RIP Aaron Swartz

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Glenn Greenwald:

open quoteSwartz’s activism, I argued, was waged as part of one of the most vigorously contested battles – namely, the war over how the internet is used and who controls the information that flows on it – and that was his real crime in the eyes of the US government: challenging its authority and those of corporate factions to maintain a stranglehold on that information. In that above-referenced speech on SOPA, Swartz discussed the grave dangers to internet freedom and free expression and assembly posed by the government’s efforts to control the internet with expansive interpretations of copyright law and other weapons to limit access to information.

That’s a major part of why I consider him heroic. He wasn’t merely sacrificing himself for a cause. It was a cause of supreme importance to people and movements around the world – internet freedom – and he did it by knowingly confronting the most powerful state and corporate factions because he concluded that was the only way to achieve these ends.

Suicide is an incredibly complicated phenomenon. I didn’t know Swartz nearly well enough even to form an opinion about what drove him to do this; I had a handful of exchanges with him online in which we said nice things about each other’s work and I truly admired him. I’m sure even his closest friends and family are struggling to understand exactly what caused him to defy his will to live by taking his own life.

But, despite his public and very sad writings about battling depression, it only stands to reason that a looming criminal trial that could send him to prison for decades played some role in this; even if it didn’t, this persecution by the DOJ is an outrage and an offense against all things decent, for the reasons Lessig wrote today:

“Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The ‘property’ Aaron had ‘stolen’, we were told, was worth ‘millions of dollars’ — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

“A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

“For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to ‘justice’ never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled ‘felons’.”

Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a “justice” system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation’s most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power.

Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and comfort. He chose instead to fight – selflessly, with conviction and purpose, and at great risk to himself – for noble causes to which he was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn’t an example of heroism; it’s the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It’s the attribute our country has been most lacking.

I always found it genuinely inspiring to watch Swartz exude this courage and commitment at such a young age. His death had better prompt some serious examination of the DOJ’s behavior – both in his case and its warped administration of justice generally. But his death will also hopefully strengthen the inspirational effects of thinking about and understanding the extraordinary acts he undertook in his short life.close quote

2 comments

  1. It was said, “death had better prompt some
    serious examination of the DOJ’s behavior –
    both in his case and its warped administration
    of justice generally.”

    Wishful thinking and fantasy.

    Harken back to Eisenhower’s quote,

    Military-Industrial Complex Speech,
    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
    http://www.h-net.org/~hst306/documents/indust.html

    Throughout America’s adventure in free
    government, our basic purposes have been
    to keep the peace; to foster progress in
    human achievement, and to enhance liberty,
    dignity and integrity among people and among
    nations. To strive for less would be unworthy
    of a free and religious people.

    In the councils of government, we must
    guard against the acquisition of unwarranted
    influence, whether sought or unsought, by
    the military industrial complex. The potential
    for the disastrous rise of misplaced power
    exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this
    combination endanger our liberties or
    democratic processes. We should take
    nothing for granted. Only an alert and
    knowledgeable citizenry can compel the
    proper meshing of the huge industrial and
    military machinery of defense with our
    peaceful methods and goals, so that security
    and liberty may prosper together.

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s
    scholars by Federal employment, project
    allocations, and the power of money is
    ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery
    in respect, as we should, we must also be
    alert to the equal and opposite danger that
    public policy could itself become the captive
    of a scientific technological elite.”
    – – – – – – // – – – –

    Now on top of this empire add Marxism or as
    the economic system has morphed into
    “Social Justice.”

    Ask what is it that these new Marxist
    call “Social Justice?”

    The essence of the new social justice is the destruction
    of an economic system that has actually made life
    better for all humans. Social justice seeks the
    destruction of freedom and free enterprise.

    And this new Marxist Social Justice is lead by a
    demonic demigod as illustrated in his inaugural
    comment: “My friends, we live in the greatest nation in
    the history of the world. I hope you’ll join with
    me, as we change it.”– Barack Obama

    Freedom is being squeezed from many sides.
    How is human freedom to survive?

    The answer is the only way for survival is
    to fight all sides that are attacking freedom.

    One method is preparation. Here is an article to
    help express the situation:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/01/its_the_message_morons.html

    Understand that achievement requires work.

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