Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Emailing Richard Stallman

I emailed Richard Stallman at the encouragement of a couple of friends here in order to get my concerns in front of him, and hopefully, to get a response. The entire exchange pretty much speaks for itself, I'd say, so I'll simply reproduce it in full here.

My initial email:
Dear Dr. Stallman:

I was in the audience during your keynote at the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, and I was perplexed and distressed by a few things.

The lesser of these was your tendency to shout over questioners while they were in mid-question, and to dismiss their questions as “silly”. However, this is not what I’m mainly concerned about.

The more significant problem was your comments regarding “EMAC virgins”, which you defined as being specifically “_women_ who had never used EMACS”, and for whom being “relieved” of this “virginity” was a “holy duty”. My reaction, and the reaction of a large number of members of the audience with whom I’ve spoken was one of great dismay.

Your remarks gave the distinct impression that you view women as being in particular need of technical assistance (presumably by men, since there's apparently no such thing as a _male_ "EMACS virgin"); additionally, women are quite capable of making their own decisions about who might relieve them of whatever sort of “virginity”. I (and many others) viewed these remarks as denigrating and demeaning to women, as well as completely out of place at what is, in essence, a technical conference.

As a member of the GNOME Foundation Advisory Board, I engage in regular discussions about the relatively small number of women involved in open source. I feel that it is thoughtless comments like your remarks on “EMACS virgins” which contribute, quite heavily, to this situation. Given your position with respect to the free software community, I feel you did your audience a great disservice. If those remarks were intended as a joke, the joke was, frankly, not at all a funny one. I’d strongly encourage you to refrain from such comments in the future.

I also think you may find it worth considering that there are active and important members of the free software community who consider themselves Christians—I’d cite Michael Meeks as just one example. While no one insists that you agree with or subscribe to a particular religion, people are every bit as entitled to their own beliefs as you are to your lack of them, and I thought it likewise inappropriate to take keynote time to create a situation in which you marginalize members of the community by mocking Christianity. Again, this is a technical conference.

I personally feel as though you owe your audience, and in particular the women attending the conference, an apology. The remarks came across as thoughtless, inconsiderate and sexist--again, this is not simply my own opinion, but one which I’ve heard echoed, over and over, in my discussions with others who were present at the time. I would imagine that this was not your intention, but it was indeed the reaction of many members of the audience.

I hope you will take this letter in the spirit in which it’s intended. I’ll look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

David “Lefty” Schlesinger
Dr. Stallman's reply:

The Cult of the Virgin of Emacs, like the rest of the Church of Emacs, is meant to poke fun at religion and at myself. I think that you and some others have misunderstood it.

>While no one insists that you agree with or subscribe to
> a particular religion, people are every bit as entitled to
> their own beliefs as you are to your lack of them,

Yes, they are. Are you accusing me of wishing to deny them these rights? If so, you do me wrong. I defend religious freedom as strongly as anyone.

However, freedom of religion the freedom to criticize religious views. No human views are off limits to criticism, or joking. People have a right to criticize religion directly, or to ridicule it harshly.

However, St IGNUcius does neither of those; at most it makes gentle fun of religion, tangentially. There is no reason for religious people to take offense at that. I have presented St IGNUcius with Catholic priests in the audience, and it did not offend them.

>I personally feel as though you owe your audience,
>and in particular the women attending the conference,
>an apology. The remarks came across as thoughtless,
>inconsiderate and sexist--again, this is not simply my
>own opinion, but one which I've heard echoed, over and
>over, in my discussions with others who were present at the time.

I do not believe I owe anyone an apology. I did not insult or attack them, but it is clear some people are attacking me. I think I am being criticized unjustly criticized, and I feel I have been wronged.

I am concerned about this reported hostile reaction. But I am not sure what to make of it, since it goes against nearly all the rest of my experience. I have had very few negative reactions to St IGNUcius in the past; the only one I can remember was from someone who was hostile to begin with. So this seems like an anomalous case. I don't understand why it happened.

You said that you "heard it echoed, over and over", but how many people actually had this reaction? Maybe it was a few people who started a lot of conversations.
My second email:
Dear Dr. Stallman:

I'm honestly a little surprised--amazed, really--that you managed to completely ignore the three central paragraphs which I identified as being the core of my concerns, choosing instead to focus on the side issue of the anti-religious bent of your "St. IGNUcius" routine.

Let me reiterate, without the distractions:

> The more significant problem was your comments
> regarding “EMAC virgins”, which you defined as being
> specifically “_women_ who had never used EMACS”,
> and for whom being “relieved” of this “virginity” was a “holy
> duty”. My reaction, and the reaction of a large number of
> members of the audience with whom I’ve spoken was
> one of great dismay.
>
> Your remarks gave the distinct impression that you view
> women as being in particular need of technical assistance
> (presumably by men, since there's apparently no such
> thing as a _male_ "EMACS virgin"); additionally, women
> are quite capable of making their own decisions about
> who might relieve them of whatever sort of “virginity”. I
> (and many others) viewed these remarks as denigrating
> and demeaning to women, as well as completely out
> of place at what is, in essence, a technical conference.
>
> As a member of the GNOME Foundation Advisory
> Board, I engage in regular discussions about the relatively
> small number of women involved in open source. I feel
> that it is thoughtless comments like your remarks on
> “EMACS virgins” which contribute, quite heavily, to this
> situation. Given your position with respect to the free
> software community, I feel you did your audience a great
> disservice. If those remarks were intended as a joke, the
> joke was, frankly, not at all a funny one. I’d strongly
> encourage you to refrain from such comments in the future.

Perhaps you can respond to _these_ concerns rather than the more tangential ones.

> I am concerned about this reported hostile reaction.

I would hope so.

> But I am not sure what to make of it, since it goes
> against nearly all the rest of my experience. I have
> had very few negative reactions to St IGNUcius
> in the past; the only one I can remember was from
> someone who was hostile to begin with. So this seems
> like an anomalous case. I don't understand why it
> happened.

I understand exactly why it "happened": as I said, your remarks were sexist, thoughtless, dismissive and denigrating.

> You said that you "heard it echoed, over and over",
> but how many people actually had this reaction?
> Maybe it was a few people who started a lot of
> conversations.

I would estimate that I've spoken to well in excess of a hundred people at the conference about this; most of them initiated the conversation with me, rather than the other way around. The virtually universal reaction has been exactly what I described to you: dismay, unhappiness and concern over the view of women which your idea of "gentle fun" implied.

Again, you did your audience a serious disservice with these remarks. I stand by my statement that you owe all of us an apology.

Sincerely,

David "Lefty" Schlesinger
Dr. Stallman's reply:
> I'm honestly a little surprised--amazed, really--that
> you managed to completely ignore the three central
> paragraphs which I identified as being the core of my
> concerns, choosing instead to focus on the side issue of
> the anti-religious bent of your "St. IGNUcius" routine.

I did respond to the other points, just more briefly.

>> The remarks came across as thoughtless, inconsiderate
>> and sexist--again, this is not simply my own opinion, but
>> one which I've heard echoed...
>
> I do not believe I owe anyone an apology. I did not insult or
> attack them, but it is clear some people are attacking me....

Thus, I think your criticism of my response is inaccurate. However, my response naturally reflected my own priorities.

> Your remarks gave the distinct impression that you
> view women as being in particular need of technical
> assistance (presumably by men, since there's
> apparently no such thing as a _male_ "EMACS virgin");
> additionally, women are quite capable of making their
> own decisions about who might relieve them of whatever
> sort of "virginity". I (and many others) viewed these
> remarks as denigrating and demeaning to women,

The cult of the Virgin of Emacs is simply intended as a joke about the cult of the Virgin Mary. I assure anyone who perceived derogatory meanings in it that I did not intend them.
Wow. Just wow. In anyone can find the point in his first message where he responded, "albeit more briefly", to the issue I raised, can you point it out to me? I sure don't see it.

315 comments:

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James said...

I know a female student who dropped out of computer science over of male behavior much less flagrant than Stallman's.

Thanks for calling RMS out on this, Lefty.

Simon Howard said...

"Don't tell sexist jokes. Sexist jokes are the number one way to drive women out of any group" - From HOWTO: Encourage women in open source (something I greatly recommend reading, although RMS would probably refuse to read it because it isn't named "HOWTO: Encourage women in free software")

Thank you Lefty for protesting this disgusting display.

Bob said...

Unfortunately this changes nothing within IT, the joke about rape within the comments clearly shows that IT still has neanderthalic assholes that have never learned to function in society.

Disgusting.

Matthew Brown said...

I wish I could say I was appalled by either RMS's behavior or the way that seemingly half of the commenters here seem to think that posting emails is a bigger deal than RMS's behavior, but I'm afraid I'm not.

Folks: "don't post emails" is a rule of thumb that's a good guide most of the time, but it's not a hard and fast absolute rule in the real world.

Journalists publish the content of emails they receive all the time, as well as the contents of letters, and the transcripts of phone calls. It's well within the remit of the fair use defense in US copyright law, and common practice.

As to privacy and defamation concerns, there are none. RMS is a public figure and the emails were regarding his public actions. Nothing personal or private about RMS's life is in those emails.

And a technical conference keynote is NOT South Park. Humor that is appropriate in the one context is not appropriate in the other.

Thank you, Lefty, for standing up and doing the right thing here.

And all the anonymous flamers: grow up and take responsibility for being a jerk on the Internet.

Anonymous said...

Wow!
Now you're getting personal.

So that's the way how grown ups handle this - by insulting.

Lefty said...

Now you're getting personal.

I think this started "getting personal" at around the fourth comment or so.

So that's the way how grown ups handle this - by insulting.

Oh, spare me your responsibility-free umbrage, please. You should be grateful that I tolerate the Nameless Horde at all, especially given the level of moronic abuse emanating from that general direction.

I mean, really, you've simply got to be kidding.

Kim said...

I wasn't there so I won't judge neither you or Mr. Stallman. However one thing that I have come across many times is that there is strictly political incorrect to even joke about women while it is fully accepted to make even worse jokes about males. And they are expected to be strong and deal with it themselves. Women are at least recognized when they are treated badly.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lefty,

You make an excellent point by publishing your mail-exchange with RMS.

Having little experience in giving presentations I am always well-prepared for my audience and the subject I am to present.

I understand from one (explicit) / a few (implicit) of the other comments RMS's style and content of his presentation is always like this.

Did you know this beforehand or was this your first encounter with RMS?

Have you confronted him during the presentation or was there no opportunity for that?

I'm asking because I myself hate to explain myself after the fact (especially a presentation) since it could have benefited others who attend.

I see you are a very active man in a lot of various roles, so it shouldn't be too hard to call RMS to order on the spot. Why didn't you?
I don't mean yelling and namecalling, but if he could explain his humor, because you don't understand it.

Even if you do understand his attempt to use humor it would have put him on the spot without looking aggressive and might have put the presentation more on track.

If he would have dismissed you, you could have told him that the presentation is not intended for you since you don't get it and leave (again, without either of you loosing face). It would have given the opportunity to others to do the same thing (without loosing face).

I want to thank you for an interesting read, an insight in presentations by RMS and the dangers of using humor in a way that can (and will...) be misunderstood.

Sincerely, Monzo

Lefty said...

Did you know this beforehand or was this your first encounter with RMS?

This was actually the first time I'd seen Stallman in person. I'd heard about the "Saint IGNUcious" routine, but I'd never heard about the "EMACS virgins" bit of it....

Have you confronted him during the presentation or was there no opportunity for that?

There was a brief Q&A, during which I actually asked a question, but not the one which I wish, in retrospect, I'd actually asked.

