everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
*originally posted:* aug 2021
my problem with the backstabbers isnt as much that theyre dicks, its that theyre liars. if they had any integrity, any accountability, any sense of holding themselves to their own standards (agreeing to something that nobody else can hold you to is a farce in and of itself, gnu.fools) there might be some hope for them.
i think we need to tell them to go to hell. i dont mean literally, go to hell. i mean we just tell them to go to hell, and they can do whatever the fuck they like with that.
when the eff was a real organisation, they fought hard against slapp lawsuits-- these were corporate campaigns to intimidate journalists and activists with bogus lawsuits-- in real courts.
the eff is not a real organisation anymore, its a fucking joke that PARTICIPATES in lies and slapp action against great activists, in the court of public opinion. this is fraud, and the eff should be dissolved. it stands for nothing. fuck them.
years ago, i belonged to riseup. today, they participate in knocking down people for rising up. theyve become a farce. fuck them.
theres too much mediocre milquetoast reform, and not enough ruthlessness where it fucking belongs. instead, any viciousness is turned on GOOD people, not liars-- GOOD people, not frauds. GOOD people, not shills.
what the fuck happened, anyway? how did this movement get so naive, and soft?
i mean, apart from the obvious hijacking by open source and other corporate bullshit.
but this movement was founded by a pessimist-- a demanding pessimist. and people seem to have this bizarre, linear view of where the movement really stands. they seem to think that whats won is won, and whats lost is lost, and we dont need to win whats lost because its gone, and we dont need to win what we won long ago, because its won. and theyre wrong, about all of that. thats not how freedom works at all. freedom isnt a logo or an office that you go to and say "well, im here, i must be free then". though that does seem to be how fundraising campaigns work (rhetorically, at least).
the way freedom works is that you find all the ways in which people arent free, and you work on those things.
of course, its not QUITE that simple. i mean, there are obviously a lot of stupid people that think freedom x is so important that freedom y is no longer relevant. so they downplay all other freedoms and raise their pet freedom above the rest. and yes, an organisation totally gets to do that to the certain degree that most organisations do-- thats not what bothers me. until you have activists starting an actual holy war over which reformer cares more about this, that or the other thing.
its become a giant pissing match, about everything EXCEPT free software. and thats fucking stupid. but you cant SAY it is. its true-- but you cant SAY it. and THATS when the movement has become a farce.
its (almost) funny that you cant say its fucking stupid, when we used to be able to and even cared about the right to say it. i know people from every walk of life that care about the right to say "thats fucking stupid", but i wont stay around reformers that are so ridiculous that they insist everybody has to be nice all the time.
but even if you think thats bullshit, theres a more important point here.
free software lacks leadership. i think stallman is a person of great integrity, and ive spent years looking for a replacement for him, and ive also wondered if there would ever be another civil rights movement (i wasnt around in the 60s) in my lifetime. i wondered who would be the next gandhi or martin luther king.
ive said the real richard stallman isnt coming back, and i know thats as true now as when i said it more than a year ago.
if you think the real richard stallman is coming back, then you dont know who the real richard stallman is.
people who are caught up in this "insult" of richard stallman dont get what i mean, they get what they want it to mean-- its convenient. it suits them. im not insulting him, though if you really insist on taking it that way, you can think what you want to.
the real richard stallman is demanding-- unmoveable-- unstoppable, and unwavering. and the richard stallman we still have is most of that. hes still a man of charisma (despite those who dont feel that way) and great integrity. hes still principled. i dont mean any of that has changed.
other than this, people clearly see what they want to see. people who want him to be ruined see reasons to try to destroy him. i dont have the charity for these people that stallman does, i think a lot of them are just scum. awful, horrible, nasty stupid people. not all of them, of course. some really are just naive or misinformed. i dont know why anybody wants to extend that benefit of the doubt to everybody-- not everybody deserves it at this point. but i digress.
