It’s been weeks since the FOSS world erupted in a controversy over Richard Stallman’s surprise return to FSF board. Calls were made to ostracize not only Stallman but the entire Free Software Foundation. Big open source companies like SUSE and Red Hat decided to stop funding FSF but individual developers rallied behind Stallman.
Despite all the condemnation and opposition, it seemed that FSF was not going to back out under pressure and they did not despite the resignation of its Executive Director and other management team members.
Richard Stallman’s apology
In his message published on FSF blog, Stallman apologizes to people who were hurt by his ‘lack of social skills’.
… I discovered that some people had negative reactions to my behavior, which I did not even know about. Tending to be direct and honest with my thoughts, I sometimes made others uncomfortable or even offended them — especially women. This was not a choice: I didn’t understand the problem enough to know which choices there were.
Sometimes I lost my temper because I didn’t have the social skills to avoid it. Some people could cope with this; others were hurt. I apologize to each of them.
Stallman also asked people to direct the criticism to him, not at the Free Software Foundation.
He also went over the episode of Professor Minsky (that cost him his job at MIT and his position as the President of FSF in 2019) and tried to clarify the incident.
I defended Professor Minsky on an M.I.T. mailing list after someone leaped to the conclusion that he was just guilty as Jeffrey Epstein. To my surprise, some thought my message defended Epstein. As I had stated previously, Epstein is a serial rapist, and rapists should be punished. I wish for his victims and those harmed by him to receive justice.
False accusations — real or imaginary, against me or against others — especially anger me. I knew Minsky only distantly, but seeing him unjustly accused made me spring to his defense. I would have done it for anyone. Police brutality makes me angry, but when the cops lie about their victims afterwards, that false accusation is the ultimate outrage for me. I condemn racism and sexism, including their systemic forms, so when people say I don’t, that hurts too.
Stallman defends his support for Minsky but with some introspection:
It was right for me to talk about the injustice to Minsky, but it was tone-deaf that I didn’t acknowledge as context the injustice that Epstein did to women or the pain that caused.
He hopes that this episode will help him to be kind to other people in the future.
I’ve learned something from this about how to be kind to people who have been hurt. In the future, that will help me be kind to people in other situations, which is what I hope to do.
Not everyone is going to accept his apology
His apology is not going to soothe people who have already found him guilty and announced his banishment from the society.
Despite Stallman specifically mentioning that he didn’t defend Epstein, some still read what they want to read:
For some, lack of social skills is not a justification of prolonged ill behavior:
But there are a few who are happy to see that FSF standing firm behind Stallman:
And I found a quite witty and sarcastic comment on this otherwise serious matter:
Personally, I think Stallman’s apology does not matter. People who support him, don’t need any apologies from him. People who are against him are not going to accept his apologies anyway.
Your comments on this topic are welcome but please be civilized while expressing your opinion.
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