Richard Stallman’s ostensible transphobia

To those who write about #Stallman‘s alleged transphobia, I offer this response.

Stallman is demonstrably not transphobic. If you believe otherwise, I wonder whether you have actually read Stallman’s own writings on his use of pronouns, or merely formed an opinion from what secondary sources have reported. Stallman’s stance on the subject is freely available from his own site.

Regardless of Stallman’s position on this issue, a transgender person’s perceived right to be addressed using the pronouns of his or her choice does not compel another person to act in accordance with that perception. In most Western liberal democracies, most people enjoy a very real, i.e. legally protected, right to free speech; certainly to the extent that the speaker’s choice of pronouns is concerned.

As such, rigid adherence to certain constructs of language can, at worst, be ascribed to self-interest, namely the assertion that the existent right to free speech trumps another’s perceived right to be addressed in a particular way. That’s a wholly reasonable attitude to take on principle alone, and garners more weight as one examines the pressure currently being placed on this central tenet of liberal society by regressive elements and their proclivity for cancel culture.

The suppression of free speech has far-reaching consequences for the whole of humanity; the inflexible use of pronouns affects a much smaller subset.

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Free speech

xkcd 1357 presents a cogent, yet naively simplistic and ultimately one-sided view of free speech. Indeed, things go awry in the very first frame, in which it is claimed that free speech amounts to no more than one’s ability to speak without fear of arrest by the government. However, many people, myself included, would contend that the right to free speech is a philosophical concept that far transcends this narrow American legal definition.

The waters suddenly become much murkier when one examines the fact that large corporations with (socio-)political agendas have, in recent years, become more powerful and influential than even national governments and heads of state. This is an alarming and undesirable development, since said corporations are not subject to any third-party oversight or regulation, and there is no independent process of appeal against their summary judgements or the imposition of punitive measures.

This grave situation has steadily worsened over the last decade as the reach of these companies has expanded and gone largely unchecked by governments who either cannot see the danger rising before them, or find themselves without any existing legal recourse to combat it. The unfettered growth of this influence has emboldened these corporations to reach increasingly harsh and arbitrary judgements against selected users, whilst making proportionately diminishing efforts to justify their actions.

In many cases, governments have been not merely ineffective at curtailing this rise in influence, but instrumental in it, by misguidedly conferring on these corporations an editorial responsibility for the utterings of their users that no mere carrier or publisher should either want or be forced to bear. Historically, we have not demanded of the postal service that it take responsibility for the missives it conveys, nor of telecommunications carriers that they intervene if controversial and challenging ideas are sent over their cables and airwaves. Corporations like #Facebook and #Twitter are essentially no different, and should enjoy and be bounded by the same status, because to confer more is to endow them with a power that they can abuse, have abused, and will continue to abuse.

The rise of these corporations’ influence has seen the town square, where we are free to gather and engage in public debate, controversial or otherwise, slowly undergo a paradigm shift from the physical world to the virtual realm; the crucial and essential difference being that access to the virtual town square is not without encumberment. It is not a public forum, and access to it is granted, tolerated and revoked at the pleasure of said corporations.

This grim development has been further catalysed by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, which, in many parts of the world, has resulted in the actual revocation of the right to public assembly in a physical space. In much of the world, including the so-called free world, the actual town square no longer exists as a hub for the free and unhampered exchange of ideas. The ability to express one’s thoughts is now largely confined to the virtual realm, and the freedom to wield one’s voice in that expression is now, in no small part, at the whim of corporations run by megalomaniacal billionaire ideologues.

When the arena in which public debate takes place shifts to new ground, discourse in that new territory needs to be afforded the same privileges and protections it enjoys elsewhere. This is not currently the case, and our right to free speech is under extreme duress as a result.

Never a day passes now without new cases documented of “hateful” people having the right to voice their “problematic” thoughts and opinions suppressed. And with “hateful” and “problematic” being such subjective concepts, this is an extremely slippery slope on which society now finds itself.

You may have cause to celebrate the downfall of your particular chosen foe today, but when the tables turn tomorrow and it is now you or those you advocate in the sights of these corporations’ guns, who will you turn to then?

Free Speech

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On Richard Stallman

Richard #Stallman a.k.a. #RMS is the founder of the Free Software Foundation (#FSF), author of the original versions of gcc and Emacs, and perhaps best known for his creation of the GNU Public Licence a.k.a. #GPL.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Richard Stallman, Android has a freely available kernel that can boot it, and companies like Samsung are forced to release their augmented kernel source code to us every month, so that we can build — using Stallman’s compiler — a working custom recovery like TWRP.

Richard Stallman is currently under coordinated attack by the cancel culture mob. They have him firmly in their sights and have set their hearts on trying to get him removed from the board of the organisation he founded in 1985, and which has been his life’s work.

The reason for the attack is that Stallman is alleged to hold views that are “problematic” in the eyes of his detractors.

