Remove RMS from the GCC Steering Committee
Tue Mar 30 00:20:39 GMT 2021
On Sun, 28 Mar 2021, Mark Wielaard wrote:
> He does indeed show up randomly claiming authority even if the GNU
> community has told him no. And it is important to say upfront he has
> no authority and that his attempts to cancel the work of hardworking
> GNU contributors is unwelcome. IMHO for the GCC community this means
> to be explicit he doesn't have any authority and he shouldn't be on
> the GCC steering committee.
For example, consider the October 2019 discussion on libc-alpha of
removing the abort "joke" from the glibc manual. We rejected RMS's claims
of authority to say that the joke should be kept, or kept indefinitely
until various general points could be decided, and removed it from the
manual anyway without waiting for conclusions on all those general points.
RMS only has authority over decisions taken about individual GNU packages
where the people developing those packages let him have that authority and
make or refrain from making changes based on what he says. We should not
give him such authority by treating his views as having some significance
not given to such views expressed by other people; changes he suggests can
be considered, and accepted or rejected, on their merits. And the abort
joke case illustrates that in fact he is not given such authority, when
package developers are confident to stand up to claims he makes of
authority, and provides an example that can speed up the rejection of any
such assertion of authority to micromanage things that might be made in
I agree with the conclusion of Nathan's original message, that RMS behaves
in a toxic way, it is harmful to have him listed as being in a leadership
role that might suggest what he does is acceptable within the project, and
he should not be on the SC. This is based on the longstanding,
well-documented patterns of how he has misbehaved towards women, *not* on
the opinions he has expressed on other subjects, *not* on his choices
regarding the use of language, *not* on his attempts to insist on language
being used in particular ways, and *not* on where or when he has chosen to
express such views.
For the same reasons, I think it is harmful for him to be Chief GNUisance
(but as above, I think GNU packages should not give a Chief GNUisance
authority to micromanage decisions, beyond ensuring GNU packages follow
basic GNU free software principles and cooperate with each other and with
their development communities), harmful for him to be on the FSF board,
and harmful for him to be seen as leader of the free software movement.
(For the last point, I don't think the free software movement needs a
single leader; it needs many people advocating free software, and
discussing issues related to free software, from diverse perspectives.
RMS's ideas that form the foundation of the free software movement are
still of fundamental importance today. But other people can now build
better on those ideas in today's context.)
RMS does not, in fact, contribute usefully to the SC. Any time he
suggests some feature for GCC, whether a good or a bad idea, that could be
done just as well on the public mailing list (which would be a better
place to find someone possibly interested in implementing a feature, and
to discuss a feature's merits, in any case) without being an SC member.
He's sufficiently far removed from toolchain development that he's not
good at making reasonable suggestions for toolchain changes in any case.
We can consider individual proposals or patches from anyone on their
merits. We can have leaders who are accepted as leaders because
contributors can see their relevant expertise that gives them legitimacy
as leaders, and can see a good basis for decisions they make as leaders.
But longstanding patterns of bad conduct by a leader, even when formally
unrelated to the project, can reach the point where considering that
person a leader is harmful to the project. I think the ways RMS has
behaved have long since reached the point where it is harmful for him to
be considered a leader for GCC or GNU, and that's sufficient to stop
considering him a leader (even if he were sufficiently involved to be able
to contribute much more usefully on a technical level).
Joseph S. Myers
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