The ultimate expression of peaceful protest. No bullets; just bytes. An army of pests irritating those who have become so insulated they don't even know their own neighbours. At the centre of this contrarian culture was RMS. Richard Matthew Stallman. Stubborn patriarch of Free Software. Viva Libre! Where there were many famous geeks, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Richard was the first celebrity nerd of the counter-culture. Original Hacker Elite.
No longer hungry they threw his bones to the sands of time.
A fossil of sorts pressed in the shape of his time and place. The poster child of nerd. Not geek. Nerd. Anyone on the inside of this debate knows this rivalry goes back a long ways. Nothing wrong with nerds, but today the world is full of geeks and geeks don't like nerds. So was it any surprise on Sept 16, 2019 when RMS was forced to resign under a cloud of shame and hate pushed on social media by who? Geeks! Who'd finally seen their opening in the zeitgeist to destroy one of the few remaining vestiges of the old guard responsible for most of the glorious code we swim in every day. For what? Because he dared to make a stupid point about whether a teenage girl working as a prostitute for that pedophile creep Epstein was entirely innocent.
Check out the Twitter thread I started when The Free Software Foundation announced his resignation. See for yourself what people said and did to this cold warrior. Enjoy the walk down memory lane where the geeks play for clicks and amusement by digging up every embarrassing thing they can find about the man.
But it wasn't all bad. He has some defenders beyond even me. Consider the following post on Open Source (See full thread in link above).
"RMS created the concept. He then started and managed it's implementation for decades. Then he spent further decades advancing and defending it. It can be said that he did more for our current software landscape than anyone else."
One of the nice things about history, as it applies later in life to historic figures, is watching the revision after the fact by contemporaries. The amount of deleted posts in this thread is hilarious and the moment the man was gone the issue was dropped. No one really cared what he said, the social mob played its game like it always does and Richard was just the flavour of the day.
RMS says stupid shit sometimes, doesn't everyone... eventually. Does it justify the names he was called? The slap-jerk revision of history? The hate toward him for words? So much for the freedom of speech elements so central to open source. RMS is anti-social! That's suddenly unusual for a nerd?
No, but for a geek it's intolerable. They breath social. Social is the basis of their entire way of life. They think and move in groups, calculate in trends and flock to the latest "happening". They take coffee breaks and do lunch with friends. They talk to girls and go to parties. Geeks are fashionable and clean.
Nerds are greasy and smell like they've been up for days in a moldy basement... actually coding. Most geeks have more code on their chic t-shirt than in their text editor. Nerds aren't funny, unless they're in character rolling some dice, about to storm a castle 'cause there's a princess in there and god damn it that dragon can't stand up to this +3 yada yada. Snore...... buck, huuh, what. Sorry. Nodded off there.
Nerds are brilliant and focused and awkward and weird and they pause for long periods in the middle of sentences and they don't look you in the eye and... and... and... they're just people. Like anyone else. Not criminals who deserve to be destroyed in the most publicly damaging way in the hopes that any legacy earned might burn along with them. The solution to their completely inappropriate statement about this or that isn't to cut their throat on the alter of geek chic. Instead stop bating the nerds into saying stupid shit, will ya? If you leave them alone they're generally quite happy to do something more productive like create a universal free C compiler used by literally millions of programmers.
Nerds are temperamental and stressed out. Hard problems take a tole. They're cold and distant. What we used to call "shy" geeks have grown to despise as weakness. One is a creature of light and the other darkness. What are you hiding, bro? Feelings... anything in the dark must be exposed... right? There isn't anything good that ever happens in basements or garages, right? Programs write themselves, bro. Right? Sure is easy to forget those who've done us favours yesterday when we're so busy looking for tomorrow.
RMS stood up against an ascendant Microsoft in the most important moment of computer science. The moment when programming concepts themselves might have become a government protected private asset of international corporations. Diminishing the craft itself to mere intellectual property. Language itself! Owned! I'm all for private property, but one cannot OWN the concept of that property or the knowledge that produced it. You can't OWN algebra. That's too far! This is the most critical thing about the Free Software movement. Not sticking it to big tech. Simply freedom to compose for the public good like any other science.
Imagine words in a novel being forbidden to authors who can't pay royalties. imagine not being ALLOWED to write a book!!! RMS is a hero, and what does the world do for RMS. Not unlike the fate of another notoriously difficult Computer Science hero, Alan Turing... the very children of his ideas consume their saviour. While Turing was persecuted for being gay, Richard was destroyed for being obsolete. Not Youtube friendly enough. Not chic. A painfully inconvenient reminder that geeks used to be unpopular, too.
Where they should have shown gratitude; they showed disgust. The man is strange. Odd in the extreme. He has outbursts like a diva, and just as suddenly beautiful speeches full of thoughtful ideas. He's funny. RMS is as paradoxical as he is contrarian. He's a hard man to like, but you shouldn't have to like someone to appreciate them. You shouldn't feel the need to crucify those who are different than you. Who's greatest crime is making you feel uncomfortable. Did you ever ask how uncomfortable you were making him?
Where does this desire to see other people fail come from? Why are the social exchanges feeding this kind of currency? Can't we just learn to appreciate each other for what we are and stop expecting everyone to be perfect all the time. The real world isn't a TV show and these people don't always come back from these things. When you destroy a real person's life there are consequences in the world you share with them. You may not appreciate that either... until it's too late.