Fact is, during the course of the talk, I commented to the person sitting next to me, "Well, now he's offended all the GNOME folks...now, he's offended all the KDE folks..." At the "EMACS virgins" thing, I made a similar comment, "Now, he's pissed off all the women..." But frankly--and I'm not happy with this--it was only over the course of the next hour or two that I became increasingly bothered about this, more so as I spoke with people who were likewise unhappy with the keynote.

Sometimes these things take a while to come together in my head, unfortunately.

Why didn't you?

As I say, I really wish I had, since--as you say--that would have been a lot more valuable.

I'm not perfect, but I do try to do the right thing, even if I don't manage to do it in a timely a fashion as I'd have ideally liked to.

Hindsight really is 20/20...

bronky said...

It is well-known that RMS has been a pompous ass for *decades*. Some people find it entertaining, some don't. However, if conference organizers continue to invite him to do speeches, and you go to one and find it entirely inappropriate, then it is the organizers you should go after with a pitchfork, not RMS. If the organizers had done their job in even a mildly competent manner, then they would know that his polarizing behaviour is a major aspect of his persona.

As for trying to berate him within private email -- it's not like he's going to turn around in response to the self-righteous bleating of some thin-skinned pansy and say, "Hey, you know what? Thanks to your email I now realise that I've been an arrogant, smelly nose-picker for years and I should smarten up." Be realistic: he did his usual gig and that's that. Why should he apologize for doing this usual gig when, from his point of view, the conference organizers should have known what they were going to get? If his normal act was to demurely conduct himself in a softly-softly manner and give thoughtful, Gandhi-style inoffensive keynotes, but then you actually saw him spitting snot on the audience, then sure, you would have a right to give him some stick. The problem is that this is not even remotely what has happened.

On a final note, publishing private correspondence is just not the done thing. I might disagree with someone's opinion or behaviour but that is no reason to publish my private correspondence with them in a public forum. Regardless of the legalities or your MP3 analogy, this choice of yours has had a seriously detrimental effect on the credibility of your argument.

Lefty said...

...while it is fully accepted to make even worse jokes about males...

Well, not by me. I try to avoid humor in my presentations that is directed at particular groups. I find that the best humor in a presentation context are things that are either directed at myself or a situations, rather than people.

Sexism cuts both ways, and just as I wouldn't feel any better about a racist joke directed at white people, I'd have a similarly dim view of a sexist joke at the expense of men as opposed to women.

Lefty said...

"bronky" writes pretty much the same stuff that a lot of people have written previously. It's always a nice idea to read the comments, before you put your two cents in, but...

If Stallman's "been doing this for years", then it's a damend shame that no one did what I felt impelled to do a lot earlier.

Yes, the organizers have some responsibility here, and I've taken it up with them. That doesn't excuse Stallman for using a keynote speech to marginalize people, sorry. If he wants to be divisive and offensive on his own time and his own dime, that's his lookout, but it's inappropriate at a conference like the Desktop Summit (and, in my opinion, at any free and open source community conference).

I don't believe I "berated him in private email" (is there some other form of email of which I'm somehow unaware...?) I laid out my concern in a polite and balanced way. Clearly Stallman doesn't care whether he does things which drive people away from involvement in free software. And that's an awful shame, coming from someone in his position.

As far as "publishing private email" is concerned, one learns very early on that there's certainly a risk--especially absent of an understanding that the email in question should be held in confidence--that it will wind up on the web, or in a newspaper, or elsewhere. Given that a) Stallman is a public figure, b) the correspondence was over concerns about a public address and c) there's no information of a private or personal nature in there at all, the bottom line is that I don't think I did anything wrong here. The fact is that, had I paraphrased his email messages instead, you'd doubtless be demanding how you could know he'd written that and questioning my credibility anyway.

So, publishing the emails is definitely the lesser of two evils: there's no question about how he responded.

Anonymous said...

Stallman is an embarrassment to the open source movement. He's an irrelevance, and has been for decades, who's managed to cling on to a limited degree of fame by becoming even more ridiculous and strident as the years have passed. Why people continue to listen to his sophomoric student politics, and seriously discuss them, is beyond me.

A large number of comments are actually supporting and defending this idiot. That was, at first, even more perplexing, until, on reflection, I realised the very type of person who would be interested in anything RMS has to say are those who are as autistic, socially maladjusted and generally unpleasant as he is. Read: basement dwellers who cannot wrap their empty minds around why talk of "female EMACS virgins" at a technical conference is not only a bad idea, but downright creepy.

Addendum: to all the morons getting themselves worked up over a *gasp* private (?) e-mail conversation being published, how exactly are we supposed to cite Stallman's opinions if he refuses to interact through any medium, other than e-mail?

Lefty said...

...how exactly are we supposed to cite Stallman's opinions if he refuses to interact through any medium, other than e-mail?

Yes, that's the obvious question.

The fact is, at least as far as I can determine, that an awful lot of people out there wish I hadn't shared Stallman's responses because they find them excruciatingly embarrassing.

Heck, if I were looking to him as some sort of a "leader", I sure would.

Natalie said...

me and my ovaries thank you, lefty, for your work advocating for a more welcoming environment for women in tech.

the negative comments here come from a small but noisy group of insecure "professionals" attempting to restore their comfort zone in this discussion. it freaks them out, frankly, to consider a world of tech that is not a boys club.

ps, "Geee, another defender of the female cause. Most of them are grown up and fully able to defend themselves." (@flauran) -- By knocking a defender, you're an offender yourself. do you really think a silent minority is a happy one? maybe those who are "grown up and fully able to defend themselves" would lose their job or taint their professional lives if they spoke out, but you probably wouldn't expect them to anyway.

Sorpigal said...

"Wow. Just wow. In anyone can find the point in his first message where he responded, "albeit more briefly", to the issue I raised, can you point it out to me? I sure don't see it. "

You mean you missed this?

"The Cult of the Virgin of Emacs, like the rest of the Church of Emacs, is meant to poke fun at religion and at myself. I think that you and some others have misunderstood it."

That sounds like a brief reply, to me. He may not take your espoused concern very seriously but, then, neither would I.

FYI, 'sharing' of emails is not a copyright issue (or rather, not only). It is about the right to privacy, which is far different. Pirating a copyrighted mp3 does not disclose any privileged information; the song was already pubic.

It is my considered opinion that it is always solely the fault of the one taking offense if offense is taken. You are the master of your own psyche.

Rather than look for ways in which to take offense, try asking yourself: Is there a way in which this was meant to be non-offensive? The fact is that it is far more likely that the speaker's intent was benign. Occam's razor instructs us to look for the simplest explanation and in this case it is easiest to conclude that there was nothing to get offended about.

Does anyone believe that RMS is sexist? I hope no one seriously answers "Yes." To insult this gentlemen in such a manner should be laughable, so much so in fact that I suspect ulterior motives of anyone who attempts it. What is *your* agenda, and why do you want to portray RMS in such an unfavorable light?

This whole spat seems like a case of deliberate misunderstanding. Take some harmless and well-intentioned statement, strip it of its context and background, misinterpret it in the most horrific manner possible, then accuse the speaker of the vilest things you can. I despise this sort of thing when it happens to me, and I sympathize with RMS as it is happening to him!

Lefty said...

That sounds like a brief reply, to me.

Well, it's brief, and it's a reply to something, but--as I pointed out in my second letter--it doesn't address my concerns at all: the marginalization and denigration of women as technical incompetents in need of "relief" from their "virginity".

...It is about the right to privacy...

Except that the emails contained nothing private, and were in response to comments on a public keynote speech. All of this hand-wringing is really just a dodge to try to avoid the issue: the offensive content of Stallman's speech. And it was offensive. People were most certainly offended.

Is there a way in which this was meant to be non-offensive?

If a speaker makes poor "jokes" at the expense of women while on stage at a major technical conference, it's not up to the audience to perform an analysis of what the speaker might have meant to explain away why they feel uncomfortable and upset about it.

Someone needs to bring it to the attention of the speaker--which I did--and seek some clarification or, failing that, an apology. The "clarification" was unsatisfactory; Stallman's incomprehensible need to ridicule Catholicism doesn't entitle him to additionally make divisive jokes about women, and his claims that he's somehow the victim here are preposterous.

Does anyone believe that RMS is sexist?

You bet, and in increasing numbers. People have been thinking that for a while, as a result of his "EMACS virgins" jokes, his calling women with children "breeders", his singling out the few women in the audience for unwelcome attention, his asking women with children to remove their "spawn" from his talk and other clear examples of deep insensitivity. I simply seem--amazingly--to be the first one to really call him on this behavior.

(Given the nature of much of the commentary here, which has reached pretty impressive heights of personal abuse, maybe it's not so amazing.)

If Stallman wants to be treated like a leader, he ought to act like a leader, and it's clear that he's failed in that. We need to stop treating him as anything other than a footnote, and we definitely need to stop inviting him to speak at conferences, at least if we hope to improve the involvement of women in open source projects beyond the current (appalling) level of 1.8%.

Frankly, it's people like you who seem to idolize Stallman so much that they're willing to explain away anything he does who are a big part of the problem.

Sorpigal said...

Quoting a variety of people as I go without any sort of attribution. Sorry if it's disjointed and confusing. Everything is linear.

It's okay to mock church, but it's not okay to make a parody of it if that involves "women".

I think you need to work on your reading comprehension. I was pretty clear that I don't really think either of those things are "okay" in the context of a keynote at a technical conference.


I think both are okay. In fact, both should be required! In fact, I am offended whenever both are not employed in technical keynotes. The only question is why should you or anyone else care.

I, and most of the people I know who make presentations with some regularity, use humor all the time. We attempt, however, to avoid "humor" which is calculated to offend--

I will bet you five bucks RMS' humor was not "calculated to offend." It was, perhaps, offensive to you and, perhaps, to several others. To show that it was calculated to offend you would have to prove that RMS intended it to offend, which he has already said he did not (in replies to your emails.) Why do you insist on portraying your own personal failing (taking offense) as some kind of hostile action on the part of RMS?

Without people from all genders speaking out against sexualised and sexist behaviours in professional settings,

Behaviors which were by no means present, by all reports. So what were you complaining about, other than nothing?

RMS may have a dismissive attitude towards religion in general (or at least claim to have), but he reserves particular disdain for Catholicism. This is twice in less than two years that he's gone out of his way to insult his Catholic hosts.

There's nothing wrong with a particular disdain for catholicism. In fact, if anything, it shows good sense.

Try and see whether you can discern what the distinctions are between an individual posting on his own blog, and a (supposed) "leader of the Free Software movement" giving a keynote address, on the organizers' dime, at one of the most important conferences the community holds.

RMS is not a "supposed" leader of the Free software movement! He *is* one. This is a fact, whether you like him or not.

And no, I see no difference between the venues. Once invited I believe he has the right to say anything, or nothing. Did he sign a contract regarding what he would talk about? This blog is just as much a public place as any conference, if not moreso.

If anyone's defaming Mr. Stallman here, it can only be Mr. Stallman himself.

Quite untrue! Nothing in RMS' emails reflected negatively on him, but many things in the tone and content of your reaction to them suggested negative things of him. If I had read just your replies and not his email I would think him quite a horrible person. Instead, it is merely your sick mind which makes him so.

I'm pretty impressed that the publication of a couple of emails containing absolutely zero personal or private information seems to bother some folks a lot more than the content of Mr. Stallman's "keynote". Not postively impressed, but nonetheless..

I'm confused....

The Free Software movements founder makes a few inoffensive remarks to a small audience.

