Libreboot Maintainer Leah Rowe: "Defend Richard Stallman!"
2 years ago, known Thought Criminal Richard M Stallman was falsely accused of defending rape in an Orwellian smear campaign, orchestrated by mainstream media at the behest of proprietary software vendors. 36 years fighting for your digital freedom, cancelled. It was so vicious that he resigned from his post as president of the Free Software Foundation. The FSF did nothing to protect or defend him. However, you can defend him!
Original story by Leah Rowe. Published 2021-03-31, Originally published 2021-03-31.
This work is available under the GNU FDL 1.3+ license.
On 21 March 2021, FSF board of directors re-instated Richard Stallman. In response, the media started a new smear campaign. A petition was created, calling for the forceful removal of RMS and the entire FSF board of directors. RMS has been wrongly accused of sexism, transphobia, ableism and a whole host of things intended to discredit him. Do not listen to any of it. Richard Stallman’s political notes and articles paint the picture of a man who has staunchly campaigned against bigotry in all its forms!
In response, we, the Free software movement, started our own petition. We wish for RMS to remain in his post, and for the FSF to hold their ground. We call for the FSF to defend Richard Stallman’s honour and his legacy. Richard Stallman is a human being, whose right to free speech was heavily suppressed. We must demonstrate our support of him to the FSF, loudly and clearly.
If you support Free Software, believe in freedom of speech, freedom of community and social justice (true social justice, where a person is treated with dignity and not cancelled just for their beliefs), sign your name here:
The opposing petition calling for Richard’s removal will not be linked here, because it is important not to strengthen it. Boosting the search engine rankings of our opposition would only help them attack RMS. Similarly, their smear campaigns will not be linked here directly, only condemned!
Instructions for how to sign your name are on that page. If you represent a project, please put that in brackets and state your position. For instance, if you are John Doe and your project is named Foobar Libre, write
John Doe (Foobar Libre developer) or e.g. John Doe (Foobar Libre founder and lead developer). If you are an FSF member (e.g. associate member), put that in brackets too.
If you are a member of a project/organisation that signed the anti-RMS list, it is especially important to state that you are from said project when signing the pro-RMS list. You should also talk to people in your project or organisation, and try to persuade them to change their minds!
In addition to signing your name, if you’re in a software project, get your project to officially come out in support of Richard! He needs every bit of support we can get. We, the Free Software movement, as activists must lend him all of our strength!
Don’t be fooled. If a Free Software project is on the anti-RMS list, that just means the leadership implemented said decision. It says nothing of the individuals inside said organisation.
Our opponents wish to destroy Free Software
Our opponent’s true target is not Richard Stallman; their real aim is to destroy the FSF by thoroughly infiltrating it (like they already have with organisations like the OSI and Linux Foundation). These people even started an online petition calling for RMS’s forceful removal and for the entire board of directors at the FSF to resign from their posts. This is clearly an attempt at a coup to overthrow the FSF! Out of fear, many known Free Software projects joined in on the anti-RMS witch hunt because they did not want to be cancelled either. The list that attacks Richard has Microsoft, Google, OSI, Linux Foundation, Gnome Foundation and Ethical Source people on it! These people oppose Free Software ideologically (even if some of them do produce free software sometimes, for reasons other than promoting freedom) and many of them have actively sought to destroy it for years! How dare these people claim to represent us!.
The letter opposing RMS talks the talk, but it does not walk the walk. The people on that list do not represent us! If you do see actual Free Software developers on the list, please talk to them. Do not be hateful or spiteful, just talk to them: tell them that they have been misled by a hateful campaign. We need unity in our movement. You see, it’s likely that a lot of people who signed the opposing list were just scared; at the beginning, the petition supporting RMS did not exist, and so it was not known how many people supported RMS. In other words, many people likely signed the anti-RMS list because they were scared of becoming outcasts. This is because last time, we were caught off guard. We stayed silent last time, but we will not be silent this time!
As of 31 March 2021, 02:50 AM UK time, we are winning! The letter calling for RMS’s removal has 2959 signatures. Our letter supporting and defending RMS has 4533 signatures! That’s a 60% approval rating, if you add up both numbers but our petition is rising in popularity much faster while the anti-RMS petition has stalled. People see that it’s OK to support RMS, because it is. RMS is innocent of wrongdoing!
