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Re: Nuance Regarding RMS

Greetings, Debianites,

On Thu, Apr 01, 2021 at 11:51:59AM +0100, Barak A. Pearlmutter wrote:
I can personally vouch for the fact that RMS can be very difficult. He
takes social awkwardness to new heights. He’s remarkably stubborn in
technical matters even when outside his domain of expertise and
completely wrong. He is not a fun house guest. His manners as a dinner
guest are atrocious. He was by far the most logistically problematic
seminar speaker I have ever hosted. He takes umbrage at quite
innocuous colloquial phrasing, and is obstinate about his own
idiosyncratic interpretation of English semantics. He overshares, and
has great difficulty reading others' emotions.

But he's not transphobic. That accusation is basically scurrilous. At
https://libreboot.org/news/rms.html is an impassioned but well
reasoned (at least in this regard) defense of RMS from a trans woman
he had a big public fight with. “If you actually tell Richard your
preferred pronouns, he’ll use them with you without hesitation.
Several of my friends are trans and also speak to Richard, mostly via
email. He respects their pronouns also.”

Calling him ablist is similarly unfair. He was defending women’s right
to terminate pregnancies when the fetus has a condition like trisomy
21. Whatever your views are on the underlying political question, to
twist that as ablist is quite a stretch.

RMS is not violent.

He's weird with everyone, which do I think has, in general, a
disproportionate effect on women. As does his poor personal hygiene.
He had a mattress in his office at MIT because he was basically living
there. That might give lots of people squicky feelings, but would have
a disproportionate effect on women. He makes unwelcome sexual
overtures to women, but backs off when turned down (with perhaps
isolated exceptions decades ago). That's totally inappropriate
behaviour. He seems unable to sense when someone finds him repellent.

Basically, he’s super creepy and unpleasant. He picks his feet and
eats it while delivering seminars.

Nina Paley hosted him in her apartment in New York on a number of
occasions, and had a similar read.

I'm not sure he'd be an ideal board member, but that’s a practical
rather than ethical consideration, and surely best left to the
judgement of the individual organization.

What’s problematic to me about this whole “Cancel RMS” business is the
lack of nuance. He’s clearly not neurotypical in a way that makes him
very difficult to deal with. He doesn’t make appropriate eye contact.
He’s strange in ways that I think, on average, affects women more than
men. But should we bully or ostracise him for that? I think we should
try to develop coping strategies for both him and people who want or
need to deal with him. That’s actually supporting and accommodating
diversity. And it’s hard! We should seek ways to leverage his
strengths, which are considerable. Of course, that assumes lack of
malice, which I think is the case with RMS. He’s not malicious. He
really wants to connect, but he’s utterly unable to. He’s weird and
clueless. And he’s obsessed with software freedom.

--Barak Pearlmutter <bap@debian.org>

I like nuance and non-hyperbolic language :-)



⢀⣴⠾⠻⢶⣦⠀  Filippo Rusconi, PhD
⣾⠁⢠⠒⠀⣿⡁   Research scientist at CNRS
⢿⡄⠘⠷⠚⠋⠀   Debian Developer
⠈⠳⣄⠀⠀⠀⠀  http://msxpertsuite.org

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