53 votes

Richard Stallman resigns as president of the Free Software Foundation, and from his position at MIT

53 comments

  1. [3]
    Deimos
    Link
    Thomas Bushnell, who was one of the main people working on GNU Hurd, and in his own words, "worked for RMS longer than any other programmer", posted his thoughts today. I think it's a good read: A...

    Thomas Bushnell, who was one of the main people working on GNU Hurd, and in his own words, "worked for RMS longer than any other programmer", posted his thoughts today. I think it's a good read: A reflection on the departure of RMS

    23 votes
    1. Wes
      Link Parent
      Wow. He pulls no punches towards the end. It's good to have a little more insight into those who were closer to him. A lot of us could recognize that something was off, but not to what degree.

      Wow. He pulls no punches towards the end.

      It's good to have a little more insight into those who were closer to him. A lot of us could recognize that something was off, but not to what degree.

      7 votes
    2. gpl
      Link Parent
      This is so far the best reflection on the whole situation that I have seen.

      This is so far the best reflection on the whole situation that I have seen.

      5 votes
  2. [11]
    hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    Just so nobody gets confused, I originally posted this topic announcing Stallman's resignation from MIT. Over an hour later, it was announced that Stallman also resigned as president of the Free...

    Just so nobody gets confused, I originally posted this topic announcing Stallman's resignation from MIT. Over an hour later, it was announced that Stallman also resigned as president of the Free Software Foundation. I originally posted another, separate topic about that news, but expressed concerns about posting a whole new topic and asking if the FSF news should somehow just be merged into this topic. @Deimos was kind enough to alter this topic, which was originally just about the MIT resignation, to include links to both the MIT and FSF resignation announcements.

    So, that's why the discussion and other stuff here might seem a little wonky.

    Anyways, since the FSF announcement is a big deal, I wanted to write another comment talking about that as well, since my original comment about the MIT announcement seems kind of out of place now.


    First, wow. What a wild couple of days. I honestly didn't think anything would happen as a result of his comments on the CSAIL mailing list, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. I think Stallman's resignations from MIT and the Free Software Foundation are good steps for him, the university, and the FSF. I have pretty mixed feelings about Stallman and while I wanted to, since the beginning of this event, see him step down or be removed from the FSF, I don't wish him any harm and hope he can find the time to improve himself and move forward in life.

    Now we have two things we have to wait on:

    • Who will replace Stallman as president of the Free Software Foundation?
    • What are Stallman's plans for the future?

    I'd also like to know what projects, if any, Stallman was still a major contributor to or maintainer of, as well as how his departure is going to affect various FSF projects. Once a replacement for him is selected, I'll be asking the same questions about the replacement as well.

    Overall, I think this was a good move for the FSF and that the struggle of the free software movement is going to be better off with Stallman not being in such a prominent position, especially if the right candidate is selected to replace him.

    If anyone has any ideas for who should replace him or opinions about how this affects the FSF and the free software movement (especially in relation to its place in the world alongside open source), I'd love to hear your opinions.


    Aside from that, I'm not looking forward to the "SJWs ruining free software" and other culture war bullshit that's already been sprouting up around this event. I feel like this is only going to bring out the worst of people in ways we haven't seen since Linus announced he was stepping back from the kernel to get help with his attitude towards other maintainers. This is a much bigger, more permanent event and I think the shittiness of online discourse is going to reflect that.

    21 votes
    1. unknown user
      Link Parent
      Code-wise, I don't think he does much anymore. I definitely don't see him post or commit often (ever?) to Emacs, tho it's been long time that I don't follow mailing lists anymore. He's mostly...

      I'd also like to know what projects, if any, Stallman was still a major contributor to or maintainer of, as well as how his departure is going to affect various FSF projects. Once a replacement for him is selected, I'll be asking the same questions about the replacement as well.

      Code-wise, I don't think he does much anymore. I definitely don't see him post or commit often (ever?) to Emacs, tho it's been long time that I don't follow mailing lists anymore.

      He's mostly touring around giving talks regarding free software, it seems to me.

      10 votes
    2. [10]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [3]
        hungariantoast
        Link Parent
        I mean, sure, I'm all for dunking on liberals for being too right-wing and stuff[1], but I think letting this incident form your opinion of an entire section of the political spectrum is an...

        but this whole event has made me very cynical of the liberal left

        I mean, sure, I'm all for dunking on liberals for being too right-wing and stuff[1], but I think letting this incident form your opinion of an entire section of the political spectrum is an extreme generalization and you should probably take a step back and reflect.

        yet somehow some irrelevant comments by Stallman is getting him removed from his life's work

        Stallman caused this. Stallman made the decision to resign.

        If you haven't done it yet, you ought to check out the comments in the other topic that preceded this one. The comments in that topic and the article the topic links give a lot more context (including my opinion on this matter).

        However, in the interest of brevity, let me explain to you why I feel like Stallman should have resigned from MIT and the FSF:

        • This isn't the first time Stallman has done something inappropriate, insensitive, and rude like this
        • Stallman was the president of the Free Software Foundation and his historical relation with the free software movement means his actions, opinions, and incidents reflect on the FSF and FSM
        • The FSF is vastly more important than Stallman is and is so much more than just Richard Stallman; the foundation should get along just fine without him and is too important to continue to be negatively affected by Stallman, whose present contributions to the foundation are not nearly as important as they were decades ago
        • Stallman's historical contributions earned him a special place at MIT and gave him a degree of influence, which he doesn't seem capable of responsibly, professionally, or courteously handling
        • Stallman's behaviors present problems for the inclusion of women in STEM, especially at MIT
        • Stallman's behaviors have, for decades, according to numerous testimonies, driven a countless number of people away from STEM, the FSF, and free software

        The main point I want to try to make is that this is Stallman's fault.