Richard Stallman is my hero
I strongly believe in free software ideology. I am the founder of Libreboot, and its lead developer. When I first started using Free Software as a teenager in the mid 2000s, Richard Stallman’s lectures were among the biggest influences on me; Richard founded the GNU project in 1983 and the Free Software Foundation in 1985. I also saw the film Revolution OS and read Eric Raymond’s Cathedral and the Bazaar. I very quickly became fascinated but it was the articles by Richard on the GNU project website that heavily inspired me. For a few years however, I identified as an open source supporter until I gravitated towards the Free Software camp in 2009. I had worked sysadmin and IT support jobs at companies, working mostly with proprietary software including Windows, while at home I taught myself programming on GNU+Linux. I hated working with proprietary systems, precisely because of how restrictive they were compared to my systems at home, which all ran various GNU+Linux distributions (I also toyed with OpenBSD). When I did my A-Levels, I studied computing but they forced us to use the proprietary Visual Studio IDE and C#; I hated it, but coped with it by using Mono at home for class assignments. It wasn’t long after I joined as an FSF Associate Member in 2013 that my life took a huge turn, and Libreboot was a huge part of it. Needless to say, I strive to eliminate my dependence on proprietary software and I want others to experience such freedom aswell.
In the early days of computing, most (if not all) software was shared freely with source code. In the early 1980s, when software started becoming more commercial, companies started making software proprietary which meant that the software no longer came with source code or otherwise placed restrictions on the use, development or sharing of that software. This meant that computer users no longer had freedom over their computing; by the time the GNU project started in 1983, free software did not exist! Richard Stallman, faced with the possibility of making large amounts of money as a proprietary software developer, staunchly resisted this trend and began the GNU project to create a completely free operating system that people could run on their computers.
I believe in Free Software for the same reason I believe in public education; I believe that knowledge is a human right. For example, I believe that all kids are entitled to learn Mathematics. I believe the same thing about Computer Science. Education is a human right. I want everyone to have freedom; the right to read, to a community and to free speech. Programming counts as speech, and I believe that all good work is based on the work of others; this is why the right to a community is critical. The four freedoms are paramount. I am a staunch supporter of copyleft and I believe that it should be mandatory, by law, for all creative and/or intellectual works. I use the GNU General Public License whenever possible, and I strongly advocate for its adoption everywhere.
Free software still has a long way to go. The mission of the GNU project and the Free Software movement is to eradicate proprietary software in our world and give everyone exclusively free software. That is a most noble mission which the Libreboot project shares. Companies like Apple and Microsoft resist us at every turn. Logic is highly proprietary; manufacturers of computer chips/boards heavily restrict access to knowledge about how the hardware works, and they put in DRM (such as cryptographic signature checks of firmware) to restrict our progress; this is why Libreboot still has very weak hardware support, as of the date this article is being published. Right to repair is a critical component of our fight, in particular, as a part of the wider OSHW (Free/libre Hardware) movement. Another problem we face is serialization of components, where the same component can no longer be used to replace another, in modern devices; the software on said device might check whether the new part is authorized and refuse to work if it isn’t. We in the freedom movement are under constant attacks, in a legal and technical sense. Large tech companies use every dirty trick in the book to thwart our efforts.
If it weren’t for Richard Stallman’s work, Libreboot would not exist. All works are derivative in human society; we stand on the shoulder of giants. The GNU project almost had a complete operating system, and finally they had one piece missing, the kernel; this program sits at the heart of the operating system, talking to hardware and allocating system resources, providing an interface on which application software can run. GNU had started work on a kernel which they called Hurd, but this is still far from complete as of 2021. Fortunately, another project called Linux appeared in the early 90s and was released under the GNU GPL, which meant that people were able to combine a modified GNU system with Linux to create a complete operating system; the first GNU+Linux distributions were born! It is from all of this that our movement, the Free Software movement, began, and without it, I doubt we’d have such wide access to free computing today. I cannot imagine a world where Libreboot and GNU do not both exist.
