“Wait,” some of you are saying, “that’s right! Jeffrey Epstein had a rape island! I’d forgotten all about it, what with Epstein’s convenient suicide and some remarkably media-friendly mass shootings occurring right as justice was about to be quote-unquote handed out!” Funny how that works. Perhaps it’s because Mr. Epstein had a full list of powerful and notable friends. One of those friends, apparently, was MIT artifical-intelligence savant Marvin Minsky, who is alleged to have had sex with a 17-year-old girl on the island.
When asked to give his thoughts on the matter, Stallman responded like any 110-octane autism-spectrum genius would: by questioning the terminology involved. He suggested that the correct word for Minsky’s alleged statutory rape was not “sexual assault”, noting that
a) Minsky had no way to know the girl was 17, not 18 ; b) she had been coerced by Epstein out of Minsky’s presence and might well have appeared to be entirely willing.
In true Stallman fashion, this was
a) absolutely correct from a logical perspective; b) mind-blowingly stupid from a perspective of The Current Year.
It’s no different from the thousands of logical but emotionally uncomfortable things he has said and written over the past forty years. Stallman has no way to understand how people feel about something; he doesn’t feel that way. The community of actual computer scientists and clued-in tech people has long accepted this because — and I cannot emphasize this enough — Richard Stallman is responsible for computing as we know it.
In a world where Richard Stallman did not exist, neither would Apple, or the Android phone, or “cloud computing”, or Amazon.com. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The world without Stallman would be a world where you still used a Windows 95 computer, where you paid real money for every single piece of software on it. Internet Explorer would be the browser. Computing would be limited to the upper-middle-class, the way it was in 1985. No matter how you are reading this website, both you and I are using systems which incorporate GNU software. Even if you’re using Windows, which nowadays runs on a very GNU-like operating system beneath the covers.
Stallman’s dull, correct analysis inspired a female student to take to Medium to launch a cancel crusade:
I was shocked. I continued talking to my friend, a female graduate student in CSAIL, about everything, trying to get the full email thread (I wasn’t on the mailing list). I even started emailing reporters — local and national, news sites, newspapers, radio stations. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. During my 45-minute drive home, when I normally listen to podcasts or music, I just sat in complete silence. The only reporter who responded quickly was one from WBUR, and they didn’t seem to be in a rush to publish this information. So, I told my friends that I would just write a story myself. I’d planned to do it after work today; instead, because I can’t possibly focus, I’m working on it now.
MIT does not deserve its women.
The world does not deserve them either. I thought back to every person who has ever asked me how to “fix” the gender problems in STEM, how to “get more girls” to join STEM programs. I thought about every time that someone has suggested “men are better at spatial thinking” and that “testosterone is linked to better performance in math”. In my mind I look at all these people, a crowd that is gathered. And in my mind, I stand up and I scream at them. I would put my hands around their shoulders and shake sense into all of them, individually, if I had enough time and enough hands The problems are so obvious.
There is no discernible substance in the girl’s complaints, of course, just the standard leveraging of alleged brutish behavior by a high-profile man into an explanation of female mediocrity and demand for “more women in STEM” (to combat sexism in STEM, which is now in and of itself wrong–that is, even if more women in STEM degrades STEM, it’s necessary because sexism exists there).
But what struck me is the assumption, always implied now openly expressed, that, in the absence of discrimination or bias all those old white guys who built the modern world would have been represented by women and minorities. The world would be much as it is, only better. Everything would have been created by the lost and neglected genius of Wakandans and Wymmn.
Indeed, the STEM-bette who wrote this piece didn’t know who Stallman is before she saw her opportunity
Did I even really know who Richard Stallman was before those emails? To be honest, not really — I’m a mechanical engineer who didn’t pay enough attention, apparently. I did not possess the awe and reverence many people commenting and retweeting seemed to. Maybe if I had known I would have been more “careful”. Maybe if I had known I, too, would have been able to let such comments and behavior slide because of “genius”.
I keep waiting for “genius” to be outed as problematic (unless applied to your favorite rapper because he turned a clever phrase, once).
The assumption at the base of all feminist and anti-racist action is the denial of genius–which is assumed to be evenly distributed by race and sex. (Of course if it was evenly distributed it wouldn’t really exist, yet…)
Scientific discovery and enlightenment are a passive process, inevitable, indeed, the modern world would be just what it is, but better, if not for “white supremacy”; it’s just a question of who got the “privilege” to create it. This becomes sinister when you realize they are now insisting the future world be the creation of those who have shown no real talent for world-making: women and brown people.
When a female department head at Harvard’s teaching hospital decided to take down the portraits of eminent alumnae in a lecture hall because there was only one Chinese luminary among the white faces, there was the usual weak stir of protest (often accompanied by sops to “diversity” and “discrimination” by good people desperate not to stick their neck too far out).
It didn’t seem to occur to anyone to ask why they didn’t just include a few tokens, which is after all standard practice in all kinds of applications; the only reason I can fathom this wasn’t considered is because they would have had to so lower standards to include just a few brown or female faces that the disparity between their achievements and those of the Old White Guys would be too embarrassing to endure, reinforcing the perception of their superiority. Putting someone who designed a better hospital gown next to someone who saved lives improving heart surgery is perhaps too much even for Woke Administration. Better a bare wall than one that offends.
So they did here what is happening everywhere, scrapping something entirely because it can’t be racially and sexually diversified without embarrassment. I was going to write “without catastrophe” but realize to achieve equity they are quite willing to accept that–even the slow, hidden catastrophe that has to be resulting from talented whites being chased out of medicine, and everywhere, now. The result is ultimately measured in mortality. Every one of those offending white faces represents lives saved. Every talented white making way for a brown mediocrity represents lives to be lost. I’m sure if they had to, they’d fashion a rationalization as to why people must die to achieve “equity”.
They aren’t just eliminating Whites’ past achievements taking down portraits, they’re pre-emptively eliminating Whites’ future achievements. They’re taking down future portraits too.
One tweet in defense of whitewashing the lecture hall’s wall makes the assumption the discoveries were inevitable, and if affirmative action had reigned, we wouldn’t have a bare wall (and impoverished present), but a more colorful one:
Lost in all the emotion, falsity and grift, is the logical contradiction that would put to rest finally the notion that bias operates everywhere always, if only we were allowed to say it: if all this brown and female talent is out there–has always been out there–at some point someone would have figured out he can surpass his rivals–whether it be in business, education or sport–by abandoning bias and recruiting, and paying less for, all this untapped talent.
It is in fact what happened with sports. Here and there coaches and managers decided to break a cultural restriction against black players to acquire superior athletes. Once they’ve done this, their competitors have to abandon discrimination to compete.
Why does this not replicate in at least one endeavor not related to stereotypical black talents? Why is there not a women’s univeristy somewhere collecting all these disaffected, brilliant students and cleaning up?
Total mystery. We may never know.
The cancel crusaders have historical predecessors, and some may find their way to eminence of a sort after all:
On May 25, 1966, Nie Yuanzi, a party activist and philosophy administrator at Peking University, and six other party functionaries authored and put up a “big-character poster” (called a dazibao) on campus denouncing the university’s administration as furthering the aims of the bourgeoisie.
Mao seized on the message and ordered it to be read over the national broadcast and reprinted in the People’s Daily. In the coming weeks and months, Mao sought to purge dissent and purify the ideological foundation of China into his cult of personality. Leveraging Nie’s message into a broader call to rebellion, Mao used his Red Guard, a group of militant radicals mostly composed of students, to dismantle higher education and reshape art and literature to support his aims of control.