        It wasn't radical leftists or limousine liberals that forced him to resign, it was his own actions.

        I will concede that some media organizations ran articles that were incorrect or "inflated" this incident, but even when just examining exactly what happened on the CSAIL mailing list using the archive of the original thread, I still believe this action was more than enough to prompt for Stallman's resignation from MIT and the FSF.

        Here's the link to the CSAIL mailing list archive, so you can read the exact exchange that started all of this:

        https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6405929-09132019142056-0001.html?embed=true&responsive=false&sidebar=false

        It reads from bottom to top.


        1. This is a joke. Liberals are alright most of the time.
        23 votes
        1. [3]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [2]
            mike10010100
            Link Parent
            He made it relevant to his job when he started inserting himself into distribution lists in order to defend dead pedophiles. I'd love to hear you detail why you don't think his defense of Minsky...

            this whole culture of sacking people from their positions for things they've said that are unrelated to their jobs has gone too far in my opinion.

            He made it relevant to his job when he started inserting himself into distribution lists in order to defend dead pedophiles.

            I've seen the mailinglist and I don't believe his defense of Minsky was wrong. It was in response to a student proposing a protest so it certainly wasn't off topic, and he has a certain duty to defend his deceased colleagues

            I'd love to hear you detail why you don't think his defense of Minsky was wrong.

            I've never heard of this. If this was true, then wouldn't the best course of action been to reform him so that he was more inclusive?

            He has been informed multiple times over the decades that his behavior is off-putting, exclusionary towards women, and generally vile. He has nevertheless persisted.

            https://geekfeminism.wikia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman

            https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix-a-a7e41e784f88

            Being inclusive isn't his primary role

            He's not committing much code, if any at all now. He mostly goes around acting as an advocate. If he can't be inclusive, he can't be an effective advocate, and it hurts the organizations he's currently advocating on behalf of.

            12 votes
            1. [2]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. mike10010100
                Link Parent
                So then what's the issue with him losing those ceremonial roles? The issue is when he makes the tech community feel exclusionary and drives away people with his behavior, which is in direct...

                Look as far as I see it, Stallman's role in CSAIL and FSF are ceremonial at best.

                So then what's the issue with him losing those ceremonial roles?

                He represents his ideology taken to its logical end point. That is his purpose

                The issue is when he makes the tech community feel exclusionary and drives away people with his behavior, which is in direct conflict with his purpose.

                You wouldn't make the Pope resign if he decided to go on some dumb pedantic rant.

                I mean if the pope started defending pedophilia...

                He made the case that Minsky might not have known she was being trafficked because she was likely made to act willing, and that generalizing it all to just "sexual assault" leaves out a lot of the context.

                The context doesn't make it any better, and the concept that Minsky had no clue that a young girl immediately wanting to have sex with him is extraordinarily naive.

                Combine that with his long and sordid past of defending pedophilia and wanting to legalize it shows that his defense isn't really about adding context.

                Stallman's closer to a religious head than an advocate. He serves as an ideological landmark

                Yeah, sorry, but that makes it more important to remove him from the organizations he's involved with, not less.

                5 votes
      2. [2]
        Death
        Link Parent
        Notice the disparity between Stallman's continued uttering of really regrettable opinions being fine, but an internet rando sending a snarky message is cause to doubt the entire "liberal left"...

        Notice the disparity between Stallman's continued uttering of really regrettable opinions being fine, but an internet rando sending a snarky message is cause to doubt the entire "liberal left" (whatever that means).

        11 votes
        1. [2]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. Death
            Link Parent
            Calling Stallman's posts a personal attack on Minsky's victim is an interesting take.

            Calling Stallman's posts a personal attack on Minsky's victim is an interesting take.

            6 votes
      3. gpl
        Link Parent
        In what sense? Everything I had read indicates that they met precisely once, after intense lobbying from Epstein’s people, and that after Gates directed money to be donated to MIT via Epstein....

        I mean Bill Gates was literally in close association with Epstein

        In what sense? Everything I had read indicates that they met precisely once, after intense lobbying from Epstein’s people, and that after Gates directed money to be donated to MIT via Epstein. That’s hardly a close association in my opinion.

        6 votes
      4. [3]
        Loire
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Step down from what? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? His shareholder position with Microsoft? I sympathize with this comment, and while that was my initial reaction, downplaying and making...

        Bill Gates was literally in close association with Epstein and nobody's making him step down

        Step down from what? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? His shareholder position with Microsoft?

        yet somehow some irrelevant comments by Stallman is getting him removed from his life's work.

        I sympathize with this comment, and while that was my initial reaction, downplaying and making light of a pedophile sex ring and human trafficking says a lot about the mindset of a person.

        Having such a man at the head of an organization is going to mar that organization, preventing it from doing it's work without the cloud of the comments hanging over it. It's also going to prevent woman from partaking.

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [2]
            mike10010100
            Link Parent
            ....who was a pedophile and participated in a sex trafficking ring. Why does him being a colleague override all of that? Over the decades, dozens of women have come out stating that Stallmans...

            He was defending a dead colleague.

            ....who was a pedophile and participated in a sex trafficking ring. Why does him being a colleague override all of that?

            Is it though?

            Over the decades, dozens of women have come out stating that Stallmans off-putting behavior have caused them to steer away from the movement.

            I'm sure the percentage of people who agree with me would be the same for both genders.

