Some Inspiration From Aaron SwartzSubmitted by MarcMadness on Wed, 01/16/2013 - 09:37
The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins. — Soren Kierkegaard
As much as I would love to seem more hip than I am and claim to have been a big follower of Aaron Swarz’s work and activism before his death, this simply isn’t the case and sadly I’m just not a good liar. But the fact that just about every libertarian activist throughout my social media chains were mourning his loss and touting his work was enough for me to look further into the life and tragic death of this young man. Aaron Swarz a prodigy in the field of internet communication, playing essential roles in the creation of RSS software as well as the website Reddit as a teenager. And this is all one might know about him from glancing through the headlines, most of which read something like “Reddit Co-Founder Dead At 26.”
None of this is why his name and image and videos had seemingly taken over my Facebook news feed for 24 hours or so. Aaron Swarz is hailed by activists not simply for his creative genius or entrepreneurial skill, but rather for his own relentless activism and advocacy of information freedom. We often drive home the importance of educating the masses in order to advance the ideals
of liberty, and nothing has enabled this like the internet and the ability to freely share information that comes along with it. Swarz made a point to target institutions that he felt were stifling the freedom of information, and was not afraid to put himself at great personal risk in order to do so.
I won’t go into the details of the charges he was up against, but Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian has written an excellent piece detailing Swarz’s activism and subsequent harassment by the Justice Department. I also will not speculate about exactly why he committed suicide. Nobody can truly know what goes on in the mind of another person and everyone has demons. But it is clear that, for whatever reason, the Justice Department was pursuing Aaron Swarz for what essentially amounted to a non-crime, with no victim pursuing damages. It was the Justice Department alone that was taking a hard line against Swarz, who was facing several decades in prision and millions of dollars in fines. At the same time, he was a key player in the fight to stop SOPA, the internet censorship bill that Congress attempted to pass earlier this year but was forced to back down from thanks to the public outcry resulting from online viral activism.
It is well worth taking the twenty minutes to listen to Aaron Swarz recount just how SOPA was stopped and how internet censorship has subsequently become a taboo subject for any politician to even attempt.