A great man in the free and open source community falls

This article is in response to an article published on medium.com by Selam G. Selam G ignited a firestorm that has resulted in the renowned computer scientist Richard Stallman resigning as president of an organisation that he founded and also from MIT.

Nearly one year ago I wrote an article expressing concerns over changes in the world of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

Generally, only people who have worked in the computer industry have heard of Richard Stallman, but we all benefit from his legacy. As the software industry was maturing in the 1970s and 80s it became more common for software to be distributed only in a binary format. This meant that users could run the software on their computer systems but they could not easily modify it or see how it worked. Richard Stallman saw the need for software licencing that would give people more freedom over the software that they used. The licencing initially developed by Stallman is widely used today alongside proprietary licencing and forms a cornerstone of the Internet. Software such as the Google Chrome and Firefox browsers, LibreOffice and much of the software that keeps the Internet running is available to us in the manner it is because of Stallman’s ideas. Everyone reading this relies on the work of Stallman and those that came after him to enjoy the benefits of the modern information age.

Despite this, here we have yet another great man taken down by mob justice.

Selam G’s article concerned an email that Stallman had written in which he had commented on the allegation made that Jeffrey Epstein had provided a then 17-year-old woman (Virginia Giuffre, formerly Virginia Roberts) for renowned computer scientist Marvin Minsky to have sex with.

Selam G noted in her article:

There are so many things wrong with what Richard Stallman said I hardly know where to begin. First, he didn’t even give the typical, whiney, ‘he’s accused but not convicted’ defence. No, Stallman went much further than that. Instead, Stallman said “Let’s assume that Marvin Minsky had sex with an underage girl who was a victim of child sex trafficking”…

What Selam G is describing as whiney is the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence is not some abstract concept that academics discuss in their ivory tower. It affects the lives of real people. A person who is accused should have an opportunity to face their accuser, respond to the accusation and to be judged by an independent party. How easily SJWs would cast that aside. They never seem to consider that if the presumption of innocence is cast aside that they too may be subject to arbitrary detention and punishment. They never seem to consider that other groups may be better at this than they are. Of course, Selam G herself will, as a woman, be advantaged at every stage if she ever has to pass through the criminal justice system.

Further Selam G misrepresented what Stallman wrote in the email. Selam G’s own article notes that Stallman said:

We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.

Stallman actually argued that Giuffre may have been coerced and was putting on a false front that she was willing (as someone under coercion or threat might do). He was not claiming that Giuffre was entirely willing as Selam G stated later in her article. The most charitable explanation possible is that Selam G lacks fluency in the English language and genuinely misunderstood what was said. But Selam G’s own writings show that she is fluent in the language. A more likely explanation is that Selam G’s self-confessed anger at the time that she wrote the article made it difficult for her to think clearly. Or perhaps she willfully and deliberately misrepresented what Stallman said.

Stallman does not seem to have been defending Marvin Minsky beyond asserting he may have had an honest mistake of fact defence in believing that Giuffre was not underage and was consenting to sex. Giuffre was 17 and the age of consent in the Virgin Islands is 18 so it’s plausible that Minsky thought she was 18.

And all of this presumes that Marvin Minsky actually had sex with Giuffre.

Marvin Minsky was on Little St James, but there is a lack of evidence corroborating the claims that Minsky engaged in sex while on the island. Others have come out and said that when visiting the island they saw no evidence of Epstein’s sex ring.

Stallman is correct when he talks about sexual assault earlier in his email:

The injustice is in the word “assaulting”. The term “sexual assault” is so vague and slippery that it facilitates accusation inflation: taking claims that someone did X and leading people to think of it as Y, which is much worse than X.

In many jurisdictions, Sexual assault has grown to include unwanted groping and unwanted kissing:

Nunavut, Canada:

Sexual assault is a crime. It includes unwanted touching, kissing, grabbing and rape.

That escalated fast.

Canada:

Sexual assault is an act of violence committed by a person in order to feel
power over another person. It can come in different forms:

* Sexual touching of any kind that is unwanted or coerced, including kissing or groping.

Australia:

Sexual assault may or may not begin with sexual harassment. It involves unwanted physical contact such as kissing, touching, fondling and grabbing and at its worst, culminates in rape, either digital or genital.

In the United States feminists are continuously pushing for a definition of sexual assault that includes kissing:

Kristen Houser, the chief public affairs officer at NSVRC [National Sexual Violence Resource Centre], explained that any type of unwanted groping, touching or kissing is certainly in the definition of sexual assault.

“It is absolutely on the continuum of sexual violence,” Houser told The Huffington Post. “There are a lot of different ways that people can be sexually violated and exploited that don’t need to require any physical contact, let alone sexual penetration. Sexually violent acts fall along a continuum that go from no contact to very brutal physical violations such as rape or sexual homicides. And we absolutely include any unwanted touching, kissing and groping on that continuum.”

Later in her article, Selam G noted:

There is nothing wrong with women. There is nothing wrong with girls in STEM. There are many women and many girls who, in spite of everything, love STEM-related disciplines. Some of them even go through 4-year bachelors degrees at MIT, maybe even 7 years of a PhD, and then begin questioning whether they should continue in these fields, because they are filled to the brim with so, so many shitty men.
Jeffrey Epstein. Marvin Minsky.
Richard Stallman.
Travis Kalanick. James Damore. The laundry list of men in tech and academia who have continued this pattern of harassment, misogyny, and discrimination

An interesting list she has there. Minsky has been discussed already. James Damore merely argued that there are intrinsic differences between men and women and provided evidence to support his argument. Damore has also made it clear he supports feminism.

With a chip like that on her should maybe Selam G might want to consider Separatist Feminism. FWIW, I fully support Separatist Feminism. Whenever I hear feminists talking about separation I always say: less talk, more separation!

Selam G provided the email thread to Vice who proceeded to misrepresent what Stallman had said in an article.

Selam G ends her article by saying this:

Or remove them. Remove men like Richard Stallman and, I’m sure, the many others that are now hiding. #MeToo showed us that they are not safe, not as isolated as we thought in their towers of power and prestige.

No men are safe as a result of #MeToo.

Remove everyone, if we must, and let something much better be built from the ashes.

Selam G showed her disdain for the presumption of innocence earlier in the article and now demonstrates a willingness to remove as many men as she sees fit. All of them if necessary. Let’s not pretend for a moment that Selam G’s comment here is actually gender-neutral.

Full of hyperbole and misrepresentations, Selam G’s article really encapsulates the moral panic that is #MeToo and the anti-intellectualism endemic in feminism.

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