RMS and Abuse

Content Warning

The following article contains reports of sexual abuse, including rape. If you’re not comfortable with that, then I’d suggest just finding a summary, which I hope to do some of here. Also, it’s on Medium, which does not respect your privacy, so… take it how you will.

There is a rather angry article making the rounds in the Open Source world, today. It centers around the MIT/Epstein clusterfuck and the GNU/FSF director Richard Stallman, usually known as “RMS”. He has strong ties to MIT, where he worked in the Artificial Intelligence Lab back in the 1970’s and likely knew or worked with Marvin Minsky who, allegedly, had sex with one of Epstein’s sex slaves. RMS also started the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Program based on some of the work he did while at the MIT AI Lab.

In the article, RMS replied to a question from a student, and basically danced around the idea by questioning terms and generally acting like someone who doesn’t know how to read the room. That doesn’t really surprise me. The guy is odd, as a person. He’s publicly stated some pretty wild stuff about the age of consent and pedophilia, all centering around picking at the technical reasons or laws surrounding it. I’d really like to see him apologize for his statement or clarify. I imagine he won’t. He’s probably too close to the subject to have an objective viewpoint. His Alma Matter is being attacked and a man who was probably one of his (deceased) colleagues is being run through the mill. His only defense is probably one of picking apart the argument itself.

The whole dumpster fire around Epstein needed to happen. As painful as it is, we need to get it out in the open and deal with it. It’s going to hurt the reputation of Open Source, GNU and the FSF, but there are ways of mitigating it. I hold no allegiance to RMS. He is a man and has made mistakes and should apologize. I disagree with some of the things he says, but agree with many others. He’s done great work and I’ll continue to use and contribute to that work in what ways I can.

The author then goes on to state:

I am ready, now, to join others in calling for burning everything to the ground.

Selam G. – Remove Richard Stallman

So, is this how we deal with problems now? Tear it all down and try and start over again? I think this is an overreaction. If we take this problem solving method further, we’d never accomplish anything. The author should have reached out to RMS directly. Talked with him like a rational human being and see if there is something she’s missing or point out the same to him. Now she’s plastered all over the F/OSS world, with some rather pointed questions levied at her, especially regarding her jab at her and RMS’ former school. I don’t envy her.

Posted by Nathan

Nathan is a technologist who loves Open Source Software, sleep and coffee.

2 Replies to “RMS and Abuse”

  1. Social Justice is crowd-sourced law, the whining little sister of mob rule.

  2. I think there was certainly a rush to act. Much of the story from the woman on Medium is very one-sided. Naturally, I don’t agree with Stallman’s desire to nitpick, but certainly there is some middle-ground here. He is, clearly, not a master of social grace. Asking him to resign and also to burn down MIT for it’s part in the Epstein scandal feels like an overreaction.

    That being said, an apology would have been more appropriate. Maybe hire someone to handle his PR… no idea. There are plenty who are glad he’s stepped aside, but I’m cautious as it seems like a good way of anti-F/OSS sentiment to oust leaders.

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