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Paul Gaskin [opinions]

Unjustifiable Criticism of Richard Stallman by Linus Torvalds [linux] [richard-stallman] [gnu] [linus-torvalds]

A recent attack piece against Richard Stallman was written by Linus Torvalds on the eve of Obama's election.

Black and white by Linus Torvalds

Linus begins with this:

So I'm pretty well-known for not exactly being a huge fan of the FSF and Richard Stallman, despite the fact that I obviously love the GPLv2 and use it as the license for all my projects that I care about.

How unfortunate to write negatively of Stallman in the very first sentence. Linus Torvalds appears excessively ambitious and uncouth almost every time he talks about Richard Stallman.

Linus Torvalds continues:

I love seeing people who are really passionate about what they do, and many people have something they really care about. It's just that when that becomes something exclusionary, it often gets ugly. It's not passion for something, it becomes passion against something else.

Linus Torvalds appears excessively ambitious and uncouth almost every time he talks about Richard Stallman.

That point of view is debatable. I'm of the opinion that you do have to take a stand on some issues on occasion. It's actually not uncommon that situations arise which require opposition.

But Linus Torvalds doesn't really seem to have a problem being passionate against something. He has had a passion against Richard Stallman's leadership for many years. It has been ugly more than once and this attack piece was no exception.

Linus Torvalds continues:

This is, just to take an example, one of the reasons I try to avoid talking much about Microsoft - I'm very passionate about Linux (obviously), but quite frankly, I really find the whole notion of Linux as being "against Microsoft" to be silly and wrong-headed.

It seems like Torvalds is referring to the "Bad Vista" campaign here. I'm glad Richard has the guts to oppose proprietary software. Microsoft supports software patents and seeks to deprive us of our user freedom. It's really not so complicated. I do not agree that RMS is doing a bad thing by directly an vocally opposing Microsoft.

Linus Torvalds continues:

Yeah, I might make an occasional tongue-in-cheek joke or two, but does anybody really seriously think that you can put 17+ years of your life and make good decisions based on hate and fear?

Hate and fear? Richard Stallman is not a hater and he's not fearful. RMS is motivated by his passion for freedom and his principles.

Linus Torvalds continues:

That was also why I didn't (and don't) like GPLv3 - I think many of the changes weren't due to being "pro free software", but more a mindless reaction against things like TiVO, and the whole black-and-white, "good vs evil" mindset.

In spite of Torvalds' opposition, the developer community has embraced GPLv3. Soon there will be more than 3,000 projects licensed under GPLv3.

The action against TiVo was neither mindless nor even reactionary. That modification of the GPL is in line with the original intent of the license which is to prevent computer users from being denied essential freedom to use their computers and programs as they wish.

In spite of Torvalds’ opposition, the developer community has embraced GPLv3.

Many seem to forget that a track record of success had already been established by the GNU GPL even before the Linux Kernel project was launched. The GNU GPL is the gold standard among licenses as it gains the full confidence of volunteers.

The reason the GNU GPL is so successful is because it's the first (though often imitated) "copyleft" which was specifically designed for the purpose of protecting the freedom of computer users.

Sadly many people were misled by the false historical narrative Eric Raymond wrote in The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

The way Torvalds criticizes Stallman's work on the GPL, you could almost get the idea Torvalds was the original author of the GPL, not Stallman.

Finally, Linus Torvalds delivers the payload:

The reason I bring this up is that while I can't vote, I did want to say publicly anyway that I really really hope that Obama will be the US president elect after Tuesday night.

Through four paragraphs, Linus Torvalds criticizes Richard Stallman, he criticizes GPLv3 in the next paragraph, then Torvalds finishes by endorsing Barack Obama.

I think those two unrelated messages should have been posted separately. It seems that Torvalds was trying to use the wave of Obama enthusiasm to bolster his attacks on Richard Stallman. How sad.

For the Record, Richard Stallman supported Dennis Kucinich, then Stallman supported Ralph Nader after Kucinich dropped out.

Torvalds was trying to use the wave of Obama enthusiasm to bolster his attacks on Richard Stallman.

I find it necessary to point out that Obama didn't ride a unicorn across a rainbow to the White House. There was a lot of confrontation which was necessary to achieve this victory.

It was Kucinich who read 35 articles of impeachment against Bush and Cheney on the floor of congress. Kucinich's role was that of an offensive lineman who helped make Obama's touch-down possible.

I've pointed out before that Linus Torvalds was a child while Richard Stallman worked for years to bring us the GNU operating system. Stallman did this specifically for the purpose of protecting computer users' freedom.

It was 13 years after the release of GPLv2 that GPLv3 was released. During those long years, a lot of effort spent in trying marginalize Richard Stallman. It seems that Linus Torvalds may be anxious now because there is new wind under Stallman's wings ever since the release of GPLv3.

I suspect this attack piece on Richard Stallman by Linus Torvalds may have been a tit-for-tat retaliation. Stallman recently asked members of a LUG (Linux User's Group) to rename their organization to GLUG (GNU/Linux User's Group) as a pre-condition of speaking there.

It's not a good idea to disrespect the GNU-Father.


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