You violate the freedoms of said founder with an audience of the kind of people who value Freedom so highly that they join the movement in the first place.

And you're surprised that your actions get a more negative reaction? Even if there were no respect and sense of solidarity felt for Stallman, still it would be amazing to get a less strict reaction to the posting of private correspondence without consent!

Sorpigal said...

Continuing...

When you are dealing with offensive behaviour it is much better if somebody not from that group defends them.

If we were dealing with offensive behavior I would agree.

If "Lefty" was a woman, would you be still critisizing his right to defend women and him-... herself?

His gender is irrelevant. His (or her, were that the case) behavior is offensive and unacceptable. I, unlike Lefty, know enough to know that the fact that he has offended me is solely *my problem*.

At worst, I committed an act counter to generally-accepted "netiquette".

A worse sin I cannot imagine.

And if you think that outright theft is somehow better than publishing emails, even if it's just when you're stealing from "a bunch of rich guys", then you're not thinking clearly.

Just FYI, piracy is not theft. Certainly not "outright theft."

You're exactly right: I have no respect whatsoever for someone who thinks that his past contributions give him a free lifetime pass to treat women (and others) dismissively, derogatorily and with great insensitivity.

RMS did none of those things. This is a straw-man attack if ever there was one! Even if you were right that he was being unintentionally sexist, which seems to be the only rational interpretation of your remarks, it would not mean he treats women dismissively, derogatorily or with great insensitivity. The two things are not unrelated, but they are not that related.

Sorpigal said...

Frankly, it's people like you who seem to idolize Stallman so much that they're willing to explain away anything he does who are a big part of the problem.

I am not trying to explain away what he does. I am honestly surprised that you find it offensive, and I find your reaction quite disproportionate to the point of being suspicious.

It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

As for idolizing Stallman... no, not so much. I respect the work he has contributed and agree with some of his philosophies. But, I don't say GNU/Linux and I don't believe everything he says.

Lefty said...

Behaviors which were by no means present, by all reports. So what were you complaining about, other than nothing?

I'm sorry to have to ask, but are you delusional? Or did you simply fail to read the many, many comments to this posting which completely substantiated that those behaviors were absolutely present.

If you're going to argue that you, who weren't there, has a better grasp on what happened and on the reactions of people who were present to those behaviors, then there's no basis for further discussion.

Sorpigal said...

I don't believe I "berated him in private email" (is there some other form of email of which I'm somehow unaware...?) I laid out my concern in a polite and balanced way.

I know you think this, or at least have claimed to believe it a couple times now. The fact is that the tone of your emails to Stallman was *not* polite or balanced. You begin by referencing his routine, say it dismayed you, then lecture him on its inappropriateness and offensiveness.

You then proceed to lecture him on the inappropriateness of making remarks about religion, you condescendingly inform him that many people follow various religions (a fact of which, I am sure, he was quite well aware).

Your email was not very polite, it was barely civil, contained thinly veiled insults and was in no way balanced.

If someone took that tone with me I'd be less polite in reply than was the reply you go. Your email may have contained no vulgarity or off-color remarks but it was certainly highly offensive.

Sorpigal said...

I'm sorry to have to ask, but are you delusional? Or did you simply fail to read the many, many comments to this posting which completely substantiated that those behaviors were absolutely present.

If you're going to argue that you, who weren't there, has a better grasp on what happened and on the reactions of people who were present to those behaviors, then there's no basis for further discussion.


The poster I was quoting, I'm sorry if I have forgotten who but I don't think it was you, was making a correct statement. He spoke out against sexist and sexualized behaviors in a professional environment, which is a good thing to speak against. I was trying to underscore that there was no consensus in this case on whether such behavior had occurred.

It sounded like a straw-man argument to me, like "I think we should do $something. Don't you want to uphold $virtue? It's bad if $virtue is not upheld." -- which doesn't say anything about the relation of $something to $virtue.

As you say, I was not there. It makes it difficult for me to say anything with any kind of conviction. I am trying to limit my comments to things which I can know without having been there.

Lefty said...

I am trying to limit my comments to things which I can know without having been there.

Really? So, you're saying that the behaviors that the folks who were there experienced and found objectionable, as corroborated in many comments to this and to the previous posting, not to mention in numerous other blog postings, were in fact "by no means present, by all reports"...? This in spite of the fact that you were nowhere near the place at any time...?

You'd need to be clairvoyant, I'd think. I'm sorry, but that is delusional.

Anonymous said...

From where I'm sitting you look like a twat right now, not RMS.

Lefty said...

From where I'm sitting you look like a twat right now, not RMS.

Oooh, a non-entity called me a name! However shall I live with myself any longer?

I mean really, are you expecting that you're going to upset me? Is my self-esteem supposed to be devastated by such an attack? Frankly, I got over that kind of concern by the time I got out of fourth grade.

As I've said, if a moron calls you "an idiot", what's that prove?

Anonymous said...

Guess it got you upset, else why bother answering and certifying that you're not upset at all.

Playing the self-confident doesn't suit you.

Al Scandar said...

Ni!

OMG I've rarely seen so much prejudice put together.


First part, Lefty (plus a hundred people according to him)'s weird take on RMS's words.

RMS is a publicly known defender of religious freedom and womens' rights.

If that alone doesn't give people a clue on how to interpret what he says, there's little anyone can do to help you guys, you have to help yourselves.

Go study linguistics. Over 80% of human communication is context and predisposition. As far as I can tell from yours, he could be citing the bible and you'd still think he's offending christians, and feminist hymns out of his mouth would sound chauvinistic.

(and by feminist I don't mean the overblown political correctness that has been affecting modern women like 70% OFF sales at Macys - see, that was irony, I'm being sexist to criticize sexism, get it?)

(actually, if it's true that one hundred people found RMS sexist there, it's in large parte because of how easily this fake form of feminism disseminates - essentially because it's just sexism all over again, which people find easy to swallow)

If anyone in this debate is psychologically impaired, it's people who won't get irony and play no matter how clearly it's been explained.


However, one must also point out: why the fuck so many people tried to turn this into a debate on the privacy of e-mail.

What have you people been saying trough e-mail to make you so scared that other people publicize them!?

Jeez, that's creepy.

Go outside of your fucking ego trip sometime.


Hugs,

ale
~~

Anonymous said...

It's pretty obviously already from the emails that it's you who have decided to pick a fight and will not take reason for an answer. So sad.

Anonymous said...

Seems that intolerant (religious synomym?), humorless people try to rule the world now.
What a fuss for nothing !!!!

Thanks god that you have nothing more important to deal with.

Anonymous said...

>Wow. Just wow. In anyone can find the >point in his first message where he >responded, "albeit more briefly", to the >issue I raised, can you point it out to >me? I sure don't see it.

Here:

>The Cult of the Virgin of Emacs, like >the rest of the Church of Emacs, is >meant to poke fun at religion and at >myself. I think that you and some >others have misunderstood it.

He says that it has nothing to do with "women", it's just a joke about religion and himself. He also repeats that in the second email:

>The cult of the Virgin of Emacs is >simply intended as a joke about the >cult of the Virgin Mary. I assure >anyone who perceived derogatory >meanings in it that I did not intend >them.

He answered to you fully. Then you may not like his answers.

Sure if you want to take away religion and sex from jokes there is not so much that can be left...

And jokes in technical meeting are an absolute necessity, otherwise you can be extremely boring.

Anonymous said...

@Al Scandar:
So you'd just give your right to privacy away like a candy stick?

I don't think so, so please don't play it down.
It has nothing to do with scary email conversations (what the heck would that be, a scary email conversation?).

You know why so many people are trying to address the privacy issue?
Because you're governments take every so little piece of privacy away from you day by day.

And now an individual - someone you can actually blame for mistreating the right to privacy - has done just the same.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous cowards attacking Lefty saying "women can speak for themselves", the same is true of Richard Stallman. Do you not see your own hypocrisy?

Anonymous said...

And whom are you speaking for?
Can't he speak for himself too?

He obviously can, but you chose to defend him anyway.

Most of the people here are expressing their opinion and concerns about privacy, not defending anyone.

No point made IMO.

Lefty said...

He says that it has nothing to do with "women", it's just a joke about religion and himself.

That's not a response to my concern. When Stallman's "just a joke about religion and himself" needlessly singles out women in particular as being in need of "relief" from their "virginity", whether with regard to EMACS or anything else, that's sexist, it's demeaning, it's out of place in a keynote from someone who fancies himself a leader of the free software movement.

Men outnumber women in FLOSS projects by a ratio of 50-to-1. The reason women are so woefuly and shamefully under-represented is precisely because folks like you and Stallman, and all of the other unthinking (and nameless, i.e. spineless) commentators here only see "a joke about religion and himself" rather than what it is: the cheapest form of sexist drivel.

And the only thing that I find worse than Stallman spouting it for the last Ghods-know-how-long is the nimrods who pile on to try to justify it. Honestly, if I thought folks like you represented the free software community--and trust me, you don't--I'd go back to working at Apple.

Fortunately, the folks who really matter in the community see Stallman's sexist crap for exactly what it is, and completely support me in this.

Y' know, this is only about the fiftieth time I've responded to this "point". I have to plow through these comments, why don't you folks show the same courtesy, so as to avoid the same stuff over and over and over....

Lefty said...

And now an individual - someone you can actually blame for mistreating the right to privacy - has done just the same.

Yeah, and if Stallman wants to whine to me about it, he knows where to find me.

So, again, spare me your anonymous ire, you haven't even got the spine to develop a name for yourself. If you aren't willing to stand behind your own words, why should I even consider taking them seriously, you coward?

Amayita said...

As a female geek, member and co-founder of Debian Women, I do appreciate your effort to make this point.

OTOH, having personally met rms, I would advice you to choose a wiser battle as he is simply unable of feeling empathy and has a huge rock star syndrome.

Anyway, thanks for supporting equality. It is much needed and very much appreciated.

Lefty said...

I would advice you to choose a wiser battle as he is simply unable of feeling empathy and has a huge rock star syndrome.

Well, it seems that the battle sort of chose me, and here we are. I don't regret pointing out the problem, but I'm a little dismayed that Stallman's been doing this for as long as he has and no one's ever (apparently) called him on it publicly before.

If it raises awareness of the problem, that's good; if Stallman finds himself with fewer keynote opportunities, that's fine by me as well.

For my part, I'll continue to support FSF-Europe (where folks feel similarly to the way I do), but I'll never give a dime to the American FSF again.

Lefty said...

A comment for the folks who think that I should have waited for a woman to complain:

When they came first for the Communists,
I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then... they came for me...
And by that time there was no one left to speak up.


--Martin Niemoller

Anonymous said...

WTF? Are you serious? Are you indirectly comparing yourself to people like Sophie Scholl (resistance fighter of the Nazi regime)?

What else would be the purpose of such a citation?

Your ego must be as big as the eiffel tower.

Lefty said...

Er, no, not at all. It's about speaking up when you see wrong, even though you're not the one who's directly affected.

Stella Omega said...

Thank you, David. I say this as a woman who was not there. I would have protested if I were, and I am very glad that you have the nous to do so.

In scrolling through the comments, I have seen so many completely predictable comments;
"Can't you take a joke?"
"That's censorship!"
"Jokes are supposed to target a group, or else they aren't funny!"
"You're being sexist by not letting women fight their own battles"
"It wasn't *really* sexist, he didn't rape or hit a woman,"
"I know a woman and she thinks it's not sexist,"
and the ever-popular; "Children are starving in Somalia!"
And what a surprise to find men's handles affixed to these brilliant analysis!

