how the RMS / FSF coup was exposed

Aaron Wolf wolftune at
Mon Sep 23 21:50:51 BST 2019

I wasn't wanting to suggest that *I* found the term "lynching"
inappropriate, in that I understand the metaphore.

Also, I was guessing about what John was referring to. I think it would
be better if he were more specific in his complaint.

I also have strong ideas about what the real solution here is. I think
the solution *is* a form a censorship, not of ideas but of
*misunderstood* ideas.

Take RMS's posts for example. I think when people were upset at his
posts about Minsky, they should have had a tool that would immediately
hide those posts (forums work better than email for this since you can't
retract an email fully). The hiding tool would require them to carefully
choose which community guideline(s) they felt were violated and offer a
constructive *private* way to respond (perhaps anonymously). So, it's
like pulling RMS aside and saying, "hey, I find that extremely
offensive, are you defending sex with minors or defending Epstein??" and
then he could have a second try at expressing his intended meaning.

If there's an actual disagreement (RMS thinks 17 vs 18 is an irrelevant
difference in this case, others defer to the legal definitions), it
should be discussed as clearly as possible with adequate context, and in
an appropriate place.

The harms come from people misunderstanding someone and then *publicly*
reacting to it, and then all the discussion is about who said or did
what etc. all wrapped up with grotesque public signaling about what side
you're on.

If I ever post something that others find really inappropriate, I would
like it to *disappear* from public record ASAP so that I can understand
the reaction, reflect, and try again. I only want public discussion of
*correct* understandings of my ideas. Nothing good comes from
misunderstandings continuing to be presented — except in using them as
case studies about misunderstanding (which should happen only with the
consent of everyone involved).

For example, Discourse has flagging where an *edit* to the flagged post
clears the flag. That's the right direction, but I have ideas about how
it should be done better.

So, I don't prefer situations where a few moderators control the
discussion. I want situations where everyone involved can flag one
another *and* the ONLY consequence of being flagged is to fix the post
and repost.

Daniel, imagine if you could just understand that John objected to a
particular language and you were explicitly *invited* to post again with
just fixed language that addressed the concern. You might not feel
censored since you still have, within that, the ability to find language
that you feel expresses your points and to post your thoughts still.

I see almost all of the personal attacks on all sides as *symptoms* of
the communication medium being bad. If we were all in a room and trusted
one another not to be recording the conversation, it would work fine to
have a facilitator helping us not misunderstand one another. We wouldn't
feel censored.

All of us are working within very poor tools that don't have the
functions I'm describing. On top of that, near-zero of us understand the
problem and instead blame other participants in the discussion. Besides
the bad tooling, it's the call-out-culture that is really at fault
(along with potential bad actors who exploit it, but they aren't needed
for things to go awry).

If anyone reacts to an injustice from call-out-culture by focusing on
other participants and doing call-outs of them, then that is part of the
problem! Besides more private discussion, if you're going to do call-out
and blaming, it's call-out culture itself that should get the focus.

On 2019-09-23 1:28 p.m., Adrienne G. Thompson wrote:
> Daniel is obviously using the term metaphorically:
> Definition of "lynch":
> "to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or
> permission"
> RMS" FSF Presidency was "put to death" by constructive dismissal.
> Adrienne
> On Mon, Sep 23, 2019 at 3:00 PM Aaron Wolf <wolftune at
> <mailto:wolftune at>> wrote:
>     I disagree completely with the hyperbolic description of John Sullivan.
>     Charging him with "gaslighting" or assuming some bad intentions on his
>     part is as bad or worse than his actions.
>     Yes indeed, he was wrong to say (not quote) that you were bringing up
>     "murder" when you used the term "lynching". But it's not that different
>     from RMS emphasizing that "piracy" is stealing on the high seas etc. and
>     should never be used for sharing art and ideas with other people.
>     John might not have said it right, but he was basically saying not to
>     use terms like "lynching" for this situation. That term refers to actual
>     murder.
>     I have no reason to think John has any ill will toward RMS.
>     Incidentally, I'm one of those people who thinks basically *all* the
>     blame should go toward the mob outrage and that RMS is basically
>     innocent. I still strongly respect and admire RMS, and I wish other
>     people had more capacity to have empathy, compassion, and patience with
>     his quirks (which is all they are, RMS has never actively sought to hurt
>     people).
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