everything wrong with free software
"free as in speech"
*originally posted:* sep 2022
i was not involved in the coup against rms, though i would have participated in it-- if it had been very different in its nature.
i will outline a better coup here, which is close to what i originally called for and much farther from what happened instead.
the coup took most people by surprise, including me. the one id proposed was as much of a rhetorical device as anything. its true that i predicted rms being ousted, though it happened much sooner (and it was much dirtier in its tactics) than i had thought likely.
the coup i would have liked would have two primary objectives:
1. choose / acclimate a successor for rms (this was a goal of mine).
2. get the fsf to listen to its members.
in hindsight, this coup was somewhat pointless because:
1. it wasnt my intention to choose a successor, but rather to let everyone already in charge do so. my list of suggestions included one of the people who actually stood in place of rms while he was exiled (or pretended to be exiled. or was exiled). it also included some other people on the board.
2. the fsf has never cared what its members think, and now it (still) never will. the idea of getting the fsf to listen to its members was a naive fantasy. these days, the fsf only listens to money (or other organisations that were also corrupted by corporate sponsors).
3. corporations and people aligned with open source did it first.
others traced the fsfs "love of money" all the way back to 2014. its interesting to note that 2014 is also the year when i stopped believing in debian, and the year that i have long considered the point or past the point of "peak freedom" in terms of software.
other important differences between my plan and their coup include:
1. i would have supported a coup that was Honest, which existed primarily to help the fsf, not primarily to screw over and devastate rms.
2. the only goal regarding rms was to get him to step down (even gradually) as fsf president-- not to be silenced as a speaker, not to be removed from gnu, not to resign from the board, even temporarily. the way it was done instead was completely asinine, unless the goal was to do harm to the fsf and the movement.
3. it would have protected the legacy of the fsf, including that of its founder.
and here is what happened instead:
the coup was completely dishonest, and was NOT against only rms.
the coup was (as i predicted nearly a year before it happened) against both rms and his supporters-- against the free software movement itself, and designed to weaken its position against monopolies that dont care about your freedom. it has done exactly this-- this was just as true in april 2021 as it was in september of 2019.
it removed rms (with NO GOOD REASON) from the board of directors, which in my opinion made the remaining board illegitimate, fraudulent and next to useless. any action from a board which loses its most prominent founding member under false pretenses is not worth taking seriously-- nor is the organisation. (note: since this line was written, stallman has returned to the board and several other people have left).
the fraudulent reorganisation and actions taken in bad faith have put the fsf against its own mission, and in practical terms have turned the fsf itself into a scam, asking for money to support a cause which the new organisation has itself worked to dismantle. throwing money at corruption fixes nothing.
as of september 2021 or earlier, some of that fraudulent reorganisation has now been fixed. the mission itself does not appear to be resuming along with it, in fact the bylaws (in early 2022) seem to have been tweaked to be more in line with demands the coup was making from day 1 (and surely before that) in 2019.
torvalds was not permanently cancelled either, and yet his "return" to the "forefront" of development seems drastically different than before. not everyone is convinced yet that it is so with stallman, and yet he has declined to be president again (i was never in favour of him losing the position under false pretenses) and i still think his presence is as more of a mascot than someone running the organisation. which begs the question: who is actually running it?
we used to know it was the corporations. once their direct involvement appears to dwindle, but the trajectory of the organisation remains changed, what should we realistically think? that now things will go back to normal, or that the damage is done?
with linux, we have the answer to that question. with the fsf (and likewise with gnu, which stallman never stepped down from though there were fraudulent efforts to make people think he had) we are still waiting for most people to figure out how much these two (corporate) takeovers have in common:
its no longer a theory that large organisations and corporations (capable of leading an overthrow) participated in this-- their members have taken credit.
nor is it a theory that such takeovers almost never reverse-- the movement may recover, the organisation most likely never will. an exception could be the movement rebuilding itself, then overthrowing the corrupt organisation. but until that happens (the superficial appearances of which, will certainly prevent most people from bothering to rebuild) the organisation itself is actually working against the movement.
it was "business as usual" (or "stick your fingers in your ears, sing ting-a-ling-a-loo") when the coup was building itself, and the fsf has returned to "business as usual" as quickly as possible-- once it finally got around to it. but the reality of the situation is anything but business as usual, and that makes a farce (once again) of the fsf.
to be fair, the fsf is making a farce of itself by pretending that a. it exists to fight for us and b. fight what? everything is alright, except [same talking points as always, a bit watered down]. stallman has finally returned, retrieved the wad of gum he left under his desk, and found it to be chewable. but i dont believe anyone (not even stallman himself) who tells me it still has its original flavour.
in my recommendations (and my own choice) for a new president, i wanted someone who was not afraid to speak out, (oliva indeed spoke out about the coup) because speaking out is something free software must do, and if the president cant do that then the organisation is impotent. this remains true about half a year after stallmans return to the board, which (since early 2022) has gained a (c)ompletely (r)egressive (a)nti-whistleblower (p)olicy, or "crap". this is completely unnecessary too, as the board was already full of crap.
