Aaron Swartz’s death is a tragedy and I will leave it to people that knew him to eulogize him.
However, this article eloquently describes one source of uneasiness that has been growing in me for a while. I think I’d sum it up as follows, the status quo has grown too strong.
In today’s world, HSBC can launder money for drug dealers and illegally do business with Iran and avoids prosecution because it could upset our economy. Yet, we throw people in prison by the boatload for possessing marijuana. Or worse, we throw Bradley Manning in prison for years before giving him a trial and threaten Aaron with decades in prison for downloading documents that were available to anyone at MIT.
Whether you (or I) agree with any of these specific cases is immaterial. The point is the law seems to protect the status quo rather than the people. Whether that’s giving a bank a slap on the wrist, or working against the occupy protesters, the result is the same.
This country needs disruptors. If we set up a system that pushes them out or worse forces them into neat little boxes, then we’ve all really lost something.
From his Family and Partner :
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
From the Washington Post :
I worry that Swartz’s prosecution is a sign that America is gradually losing the sense of humor that has made it the home of the world’s innovators and misfits. A generation ago, we hailed Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg as a hero. Today, our government throws the book at whistleblowers for leaking much less consequential information.