In Support of Richard Stallman

Normalizing Truth, Reason, Justice

This website refutes many of the invalid accusations against Richard Stallman that were used to cancel him. It's the result of careful research from a rational and objective standpoint. It shows the truth, backed by the testimony of conscientious and thoughtful people. We invite you to explore it and join our efforts to give Stallman's visionary voice in the free software movement the space it deserves.

People are adding stallmansupport.org to their email signatures, social media profiles, etc. Great! Let's take it to the next level and get together to Help the GNU Project!

Testimonies, Letters, Writings, and More

 

As we keep working on this website, we are getting feedback from readers who send us their own writings and testimonies, or point us to writings by other people. We are grateful to all of them for their contributions. We can't publish all of the materials, but here are some.

Other statements of support:   Comments of Support   Articles

We've received words of support from other people who did not agree to be published.

Message from Bonnie B. Dalzell – How Richard Got Me Into GNU/Linux #bdalzell

In February 2024, Bonnie B. Dalzell sent us this message to tell us more about herself, MIT and Richard Stallman in the mid 1970s. (This is in addition to another comment she had posted elsewhere.)

Thanks for your efforts to support RMS. This attack on him really distressed me.

I was a recent graduate in Palaeontology from the University of California, Berkeley. It was right after the free speech era and a “power to the people” time when one definition of this concept was that “if you teach people about how to do something, you give them power.” RMS and I had a number of conversations about this, and his drive to do free software programming and teach even non computer types like me about computers was inspiring to me. It created in me an addiction to computers which lasts today. I run GNU/Linux on the desktop I built.

Major at UCB was in a branch of Geology which, as in computer science, was dominated by male students whose focus was on their discipline, not social skills. So I did not feel out of place at the MIT AI Lab.

I was hired in the Logo group at the MIT AI Lab as one of several non computer majors to be a novice to computers and see how I would interact with the developing concept of a personal computer. They found out about me because of a short job I had designing alien creatures for an exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Here is other stuff I have done in speculative fiction. I do art work as well as fossils, biomechanics and teach medical anatomy.

Message of Encouragement from Eve Diana – Remembering The Good Old Times #eve

by Eve Diana - October 2023

Dear Richard,

I met you many many years ago at a loft in Boston’s Chinatown. It was a laughing gas party, we shared a balloon and had a lovely dance together.

I know you are fighting NHL and I send you strength and support. There are thousands of fans sending virtual encouragement. Weave it into a warm blanket of hope and wrap it around you. My best friend, also an MIT grad, beat NHL in 2007 and you’re way cooler than he is.

love and laughing gas,

Eve

A Call to The Community from Chrystalleni Loizidou #chrystalleni

by Chrystalleni Loizidou - June 2023

There is clear dissonance between the person described in the attacks against Richard Stallman’s character, and the Richard Stallman I know and have been in conversation with for the last 5 years. There is an error here that is harmful not only to him as an individual (I am deeply saddened by this, what a phenomenon to experience, what strange times we live in) but is also harmful more broadly: it is a distraction from what he stands for and the work we must do to reverse the hold of exploitative technologies on the future of humanity.

I call on fellow feminists not to get carried away by aggressive and divisive defamation campaigns, and to focus our energy against oppression where it is really played out: in the collusion of the non-free technology industry with the edu-war-health industrial complex and the expansion of its domination to nearly all aspects of life. Let wise, kind and meaningful activism prevail.

Chrystalleni Loizidou, PhD.
Organiser of the Free/Libre Technologies, Arts and the Commons Unconference,
an event with keynotes by Richard Stallman and Silvia Federici,
University of Nicosia, Cyprus, 2019.

Supporting Stallman #javier

by Javier González - May 2023

When I read about the MIT incident I immediately thought, “witch hunt.” There are billions of people who stand to win from the work of the FSF and Richard Stallman's principled adherence to free software. At the same time, there are thousands of powerful people, including billionaires, who stand to lose from the advancement of free software.

It is clear that there is an effort by the software billionaires to weaken the free software movement. (By the way, something similar happened to the newspaper The Guardian after it revealed the Snowden information. There was a change in management that was “milder” and put less emphasis on the environment.)

In any case, I support free software wholeheartedly, and Stallman has been very principled about doing software 100% free. The witch hunt is a reason for me to double the support to the FSF under rms. Onward!