ive read arguments that stallman is speaking out, but find more evidence that he is playing "greatest hits" (which is to be expected whether he talks about new issues or not) and the "new issues" he speaks about are still "safe" choices, not the most urgent ones. others have argued that the fsf has already lost, and at this point i am one of those people.
plans to remove rms arent a new thing-- rms has long stood in the way of corporate hegemony. the open source initiative, along with gnome, who played a significant and unapologetic role in the coup, has long worked to co-opt free software to the point where their own co-founder resigned in protest of them doing so.
debian (which via bruce perens, provided the precursor to the open source definition) featured most prominently in this coup, but this is underreported and even downplayed. a count of debian conspirators from a gnu developer went even higher than the 108 people i counted, including several former debian project leaders. my own research has been (mis)used to try to make it look like ibm was solely to blame here.
i dont doubt they were a driving force, but my older research was (very unavoidably) based on data that couldnt yet take into account what we discovered months or more later-- my older findings are not invalidated by the new data-- but they are of (a bit) less significance. this happens with research all the time. i really wish people who have gone out of their way to pretend my research is not ongoing would stop promoting my older findings just to gain pageviews, but theres not much i can do about it other than condemn this extremely dishonest, superficial and irresponsible practice. it effectively shields those who took part in the coup, for the pettiest of excuses.
after the 2019 coup, bruce perens mentioned that osi had its own plan many years ago to depose rms, but that he never supported it. i would note the similarities between the old plan (because looking back, parts of it were clearly deployed) and the more recent one.
all versions of this plan involve creating new rules and stressing new priorities for free software that just happen to cut rms and his supporters out of the picture. to give a quick breakdown of events over the past couple years, this theme is easy to illustrate:
### december 2018
a petition was created during or after lieplanet 2018 (an fsf-hosted and fsf-organised event) calling for rms to be held to their safe space policies.
no matter what the rules are called, conflating a lack of "safety" with whether the host organisations own president is allowed to override the emcee to make a comment or ask the speaker a question is exactly the sort of inflexible, zero-tolerance stupidity (not to mention weaponised doublespeak) that makes reasonable people hate these sorts of rules.
this is supposed to be a meeting of "hackers"-- people who change the world in clever ways. lieplanet does this group of revolutionary thinkers no justice. if they simply dealt with real problems and serious disruptions when they arose, nobody would think much of it.
instead, they want a set of rules that guarantees absurd overreactions, corporate opportunism, and puts those over handling disruption in a way that is sane, constructive or reasonable (or even in line with the organisations own mission).
since this happened a year before the rest of the events, it would be reasonable to treat it as separate from the coup. however, the themes in common (a year is also not really very long as far as political strategies are concerned) are more than enough cause to include this-- without it, some context is missed.
### september 2019
the coup swings into gear, with reactions to comments rms made on the mit csail mailing list. since then he has been DEFENDED by prominent feminists, activists and even the former (and female) head of the aclu, but this has not stopped people from implying that rms is a misogynist and defender of pedophiles, including jeffrey epstein (he never did defend epstein, quite the contrary).
one of the pieces of "evidence" circulated online against rms was a photo of his mit office door, where someone else had scribbled a joke about women, which rms removed.
the executive director of gnome (who had also signed the lieplanet petition) used the gnome blog to attack rms in light of these events. the software freedom servancy con issued a statement calling for his resignation.
stallman "voluntarily" resigns on sept 16, less than a week after people called for it. based on what ive been told, i believe the information he was given leading to him stepping down was not given in good faith. RMS DID NOT NEED TO RESIGN either when or how he did-- he was scammed, and with that everyone supporting the fsf was scammed.
### late 2019, duration unknown
the fsf mailing list was censored to remove or even prevent statements that supported rms after his resignation-- this stacked deck of a move gave the appearance that rms lacked support and that the actions against him were unchallenged and undisputed, or at the very least that supporters were a smaller minority.
### september 2019
stallman.org is defaced to make it look like rms has resigned from the gnu project.
### october 2019
developers from guix and the gnu project (also an fsf staff member and a former fsf staff member) call for rms to resign as head of the gnu project. i find their opportunism and timing disgusting and i note the number of corporate employees and sympathisers with monopolistic companies (including ibm, microsoft and google) who were involved with this.
if the fraudulent changes to stallman.org were not an attempt to take over the gnu project, the more gradual changes since then (from similar people) are a hell of a thing. these are not direct and through the chain of command but involve unofficial efforts by corporate employees to sidestep gnu leadership and official documentation-- even while seemingly related moves are made by the same players regarding copyright.
the (corporate) coup is not over, it has been going on for years and it happened simultaneously within the gnu project-- not only the fsf leadership.
