A few thoughts on RMS and the recent Free Softare Foundation actions.

I'd like to share an experience of mine with Richard Stallman, and some reflections on the current situation.

In about 2010 or so, I went to the Trenton Computer Festival. Richard was slated to talk. It was a treat to have him speak close to home for me. I also noticed that he was listed as a leader in Open Source, and I thought that it would be amusing to see how he would react to that. Maybe some witty barbs, and an explanation of the difference between the Free and Open movements, as a learning experience for the organizers, as well as the audience.

I was wrong. It was not amusing.

I had been an associate member of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for a short time at that point, and I was convinced that Free Software was (and still is) worthy of praise, and a brilliant idea for enabling people to be free through software that they use.

When Richard was on stage, and found out about the "Open Source" moniker, he was outraged. I don't recall his words of over a decade ago, but I thought I recall more than a little cursing. Regardless of the exact words, it was unbecoming of someone of his stature. It was less statesman, and more temper tantrum.

There was quite a bit of complaining, and he wasn't sure that he could go on. He was so disturbed by the misrepresentation. He eventually regained his composure, and gave a speech about Free Software.

I walked away that day, not energized about supporting Free Software, but instead thinking about the man that was in the front of the room talking about it. Was this the right person to further that cause? I was a new member then, so I didn't really feel it was my place to bring this to the FSF. I just let it go. Perhaps I should not have. Maybe I should have sent an email then, and try to raise these concerns.

I still think that Richard is a very smart man, and his codification of Free Software is a gift to all of us. I also think that his public persona is not one that best serves the FSF in any sort of leadership capacity.

I haven't personally seen the abuse that people have reported, but I have seen plenty of cringey moments in other talks and at LibrePlanet. These moments make it easy to believe that he has said the hurtful things that have been reported. I'm not in any of the groups that he has been insensitive towards, so I don't think it's my place to judge that directly.

I don't wish to stop him from speaking his mind, frankly. There are plenty of people that speak without regard to others' feelings. I just don't think that he is someone that I can get behind and say that he represents An organization that I support. Being reelected to the board signifies that his present actions are acceptable, since nothing seems to have changed other than the passing of time. I can't get behind it, and the fact that the board reinstated him shows poor judgment on their part, and makes me unsure of their judgment in other matters.

Is the FSF truly only about Richard? This is an opportunity to show that the FSF and Free Software can continue on without the direct guiding of Richard. (Who will most likely not live forever, regardless of the current situation)

I would hate to see the idea of Free Software become a relic of the past, with the FSF as the curators of those neglected ideals simply because they could not see beyond a single individual.

If Free Software cannot continue on without Richard's personal intervention, perhaps the idea is not as strong as I thought, and hoped it would be.

Thanks for hearing me out.

--murph (Associate FSF member)