Richard Stallman resigns as president of the Free Software Foundation

On 16 September, one of our independent sister organisations, the US-based Free Software Foundation (FSF), announced the resignation of Richard M. Stallman as its president. While we recognise Stallman’s role in founding the Free Software movement, we welcome the decision.

The Free Software Foundation Europe’s mission is to empower people from all backgrounds to control technology and thereby create a better society for everyone. We want to ensure that every human can understand how software works, use the software for any purpose without discrimination, share it with others, and adopt it to their own specific needs.

We will continue to work with all the many organisations and individuals out there contributing to software freedom every day, including our sister organisations in India, Latin America, and the United States. Together we can ensure the continued growth and success of the Free Software movement, balance power in our society, and make the Free Software community a safer and more respectful place for everyone who wants to participate in it.

Read the article.

This seems a bit sparse. I don’t think that the FSFE should totally disavow RMS as a person, but it definitely should find some very clear words condemning his repeated statements. We all know that he has incredible merits as the founder of the Free software movement, but this sadly disqualifies him as the spokesperson for us all. Thus I would expect a press release from the FSFE making some substantive comments on his remarks and drawing a very clear line.

Some more background would be very welcome. While Richard Stallmann
isn’t uncontroversial (he never was!), my impression is that (a) his
contribution to Free Software goes way beyond “just” founding the
Free Software Foundation, and that (b) an extraordinary remark as
“welcoming” his decision to resign requires a more solid backing
(following the links lead to similarly vacuous statements – this
isn’t helpful!).

Cheers
– tomás

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It’s difficult for me to understand what’s going on.
There are FSF’s members for and against RMS…

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Well, for one being “for” or “against” RMS is, I think, the wrong
approach. What I find most unfortunate is the (non-) discussion
culture around here and the FSF.

I understand that Twittersphere is (or was?) alight on the topic,
and whenever that happens no even-headed discussion seems possible.
Luckily I don’t take part in that – even as a passive reader, my
time is far too valuable, so I had to follow other links to just
get an idea of what’s going on. This LWN [1] link (not the article
itself, but the ensuing discussion) seems a good starting point.
There’s a reddit [2] thread mentioned in one of [1]'s comments which
seems worth reading, too.

My take on the whole story (which can be wrong on many accounts!)
is that Marving Minsky [3] of the MIT Media Lab was (or was not?)
involved in a sex trafficking affair linked to Jeffrey Epstein [4],
who died (apparent suicide) in jail on sex trafficking charges).
Epstein was at the same time sponsor of the MIT media lab, and
Minsky was guest at Epstein’s parties.

This provides an excellent backdrop for gossip media to feed on,
and that’s what they are doing.

Now Stallmann seems to have said that nobody knows whether Minsky
knew this woman (who was 17 at the time) had been told (coerced)
to have sex with him; that it isn’t even known whether sex took
place or not. He might be right.

OTOH, Stallmann’s positions are sometimes harsh and difficult to
digest: some perceive him as offensive. Others would like to see
him shot down for other reasons [5]. And the kind of people coming
out in his defense are not always those I’d feel comfortable
with in some dark corner either [6], so…

All in all it might be a smart decision for RMS to step out of the
stage in such a situation. I think I’d do in his place. Still, FSF’s
and FSFE’s overly short notices are quite a disappointment to me.

Feel free to correct and complete things. But try to keep calm and
civil – I wouldn’t like this to become Twitter, too.

Cheers

[1] https://lwn.net/Articles/799375/
[2] https://old.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/d5aiuu/richard_m_stallman_resigns_free_software/f0l57yd/
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Minsky
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Epstein
[5] Sticking to the original ideals of Free Software, f.ex.
[6] That kind of people using “SJW” as an insult, for example.

– tomás

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I am both FSF and FSFE member and I do not welcome this decision and recent events at all. I described my vision of how we should continue: Future of the Free Software Foundation. It is primarily intended for FSF, but it applies to FSFE too.