Letter of Support from Francisca Pacheco López #francisca

In June 2022, Francisca Pacheco López from Madrid sent us this letter in support of Richard Stallman that she wrote in English and Sapnish.

English

I met Richard Stallman in person more than twenty years ago, when he came to Madrid to give one of his interesting and lively talks. We attended the event because my husband was already collaborating with the GNU Project and we were very excited to meet Richard, the promoter and founder of free software. We approached him to say hello at the end of the talk. Since then, we have had several opportunites to attend his talks every time he comes to Madrid.

We hosted him in our home during one of those visits and I can say that, despite his peculiarities, he is one of the most honest and intelligent people I know, and he has a good heart.

What people have done to him is unfair and cruel, accuse him... of what? Of making rational, inquisitive comments? Even if someone didn't like them, it is within his rights to make them. Or is there no more freedom of expression?

The free software community owes a lot to Stallman. He has dedicated and continues to dedicate his life to disseminating the idea that users' freedom is the most important thing. It is not fair that people who, for whatever reason, do not like him, try to discredit and denigrate him. Cruelest of all, people who wish to separate him from the movement that he has created, from the whole purpose of his life.

Spanish

Conocí personalmente a Richard Stallman, cuando vino a Madrid a dar una de sus interesantes y animadas charlas. Fuimos porque mi marido ya colaboraba con el Proyecto GNU y nos hacía mucha ilusión conocer a Richard, como ya saben, el impulsor y fundador del software libre. Cuando acabó su charla le saludamos y desde entonces hemos tenido, a lo largo de ya más de 20 años, más ocasiones de asistir a sus charlas cada vez que venía a Madrid.

Y en una de esas visitas se alojó con nosotros y puedo decir que a pesar de sus peculiaridades es una de las personas más honestas e inteligentes que conozco, y de buen corazón.

Es muy injusto y cruel lo que han hecho con él, acusándole ¿de qué? Por hacer unos comentarios, que aunque a alguien no le gustaran, él estaba en su derecho de hacerlos ¿O es que no hay libertad de expresión?

A Stallman la comunidad del software libre le debe mucho. Ha dedicado y sigue dedicando su vida a difundir que la libertad del usuario es lo más importante y no es justo que gente que por lo que sea no le quiere, intenten desprestigiarle y denigrarle y lo más cruel de todo, querer apartarle del movimiento que él ha creado, del propósito de su vida.

A Happy Birthday Card by Adrienne G. Thompson #birthday

Adrienne G. Thompson sent us this card that she made in March 2022 to wish RMS a happy 69th birthday. The work is licensed CC BY-SA and based on two previous works by other authors[3].

Happy Birthday RMS!!

A Happy Birthday card for RMS.

Beatriz Busaniche Speaks Up in Defense of Richard Stallman #busaniche

Beatriz Busaniche sent us this comment in July 2021. She wrote it originally in Spanish. Here are both our translation to English and the original text.

English Translation

I am Beatriz Busaniche from Argentina, and I have been a free software and human rights activist for 20 years. I’m writing because I am very proud to consider myself a longtime friend of Richard Stallman. He has stayed in my home many times. I have organized many of his conferences here in Argentina, and we have shared events, social gatherings, and political and public activities. In all these years Richard has always behaved in a totally respectful, warm, and generous way to me, my family, and my friends.

Richard has made huge contributions to the world of technology. He laid the foundation for the culture of free software, which has grown into a movement that is crucial to our world today. He has helped us to think critically about what we do and how we do it. Our movement is forever in his debt, and we must acknowledge that we have not met our responsibility to appreciate Richard as a human being.

Those of us who are lucky enough to be well acquainted with him know that he is a sensitive, loving person, with weaknesses and imperfections like anyone. He can make mistakes, just like any of us. Yet, he has an extraordinary capacity for logical thinking, and is able to change his position when presented with clear and reasonable arguments. Sometimes, however, he expresses his ideas in an unusually direct way that may seem strange to some.

As a feminist, I have always worked to challenge stereotypes and over-generalizations about people. I believe that we should be inclusive of those with differences and, above all, fight for justice and the rights of all people.

I feel that Richard has been treated unfairly in recent months, and I am deeply ashamed for not having raised my voice in his defense more firmly before this.