My own stance is that to even engage in debate of Stallman’s views would be to lend credence to the notion that they are somehow germane to the work that Stallman does in support of free software. I contend that they are not, which is not to imply that the accusations leveled at Stallman would otherwise require intellectual or moral contortion to refute. They would not. Stallman’s views, even if they were relevant, have been grossly misrepresented.

The attempted silencing of free speech is always painful to behold, but this ill-conceived attack on Stallman is particularly stomach-turning, given how much of his life he has devoted to the freedom of others, including those who accuse him now.

His contributions to free software and his consistent, uncompromising commitment to his beliefs regarding software freedom have made millionaires of others, including many among his accusers now, while Stallman himself continues to lead a life of subsistence.

#Android would not exist if it hadn’t been for Stallman.

Without Stallman, we would not have the assurance that important software like #Magisk will continue to exist long after the project’s creator has moved on.

Without Stallman, #TWRP would not now exist.

Were it not for Richard Stallman, most of the cheap electronic appliances and gadgets in your home would simply not exist.

Without Richard Stallman’s groundbreaking work, the world would be a different and much worse place.

Now you can do something in return. Richard Stallman needs your support.

Please consider signing this petition.

If you need more background before signing, please take the time to do your own research and reach your own conclusions.

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Voor Patricia Paay is het behoorlijk zuur (of zout)

Patricia Paay was gisteravond bij Eva Jinek te gast. Eerstgenoemde is naar eigen zeggen “kapot en leeft in een nachtmerrie”, omdat op internet een filmpje is verschenen waarin te zien is hoe zij zich in de mond laat plassen door haar ex-vriend. Een op zich al onderdanige zo niet vernederende daad, waarvan de beschamende kracht natuurlijk verhonderdvoudigt als die met het grote, veelal van plasseks kokhalzende meute wordt gedeeld. Voor je het weet, raast het als een tsunami over de sociale media, staan de weekendblaadjes er bol van, en heeft naar het schijnt heel Nederland zijn oordeel klaar. Ja, je krijgt ook nogal wat na over je heen.

Paay leeft sinds de onthulling met de gordijnen dicht en durft zich naar eigen zeggen niet meer over straat te begeven. Zo gênant is het nou eenmaal; iets wat we ons allemaal, denk ik, kunnen voorstellen. Maar hoe zit het dan met de beslissing om gisteravond bij Jinek aan te schuiven? De desbetreffende uitzending van het populaire praatprogramma schijnt goed te zijn geweest voor maar liefst 1,4 miljoen kijkers, oftewel 41% van alle kijkers tussen elf en twaalf (het tijdstip wel te verstaan, niet de leeftijd; alhoewel…). Blijkbaar is Paay er desalniettemin toe in staat haar diepgaande schaamte opzij te zetten voor het goede doel: het grote publiek bereiken. Zo veel is er dan ook weer niet veranderd, zou je cynisch kunnen opmerken.

Als daarvoor nog twijfelachtig was hoeveel mensen zich daadwerkelijk interesseren voor de onbezonnen uitspattingen van een BN’er van weleer, wier bekendheid en portemonnee enkel nog gestut worden door het ongegeneerd veilen van het eigen privéleven, dan staat nu toch wel buiten kijf dat het onder een groot publiek er werkelijk nog altijd toe doet. En ja, ook schrijver dezes heeft onbewogen meegekeken, uit sociologisch wetenschappelijk oogpunt natuurlijk.

Bijgestaan door haar advocaat, Johan Langelaar, en tot adviseur benoemde Peter R. de Vries — waarom heb je een adviseur nodig als je al een raadsman hebt? — doet Paay verhaal. Nee, zulke filmpjes maakt ze niet vaker; dit was de eerste keer. De Vries vraagt Jinek of het überhaupt een interessante vraag is. Natuurlijk wel; anders had ze die niet gesteld. Men wil weten of de verfilming op zichzelf staat. Beroepsazijnpisser de Vries heeft het irritant mannetje zijn tot een soort beeldende kunst verheven en wil al te graag aantonen dat hij zijn honorarium voor deelname dubbel en dwars waard is door zich overal in te mengen.

Wist ze dat het werd opgenomen? Ja, dat wist ze wel. Een toch overbodige vraag, want in het filmpje wordt de camera, vermoedelijk een mobieltje, van boven recht naar beneden gericht op de penis van Paays ex-vriend. De filmmaker, kan eigenlijk niet anders worden geconcludeerd, is dus óf die ex-vriend zelf, óf een hoogbegaafd en bijzonder gehoorzaam aapje dat op zijn schouder zit.

Langelaar laat gaandeweg weten dat ze de Telegraaf Media Group, eigenaar van GeenStijl en Dumpert (waar het filmpje voor het eerst is verschenen), minimaal een paar ton gaan proberen los te peuteren, een ongekend hoog bedrag in het nog altijd relatief nuchtere en schoudersophalende Nederland.

Je vraagt je af wie hier nou het meest in de zeik wordt genomen, Paay zelf, de goedgelovige kijker, of straks de rechterlijke macht. We zullen het zien.

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Is there life after life?

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3.

Is there anybody out there?

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