Thank you for your actions regarding Stallman's future talk schedual.

Anonymous said...

RMS is very strange person. But I think he is a good person.

That being said please stop giving him keynote speeches. It's like you people never learn.

Anonymous said...

Get Alec Baldwin or something to take up open source as the new cause. Some actual actor or comedian. :)

Lefty said...

More wrath from folks who don't feel strongly enough about what they say to have names:

Playing the self-confident doesn't suit you.

Clearly, you've never met me.

From where I'm sitting you look like a twat right now, not RMS.

From where I'm sitting, you don't look like anything at all.

Lefty said...

Thank you, David. I say this as a woman who was not there. I would have protested if I were, and I am very glad that you have the nous to do so.

Thanks for the comment, Stella, and you're very welcome.

Thalia said...

Thank you for speaking out.

As someone who has encountered RMS in person, yes he is that clueless, and that sexist in person too. I'm not particularly surprised by his behavior at the keynote, but I'm surprised and disappointed at the commenters here who believe that women don't belong in open source, or need to just deal with sexism and inappropriate behavior.

I use open source (and yes, I'm female) but I'm not part of the community of contributors in part because of behaviors like this (and the Ruby conference, and the Flash developer conference, etc.)

If the open source community actually wants women to participate, they need to grow up, and stop treating women like objects in their presentations.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lefty,

Thanks for the response to my post.

Why didn't you?

As I say, I really wish I had, since--as you say--that would have been a lot more valuable.

I'm not perfect, but I do try to do the right thing, even if I don't manage to do it in a timely a fashion as I'd have ideally liked to.

Hindsight really is 20/20...


You are absolutely right about the hindsight. It's something I always struggle with, mostly because at the moment that something should be said or done I tend to focus away from that only to realise later something should have been said or done. Probably mental self-defence (for a lack of a better description) that kicks in ;)

I think you did the second best thing in this case.

Sincerely,

Monzo

Anonymous said...

Lefty,

As a woman in open source who is sick and fucking tired of the rock-out-with-your-cock-out sexist attitude that permeates the culture and the vehement filth spewed at anyone and everyone who tries to challenge that culture, about all I have to say is thank you, thank you, thank you for stepping up to do ally duty so that I, and my female compatriots, don't have to do the ten thousandth iteration of "no, it's not funny, no, you weren't 'just joking', and yeah, as it happens, this is the answer to that 'why aren't there any women in open source' question you asked last week".

Considering that the vehemence with which you've been met in this post is significantly more vitriolic when the poster has an obviously female identification, your effort is absolutely appreciated, by this woman at least. It's not demeaning or sexist at all for a man to point out another man's sexism; sometimes it's the only way that the message can get through. And most of the women in open source I know of have to pick and choose their battles, so only the most egregious examples get called out; it's nice, and very refreshing, to have someone else doing the heavy lifting on an issue.

Kudos to you, and it's absolutely lovely to find.

Anonymous said...

RMS is a publicly known defender of religious freedom and womens' rights.

[Citation needed]

John said...


["]From where I'm sitting you look like a twat right now, not RMS.["]

From where I'm sitting, you don't look like anything at all.



wow, taking a page from the book of monkey island insult swordfighting? plagiarism!
heh.

but seriously, maybe you should review the whole thread, step back a second, and ask yourself if your stalwart defense of your initial posts is warranted. all these other people read (or mostly read) your post, and the large majority are finding some issues with your take on the whole situation. now, sure, you could chalk it up to everyone being dumb. or you could actually realize that you're overreacting to some sub-par attempts at humor.

my take on the females-in-opensource thing is simply that in general, guys like linux and computer technology more than girls. sure, that's a generalization, but if you were to actually run a poll of the general populace, you'd find that it's accurate. :/

Anonymous said...

John: Care to explain the comments by women on this post and the previous post?

It seems a number of women have agreed with Lefty (have any disagreed yet?), noting that comments like those from Richard Stallman make them feel unwelcome.

That seems to suggest to me that Lefty is in the right and you are just a clueless idiot.

Mackenzie said...

@Anon:
"I do agree that RMS's remarks are a bit rude (it was a bad joke by the way). But that's just him. That's the way he jokes. If you don't like to listen to him, DONT. Nobody cares. You have the freedom not to."

NOT HOW IT WORKS! "That's just him" is no excuse. Just because he's an arse a majority of the time, doesn't mean it's ok for him to be an arse. Got it?

Anonymous said...

I thought it was clever how RMS sidestepped the issue in his correspondence with you. I am taking note in case I ever have to deal with whiners.

I don't think RMS should have to answer to people who knew or should have known that he wasn't the type of person to worry about offending people with his jokes but supported the conference by attending anyway.

Eric Hood said...

Lefty, I too would like to add my voice to support your actions.

I am disappointed at the invective sent your way and the attitude of people who do not have the decency to identify themselves when sending such bile.

There are obvious benefits to anonymity on the internet.

I have no respect for people who send abuse and will not use their name to show they publicly stand by their words.

The anonymous coward designation is entirely appropriate.

Again
Thanks for taking a stand.

Yama Ploskonka said...

I personally find this just some more of classic RMS and his supporters and the rest. I think it was Eric Raymond who wrote somewhere how important it is for a Linux advocate to be somewhat clownish and have some weirdness that plays well to keep noise going on. I didn't look what RMS actually said that mattered at that conference, and I guess it's the same with many of us, including the knights of privacy who feel so distraught for these emails being made public. I bet they also like their answers to emails under the quote instead of above, right?
RMS has done a great job in many ways, but I wish his antics are not what we get to be known for. At some moment the "entertainment" hurts the rest, and even famous professional entertainers should respect small people.

Anonymous said...

"I emailed Richard Stallman at the encouragement of a couple of friends..."

Before I read your bio, I thought someone put you up to a practical joke. Why waste your time?

gregknicholson said...

Thanks, Lefty, for standing up to bigotry (despite knowing it'd make you a target).

Kim: “Women are at least recognized when they are treated badly.”

I think the horde of comments here demonstrates otherwise: a large number of people don't recognise it.

Lefty: “Sexism cuts both ways, and just as I wouldn't feel any better about a racist joke directed at white people, I'd have a similarly dim view of a sexist joke at the expense of men as opposed to women.”

I disagree partly: sexism and racism don't affect men and whites the same way they affect women and non-whites. The former are privileged groups who experience no societal (institutional) discrimination. (Or, the world simply isn't fair.)

However, I agree it's a bad idea to make jokes at their expense, because these jokes legitimise oppressive jokes at the expense of unprivileged groups.

Generally: women, as a group, aren't able to defend themselves. Not because they're weak, but because they're an unprivileged group. They have no voice.

Men: if you're about to assert otherwise, please read A primer on privilege first.

Woodrobin said...

As a staunch feminist, I would like to say I see your point. However, I feel your presentation was highly dishonest and does much to invalidate your criticisms.

1. St. IGNUcius is a character played by Richard Stallman. Criticizing Stallman for the words of IGNUcius is much like attacking William Shatner for something Captain Kirk said.

2. You conceal from your readers the context of the comments made by IGNUcius, even to the point of making it sound like the 'sexist' comments and the religious parody are two separate elements, not part of the same parody. The references to virginity are part of the religious humor, not an attack on women.

3. Parody. Look it up. Really. Stallman's point that freedom of religion is meaningless if some or even all religions are elevated to a status above jokes, humor, parody or even brazen ridicule is well made. If religious sentiment is accorded special privilege and exemption, it makes freedom of speech a triviality, applicable only to noncontroversial discourse.

4. I've defended reproductive health centers from physical assault, protested for equal rights, worked to elect more women to public office. You've complained about a joke you evidently went out of your way not to get. That you make any pretense of defending women in this matter, when it seems evident your primary drive was to presume to dictate to Stallman what he should and should not do and say, offends me. Feminism is not a prop to be used to conceal a dick-waving contest, sir.

Lefty said...

St. IGNUcius is a character played by Richard Stallman. Criticizing Stallman for the words of IGNUcius is much like attacking William Shatner for something Captain Kirk said.

Incredible. Simply incredible. I hardly know where to begin, this contains so many levels of senselessness.

Lefty said...

Okay, I think I've managed to contain myself, although every time I start thinking about this, I'm afraid I burst out laughing again.

Let's try a little Socratic Method here.

Let's say I did have a problem with something "Captain Kirk" said. You're right, writing William Shatner would probably be silly (although if William Shatner's character had been given to spouting a lot of divisive nonsense, it might not be a bad idea to let Shatner know that he could be damaging his career).

I could, however, take it up with either the writer of the episode, or with Gene Roddenberry, the producer of the series.

So, with whom exactly would you suggest I take up my issues with "Saint IGNUcious", if not Stallman?

Melissa said...

I've defended reproductive health centers from physical assault, protested for equal rights, worked to elect more women to public office. You've complained about a joke you evidently went out of your way not to get.

And yet you defend a behaviour that indicates and enforces tolerance of violence against women.

You may want to take a moment to think about what you are really saying, because from here it looks like you're going out of your way to ignore the cause of the issues you claim to care about.

Woodrobin said...

Lefty,

Clearly there is some merit to the statement, "So, with whom exactly would you suggest I take up my issues with "Saint IGNUcious", if not Stallman?"

This isn't what you did, however. You posted a series of correspondences to your blog in which you never make clear that you understand the distinction between a comedic character and the person portraying him. I'm sorry you misunderstood my meaning. I intended to compare your behavior to that of Trekkies unable to separate Kirk from Shatner. Your description of events gave no evidence that you understood the difference between a serious technical talk and a long-running comedic shtick presented as an aside.

Stallman trots out the IGNUcius character because it's expected almost to the point of being classic, and to many people, amusing. To take the contents of a comedy routine as if they were Stallman's official attitude about anything is either to be unable to separate fiction from reality, or to deliberately choose to ignore the distinction for the sake of advancing an argument or attacking an opponent.

Melissa,

I certainly appreciate the point you make in regards to supporting sexist jokes potentially creating an atmosphere conducive to more direct and more harmful forms of sexism.

I do see it as somewhat ironic that the religious edifice Stallman primarily pokes fun at, the Catholic Church, burned women at the stake, worked to erode their rights at every turn for over a thousand years, continues to obstruct their access to reproductive health care, sex education, and safe contraception to this day, and yet Stallman is somehow in the wrong for satirizing these attitudes. Stallman is satirizing sexism, not practicing it, in the St. IGNUcius material. If sexism isn't worthy of being mocked, what is?

Anonymous said...

I'll simply enumerate my points.

1. Anon is an option offered, and used by persons on all sides of this argument. Weigh the argument not which method the person has used to make it.

2. One person stated that offense is taken. This is a nice catch phrase, and sometimes it is true. Sometimes there are persons that go out of their weigh to become offended.

However, most often it is simply not true. Often what we call "offense" is actually "hurt". We cannot generally determine how a comment will make us feel. Saying "I'm sorry if my comments hurt your feelings," is no mark against a person who apologizes.

3. That said, while something might hurt or offend us, we should realize that that everyone else will not likewise feel offended.

4. Privileged persons do not get to tell marginalized persons how to express their hurt.

5. If we are to fight isms, we must do so without practicing isms ourselves. I'll quote a particularly horrific example of ableism and classism:

"...interested in anything RMS has to say are those who are as
[ABLEIST-->***autistic, socially maladjusted***] and generally unpleasant as he is. Read:
[CLASSIST->***basement dwellers***]..."

Even the OP fell into the trap by using the ableist term "spineless" in one of his comments, though I am sure it was entirely without intention (and hopefully pointing it out will cause him to reflect on the harm such terms cause.)

