GNU-Darwin founder plays politics with free software

Posted by dave on Mar 12, 2004 9:53 AM
LXer; By Dave Whitinger

In a recent journal entry at Advogato, Michael Love, the founder and lead developer of GNU-Darwin has posted a reminder of GNU-Darwin's disapproval of U.S. policy. His non-mainstraim views are an example of the politcal extremism we've become desensitized to over the years. Here is the question: is it a good idea to use a position as the head of popular free software projects to publish political propaganda?

My problem is not with his message (whether I agree or disagree with him is beyond the scope of this editorial). My problem is that he is using the GNU-Darwin project as a platform for his political views. If I were a GNU-Darwin contributor, I would not be happy right now.

Whether on the extreme-left or the extreme-right, free software developers who use their projects in this manner risk alienating at least 50% of their potential users. Furthermore, anyone who has contributed to them in the past (whether with code or advocacy efforts) are then represented in the message.

What would happen if Linus Torvalds started using the Linux kernel as a platform for an extreme right-wing position? Would the community be outraged? Of course it would, because we all have a vested interest in Linux, and most of us have contributed to its success in one way or another. If Linus started doing this kind of stuff, we would then be represented by his actions, and there would be a tremendous backlash from the community.

But, Linus wouldn't do this, because he is smart. He understands that Linux represents much more than just himself. It represents the thousands of diverse individuals from every race, gender, faith, and political orientation, who have all collaborated toward its success. Every single imaginable kind of political viewpoint is represented in the Linux and free software contributor-base.

So why does the GNU-Darwin guy get away with this? The answer is: because it's a fringe operating system with a leader who is more interested in abusing the project to get his radical views to a larger audience. Mr. Love does not worry about alienating his contributors, users, and advocates, because he prioritizes his politics above the community around his software. I won't judge him for his actions, but I certainly won't advocate his stuff, either.

Most of GNU-Darwin's future potential contributors are either not as extreme in their views as he is, disagree with him completely, or fear being attached to his views in any way for a variety of reasons. Who wants to be associated with that kind of partisanship, except fellow extremists? Thus, he has limited his contributor and user base to those who are willing to associate themselves with his publicly-known political views.

What's next? Will the leader of another free software project come out protesting against Islamic people? Or perhaps we'll start seeing websites taken down for a day or two in protest of homosexual marriage. Give me a break! Is this what free software is about? I always thought it was about freedom, open-ness, collaboration and quality code.

So long, GNU-Darwin, and thanks for all the fish. I'm sticking with the politically-neutral Linux kernel.

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