Could coreboot have existed without GNU+Linux? I doubt it very much! It’s possible that Linux on its own may have still existed, but would it have been Free Software by today? Would it have reached the level it did today? In that reality, BSD projects might have taken over instead, and would they have had the ideological drive to ensure that all computer users had freedom, or would they simply regard the source code as a reference for educational purposes only?
You see, Richard Stallman’s work in the 80s was revolutionary and without him, none of us would be here today. The people in charge of big tech companies like Apple and Microsoft hate us, and have been attacking our movement for years. That’s what the attacks on RMS have been about. They do not care what Richard did or didn’t do at any given point in time.
Richard had been president of the Free Software Foundation since its inception in 1985, spreading Free Software ideology all over the world; until, that is, he was cancelled in 2019 in the most Orwellian smear campaign possible.
Anyone familiar with Libreboot probably already knows all of the above, or they are familiar with the gist of it, so why am I talking about the FSF, GNU and Richard Stallman today? Because of something very sinister that is currently happening.
Don’t just take my word for it. Stephen Fry, a well-known GNU+Linux user, did this video in 2008 praising the GNU project and supporting Free Software:
Stephen Fry on the birthday of GNU/Linux and Free (as in speech) software in 2009.
RMS is NOT transphobic
I’ve been good friends with Richard for many years. I did have a falling out with him (publicly so) a few years ago, but we made up. He has always respected me.
When my project, Libreboot, was in the process of joining GNU, I wasn’t out as trans. I came out as trans not long before Libreboot became GNU Libreboot. RMS switched to she/her with me on the spot. No problems.
Some people have linked to the following article and suggested that he is transphobic: https://stallman.org/articles/genderless-pronouns.html
Specifically, people believe that RMS refuses to use correct pronouns with people. People believe that RMS is transphobic for saying per/perse instead of accepting they/them.
Let me tell you something:
Richard sent me and several other people a copy of that article when he was drafting it. I repeatedly urged RMS not to do per/perse when he suggested it. I strongly suggested that he use they/them when referring to someone generically. When he decided to use per/perse, I was annoyed but not offended; you see, I regard it as idiotic. Clearly, they/them is commonly understood and will cause the least amount of misunderstanding.
Being foolish is not the same thing as being transphobic. If you actually tell Richard your preferred pronouns, he’ll use them with you without hesitation.
Several of my friends are trans and also speak to Richard, mostly via email. He respects their pronouns also.
Funnily enough, the GNU project has these guidelines about pronouns: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/kind-communication.en.html - see: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/kind-communication.en.html#f1
Not transphobic. At all. Same per/pers bullshit. Not transphobic, just stupid. I wasn’t misgendered by other GNU developers when my project, Libreboot, was in GNU. Calling RMS a transphobe is an insult to people who suffer from real transphobia.
I could address each specific accusation made against him, but other articles already do that; those articles are written much better than anything I could ever write, so please click on the links below.
I feel no need to re-invent the wheel. The whole purpose of this article was just to express my support for Richard Stallman, and to defend his honour. His time will end one day, and he deserves for that to come naturally. However, there is still much that he can contribute!
The following articles more or less describe accurately what happened since September 2019 when the events surrounding Richard Stallman started:
Here is another article expressing support for Richard, and it too has details about the events that took place:
This video by DistroTube provides an excellent account of events aswell:
Exposing our opponents for who they are
Our problem, in defending Richard Stallman, is that opponents of the Free Software movement have learned to co-opt our language. They talk the talk and they wear the colours, but make no mistake: their actions and their intentions do not reflect the ideology they claim to represent! There are genuinely some Free Software activists and organanisations on that list, who have been misled or have some other reason to oppose RMS; my focus will not be on those people, but hopefully some of those people and organisations will change their mind if they read what I have to say!
I do not subscribe to cancel culture. Some of these people may well try to cancel me but I would never do the same to them. This entire article merely aims to defend RMS against the vicious smear campaigns. To do that, we will explore some of the people on that anti-RMS list.
I said I wouldn’t directly link to the list calling for RMS’s removal, so I will print the URL below without making it a hyperlink (this prevents it from being boosted in search engines). Look at the names on their list:
Don’t be fooled! The open source movement is not the same as the Free Software movement! The following article describes how Open Source differs from Free Software: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.en.html
I will focus on the people in the main list of signers, and maybe talk about specific organisations (or other names) on that list. Some of them are otherwise reasonable people besides their anti-RMS stance (which means they were misled, most likely), whereas some people on the list are nasty.