            That's a pretty confident yet baseless assertion, IMO.

            https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix-a-a7e41e784f88

            6 votes
            1. [2]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. mike10010100
                Link Parent
                So? That's a law that's in place because, as a society, we've decided that 18 is the age in which we expect people to start acting more like adults. That's a decision made not based on biology or...

                17 is legal in most states. I say this as somebody who turned 18 recently, I did not suddenly become a different person on the day of my birthday.

                So? That's a law that's in place because, as a society, we've decided that 18 is the age in which we expect people to start acting more like adults. That's a decision made not based on biology or psychology, but on shared social contract.

                If somebody levies an accusation against a dead friend, most people's normal reaction would be to defend them.

                I think that's a generalization based on your own reaction rather than an actual assessment of people's reactions in general.

                It's always "X number of women have accused him of Y" but looking at the examples given in the appendix they all seem pretty benign.

                Telling someone he'd kill himself if they didn't go out with him? Keeping a mattress on the floor of his office?

                Yeah, sorry, but the fact is that he's been insulated by a lot of consequences for his actions by a circle of people around him that run interference in order to protect others from him. That in itself is exclusionary.

                I presumed equality between both genders, which is a pretty good default position IMO.

                And you evidently also presume that both genders lead identical lives and have identical experiences, something that I'm sure any woman could tell you is not the case.

                4 votes
  3. [26]
    tesseractcat
    (edited )
    Link
    Well, this was most likely the right move, both for him and for MIT themselves. One thing this whole situation has made me wonder is: how should we approach people that have autism or other...

    Well, this was most likely the right move, both for him and for MIT themselves. One thing this whole situation has made me wonder is: how should we approach people that have autism or other anti-social-personality disorders in positions of power? I'm interested in seeing what people here think.

    12 votes
    1. [7]
      spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      Short answer: it shouldn't matter, at all. We should not let someone's internal mental state, up to and including mental illness or disorder, affect our judgement of their external behavior. Now,...

      how should we approach people that have autism or other anti-social-personality disorders in positions of power?

      Short answer: it shouldn't matter, at all. We should not let someone's internal mental state, up to and including mental illness or disorder, affect our judgement of their external behavior.

      Now, when I phrase it that way, I'm sure it sounds overly harsh, so the long answer:

      Harvey Weinstein went through treatment for sex addiction. Kevin Spacey did the same.

      There's some interesting discussion in those links about whether "sex addiction" should be an actual disorder classified under the DSM or if it should be a different diagnosis. Set that aside for now. Suppose, hypothetically, that both Weinstein and Spacey were diagnosed with a DSM-recognized mental disorder, by a fully-trained and qualified psychologist, and then they went to a rehab or therapy facility that was fully-licensed and accredited.

      Even then...that wouldn't be an excuse for their behavior, or justification for them to come back into the public spotlight and expect to have the public forgive & accept them.

      In particular, I've read arguments along the lines of "we shouldn't demonize Harvey Weinstein, because he's a sex addict and there's already too much stigma about mental health problems". Anyone defending someone like Weinstein with an argument like that can fuck all of the way off. Ditto with Kevin Spacey coming out as gay and then defenders of him trying to play a "don't be homophobic" card.

      Bringing this back to Stallman, who's said he believes he has a "shadow" version of Asperger's / autism spectrum disorder:

      "I wonder about it, but that's as far as it goes," he said. "Now, it's clear I do not have [Asperger's] -- I don't have most of the characteristics of that. For instance, one of those characteristics is having trouble with rhythm. I love the most complicated, fascinating rhythms." But Stallman did acknowledge that he has "a few of the characteristics" and that he "might have what some people call a 'shadow' version of it."

      We absolutely should not have a standard of "Stallman's kind of an asshole, but he's probably on the autism spectrum, so he may not know any better, and so to tread lightly around mental health issues we should excuse behavior by him that we would judge more harshly if we thought he was neurotypical". This is sometimes called a "no brilliant jerks" rule, though usually without discussion of autism spectrum or related disorders mixed in.

      Where diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder or related conditions should matter, is if Stallman chooses to go to therapy or some other form of treatment, it might be relevant between him and his healthcare provider, as a way of understanding why his brain works the way it does, relative to the brains of people around him. That might help Stallman understand why an email that seemed so innocuous in his mind could be received so poorly by so many other people, and lead to such negative consequences.

      23 votes
      1. [3]
        imperialismus
        Link Parent
        I agree with the main thrust of your comment, but this reads as unrealistically inflexible. There is a reason why we don't judge people who are psychotic in the same way as people who are not,...

        We should not let someone's internal mental state, up to and including mental illness or disorder, affect our judgement of their external behavior.

        I agree with the main thrust of your comment, but this reads as unrealistically inflexible. There is a reason why we don't judge people who are psychotic in the same way as people who are not, even when (especially when) they do something terrible, like commit a murder. This isn't really relevant to this particular case as none of the people you're talking about can use psychosis as an excuse, just, the way you've worded it is a bit absolutist.

        I have some experience with various diagnoses, and also drug abuse (and I've talked to many people who have been or are far deeper down the hole than I ever was). And I think it's really important to take responsibility for your choices. An addict who steals and lies may have a drastically diminished capacity to resist those impulses - but they're still choices. They still know what they're doing is wrong. In my experience, they don't even attempt to make excuses when lucid. Most addicts don't believe that doing drugs is evil, per se, but they absolutely see the acts that their addiction have led them to commit to harm others as evil. They're miserable and hate themselves. Now, self-hatred is clearly not sufficient punishment for serious transgressions. I'm not saying it is. Just underlining the fact that addicts make choices, and for the most part, they know deep down that those were actual choices. Not external compulsions for which they can't take any responsibility.