In his statement of April 12, 2021[**], Richard admits—and those of us who know him well will concur—that his way of reasoning and analyzing situations is very idiosyncratic, an aspect of his personality beyond his control—an example of what might be called neurodiversity. What is the point of calling ourselves progressives, feminists, or anti-fascists, if we ourselves cannot deal with someone who thinks and expresses himself differently?

I am not going to judge those who do not want to associate with Richard Stallman, everyone is entitled to form their own opinion. But I think that throwing stones at him for his tendency to speak logically and literally is an act of cruelty unworthy of those of us who believe in a more just and diverse world. In that, count me out.

** RMS addresses the free software community (Archived)

Spanish (Original)

Soy Beatriz Busaniche, activista de Software Libre y Derechos Humanos de Argentina desde hace 20 años. Escribo estas palabras porque me considero desde hace mucho tiempo amiga de Richard Stallman, un hecho del que siempre me sentí y me siento orgullosa. Richard se ha hospedado en mi casa muchas veces, hemos compartido eventos, reuniones sociales, actividades políticas y públicas, organicé muchísimas de sus conferencias en mi país. En todos estos años siempre se ha comportado de forma totalmente respetuosa, cálida y generosa conmigo, mi familia y mis amigos.

Richard hizo aportes inmensos al mundo de las tecnologías, sentó las bases de la cultura del Software libre, un movimiento indispensable en los tiempos que corren, nos ayudó a pensar críticamente lo que hacemos y cómo lo hacemos. Como movimiento, le debemos mucho y debemos hacernos cargo de que nos hemos ocupado poco de Richard como ser humano.

Quienes tenemos la suerte de conocerlo bastante, sabemos que es una persona sensible, amorosa, con flaquezas y debilidades como cualquiera de nosotros, una persona que igual que cualquiera de nosotros comete errores pero que es capaz de cambiar de opinión frente a argumentos claros y razonables. Sabemos también que es una persona con una lógica imbatible que no siempre aplica a las cuestiones de la vida social.

Como feminista que soy, siempre he luchado por romper los estereotipos y los procesos de normalización hegemónica. Siempre pensé que debíamos aprender a integrar las minorías y las diferencias y sobre todo, luchar por la justicia y los derechos para todas las personas.

No hemos sido justos con RMS en los últimos meses y me siento profundamente avergonzada por no haber levantado mi voz en su defensa con más firmeza en ocasiones anteriores.

Como bien dice Richard en su declaración del 12 de abril pasado[*], y como bien sabemos todos los que hemos convivido con él en alguna instancia, su forma de razonar y analizar es muy peculiar pero es algo que está más allá de lo que él puede decidir. ¿De qué nos sirve llamarnos progresistas, feministas, antifascistas si no somos capaces nosotros mismos de lidiar con la neurodiversidad?

No voy a juzgar a quienes no quieren a RMS, cada quién construye las afinidades y opiniones que quiere, pero arrojar piedras sobre RMS por su dificultad para escapar de la literalidad es un acto de crueldad indigno de quienes creemos en un mundo más justo y diverso. No cuenten conmigo para eso.

* RMS addresses the free software community (Archived)

Verbal Communication Styles Vary Across Different Cultures #communication-styles

This is an email sent to the LibrePlanet mailing list on April 14, 2021[2]. Although it's a public mailing list, we got explicit permission from the author to reproduce it verbatim here.

Verbal communication patterns can in fact vary considerably across different cultural backgrounds. A couple of resources on this subject: 1. Cultural Groups in the US (Archived) 2. Australia's Cultural Atlas (Archived).

From: Thomas Lord
Subject: Re: Support RMS
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 13:23:10 -0700

The raising of voices in conversation does not have a context independent or culturally universal emotional valence. For some it is normal and expected. For some it borders on a taboo.

Taking the complaint about RMS raising his voice at face value: it borders on antisemitism. I don't mean that every Jew communicates in the style of RMS (of course). Perhaps we can step back and think about this complaint in that context.

Here is a story that might help: Long ago, in the very early days of the FSF, I was an employee and there was more or less one person handling most of the operational day to day corporate business. One day, I had done something that (understandably) pissed RMS off. You see: after a brief chat with a board member other than RMS, I unilaterally decided to work remotely. I packed up and moved several states away, almost overnight, to be near my sweetheart (who is now my wife – it's a very romantic story, in retrospect). I did not notify RMS I was doing this. It upset him. He called and yelled. I was very distressed by this – I didn't expect it at all. I sought and received consel – very good consel – from that woman who was running the day to day business. “Just hang up on him if he gets like that,” she advised. Later I understood this could be generalized: walk away, if need be. One can also really productively engage, sometimes, also, just by yelling back if you have something relevant and coherent to say. As an older person now, I realize that part of RMS' reputation comes from him being actually a better and more dynamic conversationalist than most people have ever met—and yes, that can be hard to come to grip with at first.