I will jump straight into it:
Redhat pulling funding from FSF
RedHat announced, in response to RMS’s re-instatement at the FSF, that they would remove their funding for the FSF. They joined in on the usual smear campaign.
RedHat is owned by known non-free software company IBM these days. Their enterprise GNU+Linux distro comes with plenty of non-free software and they actively tell their customers how to get more; they do nothing to advance free software and merely see it as something they can use. They do not believe in FSF ideology. More info about the merger: https://www.redhat.com/en/ibm
Redhat very recently killed CentOS. CentOS was a community edition of RHEL, with a strong community backing. In other words, Redhat actively took a step that hurts the community. More info: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/12/centos-shifts-from-red-hat-unbranded-to-red-hat-beta/
Look at that: https://www.ibm.com/products/software
Does this look like a company that cares about Free Software?
Why should we care what RedHat thinks? If they pull funding, that’s one less corrupting influence to worry about! Redhat does not believe in free software (they may have believed in open source at one point, but that time is probably long gone now that they’ve been bought by IBM)
OSI is short for Open Source Initiative. This organization started as an offshoot of the Free Software Foundation in an attempt to make Free Software more marketable to large corporations. Read about the OSI here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source_Initiative
They say a picture speaks a thousand words:
From left to right, their names (all prominent OSI leaders/influencers), where left is your left and their right (for the phono in the photos) are:
Back row: Faidon Liambotis, Chris Lamb, Simon Phipps, Allison Randal, Molly de Blanc, Patrick Masson
Front row: Josh Simmons, VM Brasseur, Carol Smith, Italo Vignoli, Richard Fontana.
All of these people are highly influential at the OSI. Several former presidents.
Does this look strange to you? Look where they are. The photo comes from this news article: http://techrights.org/2020/01/15/osi-board-at-microsoft/ (archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20200121042512/http://techrights.org/2020/01/15/osi-board-at-microsoft/)
Microsoft is a major sponsor of the OSI. OSI themselves have an article on their website, stating this: https://opensource.org/node/901 (archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20201112022740/https://opensource.org/node/901)
When your organization starts to depend on large amounts of funding by companies like Microsoft (who have rigorously attacked Free Software and Open Source for years), you are going to lose sight of some of your ideals. You will lose some of that spark you previously had in you. You will start doing what your donors tell you, because you fear the loss of that funding. Microsoft, over the years, has dived into their version of what they regard as open source; in reality, it’s just openwashing (like whitewashing, but with Open Source perspective instead), and Microsoft’s core products such as Windows are still very much non-free! Microsoft still campaigns hard for your lack of freedom by getting more and more computers locked down with things like SecureBoot and cryptographically signed firmware.
So if Microsoft has hated Richard Stallman for years, and wanted to destroy him for years, and Microsoft has financial influence at the Open Source Initiative, on organization that could somewhat credibly speak Free Software lingo, would that not be the best thing ever for Microsoft? Imagine being Microsoft. You’d jump at the opportunity, right? Someone tell me I’m not the only one here.
Even if Microsoft wasn’t heavily attached to the OSI, would the OSI have any right using the language of Free Software while claiming to be a part of our community? Open source is not a part of the Free Software movement! It is an ideological competitor to Free Software.
The OSI recently banned Eric S. Raymond (co-founder of the OSI) from their mailing lists, after certain comments he made defending the OSI against infiltration by the Ethical Source movement and against oppressive codes of conducts that stifle free speech. Despite the name, Ethical Source licenses are in fact non-free because they put restrictions on usage of the software; if the author of such software disagrees with your political views, they can ban you from using the software. This is wrong! People like Coraline Ada Ehmke (leader of Ethical Source movement) were trying to influence the OSI so as to re-write the Open Source Definition. This video provides some nice introductory information:
In the OSI’s case, they probably won’t let Eric back in; though even if I disagree with Open Source (I’m a Free Software activist), Open Source isn’t at a bad thing per se, just ideologically lacking; Ethical Source people like Coraline Ada Ehmke will cause extreme amounts of damage if they get their way (they’ve already infiltrated several well-known Free Software and Open Source aligned projects by getting them to introduce a Code of Conduct; Libreboot recently came to the good sense to scrap its Code of Conduct, which was none other than Coraline’s Contributor Covenant)
Everyone should send Eric Raymond a supportive email. He did the right thing. Tell him you care. I’ve never heard anything especially horrible about him. He’s very reasonable and a nice person; outspoken and unfiltered while still being respectful (in my opinion, having read some of his articles), which is quite refreshing.
