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What will we do without Richard Stallman?

Make no mistake, Richard Stallman did not resign by choice. He was removed from his positions at MIT and the FSF. Is it his fault he got removed? Only sort of. Stallman is no saint – his work and views in relation to software is basically the perfect goal for most pieces of software to reach, and it is a very high bar. I look up to Dr. Stallman in this regard. However, his personal life and other views are extremely concerning and questionable – his opinion that “pedophilia should be allowed if the child consents” among others relating to necrophilia, incest, and even his political and religious views are, if I may go so far as to say, deplorable.

ED 04/29/2020: "Deplorable" doesn't really go far enough here. His views are quite disgusting, but at the end of the day, they are views and opinions and must be treated as such. There is no evidence to suggest he has actually harmed anyone in any way.

The day he was ousted was an interesting one. Yes, he said some offensive things, but this wasn’t what got him removed, in my opinion. Those who oppose Free Software as well as those who oppose Stallman himself have been looking to publicize even the slightest slip of the tongue for longer than I have been using Free Software. They needed an excuse to eliminate Stallman, and they got one.

After his “resignation” from the Free Software Foundation and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, countless people stepped forward with stories about him and his oft offensive social interactions. Stallman does have Asperger’s so many of these didn’t actually seem that bad to me. He hit on women in strange, awkward ways, and… I don’t know, vaguely offended others? The proof assembled in order to justify his character assassination was wanting, at times even seemingly manufactured. Modern society has seen this time and time again with all manner of public figure – what a zoomer like me would probably call “cancel culture”.

So, who cancelled him, and why? Some have proposed theories in which some elaborate conspiracy involving Microsoft spies infiltrating the world of Free Open Source Software in order to subvert it has occurred. Which, for all I know, may actually be the case. The more people use proprietary software and promote it as The Standard, the more money Microsoft makes, and the more control corporations gain over people.

More realistically, this is a shameful byproduct of “The Age of Outrage” we live in today. We cancel people with the frequency you might buy a new toothbrush. Take ProJared as an example – a popular YouTuber who was accused by his then wife of cheating and manipulating her, among other things. He was cancelled, lost many of his subscribers, and for all intents and purposes, his life was ruined. It was proved as a matter of fact that many of these claims were either outright fabricated, or taken grossly out of context. Yet all who even heard about the drama, regardless of whether they actually watched his videos, participated with fervor. Never have I seen a group of people, even including myself, become so entertained and self-righteous by the utter destruction of a man.

Stallman said bad things, but to my knowledge never actually did a whole lot of bad, and it is indeed a demonstrable fact that he’s done nearly immeasurable good for the world of computing. The most logical conclusion is that those who oppose Stallman want the power and influence over the Free Software world that his positions provided. Watch over the coming months as someone installed to the seat of Free Software Foundation President will then immediately begin to tamper with the ecosystem we’ve come to know.

My worst fear is that GPLv4 will be drafted and will include a completely unreasonable clause that destroys the real world usability of the license, and the “GPLv3 or later” part of GPLv3 will be abused in order to effectively destroy prominent GPL licensed projects. GPL is not the world, but GPL is the ideal.

I often wonder these sort of things – who will continue Linux when Linus Torvalds resigns, or passes away? For the good of the digital world, I sincerely hope I’m not the only person asking this question.

Signed,

-L