Again, let's argue the argument, rather than using illnesses, and poverty conditions as insults, because these only marginalize differently abled and poor persons further.

Joseph James Frantz

mdzlog said...

"I'm sorry if my comments hurt your feelings" is not an apology. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology for further explanation.

Lefty said...

Yes, this is "I'm sorry you were offended."

Patrick Regan said...

I'm sorry for posting a comment without reading them all, and this is just another "me too" comment, but I'd like to throw in my support for Lefty on this one.

One of my good friends from Undergrad was a young woman in CS. She was smart and very attractive and would get lots of comments that were not appropriate for anyone. IT one of the only sectors left that still is this demeaning toward women. The IT industry still practices harassment and discrimination that would have made people in the 50's shrink in horror.

Those worrying about the email publishing. Etiquette is not a hard and fast rule. There are appropriate times to make exceptions, and this, IMHO, is one good one.

Thank you Lefty for raising awareness. I'm sorry you have to deal with lots of hateful comments, mostly from anonymous sources. Good Luck.

Aoirthoir said...

MDZLOG, The phrasing of the apology that I used in my example might not have been exactly right, much appreciated for pointing this out. My point was meant to be that apologizing when we hurt folks feelings is not a bad thing. It opens communications and leads us to TRYING to understand where they are coming from. As privileged persons this can be a many year process, but it can start from a simple apology.

I'm thankful that you pointed this out to me, but, as someone that has friends and family in marginalized, differently abled groups, I am saddened that you saw fit to correct me (rightly so) on the wording of apology, while entirely sidestepping the ableist and classist issues I brought up. Denigrating persons of differently abled bodies or restrictive financial means is absolutely not the way to foster understanding, and persons so doing should likewise be called on the carpet.

It has been pointed out to me by persons of color, women, and other marginalized persons who were once majority abled and privileged but now are differently abled, that while certain isms would rarely be demonstrated against them in public, ableism is alive and flourishing. Very hurtful, rude things have been said and terrible things done to them simply because they are not as "able"-bodied as many others. Things they had never experienced, are now commonplace.

While ableism is NEVER appropriate, always hurtful, and in every case discriminatory, in a post calling out isms, it is most definitely beyond reprehensible that it should be used by some persons. Using one ism to fight another is nothing less than disgusting.

So when you're taking those few moments to respond and rightfully correct my form of apology, a few extra sentences acknowledging the ableism in some of the comments, and denouncing them, would have been a sign that you stand against all isms, not just certain ones.

Joseph

wookey said...

Well well, what a lot of talk. I think most points have been adequately aired at this point, but I'd just like to weigh in as one who finds RMS coming out of this scrap rather better than Lefty (which reflects very badly on Lefty, given RMS's flawed character).

I've seen RMS talk at least 5 times at various events, so I've had the st ignucius routine at least twice. Yes it's old and not particulrly funny, but I certainly never saw anything in it to take offense about, and poking fun at religion is always worthwhile in my book, which I guess is where I fundmentaly disagree with the OP.

And his talk on Software Patents is very good indeed and well worth hearing if you have not already, so he's not a complete has-been, although clearly his relevance is much-diminshed these days, as Free Software has become such a large movement.

It does seem that most of the women posting do see something in what Lefty says, so maybe he's not completely mad, but his many unpleasnt comments and insults in this thread lead me to conclude that he is an unpleasant zealot (having never heard of the fellow before).

Now of course you could describe RMS that way too, but IME he's been much more polite than Lefty.

And dismissing all the 'anonymous' people is just silly. If you don't have an account, that's how the comments appear. Mine may too as I'm not sure I have a relevant account (I'm Wookey if so).

You complained of having to repeat your point over and over. Well, there is a reason for that: it's that a great number of people think you are somewhere between wrong and overreacting, but, as has been pointed out you won't take 'no offense was meant' for an answer no matter how many times it is repeated (so I really don't know why I am bothering to repeat it). You are clearly cut from the same strident cloth as Stallman and simply deny all the evidence suggesting you might be mistaken. I guess you'll do it again in response to this.

I'm not a Stallman fanboy (I've seen him being embarrassing often enough), but I'm not sexist either: equal rights, pay and a meritocracy is all good. More women in IT is fine by me, and appears to be happening (slowly) at least in Debian. But Free Software is not a good arena for shrinking violets of any type (just ask the Japanese - many of them don't like the environment much either), and this does keep some people (more of them women) away. Working on stopping people being confrontational and rude is a good thing, but I have to say that Lefty seems to me to have plenty to deal with on this front at home before going after others.

Yama Ploskonka said...

"St. IGNUcius is a character played by Richard Stallman. Criticizing Stallman for the words of IGNUcius is much like attacking William Shatner for something Captain Kirk said"

hmm. William Shatner is an entertainer. When he comes up to talk, we expect him to say something silly, funny, etc - I really, really enjoyed his work in "Over the Edge", which, by the way, was "clean", in the sense of not designed to offend anyone. Now, RMS might have a career as an insult entertainer, but I don't think many people would care for him the way we do in his role as an open source guru.

When he abuses the trust we have in him as a thinker, which opened the doors for him to be on that platform to begin with, to push for his other agendas and diss women and Catholics, he's crossing a line that only people of the same convictions can justify, as proved in their comments here, where reason takes a second place to personal agendas allowing bad manners. It's OK we don't agree, as long as we can respect each other and not go out of our way (as RMS did) to offend people. If he wants to do that within the comedy circuit, I guess that's OK. As the visible face of the open source movement, speaking in a conference about "geek" issues, anyone should, I hope, mind not to hurt others on purpose, the way RMS did.

Lefty said...

I certainly never saw anything in it to take offense about, and poking fun at religion is always worthwhile in my book, which I guess is where I fundmentaly disagree with the OP.

Okey-dokey, Wookey, try this on for size:

In a nearby parallel universe, Richard Stallman has decided that it’s Confucianism he wants to poke “gentle fun” at, rather than Catholicism. Accordingly, he dresses up as a 19th-century Chinese railroad worker, complete with a coolie hat (made from a hard disk platter) as “ConGNUcius”, and proceeds to do a routine, reading from the “Analects of EMACS”, in a accent taken from Charlie Chan movies:

“ConGNUcius say, Man who install ploplietelly softwell finds himself in chains! Miclosoft make velly velly bad demand! No license-ee, no ploglam-ee! Ploglam want be flee!”

Have we still achieved the level of “gentle humor” here…? Are we still having fun? Nobody's offended, right?

Robin Barrett said...

Any time is a good time to criticize/mock/condemn religion.

I don't like people whose behavior is exhibited by Lefty, although I'm sure Lefty thinks he means well.

I don't like the behavior whereby someone believes he or she should 'scold' another's behavior based on what he or she feels OTHER people MAY feel, and then attempt to use that alleged feeling as an excuse to make such self-rationalized admonishments.

If any person feels offended by an act, that person can make the admonishments him- or herself. We don't need self appointed holy defenders of all others' amorphous concerns. Indeed to do so in a way Lefty has done (male POV, gender centric) can indeed actually be sexist itself (example watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coi1Sc5ss_s). Not everyone agrees obviously but it can be.

Anyway none of that is the meat of the matter here. RMS is routinely criticized and condemned because he's very opinionated on certain things that is not 'mainstream' belief. Let's cut past the bull here too, he's a very easy target because he's perceived as fat, ugly, uncouth, and not someone whom others who think of themselves as 'socially acceptable' want to be associated themselves for social status reasons. And he's in a relatively envious position as his position in the 'free software community' which provokes certain reactions in conjunction with those personal features.

If he was handsome, rich, athletic, but just as direct and 'fringe' ideologically, he'd be perceived entirely differently (who knows maybe he'd be a top contender for a certain mainstream political party nomination for US President in 2012).


Anyway sexism is not good for the advancement of free software for various reasons, and since the likeness of the Virgin Emacs is to the Virgin Mary, it's not entirely clear that it had sexist undertones. RMS has now apparently been notified and given his response and made the attempt to clarify his true intent.

CONT'D IN NEXT POST

Robin Barrett said...

CONT'D FROM PREVIOUS POST

Publishing private emails without consent is also not good for the advancement of free software. These precedents will inevitably lead down bad paths as people watch themselves, guarding their words and being less candid especially to people they only know virtually and don't know whom to trust, and are suspect of real intent of people who contact them.

Conventional religion in my own belief does more harm than good, practices child abuse (by teaching at impressionable ages of fantastical nightmare concepts like eternal Hell, omnipresent surveillance of sexual habits, promoting patriarchal deference and subservience etc etc), and because of this, religion is always open to criticism no matter who might be "offended".

Lastly, if I go to a technical conference, I don't want to hear about religion, politics, or social norms, and I don't want to hear sarcasm, or lack of depth of knowledge and import. So on that point I empathize with Lefty. But I don't agree that my own belief of "appropriateness" of these topics and behavior is necessarily an actual, justifiable criticism to make to the presenter, in reality (understanding that this was only a small part of Lefty's criticism).

So in the end, Lefty's concerned email and subsequent posting of the private exchange was in my view overly controlling, presumptuous, pretentious, and shameful, and RMS's apparent shouting over questioners may well have been rude...

What to do about this? We can now all choose for ourselves whether to visit RMS's talks by voting with our feet. I believe that's the best solution. What we don't need is publicly aired drama complete with private conversations meant to persuade passersby of the correctness of one party and the invitation for self congratulatory mob like public finger wagging. We also don't need attempts to marginalize RMS, his ideas, and his behavior simply because we don't like them/him Again, whoever is offended and wants to change his behavior through communication -women, Christians, etc- should be the ones contacting RMS instead, which they are fully capable of doing, themselves. Otherwise, don't take up causes that might not exist especially not in the way it's done here. It's petty.)

Lefty said...

If any person feels offended by an act, that person can make the admonishments him- or herself.

Well, I was offended.

Glad we got that settled.

Aoirthoir said...

"he's a very easy target because he's perceived as fat, ugly, uncouth, and not someone whom others who think of themselves as 'socially acceptable' want to be associated themselves for social status reasons."

Such comments are commonly made about RMS, as well that he does other things, such as picking his nose. While persons feel justified in making such commentary, they forget that it really is just a further practice of ism-ism. Maintaining and promoting the belief that a person's physical appearance is related to their morals is not only appalling, it's simply archaic.

As to your statements while valid, the facts are that we, NONE of us, get to define what offends another. Again the sad thing in all of this is, on this very thread, about rejecting an ism, and ist behavior, not only are other isms practiced freely, but they are not even condemned. We have demands of apologies for sexism, but not even so much as a tiny offer of an apology when the op himself used ableist language. As I mentioned when I pointed this out, I am sure it was unintentional. But unintentional ist language does not make it right. The fact that no apology is forthcoming, or even acknowledgement of the ist behavior, merely demonstrates out that Ableism simply does not matter to the majority of persons.

noctilucere said...

Wow. These comments really make me glad I'm going into network security.

Thanks for the original post, Lefty. It makes me sad, but doesn't surprise me at all, that the initial comments were frothing with anger about your posting insecure communications with one individual regarding his totally inappropriate behaviour -- at least, as you described it -- rather than actually addressing that inappropriate behaviour at all.

But, they're right, you know. Like, everyone should totally just lighten up and smoke a joint or something. It's not like people paid to present at a conference actually have any responsibility to be respectful to the audience. And it's not like female techs don't get this crap all the time; they should be used to it by now instead of actually trying to get their colleagues and peers in the industry to give them basic human respect. Like, if men in tech were going to actually change, they'd have done so right now, so the femmes should just get used to it and go make the real technicians a pie or something. And take off those shoes -- you're not going to need them.

