The Great Schism Continues and the Rift Grows Wider

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 18591

It has happened again. Just like water seeps into cracks in rocks and freezes in the cold, splitting them apart…so has an ideal begun to chip away at Linux. In my previous post on this subject I talked about how Linux was beginning to be categorized. Not in the normal categories you would think…but in demographic and social categories. Linux is beginning to become associated with political ideas and social idealism. Political Correctness and concepts of sexism have flexed their muscle from within Debian.

The Debian Women’s Group (link broken at the time of this article) have spoke yet again against something considered sexist. Instead of being sexist language in a file…we have something a bit different. Newsforge reported on a small program that had been submitted for packaging called Hotbabe, which is a graphical representation of CPU activity. It depicts a cartoon woman who strips off clothing with higher CPU activity and is based on the artwork of Bruno Bellamy, a French cartoonist. The synopsis of what happened is this: Someone didn’t like the fact that this could be considered sexist or erotica…so they submitted a bug to the list and started a thread on the Debian Women’s Mailing list. A BUG!?!?? Since when did content become a “bug”? For that matter, where in Debian Policy does it say that a package must contain content that is unoffensive to all groups?? Wouldn’t that defeat the concept of free software and uncensored free software?

The thing that really gets me going isn’t the fact that people have a problem with this package. It’s the fact that they abused the system and submitted a BUG for their problem. First off, this isn’t a bug. The second thing they did wrong was complain about it via the BUGLIST itself. There are proper channels for this discussion and this wasn’t one of them. If you have a problem with this software…don’t use it.? Problem solved.

I think that this whole discussion has gone a bit too far. The “bug” should have never been allowed to be submitted because it deals NOTHING with how the program works or doesn’t work. The package should never have been contended in any capacity other than unofficial because it goes against the submitters’ rights to have his software included…there are NO guidlines in Debian that prevent him/her from doing so.

This whole situation further proves what I observed on November 5th, 2004…that Linux has become chock full of social and political divisions…something it was NEVER supposed to be full of. Let me give you an example. I was associated in 1995 with development of an IRC script for use with IRC. There were about 6 of us that worked on this script that offered DCC handling and general security. Out of the 6 people I worked on this with…I knew the gender of ONE PERSON. The reason I knew this person is because they hung out in the same IRC channel that I did for about a year previous and he had introduced me to the project…the rest of the people I knew only by nickname and email…they could have been male or female. I really didn’t care either…as long as the script was completed and was bugfree. This is how things USED to be. This IMHO is how open source should be.

Yet today, we see the influence of the few causing strife for the many. BUGS being submitted for moral, social, and political reasons will most likely continue to be submitted. People will continue to divide themselves up until we have Linux categorized in tidy little sections that cater to each person’s moral codes.? Unfortunate but preventable. Preventable in only one way…we need to stick to the ideals of the Free Software Foundation:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Emphasis was mine above. For any purpose is entertainment, professional use, or whatever purpose the end user has. Hotbabe complies with free software by definition and should be considered an addition to Debian without objection. If there are moral or other objections to its inclusion, they should be discussed through unofficial channels. If someone objects to the inclusion of this package…they should just NOT USE IT. Think of what would happen if this package weren’t allowed due to moral objection…we’d have a huge task on our hands of censoring software…ALL SOFTWARE. We’d have to go back through all repositories and find all software that could be offensive and we’d have to remove it. Not only is it a silly concept but it boggles the mind to even consider it. We need to remember what free software, open source, and individual choice are all about and NOT categorize Linux any further.

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devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix administrator, a Technical Writer, and a System Analyst during his 10 years working with Technology.