Re: Should his freedoms be stifled just because he's famous?
Should his freedoms be stifled just because he's famous?
No, because he represents a larger idea than himself.
To me, that is an exceptionally weak argument for curtailing someone's freedoms.
And the achievements built by the hundreds of GNU maintainers are also precious and valuable and are worthy of protection.
But... It is up to them to speak up for themselves if they disagree with what someone else is saying from within their project.
His opinions on some things are invalid just because he's well [known]?
Not at all, but because sharing his opinions on controversial matters (valid or invalid doesn't matter) unrelated to Free Software risks the stated goal of GNU to empower all computer users.
[Fixed an earlier typo in my quote]. Sorry, but that is still a very weak argument, and perhaps a damaging one as well - but I will get to this point soon (unless the beeping of the dinner bell interrupts me and I forget)
There are more qualified people than RMS to speak out on correct usage, legal terminology and the psychological harms of abuse. His silence on these topics is no loss to the commonweal when set against the potential harm to the GNU project, and others will surely make those arguments if needs be.
Unfortunately not many do, and many who have one of the key qualifications don't because people will tell them it's not their place, they risk damaging their brand etc.
When black/gay/otherminority rights have been fought for, it's not those of us within those minorities who've had any real voice or power. It's famous people who've spoken "out of turn", added their name to the fight, that has helped.
People (some of) the public respect and listen to who've gotten in and said "They're right, we need to change' have brought about a huge change in thinking, whereas us "worthless criminals/scum/etc" within the minorities have been largely ignored. A couple of decades ago, almost every where in the world, non-straight people were perceived as criminals. It took brave people to stand up and speak up, even though they were "unqualified" and "risked damaging their brand". No doubt many careers were harmed, even ruined in the early days. Before that, people were standing up for "black rights" across the USA, risking a lot more than just reputations to stand up for a largely (and very wrongly) despised group of people.
People in minorities stand up, they don;t get heard; they get ignored, jailed, killed. Famous/respected people stand up, they get abused, but also get heard.
That's why it's important to encourage people to speak up for what we believe regardless of whatever "brand damage" may be done. Otherwise, we get disgusting things like the Mozilla guy putting money in to an organisation that was against gay marriage and him getting canned as a result of a very small few vocal people creating an uproar.
Obviously if RMS were not the figurehead of GNU (or until recently FSF) I'd absolutely agree with his speaking freely on any subject and I'd agree with your first para "I don't agree with ... regardless of his position." without qualification.
But, if he were not in some sense 'famous' he'd just be another voice in the wind that could easily be ignored, like many many thousands of other plebs who aren't worth giving a moment's thought or air-time to, unless they violently become some statistic.
I've found honesty is, rather strangely to you perhaps, the greatest basis for trust.
I don't find it strange at all. But a simple evaluation of honesty in the moment of a conversation or other transaction is not always possible.
Perhaps, given the context of the conversation, we're talking longer time-frames here than a quick couple of seconds? And not exactly talking about urgent life-or-death situations either. :)
To return to the psychology aspect, we use courtesy, respect and adherence to norms as a short-hand if imperfect way to judge the trustworthiness of otherwise unknown persons to us, where we cannot independently check the honesty of that person or their statements.
You may, but lots of us don't follow that same chain of thought. Too many "nice, normal, socially adept" people have stabbed us in the back the moment the cameras/other people were looking elsewhere.
In an emergency you don't want to trust the person looking to play social niceties, you want to trust the person who is getting stuff done - generally at least.
It happens all the time, subconciously. You might be rationally evaluating their honesty, but under the hood, you're absorbing the messages from their conduct. You could be misled if they can fake it, but that's not your fault.
The greater people are playing "social niceties" the more likely that you've already been misled :)
(I'd also much rather spend time with people who disagree with me than those who are in full agreement - "iron sharpens iron" etc. We can learn much more by disagreement than by agreement in many cases :) )