You know, it would have been entirely possible for responders to address whatshisface's original, hurtful/offensive/inappropriate comments as well as any ethical concerns surrounding your posting of the e-mail. The fact that so many people just totally didn't even register the insults toward female techs shows exactly how important they think respect shown toward an entire gender is, as opposed to respect shown to some knob who can't even realize it's the 20th century yet. At least he's not up there making jokes about people of colour.

Then again, it could just be that a whole lot of Open Source geeks are severely emotionally stunted and have no idea what actual respect is when dealing with people. If my own colleagues are any judge, that's why crap like this is the reason why even though I'm in a highly technical, intensive networking course, I have to snooze through classes on EQ and interpersonal skills when in fact I could be teaching said classes.

noctilucere said...

Oh, and as a female, I'd like to thank Lefty for being an ally instead of saying, "If they want to play with the big boys, let them deal with it alone when the big boys treat them like crap." Honestly...I'd swear some of you folks would walk right by a group of douchebags beating up on a homeless guy. "Hey, if he wants his bodily integrity respected, let him fight back on his own."

Danni Coy said...

On the Word Virgin.

The word virgin derives from the latin virgo meaning young independent woman. This usage of the word though uncommon is still valid today.

The latin term virgo intacta was used to describe a young woman who had not had sexual intercourse. By the middle ages this was most commonly understood meaning of the word.

In the context of the medieval church the term would have been fairly interchangeable with the word nun and that seems to be the context in which it was used.
This context although also uncommon is still a valid use of the word today.

It is only comparatively recently that the term includes both sexes and it is an interesting look at cultural development where the word for "young woman" now means "hasn't had sex".

My point is - if you are going to bitch about the term Virgin then don't.

If you think the issue is that RMS is singling out the women for objectification or as beginners. Then do that. Ask. The person who founded the Free Software movement is going to be ridiculously stubborn person even if they are in the wrong. It is pointless with this sort of person to take an adversary position. You need to make them think about what they are doing without backing them into a corner. Simply ask the question "Could it be possible that women feel unfairly singled out in your speeches?" then give the man space and time to think about it.

Aoirthoir said...

noctilucere had some very good points. Especially the fact that those who addressed the [supposed] issue with the posting of private emails, could have addressed that AND addressed issues of sexism that Lefty brought out.

It is unfortunate that an otherwise good remark itself fell prey to its own ism, in this case again Ableism. As I have pointed out here several times, ableism runs rampant in our society, and even those who fight so strenuously against other isms (racism, sexism) succumb to the temptation to use Ableism to denounce the ism of their choice.

Referring to persons as "severely emotionally stunted" demeans several marginalized groups all at once. Stunted is a demeaning term used to reference those that are [claimed] due to height or limbs not "measuring up" to the purported norms. As well emotional difficulties, illnesses and other problems cause persons to be marginalized disgustingly. It is insulting and reprehensible that such Ableist language would be used to defend against any ism.

Again, defend the issue, expose the wrong, but stop doing it by using other ist language. Different abled people, persons having emotional illnesses, do NOT DESERVE their lives to be minimized, and their feelings further marginalized. Additionally, it would be nice if people using such language, now that it has been brought to their attention, would stop, acknowledge their privilege and perhaps even apologize for continued use of othering language.

Lefty said...

Thank you for the history lesson, Danni, and for explaining to us folks who mistakenly believed that we were offended why we, in fact, were not.

If you think the issue is that RMS is singling out the women for objectification or as beginners. Then do that. Ask.

I did. In a fashion I thought was reasonable and polite. Apparently I didn't know the appropriate sequence of specific words that would have teased out a response other than denying that there was an issue and claiming that he was the victim.

Danni, he's supposed to be a "leader". That's not how you lead. If he's that stubborn about an important and much discussed issue--there were also incidents of pretty questionable presentations at GoGaRuCo and Flashbelt within the last couple of months--I feel I have to ask what sort of "leadership" that represents.

Would you be as polite to a keynote speaker who did this who wasn't Richard Stallman? For bonus points, what about the scenario I presented earlier, which no one's been willing to take on:

In a nearby parallel universe, Richard Stallman has decided that it’s Confucianism he wants to poke “gentle fun” at, rather than Catholicism. Accordingly, he dresses up as Fu Manchu, complete with a coolie hat (made from a hard disk platter) as “ConGNUcius”, and proceeds to do a routine, reading from the “Analects of EMACS”, in a accent taken from Charlie Chan movies:

“ConGNUcius say, Man who install ploplietelly ploglam finds himself laying lail-load tlack! Miclosoft make velly velly bad demand! No license-ee, no ploglam-ee! Ploglam want be flee!”

Have we still achieved the level of “gentle humor” here…? Are we still having fun? Nobody's offended, right?

Aoirthoir said...

For those saying people should not be offended, we don't get to determine other persons emotional reaction to ANYTHING. While no one is saying you HAVE to be offended, no one's told me I have to be offended, it's simply not realistic to believe that everyone's feelings should match our own.

Aoirthoir said...

"He's supposed to be a leader"...

I don't know where this comes up from. He's not *my* leader. He holds *certain* values that I hold, and others that I do not. Because he is at the forefront of certain fights, does not mean that his behavior, for good or ill, is reflective upon those fights. When he stands up against the actions of corporations that lead to death of humans, that's not diminished because he makes ist comments in other areas. Indeed, as is amply demonstrated on this thread alone, many persons will stand up against one ism, while remorselessly flaunting another ism.

This is no justification for ist practices. Rather, it should be obvious that we should not look to *others* to *lead* us. Each should examine these issues thoughtfully and let their own conscience guide them to resisting all forms of othering behavior. When one fails, giving up is not the answer, but rather, we should become aware of our privilege and then redouble the fight against our own tendencies.

Lefty said...

I don't know where this comes up from.

Only about every story in the media that covers an appearance by Stallman, for starts. Whether he's your leader or my leader (he's not), he's widely viewed as a major figure in the Free Software movement and, to that extent, what he does is a reflection on all of us.

I do occasional public relations-y stuff for my company (believe it or not), and I know a few things: you really only get one chance to tell your story to people, and if you don't tell your story your way, someoen else will tell it for you, their way.

If FLOSS wants to have an impact on the real world, we need to consider what the folks who are viewed as representing us (whether we feel they do or not) say about us. If having Richard Stallman doing keynotes makes us look as though we collectively have a problem with, say, women, then that's a problem for all of us.

Aoirthoir said...

Lefty,

It is without question that Richard Stallman is a notable within the Free and Open Source, and the computing community. On that you are right. In that case if you are speaking to large corporations, then perhaps his conduct one way or another, will have an impact. This is because they are most concerned about politics, keeping face, and other such things. On element in a community could stand to cause them to face repurcussions if they are not careful.

On the other hand, a great deal of business is conducted by smaller companies, who know their customers quite personally. Such business relationships go beyond news items of persons that neither of them have even heard of.

If such a company uses say GNU, Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox, Mono or any of the myriad of other Free and Open Source software programs, their customers will hardly notice, much less care. Such customers will also hardly hold it against their vendors if they come to find out that a person promoting or writing such programs was unbecoming or even downright criminal. Nor would they hold it against their vendors if they found out the same about providers of proprietary software programs that the company used.

To make it clear, Richard Stallman is a notable inside of the Free and Open Source Software community. But outside of it, most persons will hardly have even heard of him. So for the reasons I've just mentioned, and for this reason, his actions I've found have not at all interfered with my promoting FOSS to businesses.

As to his being a "leader" I think it is meant only in the most cursory sense. That being that he promotes rather loudly, and successfully FOSS, but not that others "do as he says or does" in even the least manner.

So while we stand against othering behavior, it is also beneficial to understand it in its proper context and not over exaggerate Richard Stallman's influence.

Aoirthoir said...

One final point that I missed. And this is most vital. What he, or you, or Bob Evans does, does not reflect upon me any more than what Coca Cola, or Jesus Christ, or Confucius does. I find it the rare individual indeed that places blame for one persons actions upon others. Indeed that is exactly the type of othering we should resist. All persons of this or that type, gender, community, race, appearance, and so on, are the same as such and such a person. By holding the view that his actions reflect upon us all, we only actually promote othering, except this time of ourselves. It would be as objectionable for a minority to claim that bad actions by a few minorities reflect upon all of said minority.

So to emphasize, all forms of othering must be resisted, including othering of ourselves. Negative actions reflect upon those that do them, and no others.

Lefty said...

...he promotes rather loudly, and successfully FOSS, but not that others "do as he says or does" in even the least manner.

When someone is in the position Stallman is in with respect to a community, it doesn't really matter whether he asks others to "do as he says or does". He's viewed as representing the rest of us by the folks who don't know enough to make the fine distinctions (i.e. pretty much the rest of the world of folks who're not actually involved.)

So, here's the larger problem--and remember some basic PR: if you don't tell your story the way you want people to hear it, they'll tell your story for you, and it'll be the way they're predisposed to hear it.

Look at the comments on this blog, particularly the anonymous ones, as mdz's been pointing out. If someone, say a woman, considering involvement in FLOSS but not knowing much about were to actualy read through those, she'd likely come to the conclusion that the FLOSS community was an even more unwelcoming place than it actually is.

There's a short of Gresham's Law of opinion here: bad opinions drive off good ones, because who can be bothered to spend a ton of time arguing with a Nameless Horde that will neither fight fairly nor stand by the various things they say?

Stallman's ability to make these kind of "jokes", apparently for a decade or more without ever being called on it, can only embolden and encourage folks like that. "Well, if it's okay for Richard to joke about relieving virgins or their virginity, then it must be okay for me to do so, too!"

Lefty said...

By holding the view that his actions reflect upon us all, we only actually promote othering, except this time of ourselves.

That's nice in theory, but in practice, people actually do this all the time. We can "resist" it, but--more importantly--we need to consider what the net effect is on the things we want.

If everyone were to say, "No, Richard's opinions are not mine," then that would be fine. The reality, sadly, is very different as the wealth of (mostly anonymous) negative comments here underscore.

That's what people see. My standing around and saying, "Well, those hundred and fifty people insisting that women really don't know the first thing about technology have nothing to do with me" is not going to be encouraging or comforting to a potential newcomer.

The newcomer will note the 150 strident, negative voices versus my one voice, and (not unreasonably) conclude that the 150 are more representative of the general situation than the one is.

Aoirthoir said...

"He's viewed as representing the rest of us by the folks who don't know enough to make the fine distinctions"

I've not met folks who cannot make such distinctions, especially:

"(i.e. pretty much the rest of the world of folks who're not actually involved.)"

Indeed, I've not only found it not only to be *generally* the opposite of this, but nearly *entirely*. People have become pretty good at understanding that there are so many people in the world, so many differing views and opinions, that typically we're not placing the views of some upon the shoulders of others that disagree with those.

"So, here's the larger problem--and remember some basic PR: if you don't tell your story the way you want people to hear it, they'll tell your story for you, and it'll be the way they're predisposed to hear it."

Indeed. I'm not advocating that folks not tell there story. I am merely stating that the people that start to use Foss, often, simply have no idea about the rest of these cases, and when they find out about them, they're not going to stop using a program because of an attitude of someone they consider distasteful (or worse). A good example of this is Firefox users. More and more non-technical persons are using Firefox, and the vast majority simply don't give too hoots, or even know, about Richard Stallman. They just want to browse the web.

