Noted MIT Computer Scientist Defends Jeffrey Epstein in Leaked Emails

Richard Stallman has a history of troubling statements, which may be at an end

The Stata Center at MIT
MIT's Stata Center houses the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
Jim Downing/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / September 14, 2019 1:27 pm

Richard Stallman is a noted alumnus of MIT who remains listed as a Visiting Scientist at the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). In the world of free software, he’s considered one of the earliest pioneers. He also helped develop the GNU Project, which has had a significant impact on the development of computers and technology.

Now for the bad part — and it’s really, really bad: Stallman has some very troubling opinions on the subject of Jeffrey Epstein, along with a host of related subjects. MIT graduate and engineer Selam Jie Gano was the first to raise the alarm about this, with a long post on Medium quoting an email Stallman recently sent to the CSAIL mailing list and exploring other deeply dodgy things he’s said and done in the past. 

Stallman’s email in question is presented as a defense of the late Marvin Minsky, who was accused of having raped Virginia Giuffre on Epstein’s island compound at a time when Minsky was 73 and Giuffre was 17. “We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing,” Stallman wrote. “Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.”

It gets worse from there. At The Daily Beast, Blake Montgomery delved further into Stallman’s history of troubling statements. This includes a number of blog posts written over the years on things like age of consent laws and pedophilia in general. 

Stallman has, as of earlier today, posted an update on his blog (dated 14 September 2019) stating that his thinking on pedophilia has changed and that he’s now aware of the damage it does. He writes, in part, “I think adults should not do that. I am grateful for the conversations that enabled me to understand why.”

Late in her Medium post, Gano raises a very good question: “Why do we ponder the low enrollment of female and minority graduate students at MIT with one hand and endorse shitty men in science with the other?“ Montgomery’s article points out that Stallman wasn’t exactly private about his opinions in the past, making the whole situation even more unsettling.

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