        I don't know about sex addiction, and I seriously doubt that it's got the same motive force of compulsion as the habitual use of ultra-strong psychoactive drugs, but even if it did, it still wouldn't be an excuse.

        That said, let's get back to the autistic spectrum. The problem here is different in degree, but not necessarily in kind to psychosis. Psychosis is an extreme, usually temporary disconnect from consensus reality. One might say, somewhat casually, that autism is a long-term disconnect from social reality, varying in degree from extreme to borderline. A kind of social psychosis, or borderline social psychosis. People simply not capable of fully understanding the social reality that most people live in. This isn't an excuse, but I'm going somewhere with this analogy. When we're talking about people who are fully capable of leading very successful, independent adult lives, like famous entertainment industry figures or superstar programmers, we're clearly not talking about the deeper end of the spectrum where people may never even learn how to speak at higher than a toddler's level. So, an analogy with acute psychosis is clearly inappropriate. But the more borderline cases, definitely.

        People on the spectrum struggle to understand other people's emotions, social dynamics, and the impact their behavior has on other people's wellbeing. This is different from just being a deliberate jerk, because a person who's just got a shitty attitude doesn't care that they hurt others. They do it intentionally, or do not mind it being a foreseeable side effect of doing what they need to do to get what they want. That's a different kind of problem, and requires a different kind of solution than people who really do care about other people's feelings, but frequently fail to understand why their behavior is hurtful.

        I used to have a roommate with Asperger's. When I first met him, I thought he was a jerk. Totally careless and insensitive to other people. Later, I came to believe that he was the second sort of jerk, not the deliberate kind. He was just that oblivious to social norms. Clearly didn't see that he was hurting or making other people uncomfortable. There was less of a callous disregard for other people's feelings and more of a total disconnect with the social reality that other people inhabit. I truly believe that with the right guidance, his degree of asshole-ness could be reduced by at least 90%. I've also met people who seem plain sadistic, but these were people who knew very well what effects their behavior had on others. They just didn't give a crap.

        This was a garden variety jerk, though, not a violent abuser or manipulator. He would never rape someone or beat them up or deliberately plan a campaign of emotional terror. These are things that anyone who's able to function somewhat independently in society knows are wrong.

        Everyone is different. I agree with the main sentiment of your comment, but I think the way you've stated it reads a bit inflexible and, as you say, overly harsh. Because your comments don't just apply to the likes of Spacey and Weinstein, serious and repeat transgressors against basic values, but also to people like my former roommate, a garden variety jerk who, perhaps, didn't have a heart of gold, but didn't have one of coal either. I find it hard to judge someone on the same terms when their actions are clearly due to a congenital inability to understand the consequences. And equally importantly, it's not constructive. It's all well and good to take a moral stance, and I won't begrudge those who do so against people who commit serious offenses. But then we have to translate that into action, on a personal and policy level. And then, yes, internal mental state does matter. Because a grade-1 jerk (doesn't give a shit and probably has sociopathic tendencies) will not respond to the same kind of treatment as a grade-2 jerk (suffers from a serious inability to read emotions or understand social dynamics and therefore acts in ways that hurt others).

        The second type of jerk can learn. Linus Torvalds is one of the most famous "brilliant jerks" of all time. He's been verbally abusing people on mailing lists and probably in person for 30+ years. It's sickening the way that his supporters defend this as being a necessary part of an uncompromising attitude towards technical issues. It's not. Last year, Linus himself finally apologized for his behavior and even took time off to try to adjust his attitude and get help. Did this transform him from jerk to saint? I don't know, and probably not. Apologizing isn't worth much if you're just using it as an excuse to go right back to being a jerk. But given that he's been getting away with it for 30 years, and probably would get away with it until he retires, and precisely because he's the sort of person who doesn't give a shit about PR unless that's short for Pull Request, I think he was sincere. That there was a genuine moment of introspection.

        When Linus fucking Torvalds says this:

        This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of
        not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been
        both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made
        it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me.
        I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry.

        That should give some people pause.

        10 votes
        1. [2]
          mike10010100
          Link Parent
          Yes, but your analysis kind of falls apart when you compare him to Torvalds, who apologizes for his comments, states that he was in the wrong, and promises to do better, which, IIRC, he has....

          Yes, but your analysis kind of falls apart when you compare him to Torvalds, who apologizes for his comments, states that he was in the wrong, and promises to do better, which, IIRC, he has.

          Stallman on the other hand has a long and sordid history of this kind of behavior, and has repeatedly refused to get help or change his behavior to be less exclusionary.

          https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix-a-a7e41e784f88

          That's the difference here. And you can even see that in his resignation letter. He blames a "series of misstatements and misunderstandings", not his own behavior.

          That's the issue here. You can blame autism or Asperger all you want, but the fact is that the vast majority of people who are socially oblivious will take criticism and adjust their behavior accordingly.

          4 votes
          1. imperialismus
            Link Parent
            I didn’t mention Stallman at all in my comment. It was an answer to a more general discussion of related issues. I also said pretty much the opposite of what you’re reading into the comment in the...

            I didn’t mention Stallman at all in my comment. It was an answer to a more general discussion of related issues. I also said pretty much the opposite of what you’re reading into the comment in the last paragraph. Overall, it sounds like you had a preconceived notion of what it was going to say, because this ain’t it.

            3 votes
      2. mike10010100
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I'm so glad you wrote out this thoughtful analysis that completely encapsulates what I believe but could not put into words. I know I've come off as harsh the past couple of days, but it's because...

