.medium.com/facing-the-great-reckoning-head-on-8fe434e10630

https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-fec6ec210794

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Voting closed 2

The Stallman warning whisper network was so extensive that I got warnings from it in the late 90s because I merely happened to know some people who went to MIT. He was the most widely known example of a "missing stair" (a person who harasses others but is socially tolerated because everyone is used to them) that I have ever encountered.

I am pleased that things have changed, and frustrated that it's taken so long.

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Voting closed 23

Great post.

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Voting closed 1

No loss. Seriously, NO LOSS. All his accomplishments don't add up to the cost.

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Voting closed 15

Cost to whom?

His accomplishments have added to the lives of pretty much every human being on the planet. The costs of his personal habits seem pretty small compared to that.

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Voting closed 7

sustained sexism, acts of harassment, bullying, participation - as a high profile, elite member - in maintaining a system that consistently denigrates women and questions their experiences..

is a "personal habit" now???

I know who he is and the causes he's championed, I am a GNU/Linux user and have been for a long time, I know people at the FSF.

NONE OF THAT excuses or minimizes what he said now and the terrible person he has pretty openly been for decades. The beauty of GNU is that, by design, it is no one person. So, Stallman can disappear and GNU will continue just fine.

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Voting closed 14

This is you in a nutshell
https://twitter.com/sbarolo/status/1039600368253067264
https://twitter.com/sbarolo/status/1038128825215987712

A totally generic mashup of the "#himpathy" and "#prestige" replyGuy cliche still arguing in 2019 that sociopaths and creeps get a pass because of "genius" or "legacy of accomplishment"

Wanna know the true effing costs of Stallmans douchbaggery? Spend a tiny tiny amount of time searching google for info on woman who left MIT, left CS, left software, or stopped working on free/open software because of Stallman.

Then (if you can spare a tiny bit of empathy) think about all of the invisible and unknown early career professionals who had their careers stalled or altered because of creeps like this, the toxic culture they create and their insular circles. What amazing advances and accomplishments were derailed, delayed or affected? The true cost of what we lost is unknown

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Voting closed 25

Even setting aside everybody else's extremely solid responses to you, this is ridiculous for three additional reasons:

1. Stallman's whole thing was free software. He developed what he did with no expectation of compensation, and that includes compensation in the form of accumulated social capital.

2. It's natural for social capital to accrue even to somebody who isn't seeking it, but it is not unjust for it to be revoked. The reckoning Stallman now faces is society's way of announcing his balance has reached zero.

3. Stallman's valuable contributions to humanity have already been made. One does not negotiate pay for past performance, but for the expectation of future performance. What is Stallman likely to do in the future that would justify continuing to let his behavior slide? The honest answer is: nothing.

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Voting closed 2

Why was Stallman, who known as an advocate for pedophiles and stalked female students and colleagues, protected by MIT for so many years? Was it really because he wrote good code and pushed for open source?

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Voting closed 14

it was because enough people in power at MIT didn't consider women fully human that they allowed his behavior to be framed as 'eccentric' instead of 'abhorrent.'

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