In late March, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) readmitted its founder Richard M. Stallman (RMS) to its board, catching everyone by surprise. Now, weeks later, RMS "offers a defensive non-apology apology for the words and actions that led to his resignation from the FSF," writes Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols via ZDNet. Slashdot reader destinyland shares an excerpt of his statement from the Free Software Foundation's official website: Looking back over his life starting as a teenager, Stallman writes: "I realized that I didn't understand the subtle cues that other people were responding to. Later in life, I discovered that some people had negative reactions to my behavior, which I did not even know about. Tending to be direct and honest with my thoughts, I sometimes made others uncomfortable or even offended them -- especially women. This was not a choice: I didn't understand the problem enough to know which choices there were."
"Sometimes I lost my temper because I didn't have the social skills to avoid it," Stallman adds. "Some people could cope with this; others were hurt. I apologize to each of them. Please direct your criticism at me, not at the Free Software Foundation. Occasionally I learned something about relationships and social skills, so over the years I've found ways to get better at these situations. When people help me understand an aspect of what went wrong, and that shows me a way of treating people better, I teach myself to recognize when I should act that way. I keep making this effort, and over time, I improve. Some have described me as being 'tone-deaf,' and that is fair. With my difficulty in understanding social cues, that tends to happen."
This is just an excerpt. But through eight short paragraphs, Stallman seems to want to offer up a larger context for his badly-received defense of Professor Minsky on an MIT mailing list. (And Stallman adds later that "I condemn racism and sexism, including their systemic forms, so when people say I don't, that hurts too...") "I've learned something from this about how to be kind to people who have been hurt," writes Stallman. "In the future, that will help me be kind to people in other situations, which is what I hope to do." "RMS did not, however, address the many other issues which caused people to regret his return to a position of leadership," writes Vaughan-Nichols. Soon after the RMS post appeared on the FSF's front page, the board spoke on why they'd brought him back. The unsigned document states: The voting members of the Free Software Foundation, which include the board of directors, voted to appoint Richard Stallman to a board seat after several months of thorough discussion and thoughtful deliberation.
We decided to bring RMS back because we missed his wisdom. His historical, legal and technical acumen on free software is unrivaled. He has a deep sensitivity to the ways that technologies can contribute to both the enhancement and the diminution of basic human rights. His global network of connections is invaluable. He remains the most articulate philosopher and an unquestionably dedicated advocate of freedom in computing.
RMS acknowledges that he has made mistakes. He has sincere regrets, especially at how anger toward him personally has negatively impacted the reputation and mission of FSF. While his personal style remains troubling for some, a majority of the board feel his behavior has moderated and believe that his thinking strengthens the work of the FSF in pursuit of its mission. We take full responsibility for how badly we handled the news of his election to a board seat. We had planned a flow of information that was not executed in a timely manner or delivered in the proper sequence. [...]
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