I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more!—Peter Finch as "Howard Beale" in Network
I've written about my adventures with Roy Schestowitz and the fun folks over at Boycott Novell, and I've been the happy recipient of much interesting mail over the last few weeks, as well as the subject of a number of blog postings and articles, some more flattering than others, and the experience has caused a bit of an epiphany.
I've come to realize that our community and the people in it, are under attack. We are being disrupted, we are being defamed, we are being lied to, and, in some instances, we are even having our lives invaded.
More importantly, I feel as though I've started to see a consistent thread running through these attacks, invasions and disruptions. This attack comes not from Microsoft, but from a parasitical pseudo-"community" that attempts to pretend it's actually our community.
What I am seeing is people making a pretense of involvement in FLOSS and in our community, people who we don't actually know, people who never join us at conferences, don't work in projects, and only participate in mailing lists to instigate flame wars. I am seeing people who seem to be making a sort of religion out of "free software" and issuing their demands to the rest of us to do things their way. These are people who will excoriate you as something less than a "true GNU/Linux user" if you should touch a Macintosh or (heaven forbid!) a Windows box. These are folks who will berate you for buying a piece of software or owning an iPod. These are people who will classify you as a "freedom hater" if you express reservations about the GPL v3.
As I've said, our community thrives on disagreement, and we (mostly) deal with it in healthy ways. We reject uniformity of opinion and we always have. In stark contrast, this pretense "community" insists that their way is the One True Way, and we should all just shut up, learn the catechism, and do their bidding.
I've come to think of these people over the past several days as the "Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists".
By way of a concrete example, I offer this email thread, from the ubuntu-devel list around the beginning of June.
It shows "Mark Fink" (a regular anti-Mono "advocate" who, as you will see, constantly points back to Boycott Novell and praises Roy Schestowitz, and who you may remember from that previous posting), asserting (without particular evidence) that there is "shameful censoring of mono [sic] opposition" going on, demanding that Mono (and consequently F-Stop and Tomboy) be removed from the Ubuntu default install, and further demanding that Jo Shields be removed from his involvement in Ubuntu and David Siegel be fired from Canonical, with much vituperation and insult directed at list members who attempt to help him see reason along the way.
"Mark Fink" and "Remco"--who comes in a bit later in the thread, and starts off seeming semi-reasonable, only to go progressively deeper off the deep end as things proceed--represent the "faux FLOSS fundamentalists" here.
Everybody else on the thread represents the "real FLOSS community", as do the vast majority of the hundreds, if not thousands, of subscribers to that list who didn't comment. Most of us on the thread know, or are at least aware, of one another; none of us has much of a clue who Remco and Mr. Fink are.
I appear, in increasingly testy form, a few times. The messages without line wrapping were actually posted from the countryside of Western Japan, where--as I mention--I was doing a Buddhist pilgrimage and posting from my iPhone.
Scott James Remnant asks "Remco" an intriguing question at one point, and maybe Mr. Schestowitz and Mr. Varghese would like to tackle this, too, sometime: if they're all so concerned about the presence of patents which Microsoft claims to both hold and actively enforce getting into their free software, why haven't they started a discussion about removing the Linux kernel from the default Ubuntu install?
I say enough is enough. We should put our collective feet down as far as strident demands from complete non-participants in the community go. We should say "no" to Faux FLOSS Fundamentalism, and people like Roy Schestowitz, Sam Varghese, "Penguin Pete", "Jason" of mono-nono, and the like, as well as the assortment of associated and sympathetic trolls who post endless anonymous comments to blog postings they dislike and start up flame wars on development lists.
The Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists have nothing to offer the community but their propaganda, their dogma, and their misplaced sense of entitlement. We need to reject those who demand that we all sign up for "Freedom the Way We Tell You To" and I think we need to make it clear to them that they need to either actually start participating in a meaningful way or simply stop "advocating" at us.
Plain old "freedom" is good enough for me.
I begin to detect a trend amongst the comments. People, let's get some clarity on one specific point.
I am not calling Richard Stallman a "faux FLOSS Fundamentalist" here. His name appears nowhere in this post, and, believe me, if I had meant it to, it would have.
Mr. Stallman has some other issues, as far as I'm concerned: poor judgment, a lack of willingness to even try to understand the point of view of others, a very peculiar inability to either acknowledge or see references to women (and I don't understand this at all, frankly) and a lack of good sense as far as how what he says will be understood, on a personal and emotional level, by the people to whom he says it.
Mr. Stallman wrote the GPL and the LGPL, and those have been valuable and important assets for the community. (The offer not good for GPL/LGPL v3, at least not yet.) No one can, or should dispute that.
Mr. Stallman has contributed a lot of excellent code in his time, and there's no way any one can dispute that.
Mr. Stallman did a lot of the seminal thinking around FLOSS (but he's not the only one who did. Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens and many others contributed their thoughts and ideas as well.)
Are we all straight on that? Mr. Stallman has unquestionably contributed, and participated, and I'm not referring to him, neither directly nor obliquely, neither implicitly nor inferentially.
So: I do not include Mr. Stallman among the ranks of the "Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists". His taste in humor aside, he does not make a hobby of disrupting the community to get his way.
That said, when Mr. Stallman insists that I must call not call it "Linux", but "GNU/Linux instead, I must disagree. When Mr. Stallman insists that I must not call what we work with "open source" software rather than "free" software, I must disagree. When Mr. Stallman insists that I must not own an iPod, I must disagree. In general, when Mr. Stallman insists that I must do something contrary to common practice or the dictates of my own conscience, reason or will, I must disagree. (And if I ever happen to wind up out at a group dinner with Richard Stallman--an event which seems increasingly unlikely with each passing hour, and I'm really okay with that--and he attempts to order on my behalf, trust me, I'm going to disagree.)
Because that's not freedom. That's "do what Richard Stallman says," and that's the direct converse of freedom. I do note that many of the symptoms of the faux FLOSS Fundies seem to manifest as a sort of a "free software religion", where the most extreme end of the wide spectrum of views in the free, libre and open source software community (GPL v3 only! Microsoft is our sworn enemy! The Hyper-V drivers are a plot!) is taken as the only legitimate view, as gospel.
Freedom always wins in the end because it simply can't be gotten rid of: no one can tell you how, or what, to think.