some people see richard stallman and think that hes going to fix this mess that everybody is in. hes not. im in awe of everything hes done with his life and im not saying hes done making a real difference-- im not saying his career is over, but im definitely saying hes not the same kind of leader he used to be. sadly, nobody else whos available is the same kind of leader he used to be, either.
i suppose there are two ways to follow a great leader-- one way is when this great leader does less and less, other people also do less and less. thats certainly following the leader, but not in the best way.
the other way is when this great leader does less and less, other people do more and more. but i dont want people to be more and more like this softer-spoken, more agreeable figure. i want more "classic" richard stallmans.
its possible for anybody, even myself, to miss the point and be superficial about this. people on youtube will start thinking of snarky ways to be "more like stallman" in what amounts to mocking and exaggerating his faults. thats obviously not what i mean, though its what theyll get from it.
still others will focus on how im not giving a great person enough respect. i disagree. i think its extremely respectful (maybe not in some less meaningful ways) to try to see to it that stallmans legacy is just as powerful as his career, or moreso. there isnt a better tribute in the world than to keep his movement going-- but in what way? (certainly being fair to him matters. though i dont think im being unfair, either).
if years from now, the gnu logo stands for nothing (much like the name "riseup networks" or the electronic fake foundation) then i hope there are PEOPLE who still stand for stallmans ideals. i think a movement is stronger than an organisation, and the greatest tragedy of the free software movement is that (despite all the damning evidence around to the contrary) they seem to believe that organisations are stronger than movements! as if the very best possible way to preserve something grassroots is with a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation!
i dont see evidence supporting this assumption, but i see plenty against it. at best, a 501c3 is a tool for doing things that a movement would have a more difficult time doing without one. but when the 501c3 becomes the movement, youre fucked, thats all. because a movement can outlive a corporation-- a corporation cannot outlive itself. (it can sometimes outlive a movement, though at that point what is it, but an echo of its former self?)
but again, i digress.
i dont just mean that the "real" richard stallman is more stubborn, but he fought harder. today when i look at the free software movement, all i find is people making business-like deals with corporations-- not-for-profits having meetings and going over minutes, and all that really not-at-all-sexy stuff that looks more like a business than activism.
i realise that for the fsf, this cannot be helped. the same things went on in the 80s and 90s as well, whats changed is the way that it permeates (or flat out takes the place of) the culture. if the fsf wants to be like debian, its halfway there. (to be fair to them, it WAS 4/5 of the way there).
i see in the way people act, and the way they think, and the way they react to new challenges. everything is a process now, more than an opportunity or a call to action. its stagnant. but people wont believe this.
and i realise that lots of people are technically busy doing lots of things. but theyre doing lots of things the way that lots of people would use their hands to paddle if they lost an oar, even when theyve got wooden planks and a large knife they could use to make a replacement. its fine for the short run, but as plans go, it sucks. if we are going to spend the rest of this movement paddling boats with our hands because one oar is missing, i think ill just get out right here and take my chances.
this isnt the first time i said we need more stallmans. but its one of the few times ive bothered since stallman is "back".
we need loud-mouthed, stubborn, unmoveable, DEMANDING, clever, intelligent, strategic people-- with INTEGRITY. those who thought i was insulting stallman, need to explain how THIS is an insult to him.
most of the loud people have no integrity, so theyre not qualified. most of the people who are unmoveable are dicks-- stallman really isnt. and people who are always agreeable, or obsessed with diplomacy, or who are just big teddy bears all the time, we can certainly make use of them as well-- but not if everybody is like that.
freedom frequently isnt something you get by just asking. you can try it, and sometimes it will work-- but a lot of times one of two unfortunate things will happen: either someone will say no, and the freedom will still be important, or at least as often someone will say "yes" and theyll actually be lying.
there are LOT of people saying "yes" who are actually lying. microsoft in particular has spent YEARS saying "yes" and lying.
and too many people hear "yes" and take it as a signal to shut up and stop fighting.
