This is my (in)activity log. You might like to visit
Productivity a subsidiary of Collabora focusing on LibreOffice support and
services for whom I work.
Also if you have the time to read this sort of stuff you could enlighten
yourself by going to Unraveling Wittgenstein's net or if
you are feeling objectionable perhaps here. Failing that, there are all manner of interesting things to read on
the LibreOffice Planet news
Stuff Michael Meeks is doing
Up earlyish, train to Nurnberg. Really disappointed to see
- I've seen Richard at a number of conferences, and I'm
personally not a fan of his liberal approach to intimacy. I
might be inclined to warn women of the risk of being
propositioned by him in advance (arguably his door-plate is
a strong hint). However, I'm aware that attitudes to this
topic ebb & flow in the culture.
- I can only believe that RMS' E-mail defence of Minsky
is based on knowing him personally, his character and ethics,
and preferring to believe he would not knowingly force
himself on an unwilling minor. I would hope that my friends
might defend my character posthumously.
- I fear there is a deeply worrying, 'lynch mob'
mentality about this, where truth is de-emphasized in favour
of outrage, in an attempt to right a wrong.
- That is understandable, given the outrageous nature
of the Epstein allegations, it sounds horrific
from many perspectives.
- indeed - it's pretty horrible to have to
dissect this, the reports are deeply
troubling, but worth engaging with.
- I applaud those members of the police &
judiciary bringing justice to bear, and regret
that Epstein's death robbed many of the chance
to see him answer his accusers & to open
the box, see justice done & learn
valuable lessons from the experience.
- I rejoice to see justice done. Unfortunately
rushing to judgement on RMS's comments seems
unjust to me.
- From the perspective of wanting to try to tell the
truth, I find it troubling to see people I otherwise
respect linking to and promoting articles that they know
mis-characterise what RMS said. I suspect that this is done in
order to stir outage and drive just such a rush to judgment.
- My feeble attempts to understand the sorry facts of the matter
follow. You can read the text shorn of the Verge's misleading commentary
- I guess the core of the most distorted section is this from RMS:
"We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible
scenario is that she presented herself to him [Minsky] as entirely
willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he
would have every reason to tell her to conceal that from
most of his associates."
- The description "presented ... as" has a clear, but
slightly unusual meaning - which in context can be explained
as: "it looked like X (to Minsky) when it was really Y". How
you present - is what you seem to be from the outside. That is
perhaps most clear to English speakers.
- So - apparently RMS' argument is that intention is
important and absent perfect knowledge, there could
be different perspectives on the same (reprehensible) act.
- From my perspective - that such intimacy belongs
exclusively to marriage - I'd want to avoid all these
problems with a ceremony, vows before
God, explicit consent from both parties, who know
each other well & are best friends, ideally in
front of a large number of approving and celebrating
witnesses before consumation. Oh, and a giant party to
celebrate the goodness of it all !
- However - it is not a surprise to me that this is a
minority view. I hear there are many 'apps' to
facilitate transient, shallow and commitment free,
superficial couplings of a duration of minutes.
This sort of promiscuous interaction seems unfortunate
and particularly open to the possibility of
mis-interpretation in twisted circumstances.
- So then we come to the reporting:
- Lets start with the misleading
Vice article - linked by Matthew & Niall. The inflated headline is:
"Famed Computer Scientist Richard Stallman Described Epstein Victims
As 'Entirely Willing'" - by Edward Ongweso Jr. The problem is that RMS
did not even describe a single one of Epstein's victims as entirely willing.
Indeed his next sentence says "Assuming she was being coerced".
The nuance of multiple perspectives and ignorance of the situation ie.
"presented as" is elided.
- The misleading Daily Beast "Renowned MIT Scientist Defends Epstein: Victims Were 'Entirely Willing'" - Blake Montgommery seems rather similar but adds a (missing) defence of Epstein.
- The misleading Tech Crunch: "Computer scientist Richard Stallman, who defended Jeffrey Epstein, resigns from MIT CSAIL and the Free Software Foundation" - Catherine Shu - picks up the previous accusation that now appears to bear no relation to the E-mail thread.
- Interestingly, the initial polemical blog - "Remove Richard Stallman" - Selam G. - is more accurate and helpfully contexualized than much of the rest of the media. An encouraging take on direct reporting. Even the text that sounds like the lynch mob's charter: "he didn't even give the typical, whiney, he's accused but not convicted defense." is moderated by the fact that being dead, Minsky can never be tried in a fair process - which is admittedly deeply unsatisfying.
- So as a preliminary conclusion - accusation inflation transparently exists, and is a real concern. I believe this was at the core of RMS' initial point in regard to Minsky.
- In another forum Slashdot reports: "Richard Stallman Challenges 'Misleading' Coverage of His Comments on Marvin Minsky" - EditorDavid.
RMS: The coverage totally
mischaracterised my statements. Headlines say
that I defended Epstein. Nothing could be
further from the truth. I've called him a
"serial rapist", and said he deserved to be
imprisoned. But many people now believe I
defended him -- and other inaccurate claims --
and feel a real hurt because of what they
believe I said.
- Some personal conclusions
- Whether you agree with his principles and ethics or not, RMS is
a principled old man - who seems to have been forced to step down
to avoid damage to the institutions he loved: MIT & FSF.
