Thursday, January 17, 2013

"I don't want to be happy, I just want to change the world" ~ Aaron Swartz


How can you tell whether you are losing your touch or have simply stopped giving a crap? Is it the slow march of time or maybe I'm just longing for the days when the word "conservative" wasn't an antonym for "intellectual"? Maybe I'm just bummed out that a guy like this chose to take his own life rather than put up with the bullshit we've all grown so accustomed to.

Aaron Swartz was a true wonder-kid that grew up to be humanitarian. After helping invent the web backbone known as RSS "Really Simple Sharing" while most teens are still in high school, he made a lot of money working with Reddit and decided to use his gifts and money to do some good. He was a champion of the open access movement and that was the motivation behind his "crime" which he likened to "checking too many books out of the library at a time". The law describes it differently and, from the 35 years in prison Aaron was facing, considered it a crime worse than helping Al Qaeda design a nuclear weapon.

Sure, he 'violated intellectual property rights' of the corporation that blah, blah, blah. Tell me what part of human knowledge isn't derivative? But he didn't access anything that he didn't have authority to access and that's why the prosecution's case amounts to one big breach in the 'terms of service' agreement he signed by clicking that ubiquitous "Accept" button we all move through blindly these days.

If anything this should have been a civil matter between MIT and Aaron. We need our best and brightest out solving problems and creating industry, not rotting behind bars. Reason and justice should have prevailed but they were nowhere to be found. His attorney Elliot Petters described it like this, “There was such rigidity with the people we were dealing with. I couldn’t find anyone in that office to talk about proportionality and humanity. It was driven by a desire to turn this into a significant case, so that some prosecutor could put it in his portfolio."

It was almost like the government was out to get him. It's not like he ever got in their way or anything. But in a world where bankers can commit any crime, where torture advocates get cushy jobs at Berkeley, and the best and the brightest are ground down to Soylent Green, I've got to tell you that we live in a land where justice is a game.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was a criminal matter, not a civil matter. Still, I think the Feds went after him with all guns blazing. His attorneys may have put the squeeze on him as well, further exacerbating his depression and mental decline. Had Aaron tried to be happy instead of so dogmatic he might have lived to beat the Feds at their own game. Finally, Aaron Swartz suffered from depression and was on a downward spiral theses last few years. Depression is an awful disease, but in spite of how bad it is I am sure Mr. Swartz didn't take his meds because he was afraid it would dull his intellect. Suffering from depression myself, I don't blame him, but I take them anyway. Some people are just hardwired differently than the rest of us.

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