Train to Nurnberg. Really disappointed to see the situation with RMS

  • Up earlyish, train to Nurnberg. Really disappointed to see
    the situation
    with RMS:

    • 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
        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.
    • Update: 2019-09-19 Thorsten posted his
      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.

— source | Michael Meeks | 2019-09-17

Nullius in verba