Thursday, August 01, 2002
Whatever Happened to "Free Speech"

Okay, so it's a play on "Whatever happened to 'The Nashville'?", a phrase a friend once used in referring to Jason and the (Nashville) Scorchers (for whom I once worked live sound many many years ago. Like before they even had a record contract. Drifting back, I can't help but recall going to the Krystal at, what, one? two? in the morning with some of the Scorchers -- maybe they were in The Electric Boys then or some other band whose name I can't recall -- but I distinctly recall a very loosened up one of them taking two of his small hot square hamburger objects, deconstructing them, and using them to color his face, war-paint style, with mustard. But I digress).

But, I was recently looking through an O'Reilly catalog (sent via snail mail to me probably because of my name on some IEEE mailing list they, or someone marketing for them, had bought), and I noticed that some book about Mr. Richard Stallman has the title "Free as in Freedom".

When did this happen? When did "free as in 'free speech', not 'free beer' " become "free as in 'freedom' "? What genius -- and let's be honest, there are many -- at the Free Software Foundation -- or elsewhere -- made this substantive change from what had been an honest, heartfelt, spontaneous slogan to something with dot dot dot gravity. Or should that be "dot dot dot gravitas"?

Now to be fair, I haven't read the book, and the change might be discussed right there in that spot. But to someone who's watched the GNU/FSF/Stallman thing evolve over the years, it just seems a shame to see such a clear statement of a concept, "free as in 'free speech', not 'free beer'," get blurred with the less clear but more grandiose "free as in 'freedom' " schtick.

p.s. Does Stallman still wear his "Impeach God" button everywhere?

p.p.s. RMS, if you're reading this (ha!).... I'm the guy who gave you a copy of The Fall by Albert Camus. Sometime in 1982, down in Lettvin's lab.