UPDATE 2021-04-12: Richard Stallman has put out a public statement on the issue, which can be found at www.fsf.org/news/rms-addresses-the-free-software-community
Today I added my signature to the open letter in support of Richard Stallman that can be found here: rms-support-letter.github.io
I encourage others who value meritocracy and objective truth to do so; and even more so if you despise the woke mob, subjective bias, cancel culture, and the “words are violence; I’m offended” nonsense that’s currently plaguing the tech community.
A few thoughts on the current debacle:
In my opinion the attacks against Richard Stallman do not stem from any of his actual statements. Instead, his statements have been misrepresented and given a subversive context that fits into the narrative of those that wish to smear him, followed a demand that their interpretation of his words be considered canon — even though evidence to the contrary summarily disproves their position.
Stallman is also taken to task for being offensive. But who decides what’s offensive? It’s an inescapable fact that at some point, anything a person says can be offensive to another person. This is true for all of humanity, and if Stallman is offensive to someone then they’re free to block him, mute him, not listen to what he has to say, or refuse to communicate with him altogether.
Does Stallman’s personality affect his body of, and continuous work at the Free Software Foundation? I don’t think so.
Stallman’s work and advocacy speaks for itself; and this holds true for anyone in the field of technology, where a person’s work is judged by a system of meritocracy. Meritocracy makes no place for a fragile “anti-reality” worldview in which a “virtuous victim” is allowed to redefine facts if those facts conflict with their feelings.
Linus Torvalds was also famously criticized by those who took offense to his no-nonsense attitude and firm speech. Did the quality of the Linux kernel suffer? Was being unoffensive part of his job description as maintainer? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding NO.
While Linus chose to address criticisms and accusations against him in his own way (inasmuch as he was entitled not to), Stallman is under no obligation to apologize to anyone whose feelings are hurt by his words.
Stallman has never been accused of doing physical harm to anyone, and therefore any assumptions about the “harmful nature” or context of his words should not be conflated with his professional capacity to hold a leadership role within the FSF — the very organization that he founded.
I’m an advocate of free speech bar none because I believe that all speech must be allowed to see the light of day, in order for everyone to have a truthful, open, and honest conversation about what was actually said.
Absolute free speech is also the only way to identify that someone has taken an objective position based on what they have said; notwithstanding that the context of what they said needs to be included when making any such pronouncements (or in Stallman’s case, accusations).