Subject: the walls have ears
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 20:01:13 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Craig" == Craig Brozefsky <craig@red-bean.com> writes:

    Craig> Why do people find it neccesarry to use RMS and his
    Craig> position as some kinda irrational extreme,

"Irrational" because his position depends on some assumptions and
goals that most[1] people disagree with, even though they may agree
with his conclusions.  This takes defense of his position out of the
realm of rationality, although not making it irrational in the sense
of insane[2].  "Extreme" because, well, is there anybody to the left
of RMS?  I'm not aware of any such person. :-)

That said, and despite the fact that I disagree with him about both
goals and policy, it is an important and plausible viewpoint, and I'm
glad he's arguing it.

    Craig> even to the point of deliberately mis-representing him?

[If I'm taking this part of the question too seriously, you can stop
reading now.]

Probably because if you have to misrepresent someone, you may as well
pick someone who is quite good at it himself, so you won't feel guilty
about doing it.

Admittedly, mostly it's rhetorical flourish where he's too lazy to
argue a point properly, or wants to dodge it (and I for one am not
entirely innocent of those practices), but I have been deliberately[3]
misrepresented by RMS _to myself_ in private email, where I really
can't see the point to it.

I really wish he would stop it.  His position can stand on its merits,
but mostly I just treat RMS's utterances as mere opinion anymore, worth
considering only because he's had a lot of great ideas in the past.
It's a pain in the butt to have to verify everything he says because I
can't trust him to argue honestly, or report others' views accurately.
He's in a class with Milton Friedman.

This is possibly overstating the case.  Where I clash with RMS is,
first, on matters of personality, which should be irrelevant, but
Craig implies that this is why people take the "irrational extreme"
slant on RMS.  I'm aware of this effect, though, and I try to account
for it in my own reactions.  Second, there are small but important
technical points (see [1]), and that's where it's especially tedious
to have to backtrack a whole line of argument.  On most issues I agree
with RMS; it's where we differ that I'd like to be able to default to
trusting him most of the time.  But I can't, and it frustrates me.


Footnotes:

[1]  A judgement on my part.  One particular point in question is that
most people I know feel that more libre software is better, and that
if mixing libre software with proprietary software results in more
usage and more production of libre software than otherwise, fair
enough.  RMS however (in personal email, but I believe this is
consistent with his public stance) advocates that _purity_ of free
software, and its independence from any proprietary software, is more
important than the total amount of functionality available or the
total usage or "market share."  As far as I can tell, although it is
instrumental (ie, in RMS's opinion---I disagree, FWIW---in the long
run it will lead to more free software than otherwise), this is a
matter of principle, too.  He would prefer a purely free system to a
system that contained a strictly superset of the functionality
implemented as free software, if the latter were tainted with
proprietary programs.

[2]  However, I have had discussions with RMS in my own area of
expertise, where he simply says, "well, all the economists in history
are wrong because my opinion is other" (about a technical point, not
an issue of values).  That's irrational [= denying reality], IMO.

[3]  In the form "you wrote ... but obviously mean ...", where he had
no answer to the former and the latter was a straw man.

- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."