        I'm so glad you wrote out this thoughtful analysis that completely encapsulates what I believe but could not put into words.

        I know I've come off as harsh the past couple of days, but it's because I could not believe the amount of excuse for Stallman's behavior I was seeing on sites I would normally classify as bastions of reason and good will. It's also revealing to me the amount of tone policing going on around this subject, despite its topic or the details revealed by the multiple articles written about it.

        6 votes
      3. DanBC
        Link Parent
        He does this a lot. He takes a word that has a pretty clear definition ("assault", "autism", "free") and then creates this weird new definition that doesn't have much in common with the commonly...

        He does this a lot. He takes a word that has a pretty clear definition ("assault", "autism", "free") and then creates this weird new definition that doesn't have much in common with the commonly accepted use of the word, and then says "well, this is why this word doesn't apply".

        Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder, that starts in early childhood, marked by severe impairment in social communication, impairment in social activity, and with fixed and repetitive interests, and that these are not explained by something else.

        That's it.

        I'm not going to dx him over the internet, but he's wrong to talk about dyspraxia and lack of rhythm.

        There are some correlations with other disorders, but these are neither sufficient nor required for the diagnosis.

        We absolutely should not have a standard of "Stallman's kind of an asshole, but he's probably on the autism spectrum, so he may not know any better, and so to tread lightly around mental health issues we should excuse behavior by him that we would judge more harshly if we thought he was neurotypical".

        Completely agree.

        6 votes
      4. Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        There are some very big differeces between what spacey and weinstein did and what Stallman just did (I am only referring to the recent issue. I don't know enough to have an opinion about...

        There are some very big differeces between what spacey and weinstein did and what Stallman just did (I am only referring to the recent issue. I don't know enough to have an opinion about Stallman's entire life/character). Spacey and weinstein did physical actions that seriously hurt people. Stallman did not. Stallman just wrote some words.

        I believe in assuming the best intentions in everyone's actions. Unless there is actual meaningful evidence that an action is made through malice, I think we all should assume it was not. Psychological conditions are the perfect example of why we should not assume malice when there is no proof.

        The difference with weinstein/spacey and similar incidents is the physicality. We can assume the best intentions for all of those actions, and that doesn't change the fact that people were severely hurt and damaged through their actions. Mental illness or lack of malice is no excuse for hurting someone else. But of nobody was physically harmed, why can't we just assume good intentions until proven otherwise?

        2 votes
    2. [4]
      vivaria
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Anecdotal, but, I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. I used to do most/all of the awful things I outlined in my other comment. I'm still unlearning a lot of these patterns... I'm not done...

      Anecdotal, but, I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. I used to do most/all of the awful things I outlined in my other comment. I'm still unlearning a lot of these patterns... I'm not done by any means. Really, though, introspection and therapy and self-motivated efforts to change really can help re: social skills.

      There are seemingly conflicting ideas with here with regards to neurodivergence/neurodiversity. Currently, the idea that autistic traits/behaviors are inherently negative is being challenged. The idea of 'normal' itself is being challenged, even. "Autistic people shouldn't feel pressure to warp themselves to a narrow idea of 'normal'. The rest of us should make efforts to broaden ideas of what 'normal' can be, instead."

      I think that has its limits, though. Typical autistic traits vary in how they affect others. Some are harmless, some can act as helpful coping mechanisms, and some are genuinely advantageous and can be a real boon in life. But, others can cause harm towards others, and excusing those sorts of actions goes too far to me. Someone's mental state shouldn't absolve them of the responsibility of their actions.

      Drawing the line between types of behaviors, though, is... a futile effort, I think? It's really a case-by-case basis sort of thing, and requires exploring each situation with nuance and care. It's hard, though. It's tempting to see it as a black and white situation, and to use one type of behavior to characterize autism as a whole. Fighting that urge to simplify things is good, I think.

      14 votes
      1. [3]
        mike10010100
        Link Parent
        I think the framing around this behavior being due to some mental divergence is quite disingenuous. It's equally possible that his perceived greatness leads to him being surrounded by people who...

        I think the framing around this behavior being due to some mental divergence is quite disingenuous. It's equally possible that his perceived greatness leads to him being surrounded by people who regard him as some kind of deity in computing, meaning he's never really challenged to change his behavior, as he can always find someone close to him to agree with him.

        I think this has less to do with autism and more to do with deification of an innovative nerd who happens to hold shitty opinions and is not willing to change many of those opinions unless it actively threatens his livelihood.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          vivaria
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          It can be both at once, though, right? RMS could theoretically have autism but decline to explore it further due to the insulation he gets from his status. (Hypothetical only, though. Just...

          It can be both at once, though, right? RMS could theoretically have autism but decline to explore it further due to the insulation he gets from his status. (Hypothetical only, though. Just spitballing here.)

          And, I thought @tessaractcat was more trying to start a general discussion around a particular excuse given by some of his defenders (rather than saying it was the primary reason). I do think it's a useful discussion, particularly because it gave you a chance to ask questions like this:

          What do you think we can do to stop it other than call him out for being shitty and demand he resign from his positions of power in order to reduce the influence of his shittiness?

          I think, with regards to autism in particular, it could be useful to... (oh god another one of vivaria's bullet-point lists)

          • Change the public discussion around mental health / therapy to normalize and encourage seeking help with hurtful behaviors (while still not demonizing behaviors that hurt no one).
          • Lessen the stigma around diagnoses to help people feel less afraid of learning more about themselves (regardless of what that may uncover). Stop treating autism as something entirely problematic which needs to be cured.
          • Have more nuanced conversations about what it feels like to be autistic so conversations don't immediately jump to black/white depictions.