This doesn't mean that RMS or anyone has free reign to be a constant holy terror, always screaming and yelling, but that is not what I ever saw RMS do and is not what any of the complainers have said he does. Raised voices among friends and allies typify some cultural backgrounds—including mine, ironically enough. It can, when in those cultural contexts, a bit creepy if someone does not communicate this way. One asks: what is that quiet person hiding from us?

Interruption is a similarly culturally variable communication style. In some cultures I mix in, it is expected and is often a sign of engagement with what one is saying – silence comes off as rude / checked out. In other cultures, the opposite—interruption—is not allowed. In a multi-cultural world, we should all be tolerant and flexible in our communication styles. (RMS, meanwhile, is being made to do the limbo by people who think they get to define the One True Civil Converstation Style. Flexibility in style is a two-way street, chums.)

None of this means that people making complaints have invalid feelings that should be ignored. Of course not. But it does mean that the particular demands against RMS, and the relentless character assassination, need to stop.

Lastly, neither Deb nor any of us is qualified to assess whether or not a single person, RMS in this case, “drives people away from the movement” on balance. That's an incredibly arrogant assertion that centers one own cultural expectations and projects them onto an entire planet of people. Can we end the pointless debate of such assertions once and for all?

-t

A Letter to the FSF #letter1-fsf

Date: Apr 6, 2021, 14:12
From: [Email address redacted]
To: info@fsf.org
Subject: In support of RMS

Dear FSF,

I support Richard's return to the FSF, and hope that he will continue providing momentum to the Free Software Movement in all ways possible, especially through the FSF and GNU.

I am a doctoral student of condensed matter physics at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India, and a regular user of free software for almost a decade now. I would like to express my gratitude to Richard's initiative for software freedom, which has directly and indirectly enabled my research in more ways than one.

Pradeep Thakur
Pune, India.

RMS Labeled “Ableist” for His Opinion on Prenatal Diagnosis #ableism

This is an email sent by a disabled developer to a Debian mailing list[1] in response to a discussion about Stallman's readmission to the FSF board. Although it's publicly available, we got explicit permission from the author to reproduce it verbatim here.

To: debian-devel-announce@lists.debian.org
Subject: Re: General Resolution: Richard Stallman's readmission to the FSF board
From: Salvo Tomaselli [redacted]
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2021 07:52:33 +0100

Hi,

I'm a disabled person and I think that calling rms an “ableist” for what he wrote about prenatal diagnosis is incorrect.

It shows that the author of the letter knows NOTHING about what goes on in groups for civil liberties of disabled people and their families.

In my country, Italy, it is the religious bigots who do not want prenatal diagnosis, because it might led to abortion, and they are against that. Catholics also see any suffering and pain as “good”, as a way to elevate the soul towards God.

So, in short, in the letter, rms is being accused for his pro-choice views.

In the haste to label him with whatever “woke” insult, the writers and signers of the letter ended up siding with the camp that wants to deny women's rights.

Many years ago, I read a letter from the father of a mentally disabled person that was described as a 2 year old inside the body of a 40 year old.

The parent said that he loved his son very much but he couldn't help to wonder what would happen to him after he died. Would he be taken care of? Would he be abused? So he was expressing his ideas that perhaps prenatal diagnosis can be good. Not because he didn't love his son but because he could not defend himself from the world after he had died.

It is of course a tragic thought and honestly I believe that while abortion must be a right, it is always a sad event. I believe that most abortions should not happen, because they happen either because the mother can't support a child or she is too young to do so, and in both cases that means that improvements to welfare and education are much needed. But still, it is a right that must not be denied.

Honestly I do not believe it is my place to morally judge if an abortion was performed for a good enough reason, and I believe it is not the place of anyone to place this moral judgment onto others.

rms has expressed his controversial opinion about a small part of this vast topic, and this is now being used against him by opportunists who want to replace him.

To be honest, I believe that the position on abortion has absolutely nothing to do with debian and free software in general, and people from both opinions should be welcome to partecipate.

To conclude, I must say that as a disabled person I'm getting a bit tired of people who self-diagnose themselves a mental illness and call “ableist” anyone they disagree with on social media. I think it is insulting towards real disabled people and it diminishes the struggle and makes the term “disabled” meaningless. I don't know if this is what's happening here, but it is a trend that I've noticed in general.

Best

--
Salvo Tomaselli

Professional Interaction with Richard Stallman #professional

by Andy Farnell - March 2021

Attackers of Prof. Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and GNU project, accuse him of “unprofessionalism.” My experience has been different. I recently had reason to speak with Richard Stallman while researching a new book, as I needed to interview an authority on the subject of “Software Freedom.” Of course, this is my personal experience over a short time. Some people say that he is difficult to get along with, but here's why I feel any labelling of Stallman as “unprofessional” is undeserved.

As I hit send on an email to Richard Stallman, a person famed for “being weird,” I sighed with resignation at the fact it would likely go unanswered. Five seconds later a reply appeared. Obviously it was an automated response, including some boilerplate addressed to any NSA agents enjoying our conversation. Weird, yes! Check one! But in good humour. Were I an NSA worker it would cause no offence and make me smile. His email was polite, concise, informative and sensible. It explained Richard's workflow for processing mail and when I might expect a reply.

Now, some might say that a “professional” would delegate their public interface. Having dealt with many prominent people I know it sometimes takes weeks and many attempts just to get through to an agent or handler, let alone win a personal audience. Often when trying to interview other writers or public figures one encounters a fortress of aloof discouragement—just go away, I am way too busy for you. Those who have a great deal to say, often take such pains to hide themselves and make sure nobody gets to speak back. As I see it, Stallman shares with the legendary Noam Chomsky, in being approachable by anyone, whether a professional reporter, student, blogger, or critic.

So, within a few days I received a thoughtful and detailed reply from Richard himself, who suggested we talk, and some choices of technology for a meeting. We found a mutually agreeable solution, being Jit.si, over which Richard devoted hours to helping me with my questions. I had expected a great fuss about encryption, and to find myself awake past midnight recompiling a kernel or fighting with encryption keys in order to talk to Stallman who would be nit-picky, weird and patronising about my weak security practices. That didn't happen. It's a character strength of Stallman I have heard others praise, that while ideologically rigid, he is absolutely pragmatic.

Before we were scheduled to talk, Stallman took the initiative to reach out and remind me we had a meeting, pre-emptively suggesting we test the link, and that I should record the meeting on my side as a reference, thus saving me the awkwardness of asking permission. Professional? Certainly well organised and mindful of the needs of others.

Then came the actual meeting. I get to talk to a lot of smart people, but rarely do they engage like Richard Stallman. He listens. Being into communication theory I pay attention to styles of interaction. In several hours of online connection Richard Stallman never once spoke over me, showing extraordinarily adept use of timing and tone for voice communication with latency while clearly thinking about each question. He ended each session by asking if I needed a follow up session and whether the recording had been successful.

At this point, Richard had no idea who I “really was.” He remarked that he was helping a student publish an article on software freedom in higher education—but he had no time to devote to editing the students prose. I took this as a subtle invitation to quid pro quo, and so I offered to edit the article. That lead to a long, productive and very interesting interaction that inspired an article for the Times Higher Education.

My experience of Stallman seemed the very model of consummate professionalism—exemplary use of technology and language, far, far better manners than I expect from many corporate encounters. Contrary to commentators who paint him as socially clumsy, I found his rather charming way of advancing agendas and connecting people for mutual benefit quite skilful.

The word “unprofessional” has been co-opted as an accusation in modern witch-hunts. It is very hurtful to call another person unprofessional, partly because the concept is so poorly defined, and gets conflated with “bad character.” Often the accusation is levelled at someone who is indeed acting at the absolute height of professionalism, following the true spirit of their profession, but standing against the status quo. Whistle-blowers or those advocating for organisational change toward better ethics come to mind as obvious victims. We must stop abusing the word “unprofessional” as a vague smear against anyone whose opinions we dislike.


References and Notes

  1. Re: General Resolution: Richard Stallman's readmission to the FSF board (Archived)
  2. Re: Support RMS (Archived)
  3. "stallman", by casifish. "Christmas L5", by inky2010.