"That's nice in theory, but in practice, people actually do this all the time. We can "resist" it, but--more importantly--we need to consider what the net effect is on the things we want."

The "people do this all the time" is hardly an excuse to allow it to happen. I believe you yourself said so in the comments to this post about sexism. (Though it might have been someone else that said it.) Because people other all of the time, does not mean we should tolerate othering, or that we should other ourselves.

While I agree that we should consider the effect of *our* actions, I disagree with strong conviction that we should at all lump ourselves in with the bad actions of others. Calling attention to the error and working to not duplicate it ourselves is vital and sufficient to separate ourselves from said bad action.

But to declare in even the least frame that someone else's actions are somehow justifiable cause for ourselves, someone else, indeed anyone, to believe, claim or promote that all in such a group are this way is as egregious as any ism. Indeed it is the VERY DEFINITION of if marginalizing behavior, and is ism in full practice.

As in the example you gave, were Stallman to mock Confucius, would it have been more acceptable than a sexist joke? So I would say, if someone were to say that such and such a woman said some bad thing and therefore she reflects upon all women, we would find that unacceptable. Or that a large number of persons from a particular race say some such thing, therefore this reflects upon all persons of such race? We likewise would find this abhorent.

If it is wrong to do in these cases, it is wrong in all cases. Simply because people will see Stallman and try to equate him with ALL in the FOSS community, is no cause at all to tolerate such othering, or promote it ourselves, even about ourselves. Either we are opposed to othering, or we are not. Once we allow othering in certain cases, it opens the door for other cases, and weakens our arguments greatly.

So again, I say plainly that in some cases I agree with Stallman, and in other cases I do not. But in no wise do his actions or his lifestyle reflect upon *me* because he is simply, not me. Nor do his actions reflect upon you or any other developer of FOSS, user of FOSS, or distributer of FOSS.

noctilucere said...

Aoirthoir,

You're right. The phrase that I used was carelessly offensive and also inappropriate to the discussion, as well as merely a result of my frustration and anger with the commenters here. Whether said commenters have emotional problems or not is not for me to determine or describe based on their behaviour here and their emotional status is irrelevant to this discussion. I do apologize for my error.

The behaviour of the commenters here, however, is not irrelevant. Thus, the phrase that I should have used would describe their behaviour, such as (for instance) "demonstrating a definite lack of interest in acknowledging a widespread wrong and treating their female colleagues with basic human decency, even when specifically requested to do so."

Aoirthoir said...

noctilucere,

Thank you for having the good grace of conscience to own up to ableist behavior. I do agree that comments from folks here are not irrelevant. Only, as we both agree, that it is inappropriate to use ableist terms to describe them. You are the only person who had stepped forward to acknowledge such errors Again thank you.

slated said...

I'm less concerned with RMS making harmless "virgin" jokes, than I am with the fact that David Schlesinger, a "member of the LiMo Foundation's Architectural Steering Committee and chair of the Open Source Committee, as well as a member of the GNOME Foundation Advisory Board", has taken to harassing RMS, publishing his private correspondence without permission, and even censoring his own blog comments when commenters rightfully criticise him for it.

Of course, I think it's pretty obvious exactly what's got Mr. Schlesinger spitting venom at the father of Free Software, and it has absolutely nothing to do with virgins.

http://www.itwire.com/content/view/26166/1090/

Schlesinger's attack on RMS is pitiful, juvenile, and simply embarrassing. It also brings into disrepute the other organisations that he's supposed to represent as a mature, level-headed professional, instead of like some teenage thug on a bullying rampage.

There simply are no words to describe how bad this really is.

Lefty said...

There simply are no words to describe how bad this really is.

Given that, it's too bad you felt impelled to try anyway, hm?

The inclusion of the ITWire link is a complete mystery to me, unless this is your oblique way of saying that I'm really complaining about Stallman's clearly sexist remarks as a sort of an indirect way of taking issue with his views on Mono.

This is most certainly not the case; if I felt that strongly about his position on Mono, I'd simply post about that. As I've said, in fact, if Stallman had limited himself to comments on Mono, I wouldn't have posted at all. I really don't care that much about it (although I do use F-Spot and Tomboy, as I've said).

Now, if you are making such a claim, that this is really a duplicitous way for me to complain about Mono without actually complaining about Mono, then that's an offensive implication in itself.

You're saying that sexism which has the effect of limiting participation by women in FLOSS--something which clearly happens, consider the recent incidents at GoGaRuCo and FlashBelt--isn't even worth talking about, that if someone does talk about it, they must really be talking about something else.

And while I may have occasionally spat a little venom at some of the anonymous commentators--who've been much more venomous themselves, as mdz has pointed out on his blog--I dispute that I've "spat venom" at Stallman. I've taken an exceptionally dim view of his "comedy routine", since it was unfunny, out of place, and offensive.

You talk about "harmless virgin jokes" and that where I take exception: when someone who is a supposed "leader of the Free Software movement" uses that position of leadership to single out women in particular as needing assistance to be "relieved" from their technical (or other) "virginity", that's problematical. When it's in a situation where the very few women in the audience are outnumbered at a rate of 40-to-1, it's a situation which is very uncomfortable. It was offensive to me, and mdz and Matt Garrett and Paul Cutler and André Klapper and many, many others who didn't happen to blog about it. It was very offensive to every women in attendance to whom I spoke, and I think I spoke to most of them. The most positive comment I heard from a woman was that it made her "very uncomfortable".

So, I think you're completely out of line. This is my own blog, not a corporate blog, not a Foundation blog. Perhaps you're trying to stifle my freedom of speech here, since you apparently find it inconvenient.

Finally:

...censoring his own blog comments when commenters rightfully criticise him for it.

As I said, it's my blog and I was quite clear why I turned off anonymous commentary (read mdz's blog entry if you're still confused, somehow) and turned on moderation. As I enjoy pointing out, "freedom of the press" does not imply that you're free to use my press.

You've got a completely empty, brand-spankin'-new Wordpress blog, undoubtedly set up specifically so you could share your thoughtless little screed with us.

Maybe you should go use that instead of venting your bogus conspiracy theories and minimization of what's widely recognized as a real problem in the FLOSS community--a problem which those "harmless virgin jokes" only exacerbate--over there instead of wasting my time over here.

And, by the way, I reserve the right to treat "convenience names"--i.e. identities set up yesterday or this morning just to circumvent my ban on the Nameless--just the same as though they were anonymous. So be grateful I published your comment at all; the only reason I did so is that it was so halfwitted that it really needed a direct response.

Don't like that? Write the President of the Internet, by all means.

Thanks for your ill-considered comment. Now go away.

Aoirthoir said...

Folks, you know even if there is a dispute about mono between Lefty and anyone else, the question to ask is, are his claims valid. Very often we call into question the person, as an attempt to ignore the claims of the person. The only point to questioning the person at all would be, if their claims were entirely false.

The facts are that all of us have our privileges. Men are privileged and often it is difficult to notice this. When a person that is privileged says something that hurts the feelings of another, they don't get to say that the person's feelings should not have been hurt. They are certainly allowed to explain themselves, what they meant and clarify any facts in question.

So Lefty's disputes about mono, whether real or not, are not particularly relevant. The only question to ask is, "is this a real accusation? Was Stallman making sexist claims? Or, as some have stated, was he in fact mocking sexism and not women?" Or other questions like these. Rather than "does Lefty like Mono?"

Lefty, I realize accusations against you can be exasperating. I implore you though to stop using ableist language. Referring to persons who may be in the wrong by the ableist term "half-witted" does nothing to promote your rejection of sexism. Rather it tells people who are mentally challenged, that you're fine using terms traditionally used to marginalize them, in an effort to shut down someone else. While the person may deserve to be shut down, the mentally challenged do not deserve to be continually dismissed, marginalized and used as fodder.

Again I am sure you do not intend to do these things. I'm convinced you are not even aware of your use of ablest terms. It's for that reason I bring them to your attention as a thoughtful person who desires to be inclusive, and not "other" any person.

Breton Slivka said...

I am offended by lefty, and I demand a full apology. I don't care whether you intended to offend me or not. the fact is *I* was offended, and I deserve an apology!

Lefty said...

I am offended by lefty, and I demand a full apology. I don't care whether you intended to offend me or not. the fact is *I* was offended, and I deserve an apology!

Several issues, "Breton".

First, I told people to have a name. I didn't mean an empty ID set up solely to provide comments. I'll be treating "convenience names", i.e. identities with no content behind them, like"Breton" here, as Anonymous Cowards, at my discretion).

Second, you haven't give us any idea what you're offended about. If you're offended becuase I'm tall or have seen more horror movies than you have (I have, you know), tough, no dice, no apology, learn to deal with your anguish.

Third, the way to get as apology is to do what I did with Stallman: write a reasoned email and lay out your issues. Don't whine in a blog entry using a non-name.

Anyone want to lay odds that I ever actually hear from "Breton" here?

FelixTheCat said...

It's funny how folks will comment, "Dude, just chill out! It was just a joke!"

Something about trying to make me think a certain way comes to mind. Kind of hypocritical.

Nevertheless, I don't agree with everything Lefty does but by no means do I raise RMS on a pedestal although I do use his 4 freedoms as a standard when making my mind up about various software. In this case, RMS is waaaay wrong.

So, if I were to use "it was just a joke, dude!" as a standard, then why would the Kramer actor be lambasted for making racist jokes? Eh? Because sometimes a "joke" isn't called for, especially in a public setting, you dolt!

Like a madman shooting
firebrands or deadly arrows
is a man who deceives his neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”

(Yep, quoting the Bible...get over it!)

Aoirthoir said...

There's nothing wrong with quoting the bible. There is however something wrong with using parts of it that marginalize groups of people, whether it be women, or as in the case quoted "madmen". For far to long those with mental difficulties are used as examples of evil, and your quote shows just how far back it goes. The term "madman" has been used for centuries as an insulting term to marginalize those with mental illness. Just because it is in the bible does not mean we should continue the practice.

There are good things in the bible, and there are not so good things in the bible. Occasionally the writers of the bible promoted various kinds of racism, classism, sexism, ableism and religiousisms. Other times they resisted all of these. We should admire the good and resist the promotion of isms.

Look, I just don't get how on a post showing how bad sexism is, which is just one kind of ism, that people feel free to flagrantly and horrifically use ableism, and other isms to reject it. Isms are ALL WRONG. STOP using them to defend against one form, because when you do, you're not actually defending sexism, you are PROMOTING IT.

When you use one ism to defend against another, you are saying "It is wrong to practice the isms that *I* think are wrong, but good to practice the isms that *I* think are right!" This is deceitful, abominable, and just as wrong as the ism you are rejecting in the first place.

Lefty is right about the demand for him to apologize. Apologize for what? You are offended about what?

Lefty I don't demand any apology from you for ableist language. I realize you might not even know you or others are making ableist comments. It would be kind though, for you to make a definitive statement that you reject all isms, and find the ablest language of some commenting here as abhorrent as you find any other ism. But barring that, if you simply come to an awareness of ableist language and resist using it, that would be sufficient to make yourself a good example. Yes, it will take time since most are simply unaware of how much ableist language permeats our cultures worldwide. But doing so now, we can look forward to a time when no one is marginalized for their race, gender, differently abled conditions, religion, culture, appearance, or any other situation in their life.

dysamoria said...

the real religion here is the mindless and redirecting defense and following of RMS.

i posted OSnew's coverage and a link to your page here at NowPublic. it immediately was flagged as "fishy" despite providing links to the appropriate info.

the people who are telling you about publishing private emails are exactly what they've been described as: embarrassed themselves. i've found RMS to be offensive, rude and outright obsessive for ages. as a person with autism (AS), i identify him as possibly having it himself and being the reason for his behavior and his inability to know when a "joke" isn't funny and in which crowd it is especially wrong to make that joke. BUT it's no excuse. i've learned quite a lot about appropriateness. i've learned about emails and privacy. THERE IS NO PRIVACY and RMS IS a public figure. if anything, he wouldn't stop you publishing these emails because it's all the more attention he can get for himself.

ignore the people telling you to get over it because they're insensitive and anti-social themselves. this is about humane treatment of other people and you're in the right (as far as i'm concerned).