          Regardless of whether RMS is actually autistic (this situation is way too complicated to even pin that down as a reason)... I still like these steps as ways for preventing Future Stallmans who may have social difficulties.

          10 votes
          1. mike10010100
            Link Parent
            I completely agree with all of your points. But it has been repeatedly suggested to Stallman that he receive such therapy. He has repeatedly refused to do so, IIRC. And placing the burden of...

            I completely agree with all of your points.

            But it has been repeatedly suggested to Stallman that he receive such therapy. He has repeatedly refused to do so, IIRC. And placing the burden of changing society in order to make it more appealing to seek therapy kind of puts the onus onto everyone except Stallman, no?

            In addition, it would seem that by and large, the people in this thread discussing how autism could be partially to blame don't really have autism, whereas the people with autism in this thread are arguing that it doesn't make them an asshole.

            I think the broader discussion needs to happen surrounding deifying important people. To me it feels like a lot of people are unwilling to confront the idea that many people they have considered their personal heroes might in fact not be the best people. It's also mixing quite readily with the existing culture war surrounding our political state, #MeToo, and the right's attack against advocacy journalism. The right is actively rallying to his defense, and using any and all missteps by the media in the process of reporting on this issue to undermine the overall point and attack journalism as a whole.

            This is a much broader topic than simply discussing how autism affects people's interpersonal relationships, and I think framing it as such is artificially constricting it.

            7 votes
    3. mrbig
      Link Parent
      But is he actually on the spectrum? Cause I am, and I’m not an asshole. At least not as much.

      But is he actually on the spectrum? Cause I am, and I’m not an asshole. At least not as much.

      13 votes
    4. mftrhu
      Link Parent
      My position is that the reasons for someone's behaviour don't really matter. Let's say that person X said some very insensitive or hurtful things about group Y. Maybe X is an asshole who enjoys...

      My position is that the reasons for someone's behaviour don't really matter.

      Let's say that person X said some very insensitive or hurtful things about group Y. Maybe X is an asshole who enjoys hurting people, but maybe they are just ignorant, don't really understand what they are saying, or why saying that would be hurtful.

      In all cases, X said those things. Group Y has been hurt by those things. What X intended does not matter, and doesn't really change the impact of what they said.

      Now, if challenging X makes them take a look at what they said, and issue an apology, that helps. But if they don't change - if they refuse to change, or if they can't change - if they keep at behaving like that, either ignoring criticism or issuing only perfunctory apologies, then they should not remain in a position of power.

      X might have "autism or other anti-social-personality disorders" but that doesn't excuse them if they keep on hurting people or being insensitive. They might be "innocent" and not capable of helping themselves, even, but so is a dog with rabies. You might want to help them change, but you can't - shouldn't - do so at the expense of everyone else.

      7 votes
    5. DanBC
      Link Parent
      Autism isn't a free-pass to say what you like without any consequences. Most autistic people know this. It's a (somewhat harmful) myth to suggest that autistic people cannot feel empathy. Many...

      Autism isn't a free-pass to say what you like without any consequences.

      Most autistic people know this.

      It's a (somewhat harmful) myth to suggest that autistic people cannot feel empathy.

      Many autistic people are horrifed by Stallman's comments.

      When someone has a disability we make reasonable adjustments to accommodate that disability. If Stallman has a disability that impairs his communication we need to provide him with an assistant who has the power to say "don't write this, it's fucking horrible" before he makes anything public. I'm not sure if that was ever offered to him, or if he'd have accepted it if it was.

      6 votes
    6. [9]
      ibis
      Link Parent
      I don't really know enough about autism to make a hard judgement, but I will point out that having autism doesn't necessarily lead to these kinds of tone-deaf statements. Eg. Hannah Gadsby has...

      I don't really know enough about autism to make a hard judgement, but I will point out that having autism doesn't necessarily lead to these kinds of tone-deaf statements.

      Eg. Hannah Gadsby has austism.

      5 votes
      1. [8]
        tesseractcat
        Link Parent
        True, however a number of accusations made against him, such as the mattress situation within "Appendix A", along with many unpleasant interactions people have described having with him, (or...

        True, however a number of accusations made against him, such as the mattress situation within "Appendix A", along with many unpleasant interactions people have described having with him, (or indeed, were videotaped, such as the foot incident), all seem to have contributed here. I'm not claiming that autism necessarily played a significant part here, but I do think it played a part, and that it's valuable to discuss it.

        2 votes
        1. [7]
          mike10010100
          Link Parent
          I think an easy way to dismiss a shitty person being shitty is to blame their mental state, as if they didn't have a long and sordid history of doing similar things, being informed that their...

          I think an easy way to dismiss a shitty person being shitty is to blame their mental state, as if they didn't have a long and sordid history of doing similar things, being informed that their actions hurt people, and making no long-term changes in behavior to compensate.

          7 votes
          1. [6]
            tesseractcat
            Link Parent
            It is my belief that every shitty person is shitty for a reason. Rather than simply blame people for being shitty and getting mad, we should discuss why people are shitty, and what we can do to...

            It is my belief that every shitty person is shitty for a reason. Rather than simply blame people for being shitty and getting mad, we should discuss why people are shitty, and what we can do to stop it, and make the world better for everyone.

            9 votes
            1. [5]
              mike10010100
              Link Parent
              So why do you believe Stallman is shitty? What do you think we can do to stop it other than call him out for being shitty and demand he resign from his positions of power in order to reduce the...

              Rather than simply blame people for being shitty and getting mad, we should discuss why people are shitty, and what we can do to stop it,

              So why do you believe Stallman is shitty? What do you think we can do to stop it other than call him out for being shitty and demand he resign from his positions of power in order to reduce the influence of his shittiness?

