Remove RMS from the GCC Steering Committee

Tue Mar 30 07:46:48 GMT 2021

For the record, I am not a GNU contributor--I am only chiming in as a

FOSS sympathizer. I will not pretend to be unbiased, or to have any sort

of personal experience with, or extensive knowledge of, RMS's behavior

apropos of GCC, or any other GNU project.

> (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.)

Perhaps it does not need a *formal* leader, but I am strongly inclined

to believe that guidance in some form or another does matter, and I think

a lot of RMS's supporters (vocal or otherwise) feel similarly. Some have

claimed that RMS has only repelled people from free software, and yet,

in spite of the threat of cancellation, many more people have signed the

letter in support of RMS than the one demanding his removal.

"Leaderless" movements are always feckless because they lack direction.

They start with good intentions, but when anyone can find a soapbox and

claim to speak for everyone else, those good intentions are inevitably

thrown under the bus by people seeking personal clout and pursuing their

own agendas.

Say what you will about RMS, but his unwavering laser focus on free

software advocacy shows a level of integrity that is hard not to respect.

This matters more than ever, because as difficult as it is to address

without sounding like a bitter right-wing hack, cancel culture is real,

and it will come for absolutely *anyone*, regardless of your personal

views. I doubt the majority of people signing the Github open letter

have judged the case against him for themselves, or even care one way

or another: people cancel because they can. Social media causes brain

damage, and this is how that brain damage tends to manifest.

There are people developing scripts and browser extensions to

automatically label or block anyone who signed the open letter in

defense of RMS. Just a few examples:

There are also reports of people whose emails are visible on Github

receiving anonymous demands to remove their signatures from the

support letter, on threat of being reported to their employers.

People like this cannot be reasoned with, nor do they want to listen.

If given the chance, they will style themselves as representative of

FOSS, despite clear evidence that this is not the case. They thrive

on interpersonal conflict, so their input is virtually useless in

addressing any genuine issues plaguing GNU or the FOSS community as

a whole.

This is not directed at any reasoned criticism of RMS. I doubt that

everyone who wants him removed is so bluntly insane. If GNU and the

FSF see it fit, that is entirely their prerogative. But it will do

absolutely nothing to satisfy these people, because they are acting

in bad faith. As others have suggested, I fear that it will only make

things worse.

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