Please respect his work, and his amazing achievement and legacy.
- Where I agree with mjg59 is that all our (human) heros are
flawed, and wouldn't it be nice not to have figureheads. Where I
disagree is with the reality of PR, and (self-)promotion: such
figures arise from re-inforcement effects anyway, fame breeds
fame, as any D-list celebrity will tell you.
- Beware: the mob is a fickle friend - I fear adding my small
voice in support of RMS. Does doing so make me a rape-apologist-apologist
in the inflated lexicon of our time.
- I had hoped that when the similar stoning of Brendan Eich
occurred - that it was just blameless, conservative Christians
that would be aggressively excluded from the FLOSS community
(cheered on by a similar set). Now it seems that bumbling
hippies are also unwelcome; who is next ?
- It is vital that misbehavior and abuse is caught and corrected,
and that victims are willing to speak out. However, it is also
important that "Work hard and you will do well" continues
to be a foundation of what we do. Aggressive feminism should not
be a necessary pre-requisite for success in our community.
We do owe a duty to those who have put so much in, to give the
benefit of the doubt, and listen carefully to what they are
actually saying even if we disagree.
- It seems an unfortunate thing for some to be criticizing RMS
for making the FSF look bad, while simultaneously spreading the
very unbalanced reports that exacerbate the problem they
complain of. That is not a plea for secrecy - but for fair
- Finally we need a way to retard lynch mobs. Where is the
noble sheriff who stands in front of the slavering pack with a
shotgun and risks his life to make sure that due process is
followed ? What does due process even look like ? What can
organizations do to bring balance and ensure all perspective
are heard ? cooling off periods before accepting a
resignation ? polling their communities ? who can say ?
Perhaps my thoughts make you angry; perhaps you feel that
defending an old man, standing up for his dead colleague is
insensitive to the many victims of Epstein. Perhaps the
larger problems you see are so bad, you just want to see
blood regardless of whose it is; that is understandable.
However, just possibly it is worth reflecting as
to whether you are transferring your righteous anger and
desire for justice in the Epstein case, to attack someone
else for something very different.
Finally, this blog is a hostage to fortune; it is possible
(but unlikely) that RMS is not a harmless sort but a scheming
criminal mastermind. Still, one can only work with the
evidence as it is presented at the time.
Update: 2019-09-18 (late) A postscript: Thomas Bushnell's
reflections seem aposite; and somewhat sensitive; also did an s/outcome/situation/
on my disappointment at the top to be more accurate.
Update: 2019-09-19 Thorsten posted his
take here; I too have to agree that RMS " ... held views
incompatible with broad societal norms & ethics”, as well as
lots of views I dislike. It should also be clear that neither
Thorsten nor I speak for TDF on this topic.
Update: 2019-09-23 - Philip Chimento has posted his perhaps different
with some interesting comments. I think he does an appropriate job of engaging with
the ideas. From the perspective of my serious concerns about process, (rather than
outcome per-se) - I would love a mechanism to be certain that the fall-back other bad
behavior used to post-justify change is also beyond reproach and not open to the
accusation of intentional propagation of inflated and de-contextualized mis-representation.
Since investigating that simply doesn't scale, I'd love to have some impartial,
independent group with a balanced composition, that can actually talk just once to
individuals involved & handle this sensitively & sensibly to free us all from the
problem of building our views on the shaky foundation of internet hearsay.
Update: 2019-09-26 Some people mailed me to suggest that the true
problem is one of protecting and nurturing talented neuro-divergents, others pointed out
that there is no formal, professional diagnosis of that, making this all speculation and
hearsay. Having spent some time with Richard in the past, I know my view but the (non-ranting)
bits of this story might help people make up
their mind, or get more background in this Psychology
Update: 2019-10-02 an interesting
from a die-hard feminist: Richard Stallman Has Been Vilified by
Those Who Don’t Know Him.
Update: 2019-10-10 Interested to see Lubomir
calling out Neil's blog, and leaving comments for (healthy) open discussion. Also
interested to read Andy
Wingo's thoughtful take on RMS' leadership failings.
Update: 2019-10-18 Interesting to read Bradley's
thoughtful resignation post, and to have some informative talks at
the mentor summit on the topic. I' not completely convinced that
leaders have to campaign only on one narrow issue; I'd hope that
those who disagree with me would have the space and support to
speak out about whatever social injustices they see inside and
outside the sphere of software. It's certainly possible to be
right on one topic, and wrong on others.
My content in this blog and associated images / data under
data/ directories are (usually)
created by me and (unless obviously labelled otherwise) are licensed under
the public domain, and/or if that doesn't float your boat a CC0
license. I encourage linking back (of course) to help people decide for
themselves, in context, in the battle for ideas, and I love fixes /
improvements / corrections by private mail.
In case it's not painfully obvious: the reflections reflected here are my
own; mine, all mine ! and don't reflect the views of Collabora, SUSE,
Novell, The Document Foundation, Spaghetti Hurlers (International),
or anyone else.
It's also important to realise that I'm not in on the Swedish Conspiracy.
Occasionally people ask for formal photos for conferences
Michael Meeks (firstname.lastname@example.org)