### late 2019 and/or early 2020
the gnu wiki hosts a call for a "social contract" for the gnu project (2021 note: this contract would later become one of the prominent features of the gnu.fools coup), not remotely unlike the safe space rules that led to the lieplanet petition, with a list of supporters / endorsements that overlaps mostly with the list of people on the guix petition. people who think that lieplanet is not a trojan horse for the takeover of the fsf and the gnu project should read this paragraph again.
this coup did not start in response to events in september, it used every opportunity it had to latch onto the smallest and most insignificant drama as justification (the questions and comments rms made at lieplanet were not controversial, apart from stating his right as fsf president to make them-- rather than letting the emcee dictate) and even when the fsf had already lost rms from his position as well as the board, the traitors demanded to strip him as well as supporters of even more.
the fsf is not a functional organisation, it is being sabotaged from the outside and within, and the people responsible have not ceased to undermine the founder as well as the community.
whats more is that (as others covered in detail over the months following the resignation) a lot of what happened was based on distortions and lies that have not been rectified. rms was not merely deposed, he was assassinated.
rms said he was still the head of the gnu project and to support the fsf, but the fsf is a corrupt organisation that lies to its members. supporting it is not the solution in light of all we know.
### march 2021
stallman returns to the board, a few people i once thought were real activists leave. the coup now involves several organisations, roughly zero of which i will support in the future (for the most part i will have nothing to do with them, i still may use some of the cc licenses and i still use software from these organisations, while avoiding them as much as possible and encouraging others to avoid them as much as possible as well).
about 3000 people sign a letter against stallman, with twice as many countering with a pro-stallman letter. but no matter how they are outnumbered, these people and organisations banded together against truth, freedom and a decent human being who indirectly but notably created so many of their jobs (unless their jobs were created to exploit and co-opt his work and our freedom, as they often were).
### april 2021
a fraction of the gnu developers (including one of the early debian leaders-- as it was in 1998 with the creation of osi) secede and form the extremely fraudulent and public-misleading "gnu.fools" coup, in an effort to pull the ENTIRE gnu project into the same zero-tolerance-policy hell that allowed lieplanet to a. be hijacked in 2018 and b. lead to a coup an entire year later.
its really important for people to understand that this bullshit has gone on for YEARS without stopping, and that there is significant overlap between these companies and larger projects, and these fake-progressive hall-monitor dictators who are doing little more than creating "gnunited fruit", as much as it is the "gnu project".
gnew is demonstrably more honest than this-- openly distinguishing itself from the gnew project (even when encouraged to join gnu instead) and even having its leader call out in favour of stallman (gnew cannot defend free software by cooperating with the people undermining it-- and neither can the fsf).
gnu.fools meanwhile pretend they are the gnu project, and draw in traitors with few demonstrable goals other than spending 2 years (or more) trying repeatedly to nail stallman and his supporters to the wall FOR ASKING A QUESTION AND SPEAKING OVER AN EMCEE at an event hosted by (and for) the organisation he himself founded.
and yes, on top of that mountain of bullshit, they have added piles of other lies.
as it was my advice during the long coup, it is (for very similar reasons in 2021 and in the present) my advice to:
support free software, not the fsf which dismantled itself (and still mostly continues to) in an attack on its own mission.
support rms-- but not the traitors who forced him into hiding for years only so he could return as a mascot.
support gnu-- "but know that some of the projects are run by traitors, who dont care about your freedom." (2020 version)
s/know that some of the projects are run by/dont support the gnu.fools/
salvage gnu-- but dont support the gnu.fools traitors, who dont care about your freedom. (2021 and after)
the fsf (including rms himself) failed to protect us or itself from this coup-- the narrative constantly (and either erroneously or dishonestly) is written as though this happened solely to rms.
it happened to the fsf, it happened to the board, the gnu project and all the people who have given time and money to these things. it was a great fraud and a terrible scam against fsf members and the entire world.
the best possible response is to rebuild free software in a way that does justice to its core principles (particularly the free software definition) both in rhetoric (as the fsf cloyingly soundbites these days) and in practice (as the fsf still does not) as well as justice to its history, including the legacy of its founder.
no, i did not support the rms assassination. but i was (after this was originally published) accused of doing so by someone who knew it was not so-- despite his own questionable efforts to downplay the involvement of those who actually lent their weight directly and unapologetically to the coup. as it happened, the whole thing is a giant lie and a terrible injustice, and those responsible are traitors to free software. those who support them are either just as bad if they know better, or manipulated to do so under false pretenses and by outright lies.
the movement deserves far better than these scoundrels. if you trust the people that did this, they will (continue to) betray you and the movement you care about.
free software itself-- founded by richard stallman-- was a shock to all narcissist developers and monopolists. now that they have taken control of the movement that affronted them, the best way forward would be to rejuvenate both our defenses and the good work we can do-- and to work (to reroute) around the projects that continue to sell us out to monopolies.
license: 0-clause bsd
# 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
# Permission to use, copy, modify, and/or distribute this software for any
# purpose with or without fee is hereby granted.
# THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES
# WITH REGARD TO THIS SOFTWARE INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
# MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR
# ANY SPECIAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OR ANY DAMAGES
# WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN
# ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF
# OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE.