Twenty-two years ago, when your humble author was a minor participant in the eventually-derailed-and-co-opted revolution known as “Linux”, we spent a lot of time talking about the Holy Trinity Of Linux Guys. Three authentic geniuses whose vision extended into the future just a little farther than everyone else’s:
- Richard M. Stallman, who had invented the concept of a “free operating system” and built a framework to create the GNU programs which would eventually make up most of what we call “Linux” today;
- Linus Torvalds, who did the one thing that Stallman’s team couldn’t quite manage, and that was to build a decent operating-system kernel around which Linux could coalesce;
- Eric S. Raymond, who was the first person to truly understand the power of what we’d eventually call “Open Source Software” and whose The Cathedral And The Bazaar served as a Bible of sorts for those of us who truly believed that software could change the world.
Take any leg away from this stool, and your life would be different in ways that you cannot readily conceive. Billions of people who use the Internet today simply wouldn’t have the ability to do so. Computing would be much more like it was in 1995: restricted to people who could pay for $5,000 computers and $50,000 servers. Both the iPhone and the Android phones, for example, rely heavily on “open source” to operate. Without Stallman, there’s no iOS; without Torvalds and Stallman there’s no Android; without all three of them, you wouldn’t have the infrastructure necessary for “the cloud”.
All three of these men are known for speaking truth to power, which was acceptable when “power” meant functional and admirable institutions such as IBM, Xerox, and the United States Government. Nowadays, as WokeCapital notes, we “speak power to truth”, allowing our culture’s frankly insane delusions to trample the good, the true, and the beautiful en masse. This is not a world in which outspoken and socially awkward geniuses can possibly survive. The Western World loves “EQ” now and values it far higher than it does IQ, which it prefers to import in very limited quantities from Asia whenever doing so is absolutely unavoidable.
Here’s an example: Maya Angelou, whose vacuous mumblings form the heart and soul of our modern catechism, actually wrote that “…I believe talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.” Note that this is considerably stupider than the Insane Clown Posse’s “Fucking magnets, how do they work?” because magnetism is not all that well understood but electricity, by contrast, is. Think about that for a minute, if you will; this country awarded more than fifty honorary degrees and multiple Presidential commendations to a woman who didn’t understand the universe as well as “Shaggy 2 Dope” or “Violent J” and who furthermore reveled in every chance she got to demonstrate that inferior understanding to the American people. I think the edgy kids say “HONK HONK” now in response to that sort of thing.
It follows, therefore, that Clown World would eventually reward all three of these fellows with a public dragging. Linus was first: his lack of tolerance for midwittery ended up in him apologizing for being mean to people and leaving the Linux kernel. That’s right: the man who invented Linux and gave it to the world free of charge had to quit because of hurt feelz. Stallman was next, being shamed out of Free Software for giving a technically correct but politically ignorant opinion about Epstein’s Rape Island.
This left only Raymond, an omission which has now been rectified.
Full disclosure time: “ESR” has always creeped me out, and frightened me. When he writes about software and computers, he is often brilliant. When he writes about sex or martial arts, my whole body shudders. This reaction, by the way, is fairly widespread among those of us who are three standard deviations above mean IQ. We see this five-foot-six cross-eyed pedo-mustache fellow who looks like he just got done spraying “Free Candy” on the side of an ’83 Econoline covering these intimate and challenging topics with precisely the same language he uses for discussing the vagaries of software licensing and we just cringe, thinking: “Is this how I look to people, too?” The universal fear of Very Smart People isn’t that we could be wrong, but that we could be right and yet be so far away from the normie opinion on something that they’ll burn us at the stake as a consequence.
It was also far easier to mask autism-spectrum behavior in an era when many people simply spoke their minds. In today’s world of garbage language and mandatory corporate niceness, the unavoidably forthright are dropping like flies. And so we arrive at ESR’s inevitable fate as the third crucifixion among three. I’ll let the man speak for himself:
I – OSI’s co-founder and its president for its first six years – was kicked off their lists for being too rhetorically forceful in opposing certain recent attempts to subvert OSD clauses 5 and 6… It shouldn’t be news to anyone that there is an effort afoot to change – I would say corrupt – the fundamental premises of the open-source culture. Instead of meritocracy and “show me the code”, we are now urged to behave so that no-one will ever feel uncomfortable.
The effect – the intended effect – is to diminish the prestige and autonomy of people who do the work – write the code – in favor of self-appointed tone-policers. In the process, the freedom to speak necessary truths even when the manner in which they are expressed is unpleasant is being gradually strangled.
The cost of a culture in which avoiding offense trumps the liberty to speak is that crybullies control the discourse. To our great shame, people who should know better – such as the OSI list moderators and BOD – have internalized anticipatory surrender to crybullying. They no longer even wait for the soi-disant victims to complain before wielding the ban-hammer.
We are being social-hacked from being a culture in which freedom is the highest value to one in which it is trumped by the suppression of wrongthink and wrongspeak. Our enemies – people like Coraline Ada-Ehmke – do not even really bother to hide this objective.
Wake up and speak out. Embrace the right to be rude – not because “rude” in itself is a good thing, but because the degenerative slide into suppression of disfavored opinions has to be stopped right where it starts, at the tone policing.
Emphasis mine. I recently had a conversation with someone — let’s call him “Bark” — in which I lamented the fact that I’d been censured for saying some things which were unpleasant but true, at which point he replied: “There’s no amount of success you can have, no amount of money you can earn for a company, and no amount of right you can be which can make up for not being nice nowadays.” This would be admirable, were there not a Challenger Deep’s worth of difference between being nice and being kind. Between nice and honest. Between nice and true. “Nice” is a mask worn by power. And what happens when the mask is removed? You get Chapter 19.
The Eloi don’t care that people like Stallman and Raymond are being silenced. They preach “progress”, but what they want is stasis, an eternal preservation of their current place in the world. True innovation is disruptive to that. It turns aristocrats into paupers even as it performs the reverse. So the less innovation we have, the better. Thus you see that “niceness” and “codes of conduct” are simply ways to keep the world from changing. There’s just one problem: the world will change around us, regardless. What response would the Party have had to COVID-19 and its successors? Could they have floated off the ground and survived? Or would they decide that perhaps people like Eric S. Raymond aren’t so unpleasant after all?