Remove RMS from the GCC Steering Committee

Alexandre Oliva
Sat Mar 27 15:45:15 GMT 2021

On Mar 27, 2021, Jonathan Wakely <> wrote:

> But listing his name on our web page as a leader of the project
> surely makes a difference to how the project is perceived.

You're probably right that it does, just maybe not quite in the way you
seem to perceive it.

The Free Software community is a lot more diverse in opinions than the
corporate-centered fossal scene where the present moral panic (no
offense intended with this term; I aim to *not* pass a judgment on its
legitimacy by using it) appears to be running strongest.

If FSF's experiences in 2019 are of any use, though the wave of
community pressure for Richard's removal or resignation hit hard, the
wave of complaints that he had resigned, shortly thereafter, was about
an order of magnitude stronger, according to my analysis of the data
that was made available to me.

Right now, published voices are quite divided, but there are also lots
of people being driven into silence by the aggressiveness of the
emotional peer pressure.  There are also reports of one-sided corporate
pressure.  Richard's support base is not quite as vocal, furious or
deep-pocketed, but it's far more numerous and more discrete.

All in all, it looks to me like, in the long term, a public stance in
alignment with present emotional demands is more likely to backfire, and
make the project seem less welcoming, than staying put.

> The active developers know he is not involved in any significant way, but
> you wouldn't know that from the web page.

You wouldn't know about allegations against him from the web page
either.  It's quite easy to find them in web searches, and they're also
consistent in disclaiming his direct participation in software
development projects, so it should be fine.

> Is it helpful to give that impression?

At least in my circles, his name signals strong commitment to respect
for the freedoms of software users, and that's the criterion that IMHO
should matter the most for GNU and all of its subprojects.

As for being inclusive and kind, these are also very important goals
that we should devote attention and effort to.  But despite numerous
claims, these are not points of dissent with him.  The fears spread by
this sort of campaign are far more effective at pushing contributors
away than the reality that they twist and exaggerate.

> If the SC decision is that it's fine, then making a statement to that
> effect seems necessary.

It looks like statements of any position whatsoever are invitations for
pressure and trouble right now.

Now, there's another thing I've learned during my tenure at the FSF:
pressure upon decision-making bodies is not conducive of or propitious
for long-term reasoning or rational, thought-through decisions.  It
takes time for difficult decisions to mature, even for an individual,
let alone for a group that may require multiple cycles of interaction
for convergence.

I've learned that this kind of pressure is undesirable, when I worked to
foment it and then was taught, even by the very person who was supported
by that pressure, that, rather than offer useful guidance, pressure
created difficulties for the collective decision-making body.

So, thanks for listening, and for keeping this conversation civil and
kind despite the very strong emotions that a lot of people are feeling
and expressing,

Alexandre Oliva, happy hacker
   Free Software Activist         GNU Toolchain Engineer
        Vim, Vi, Voltei pro Emacs -- GNUlius Caesar

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