              1 vote
              1. [4]
                tesseractcat
                Link Parent
                Well, I think one of the reasons he's shitty is because he has a lack of social consciousness, along with a very low filter (of what he says). So he will end up publicizing controversial opinions...

                Well, I think one of the reasons he's shitty is because he has a lack of social consciousness, along with a very low filter (of what he says). So he will end up publicizing controversial opinions in a very strong way on topics he doesn't really understand. Keep in mind I don't know much about RMS except for this incident. That's why I don't really want to come to any conclusions, instead I asked a question to see what other people think...

                On a personal note, I think you converse in a very intense manner. Because of this talking with you feels a bit more like an interrogation. This makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

                8 votes
                1. [3]
                  mike10010100
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  But you dismissed my take on it multiple times, when I was explicitly answering your question/point... I'd rather be divisive than indecisive, drop the niceties. The fact is that people can say...

                  That's why I don't really want to come to any conclusions, instead I asked a question to see what other people think...

                  But you dismissed my take on it multiple times, when I was explicitly answering your question/point...

                  On a personal note, I think you converse in a very intense manner. Because of this talking with you feels a bit more like an interrogation. This makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

                  I'd rather be divisive than indecisive, drop the niceties.

                  The fact is that people can say one thing and do the complete opposite. I operate on the behavior I observe, which in this case has been far too much muddying of the waters over Stallman, first defending him, then dismissing those who argued to passionately about his behavior with tone policing, and finally with Just Asking Questions about his mental state and how that might lessen the fact that his behavior was inappropriate, that he's had a long history of inappropriate behavior, and that people have continuously excused it at every step along the way.

                  Perhaps it's not his divergent mental state that causes him to be like this, but the fact that his accomplishments have led to him being surrounded by people who would defend his behavior no matter what it was, and that should definitely come to an end.

                  2 votes
                  1. [2]
                    tesseractcat
                    Link Parent
                    Sorry, I meant to simply probe your response and get more info about your viewpoint. I'm see how this message can be interpreted as dismissive, but I interpreted your question as a bit dismissive...

                    But you dismissed my take on it multiple times, when I was explicitly answering your question/point...

                    Sorry, I meant to simply probe your response and get more info about your viewpoint. I'm see how this message can be interpreted as dismissive, but I interpreted your question as a bit dismissive of my line of questioning as a whole (a mouthful, I know).

                    I'd rather be divisive than indecisive, drop the niceties.

                    Ok.

                    first defending him, then dismissing those who argued to passionately about his behavior with tone policing, and finally with Just Asking Questions about his mental state and how that might lessen the fact that his behavior was inappropriate

                    I'm a bit confused, are you saying that these are things I've done? I don't think I've been defending him, just addressing claims that you've made. I only brought up your tone because it made me uncomfortable, I'm not saying you aren't allowed to talk in whatever tone you choose.

                    finally with Just Asking Questions

                    I really am just trying to gauge the room, so to speak. If my questions have been more inflammatory than probing, that's my fault, and I apologize.

                    2 votes
                    1. mike10010100
                      Link Parent
                      I'm not talking specifically about you. I'm talking about the general response I've seen on this site. I appreciate the apologies, but they're unnecessary. I've just grown tired of people...

                      I'm not talking specifically about you. I'm talking about the general response I've seen on this site. I appreciate the apologies, but they're unnecessary. I've just grown tired of people seemingly starting a conversation in earnest/genuinely but it quickly devolving into repeating the same line of questioning in order to derail the conversation.

                      Not, again, to say you're doing any of this on purpose, or are doing it at all, it just ticked all the boxes for me to respond in the way that I did. That, combined with disgust over the level of excuses I've seen for his behavior, has led me to be a bit more intense than usual on this topic.

                      3 votes
    7. [2]
      mike10010100
      Link Parent
      I have numerous friends with autism, and not one of them wouldn't change if someone directly pointed out to them that they were in the wrong and hurt people.

      how should we approach people that have autism or other anti-social-personality disorders in positions of power?

      I have numerous friends with autism, and not one of them wouldn't change if someone directly pointed out to them that they were in the wrong and hurt people.

      3 votes
      1. tesseractcat
        Link Parent
        That true, but it's important to remember that autism is not one cohesive whole, and in my experience it does influence how well people take criticism, and also how well they respect the...

        That true, but it's important to remember that autism is not one cohesive whole, and in my experience it does influence how well people take criticism, and also how well they respect the boundaries of others.

        Also, there are instances where RMS has changed his actions following people saying that they were hurt. In this incident: https://geekfeminism.wikia.org/wiki/EMACS_virgins_joke, which once referenced women, now (at least according to the wiki page) he has changed the joke.

        It's important to mention that his email is a non-apology, like you said elsewhere in this thread. I have observed that non-apologies are common among people (in general), but especially common among people with antisocial personality disorders. This is just anecdotal evidence however, so I don't want to lend it too much credence.

        5 votes
  4. [7]
    annadane
    Link
    I seriously never knew RMS was like this. I thought he was a champion of freedom and free software and what I've learned recently just... baffles me, and not in a good way :(

    I seriously never knew RMS was like this. I thought he was a champion of freedom and free software and what I've learned recently just... baffles me, and not in a good way :(

    9 votes
    1. [6]
      unknown user
      Link Parent
      Same here. I defended him initially (and a bit harshly, it seems), and I somehow continued that after reading what GeekFeminism wiki has to say, but the Appendix A of Salem made me realise, wow,...

