Regarding the Stallman comeback
Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software movement, and commited his life to making what seemed like a ludicrous idea into a tangible reality. We owe him big time for that, and nothing somebody says or does will ever eclipse the fact.
But Richard Stallman has a very toxic personality. There is a long, well-known published list of abuse cases; if you must read more into it, some regarding his views on sex, consent, gender, and some other issues are published as a part of the open letter I am about to reference. I have witnessed quite a few; I won’t disclose here the details, as many other incidents are already known. And I don’t mean by this sexual abuse, although that’s the twig that eventually broke the camel’s back, but ranging from general rudeness to absolute lack of consideration for people around him.
In September 2019, Stallman was Forced to resign, first from his position at MIT, then as the president of the FSF. The direct cause was a comment where he defended the accusations on Minsky (a personal friend of his, and deceased three years prior to the fact) of sexual abuse.
Last week, 18 months after he was driven out of the FSF, and at LibrePlanet (FSF’s signature conference, usually held at the MIT, this time naturally online only) Stallman announced his comeback to the Board of Directors of the FSF.
Many people (me included, naturally) in the Free Software world are very angry about this announcement. There is a call for signatures for a position statement presented by several free software leaders that has gathered, as I write this message, over 400 signatures. The Open Source Initiative has presented its institutional position statement. And I can only forecast this rejection will continue to grow.
Free software was once the arena of young, raging alpha machos where a thick skin was an entry requirement. A good thing about growing up is that our community is now wiser, and although it still attracts younger people, there is a clear trend not to repeat our past ways. Free software has grown, and there is no place for a leader so disrespectful and hurting as many of us have witnessed Stallman to be.
Again, the free software movement –and the world as a whole– owes a great deal to Stallman. He changed history. I admire his work, his persistence and his stubbornness. But I won’t have him represent me.