If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you may not be aware that Steve Jobs, co-founder and legendary CEO of Apple Inc., has recently died after a long and protracted battle with pancreatic cancer. After the announcement of his death, many news outlets (tech-oriented and otherwise) ran lengthy tributes to a man who has forever (and often disruptively) altered more industries than any other in recent memory.
The day after Jobs’ death, Free Software visionary and GNU Project founder Richard M. Stallman had this to say about the man:
Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.
As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.
Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.
Upon finding this post via Twitter, my immediate reaction was a deep loss of respect for Stallman, a man whose contributions to the Free Software movement cannot be understated. The way that I see it, Stallman and Jobs are one in the same. Both are (or were, in the case of the latter) visionaries, both contributed immeasurably to an industry that employs, informs, and entertains me on a daily basis, and both are/were zealots when it came to their personal opinions about software.
Now I’m not an Apple guy. Far from it, in fact. I don’t own a single Apple product, I use Linux whenever and wherever possible, and I only break from the four essential freedoms when obtaining and enjoying media that cannot be accessed otherwise. But regardless of your thoughts on Steve Jobs, the man deserves your respect.
While Stallman qualified his statement by noting that nobody deserves to die, he also focused his personal fanaticism when it comes to the perceived threat of non-free software directly on the shoulders of one man in a world of many.
There’s something about Freedom that Stallman doesn’t seem to (or want to, as all accounts paint him as a pretty smart dude) understand. It’s a simple point, and one that needs to be reiterated often: Freedom is the right to choose. In politics, in products, and in computing, freedom is the right to choose what is best for you.
Steve Jobs put his ideas and his products into the free market, and paying customers often chose them above those of Stallman. Perhaps those customers got shafted, but when faced with a choice between the freedom to edit configuration files and the beautiful design of an Apple product, they unsurprisingly chose the latter.
That’s freedom, whether you like it or not. Fuck Richard Stallman.