-jace cavacini (not afraid to use his real name either)

Breton Slivka said...

OOof, you're right, I probably should have used an assumed name. Now this will show up on google, along with all the other embarassing things I post on the internet. Oy. It's hilarious that you think my name is made up though. I'd be offended by the suggestion if I was a bit more precious.

Anyways, yeah, Okay, I can have a tendency to be a little over dramatic, but this one seems to have flown straight over your head. I was making fun of you, dude. Sorry, but that was meant to be satire of your behavior, I know it might not have been obvious, but, oh well, now I just have to go and deflate the joke by explaining it.

The problem is lefty, that we only really have your side of the argument. Stallman replied to YOU, thinking it was a private email. If he knew his comments would be published publically, he might have had the opportunity to provide the background information he was assuming you already knew.

HOWEVER, being american, I have this funny affection for the phrase "Innocent until proven guilty". You're quoting him out of context, and there appears to be some evidence that in fact he was making fun of sexists. But because of this little storm in a teacup, most people will probably never find out the other side of the story and simply write Richard Stallman off once again as a "Kook", a "Loony" and as one blogpost had it "I ALWAYS KNEW HE WAS MESSED UP! Now I finally have something on him!"


In any case, what I was trying to point out was, just because people were offended doesn't mean they're owed an apology. People get offended all the time for the stupidest things. This is all just witch hunting with very flimsy evidence and heresay. I wish I had not foolishy attached my name to any of it, but whatever, here it is.

Lefty said...

OOof...

What happened? Someone hit you in the gut or something?

All you've got there is a "convenience name", tied to a blog account with no content. It's no different, as far as I'm concerned, than an anonymouns posting, so you're still a Nameless Coward in my book.

Ordinarily, I'd just blow off your inane comment, but the concentrated dumb there is a little too appealing, sorry.

Anyways, yeah, Okay, I can have a tendency to be a little over dramatic, but this one seems to have flown straight over your head. ...

Anyways, yeah, okay, what are you talking about, dude?

The problem is lefty, that we only really have your side of the argument. Stallman replied to YOU, thinking it was a private email. If he knew his comments would be published publically, he might have had the opportunity to provide the background information he was assuming you already knew.

The problem is, "Breton", that you're making senseless assertions. If Stallman would reply to an individual in the audience in one way, and then reply "to the public" in a completely different way, then I guess he'd be a hypocrite.

And there is no possible "background information" that will make his stupid little, sexually-loaded joke, aimed directly at the women in the audience, anything other than a stupid little, sexually-loaded joke, aimed directly at the women in the audience.

It's a little offensive that you suggest there is. You're saying that the entire audience was somehow too dopey to understand what Stallman really meant with that joke, that there's some "secret decoder ring".

That's stupid, Breton, but then, you're stupid, so it's probably par for the course.

HOWEVER, being american, I have this funny affection for the phrase "Innocent until proven guilty".

This isn't a criminal trial. I'm not the government. So that's got nothing to do with anything.

You're quoting him out of context,

Are you insane? How can I "quote him out of context" when I've provided the full text of both emails, verbatim. Do you know what "context" means, "Breton"? It seems not.

and there appears to be some evidence that in fact he was making fun of sexists.

No there isn't, and no one in the audience took it that way. You're making excuses for him, and I'm tired of them.

But because of this little storm in a teacup, most people will probably never find out the other side of the story and simply write Richard Stallman off once again as a "Kook", a "Loony" and as one blogpost had it "I ALWAYS KNEW HE WAS MESSED UP! Now I finally have something on him!"

I provided "the other side of the story", "Breton". It seems like you're not capable of grasping that.

One last time, for the room-temperature IQ crowd: Telling a "joke", aimed only at women, suggesting that guys had a holy duty to relieve them of their virginity is Not A "Harmless Little Joke".

It is Not "Gentle Fun".

Its happening to be told in a context of "religious parody" Does Not Somehow Magically Make A Sexually Loaded And Offensive Joke Aimed At The Women In The Audience Turn Into A Positive Blow For Feminism.

There Is Not "Another Other Side To The Story" Other Than The Other Side That I've Already Provided.

Well, yeah, anyways, I'd give the bong a rest if I were you, dude. You're failing to make sense.

Buzz off. Save the stupid for your own blog, if you can figure out how to get one going.

Now, don't you feel like a dope for writing, Breton?

mathew said...

I've lived in Cambridge MA, I've known a bunch of MIT folk, and... well, RMS is somewhat infamous amongst female MIT computer scientists. Doesn't surprise me at all.

C.J. Adams-Collier said...

> Does RMS think all source code should
> be free, or his private e-mails as
> well??

Dr. Stallman has told me in the past that he considers all email exchanges to be public record.

The Beez' said...

How does the Gnome Advisory Board feel about having a member, that admits to breaking the law in public. And oes not repent in any way, yes, is even proud of his act!

And for having read all the pleas your father made hasn't really improved your legal skills. If RMS is ok with breaking copyright (promoting a crime) that doesn't give you the right to commit that crime. That the monetary value of what you published is minor importance here, it is about how much damage has been done to RMS by publishing that emails.

Did RMS commit a crime? No, he might even throw it on the first. If the KKK can get away with it, so can he. So there was no need to publish these emails in the public interest. You damaged his reputation though and invaded his privacy.

I'd sue you.

Lefty said...

I'd sue you.

You'd lose. Decisively, definitively, and disastrously, since such a suit would be clearly frivolous.

(And when you talk about "breaking the law", you prove you have no idea what you're talking about, by the way.)

Buzz off, Beez. Save your Godwin's Law-breaking for your own blog in the future.

Priscilla said...

"Grow up and learn to take a joke."

It's not funny to denigrate women at a public conference. I don't mind if co-workers who obviously respect my technical abilities sometimes tease me and make sexist jokes. But jokes that generically make fun of women's technical abilities aren't funny.

Stop it.

If you don't understand, it may because you haven't experienced discrimination. I have. It was not funny. It harmed my soul, my pocketbook, my family, our customers, and our co-workers. (It wasn't just jokes; it was illegal hiring practices.) After experiencing that, hmm, my sense of humor may be a bit buggy. Sorry.

Try some empathy. If that doesn't work for you, try thinking about your daughter or wife or mother trying to work in this male-dominated industry.

Being made fun of isn't funny.

Stop it.

Thank-you, Lefty.

Guy said...

I know its a bit late, but as you are in the Advisory Board, I think you are missing an important point. Stallman's potentially offensive remarks should have been completely expected to those who organize the convention and so ambushing him makes no sense.
He has been giving the same routine for years.
If anyone exhibited bad judgment it is the organizers. They (you) could have asked him to skip this part as a condition. They didn't and he did the exact thing you invited him to do. Asking him to apologize for it is, well, hypocritical.
You can't ask someone to repeat a speech that has already been given 100 times and then ask him to apologize for giving this speech.
Sure, requiring him not to do the virgin bit in your events is up to you, and if you feel it offends your crowd, go ahead.
I am not getting into the debate on whether he should or should not say what he says (although I'd stop if I were him, as a gesture if nothing else).

Lefty said...

Neither the GNOME Foundation Board, nor the Advisory Board (nor the KDE Foundation Board, I'm told) had any part in inviting Mr. Stallman to speak. That was a decision made by the local organizers, as far as I know.

He has been giving the same routine for years.

What a shame that no one asked him to stop years ago!

You can't ask someone to repeat a speech that has already been given 100 times and then ask him to apologize for giving this speech

Of course I can. It's the first time I'd ever seen his idea of a "comedy routine", and I was offended, as were many members of the audience, as has been excruciatingly detailed. This is just a variation on "That's just the way he is", which is a pretty shoddy excuse for bad behavior.

But again, the really interesting question, to me, anyway, is "Why didn't anyone complain about this before?"

Guy said...

re the organizers - Then ask the local organizers to issue an apology. And if you think it is that serious, the general group (KDE, GNOME, whatever) should apologize as well. You share the fame, you share the blame.

as for the second point, I still fail to see your logic. Say you were to ask Stallman to give a talk, and expected this exact speech. By what logic did you not wave your right to ask him to apologize for doing what you specifically knew you were asking him to do?

Plenary speakers are entertainers and they all have their pros and cons. You can't invite someone, let him loose and then attack him for his most famous vice. It wasn't a one time slip that he made just in this event.
Next time maybe invite Howard Stern and ask him to apologize ?

Bottom line (and I am using winXP to write this) IMHO, get off the guy

Lefty said...

This isn't that complex, Guy.

I didn't invite him. I had no particular expectations regarding the sort of speech he might give.

However, I was responsible for getting my organization to sponsor the event. Effectively, I paid for the guy to come and offend me and many others. I've absolutely got not only a right, but a responsibility—not least, since that kind of talk, were it in a presentation given by an employee of any company I've worked for in the past two decades, would be cause for a strong warning, if not outright dismissal—to do so.

I'm not going to be conducting a debate with you around the 300th comment on a months-old posting any further.

hzF6SfkjgvjHUgPwq4VIkwuDTyk- said...

The "sexism" in Stallman's remarks is a result of Catholic sexism and its cult of virginity; Stallman was merely poking fun at that.

As for being offensive to Christians, Meeks frequently brings up his Christianity in a professional context and draws a connection between Christian belief and free software. Christian language and imagery is also widespread in professional contexts. As an atheist, I feel quite marginalized by that kind of behavior.

People like Stallman actually make me feel less marginalized. I hope there will be more outspoken atheists to balance the overwhelming and oppressive Christian presence in professional contexts.

(As for the technical substance of Stallman's remarks, I'm no Stallman fan and I think he's wrong and mis-informed.)

Lefty said...

Hm. Where exactly have you folks been for the past four months...?

I know Michael well, have seen him present a number of times, but I've never seen him do what you're suggesting he does. Nor have I noticed "Christian imagery" to be at all "widespread in professional contexts". I'd be interested in seeing you cite some examples.

In any case, if it should become apparent that atheists are grossly under-represented in open source development versus proprietary, as women are, then this might be cause for some concern, but I don't believe that to be the case. My impression, from talking to people at conferences and other places, is that a plurality, if not a majority, consider themselves "atheist", "agnostic" or "non-religious".

mas said...

Hi.
Consider this another (belated) vote of "I'm ashamed at this behavior and the idiots apologizing for it".

Just wanted to point out that not everyone who has some kind of stake in FOSS is incapable of empathy AND logical argument.

Sorry to be posting this so late on a months-old blog post.

--Mason

Per Andersson said...

I stumbled upon this gem which puts the light on a very important and oftenly neglected, or down-right blatantly ignored, subject within the FLOSS community.

Thank you, keep up the good work!


All the best,
Per

ac01852 said...

The way to contribute positively is to steer around personal issues with humor and get on with the job. If you don't like Emacs or the philosophy behind it create something better ;>) No one is preventing anyone.

jeremejazz said...

Hey Lefty.. I just read this article along with it's comments,,, you must have had a horrible time.. How are you now?

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