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Computers Linux

Do we have a say in who uses Free software?

Recently, Clem (the lead developer on Linux Mint, which is based on Ubuntu) posted a blog entry asking that supporters of the Israeli government actions against Palestine refrain from using and donating to Linux Mint. He has since removed the entry from his blog.

A couple of years ago, there was an uproar in the Ubuntu community over a user-modified version of Ubuntu called Ubuntu Christian Edition, and similar outrage expressed over a couple supposedly racist versions of Ubuntu.

These incidents all bring up the question “If software freedom means anyone can modify the source and redistribute the software, does that really mean anyone?”

I certainly have my strong political opinions, but I don’t think I would ever post a blog saying racist, antifeminist, anti-Christian, conservative, warmongering homophobes are not welcome to use my Psychocats tutorials in order to get Ubuntu up and running.

Maybe it’s the Christian in me, but I feel that I’m meant to love everyone, especially those I disagree with. I believe Clem has good intentions. He is also probably misguided, though, in his actions and may end up alienating people from Linux Mint rather than making for any real change in Israel and Palestine.

I actually look back fondly on arguments I’ve had with other Ubuntu Forums members. As a feminist who subscribes to more progressive race and gender theories, I definitely was not in the majority in most politically-oriented discussions. Nevertheless, I felt a certain camaraderie with these folks because we all use Ubuntu together. Some are more conservative. Some are more liberal. Some like guns. Some abhor guns. Some are men. Some are women. Some are straight. Some are gay. Some are in the US. Some are in Europe. Some are in Asia. We’re of different ages and economic backgrounds. And that’s a good thing, I think.

Economic sanctions do sometimes have their place, but I think that Linux Mint not being used in Israel will hardly stop the violence. You have to be a country or a multibillion-dollar corporation to make that kind of difference with sanctions.

Clem, I’m definitely not pro-Israel (and I’m sad that some people mistake being against Zionism or the Israeli government for being anti-Semitic). I’m an American, and I can definitely understand people being opposed to US governmental actions without being anti-American-citizen. Hell, even a lot of Americans disagree with the US government (that’s one of the freedoms we’re supposed to be proud of as Americans). Still, I wish you would just welcome everyone back to Linux Mint with open arms. I don’t use Mint personally, but I do recommend it to a lot of new users.