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Re: GNU/LinEx, Debian, and the GNU FDL

Richard Stallman (2003-09-06 13:07:24 -0400) :

> Branden Robinson wonders why I do not address him in my messages.  I
> will not answer him, because I am not on speaking terms with him.

If I may say so, you're not the first one, probably not the only one
at present, and if I may venture so far, not the last one.  Branden
has been noted for his loud flaming sometimes, and it is indeed hard
to know when he actually means to flame someone to a crisp and when
he's just toying with LOUD BURSTS OF SHOUTING.

> However, I will explain this for the sake of others.  I am not on
> speaking terms with him,

  That's something I respect, even if I am saddened by such a sorry
state of affairs between two people I consider to be brilliant on
other points.

> and I don't think questions like his deserve a response.

  That does not only sadden me, it also disappoints me.  There are
other people beside Branden who would like answers to some of these

> Typically they take a belligerent tone.  Often they start with
> fabrications, and speculate at length about what it would mean if
> those fabrications were true.  (This is classic smear campaign
> tactics.)  Often they assert that unless I disprove the fabrications
> to his satisfaction, he is entitled to presume them valid.  To
> answer the questions would be to accept the ground rules they
> presuppose, so I do not answer.  When it seems useful, I criticize
> the questions themselves.

  Okay.  I'll talk in my name here.  I don't care about questions #1
and #2, for which you may be perfectly right: as far as I can tell
from Branden's e-mail, having only met him twice and not talked a lot
with him, I cannot with any confidence assert that they were not at
least partially personal attacks.

  As far as I can tell (including from the rest of your message), the
answer to question #3 "Which distribution do you endorse?", the answer
is "none personally".  I can live with that.  I'll add my own variant
though: Which distribution, if any, does the FSF endorse?

> For instance, his latest message speculates at length about the
> meaning of a supposed conflict between my personal statements (about
> Debian, one must presume) and the FSF's position.  It implies that I
> made personal statements endorsing Debian, and that I was at fault
> for not distinguishing them from the FSF's position.

  I have to agree it's hard to know when you speak in your name and
when you speak in the FSF's.  Especially when you're interviewed by
web sites, magazines, journals and suchlikes: they aren't usually
interviewing Richard Matthew Stallman, a guy with interests in
politics, science, music and dance.  Their article is much more likely
to be titled "Interview with Richard Stallman, head of the Free
Software Foundation".  Their questions are usually also tailored for
$FSF::RMS rather than $RMS::self, except maybe for one or two "on a
lighter note" questions at the end of the interview.  As a
consequence, it is hard for us non-RMS people to notice when you try
to speak in your own name, because most of what we hear from you is
through people who adress you as FSF leader.  Believe it or not, your
history and the FSF's history are so entwined together that it's quite
hard to even think of one without having the other in mind.  This is
not intended to be taken as a critique, only a plausible explanation
for the misunderstanding.  Another one would be that your personal
website, which mentions it contains your opinions and not the FSF's,
does not mention anything about any GNU/Linux distribution, apart from
the announcement for Yellow Hat GNU/Linux by none other by the Dalai
Lama himself.

> Nothing like that occurred.  What I personally say about Debian is
> that it pays more respect to the user's freedom than other
> distributions, but that I cannot endorse it because of the
> distribution of non-free packages.  Robinson actually cited this in
> his message, but that didn't stop him from fabricating something
> contrary.

  I think Branden was more questioning the fact that either you've
stopped endorsing Debian, or you've become more vocal about it.
Unfortunately, maybe, that happened at about the same time as the GFDL
problem being brought to the attention of quite a few people.  That's
probably the rationale for question #4: is it a coincidence, or is
there a link?  I'm interested in the answer to that question, both as
a member of the Debian project and as yet another pony-tail guy.

  Question #5, I think, was mostly rhetoric.  If you could spare a few
seconds of your time to answer either yes or no or "no, it's more
complex than that", I'd be grateful, and it would mean one unanswered
question less.

  Questions #6 and #7 may be viewed as personal attacks (they can also
be viewed as not so, from the external point of view of someone like
me who's only recently subscribed to debian-legal).  I feel they are
less important than #3 to #5.

> If Debian is seriously interested in discussing how to produce a
> distribution that the FSF could recommend, or at least consider
> ethically acceptable, I would very much like to discuss that with
> Debian developers that approach the discussion in a spirit of good
> will.

  I believe Debian is seriously interested in all that.  As far as I
can tell, though, Debian already produces a distribution that the FSF
should recommend, it's called Debian GNU/Linux and contains no
non-free software.  The Debian project may not produce *only* that
distribution, and from what I hear, I think the FSF would rather we
did.  That's one issue, which will probably be resolved once the
GR/voting/paperwork has been dealt with.

  Another issue, which coincidentally-until-proven-otherwise is
getting some brain cycles these days, could be rephrased as the issue
of how the FSF could produce an operating system that the Debian
project could recommend, or at least consider DFSG-free.  Unless I'm
mistaken, most of the Debian developers who care enough about the GFDL
problem alone would consider that the current situation isn't

> I won't discuss the issue with Branden Robinson, though.

  So be it.  Please discuss it with me then.  Or anyone else on
debian-legal, actually.  Ignore him at will.  Please don't ignore his
questions, though.  Well, at least, not the ones I'd like an answer


Roland Mas

How does an octopus go into battle?

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