Do I read this correctly - you “welcome” his decision to resign?!? I think it is a disaster and a shame! As far as I can tell he was attacked for no good reason by a vicious online mob in deceitful articles. It is shameful that neither FSF nor FSFE stepped up and defended the founder of the Free Software movement.
But I’m appalled that FSFE even is happy about it. What are your reasons? I would expect some amount of solidarity with RMS and some level of resilience. If this position stands (and no convincing argument is provided for it), then I’m afraid this is no longer the right organization for me and after 12 years as a fellow and supporter I will have to look for another venue to support Free Software.
best regards
Geza

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The “welcome” in the FSFE statement seems rather wrongly phrased for me too. I have red about the whole issue a lot over the last days and as far as I could dig up there is no evidence that RMS did anything more wrong than having unpopular viewpoints and a tendency to make advances on students. The last one seems problematic to me but that is something MIT should have dealt with a long time ago. In my view this has absolutely nothing to do with the FSF.

There is a really bad shaming campaign going on here with false accusations nobody actually claims. But the media is obviously desperate for advertisement revenue and has no obligation to truth or the desire to take on the responsibility of a sensible role in our democratic society. It’s not pretty to see that.

In this climate it is very easy to make wrong decisions because it is very hard to separate fiction from truth if you don’t invest an unreasonable amount of time to dig up what truly lies at the base of all this fuzz.

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This is a very ill advised thing to say. It’s obviously polarizing to the community and will not in any way have the slightest impact in outside public perception of the FSFE itself.
It only adds to the public opinion lynching of an innocent man and to the smearing campaign that is trying to destroy him and the movement he founded and of which you are a part of!

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Unlike others in this thread I appreciate FSFE’s statement.

It has been time for RMS to step down for too long. I attended a few events where he was speaking and with his extreme positions and unfriendly tone he discouraged many participants. He even got angry and loud when people proudly said that they installed Ubuntu, their first Linux based OS (guess how they liked him afterwards…). His behaviour in interviews made the whole Free Software movement look bad. And he is an aweful communicator, and that’s a bad attribute for the leader of the (US-) Free Software movement.

As I understand the statement does not repeat any allegations, it follows no campaign, it just respects the decision of its sister organisation. I fully agree and I hope that FSF finally learned that the leader cult caused more trouble for the whole community than it was worth.

I think Dr Stallman’s views on Mr Minsky’s case (professor at MIT, allegedly involved in Jeffrey Epstein’s scandal) have been misinterpreted and in some cases intentionally distorted. He is the victim of a witch hunt.

Mr Stallman is famous for his intellectual honesty. He should be applauded for it, not ostracized, regardless of whether you agree with him or not. And deep in your heart you know he is one of the best humans that have set foot on this planet.

Taking into account all the above, Richard Stallman should be reinstated as president of the Free Software Foundation.

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I don’t blame the FSFE because these were hectic days and the lynchmobs made any rational discussion impossible, but the statement is poorly phrased. A traditional “we thank X for the long service, the commitment to the cause and the responsible decision” would have been enough to convey the support while being respectful.

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I don’t blame anyone. What I do miss is some way of
constructive discussion.

This forum behaves as a kind of Twitter, with lots
of drive-by comments [1], the FSF’s and FSFE’s statements
are pretty bland and defensive… I don’t know. I think
we could do better than that.

[1] Yes, after having read my share of information, I too
have the impression that RMS is being treated unfairly.
But this is not my (only) point (it already as been).
My point now is rather that we don’t seem capable to
discuss such a thing in a constructive, rational way.

My fear is that every such event will catch us in a
similar way (remember Article 13 – uh 17?).

Cheers
– t

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And what about this comment?

Is it constructive? I hope, it is. I summarized what we (as FSF, but it applies also to FSFE) should focus on – real problems, issues and challenges.

It’s not about individual comments. It’s more about how we’re
functioning as a group.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not blaming anyone, and I’m aware that
I’m just part of it. I’m just thinking aloud whether we can do
anything about it, and if yes, what.

Whenever a “difficult” topic comes up, it’s as if we didn’t
knew how to cope with conflicts.

Cheers
– tomás

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Mass hysteria rules out any rational discussion. We need a rollback – back to the August – and then continue in our work, incremental improvements in a standard process and without enemy interventions from outside.