"He really seems to be a f***ing moron," Linux creator Linus Torvalds wrote of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney late last night on Google+, using two fewer asterisks than you see here.
The assessment was in response to Romney's much-ridiculed suggestion - some say it was a joke -- that air passengers should be able to open aircraft windows in an emergency such as the one recently experienced by his wife. It also comes about three weeks after Torvalds used his Google+ soapbox to call Romney's religion, Mormonism, "bats**t crazy."
The overwhelming majority of 400 mostly white-hot comments on last night's post are supportive of both Torvalds' right to speak his political mind and his criticism of Romney, however crude the latter may have been. (Example: "Romney really seems to be a f***ing moron. Hey, we can't all be wrong, can we?")
However, there are also a number of individuals who appreciate neither. (Example: "Tell you what. I won't ask Mitt how to recompile my kernel if Linus doesn't tell me how to vote.")
Personally, I don't have any problem with Torvalds expressing political and religious views in a public forum. However, the vitriol and obscenities are unprofessional at best. And the open question is whether having Torvalds toss these haymakers and stoke flame wars reflects poorly on the Linux community that he leads.
In the comments on that Google+ post, David Stilson, an IT professional from San Diego writes: "I am surprised to see all of these visceral attacks on Romney and each other. When did all the Linux nerds lose their logical approach to problem solving? People install Linux in part due to the fact that they are joining a community of supportive users. If you were new to Linux would you install it after reading these posts?"
As he did in his anti-Mormonism screed, Torvalds has dismissed criticism of such outspokenness as being grounded in "idiotic politically correct fears."
But he seems to have changed his tenor on the matter over the years. Four years ago, when Torvalds started a personal blog smack-dab in the middle of our last presidential election run-up, the native of Finland authored a post headlined "Stranger in a strange land." In that essay he compared Finland's political system and dialogue with that of the United States, where he and his family had already lived for more than a decade. Here's an excerpt:
But then voting season comes and reminds you that all those Americans that are individually sane and normal tend to be collectively crazy and very odd. And that's when you really notice that you're not in Finland any more.
That's when you also notice that the whole US voting system is apparently expressly designed to be polarizing (winner-take-all electoral system etc). To somebody from Finland, that looks like a rather obvious and fundamental design flaw. In Finland, government is quite commonly a quilt-work of different parties, and the "rainbow coalition" of many many parties working together was the norm for a long time. And it seems to result in much more civilized political behaviour. ...
So you couple a polarizing voting system with a campaign that has to make simplified black-and-white statements, and what do you get?
Ugly, is what you get.
Most of the time I really like living in the US. But voting season sometimes makes you wonder.
Yes it certainly does.
(Update, Sept. 26: After apparently being convinced by those who said Romney was joking, Torvalds reached a different conclusion of sorts later yesterday, adding this post to his Google+ page: "Ok, since I publicly called the guy a f*cking moron, I guess I should also publicly follow up: it does seem Romney was joking." And he later added in comments: "I think it's a version of Poe's law. It's hard to tell when Republicans are joking or serious about being scientifically illiterate.")
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