      Same here. I defended him initially (and a bit harshly, it seems), and I somehow continued that after reading what GeekFeminism wiki has to say, but the Appendix A of Salem made me realise, wow, who the heck was I defending all along!

      10 votes
      1. [5]
        hungariantoast
        Link Parent
        For what it's worth, I didn't really know a lot about his past behavior before I posted my comment in the "Remove Stallman" topic. I also didn't post that comment until something like forty-eight...

        For what it's worth, I didn't really know a lot about his past behavior before I posted my comment in the "Remove Stallman" topic. I also didn't post that comment until something like forty-eight hours after I first saw that article, because I ended up just diving into the whole world of RMS and discovering all this stuff.

        To be honest, it kind of melted my brain and made me really upset, learning about all of Stallman's shit throughout the past and I think that was because I used to, before a few days ago, really revere him for the work he has done and what he has created.

        I still respect him, to an extent, for his involvement in free software and the FSF and I would certainly pay attention to him or heed his advice if I was ever in the position to, but I can't ignore the other parts of him outside of free software and I think that really fucked me up in a way.

        What's that saying? "Never meet your heroes"? This was kind of like that, I guess.

        What I'm getting at, the reason I'm explaining this about myself, is that I don't blame you for disagreeing with me, the author of that article, or others about this stuff. I really feel like these past few days have been a real "eye opener" for a lot of people.

        Mostly, I'm just glad we can have this conversation.

        15 votes
        1. [3]
          unknown user
          Link Parent
          Hey, I really appreciate this, thanks a lot! And please excuse me if I was over the top with my tone or manner, as you said, I never expected something like this out of him.

          Hey, I really appreciate this, thanks a lot! And please excuse me if I was over the top with my tone or manner, as you said, I never expected something like this out of him.

          8 votes
          1. [2]
            Wes
            Link Parent
            It's good to see how both of you, who came down on opposite sides of the debacle, have come to a healthy understanding. That helps inspire some faith in this community. Despite some troll-like...

            It's good to see how both of you, who came down on opposite sides of the debacle, have come to a healthy understanding. That helps inspire some faith in this community.

            Despite some troll-like behaviour in that thread (from others) I'm really glad to see how this was resolved. So, good on you, folks.

            9 votes
            1. unknown user
              Link Parent
              Thanks!

              Thanks!

              3 votes
        2. mike10010100
          Link Parent
          I think a lot of the anger you're seeing around this is because others have been talking about this for decades, and yet it's taken only until now for most to see the broader overall pattern here....

          I think a lot of the anger you're seeing around this is because others have been talking about this for decades, and yet it's taken only until now for most to see the broader overall pattern here.

          It's as if you were standing in a house that was slowly catching fire and filling with smoke, surrounded by people going "huh, a bit hazy out today" and "my, how dark it's gotten in here", while you were busy screaming about how the house was catching fire, only to be met with blank stares and "I think you're being alarmist" and "Well yes, but have you perhaps considered that all of our eyesight might just be getting worse?"

          5 votes
  5. [4]
    hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    EDIT: I wrote this before the FSF resignation news broke and this topic was updated, so hopefully that clears up any confusion. There obviously isn't much information available, but this is a big...

    EDIT: I wrote this before the FSF resignation news broke and this topic was updated, so hopefully that clears up any confusion.

    There obviously isn't much information available, but this is a big announcement, which is why I posted it as a new topic.


    I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations

    Hopefully this will result in Stallman taking a step back and reflecting on his behavior.

    I still think he should step down as president of the Free Software Foundation though. However, I doubt that is going to happen as a result of this recent event. Most news coverage seems to have focused on his place and role at MIT (as a visiting professor/scientist), which is probably why he's taking this step first.

    "Resigning" from MIT, if you can call it that, is going to be much easier to do for him than resigning as president of the FSF and I wouldn't be surprised if he's hoping that stepping away from MIT will take the spotlight off him and make it easier for him to remain at the FSF.

    Personally, I hope it doesn't. I don't want to be malicious towards Stallman, but I also don't want him representing the FSF anymore, even if he improves. I feel like he carries too much historical baggage. Time will tell.

    6 votes
    1. [3]
      mike10010100
      Link Parent
      His past situations have all but proven that he's not taking this time to self-improve or reflect, but instead is just waiting for all this to blow over. The fact that he phrased this as...

      His past situations have all but proven that he's not taking this time to self-improve or reflect, but instead is just waiting for all this to blow over. The fact that he phrased this as "misunderstandings and mischaracterizations" assumes we don't all know the kind of shit he's pulled in the past.

      https://geekfeminism.wikia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman

      He hasn't improved, he's continued to apologize with an "I'm sorry you're offended" air, and I doubt he will change much in the future.

      13 votes
      1. [2]
        ibis
        Link Parent
        imo this is a typical case of the Dunning–Kruger effect. He is an expert in one field, so he has assumed that that means he already knows everything that is worth knowing about other topics.

        imo this is a typical case of the Dunning–Kruger effect. He is an expert in one field, so he has assumed that that means he already knows everything that is worth knowing about other topics.

        2 votes
        1. patience_limited
          Link Parent
          The word you're looking for is ultracrepidarianism - it's an idea that has broad application, though it has some overlap with mansplaining. It's not that Richard Stallman has social-cognitive...

          The word you're looking for is ultracrepidarianism - it's an idea that has broad application, though it has some overlap with mansplaining.

          It's not that Richard Stallman has social-cognitive issues that cause regular foot-in-mouth disease, it's that he has long felt free to offer uninformed opinions, speaking ex cathedra from a position of power and authority.

          11 votes