Yes, Microsoft employees are on the anti-RMS list.
What business do these people have lecturing us about Free Software ideals or about FSF affairs?
Microsoft is a mortal enemy of the Free Software movement. Microsoft isn’t foolish enough to sign their entire company name onto the list, because then that would be game over for the anti-RMS campaign; so instead, they use their corrupting influences at various organizations that supposedly represent us.
If I were Microsoft, I’d ask these people to remove their names from the list. It actually hurts their anti-RMS efforts, for such people to have their position at Microsoft stated like this, even if it’s just a few people.
None of their people on this list seem to be high up at Microsoft. I would be inclined to believe that they published their names independently, without direction. No sane Microsoft boss would want Microsoft listed on that page, in any capacity!
Gnome Foundation (has been deeply connected to Microsoft)
NOTE: Do not confused the Gnome community with the Gnome Foundation. They are very different things!
There are well-known connections between members of the Gnome Foundation with Microsoft. Here is an article:
They have been attacking RMS for years:
So, of course, it’s not credible for these people to represent themselves on behalf of the Free Software movement!
The following Gnome Foundation members are on the core signers list of the anti-RMS petition, and associated with the Gnome Foundation:
- Molly de Blanc (Debian Project, GNOME Foundation) (also associated with OSI)
- Neil McGovern (GNOME Foundation Executive Director, Former Debian Project Leader)
- Luis Villa (Former Director of the Open Source Initiative and the GNOME Foundation; contributor to the GPL v3 drafting process)
In other cases, I wouldn’t choose to list names, but Neil and Molly are two of the people with push/pull/review rights on the anti-RMS github site. I feel the need to mention their names; see also that they are both members of the Debian project.
Coraline Ada Ehmke (Founder, Organization for Ethical Source)
Coraline is the founder of the Ethical source movement. Despite the name, it is actually distributing non-free licenses; non-free because they put restrictions on the usage of software licensed under it. If you use software under one of those licenses, and the author disagrees with you politically, the author can ban you from using that software.
I for one believe in freedom! I want freedom for everyone, including those whom I politically disagree with!
Discriminating based on someones beliefs is always wrong. No ifs, no buts. I want my political opponents to have freedom, because:
- If I were able to take away my enemy’s freedom, they could take away mine.
- If my enemy were able to take away my freedom, I could take away theirs.
Coraline is also quite abusive online. There are numerous accounts of her terrorizing companies/projects, acting like a bully. There’s a chance that she might even target the Libreboot project, if someone tells her of this article.
She is a horrible person.
She’s more well known for the Contributor Covenant, a template code of conduct that some projects use. We in Libreboot recommend that you do not have a code of conduct, because it alienates new contributors and creates a self-censored environment where people feel unable to express their views about issues; you see, freedom of speech is healthy, and it’s quite common sense to just deal with bad behaviours. Contributor Covenant is a trojan horse; that’s what they push on you first, and then they’ll recommend you use an Ethical Source license. Once you take your first dose of Ethical Source, they’ll sink their claws into your project. Do not let these types of people infiltrate your project!
Do not listen to Coraline Ada Ehmke or anyone like her! She is fueled by hatred and bigotry herself. She is completely intolerant of other people’s views and regularly tries to destroy people she disagrees with.
Can’t be bothered to write more. I was going to go through the list more exhaustively, but I think you see the point.
I support freedom of speech. Translations wanted for this article. I want this news article to be available in as many languages as possible. Download the Markdown file here: rms.markdown and then translate it into your language. Send the translated file to firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is copyright Leah Rowe, published under the GNU Free Documentation License'