this of course, is an oversimplification. you can shut it down just by saying "oh, but, you know, we are still fighting!"
all i heard was "yes", but i didnt really believe it.
i see a lot of big corruption, and small reform. and other people, most people seem to be seeing big reform, and small corruption.
which one do you think the details will support? most people dont really care about the details. theyre only looking for the ones (honestly, its true!) that support what they already thought was happening.
particularly if they think things are going well, they dont want information that contradicts that. "its not important, la la la cant hear you, busy doing all this great stuff kthxbye!"
pessimists dont have this problem. or rather theyve got 99 problems, but things going well aint one.
what made stallman so great is that no matter what kind of success you threw in his direction, he just kept trying to find problems and make things better.
and whats happened is that people have let those problems stack up to the sky. im not saying they were lazy, im saying they were apathetic about too many things.
or perhaps they were coasting.
at any rate, that is how free software will lose. whether you call it apathy, complacency, or just misplaced optimism, the reason we are up shit creek is because everybody wants to look on the fucking bright side.
just dont look at your hands, if youre using them to paddle up shit creek.
i dont think anybody can be as great as richard stallman, really (thats no reason not to try).
but maybe ten people can. maybe a hundred people can. maybe FIVE hundred people can. and if five hundred people cant be as great as one richard stallman, what the fuck are they doing?
of course its wonderful that thousands of people gave money to the fsf, so some fucking piece of shit doesnt come along and say "i guess we better move the REST of our infrastructure to github!"
you all just moved your irc (no, fuck freenode, thats NOT the point and thats also stupid) TO MICROSOFTS SERVERS for fucks sake! what the fuck?! and youve already got more than 10 gnu projects there.
are you all high?
but whatever, thats why your movement is suffering so badly. because theres only one richard stallman, and we need a handful of them. and nobodys doing that. theyre just fucking waiting, as if one is just going to come along and ring the fucking doorbell.
you cant call yourself a pessimist if youre counting on that. you can call yourself a lot of things, actually. but not a pessimist.
stallman is a kind person, with a warm heart. he has more empathy and compassion than nasty, horrible old mr. phipps (who insinuated that stallman doesnt have empathy, and then signed his name to a bunch of lies) will ever be able to fake.
and the kind-hearted richard stallman is no less real-- he was always that way. but the real richard stallman is also ruthless, and thats what this movement is missing-- someone who fights RUTHLESSLY for freedom. we have lots and lots of ruthless people fighting for bullshit, and lies-- thats not activism, though. its just shit.
and we have lots of people fighting very nicely for freedom. so nicely that its almost like theyre just hoping for the best.
hope is for when the fight is going poorly. if youre so hopeful you think a fight isnt needed, thats not even hope-- its just fucking stupid.
people will think im saying this to be mean. they can think what they want. but if hope leads to apathy and complacency, while the world becomes less free-- and youre calling that activism. guess what? that really IS fucking stupid.
it isnt mandatory stupidity though, its willful, and you can stop doing it anytime-- if you want.
my advice is this: later, when youre winning, you can say im still an arsehole.
alternatively, it can be one more excuse in a long line of excuses.
im not trying to shock people or be edgy-- there are plenty of popular musicians who are way better at doing that. in a world this full of shit, its either tell the world "hey, youre full of shit" or just suffer needlessly. or give up, and be apathetic like so many people i know.
or as the real richard stallman said:
"bullshit! i dont accept the world."
and neither should you. but if the message you get from that is youre just going to go beat everybody who doesnt kiss your arse into submission with your lies and bullshit, and force them to be "nice" (i.e. obedient) to you all the time... thats useless, its not doing anything to make the world better. you arent making people free, youre just adding to the number of kings and queens in the world.
fuck all of that. nobody who really believes in freedom is going to put up with that. its a very old trick, and freedom will never be "nice" to that sort of thing. because its bullshit.
nobody really has freedom, without a certain level of regard for truth.
if you want to know the surest path to human servitude, its bullshit-- and the liars who make it king.