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RIP Aaron Swartz 1986-2013, Internet Activist

January 15, 2013
English: Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event.

English: Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are moved to act, please call
the President’s Office:
the Attorney General’s Office:
U.S. Attorney Massachusetts:


by guest blogger Grant Marcus 1/14/13

Aaron Swartz, activist, founder of, and graduate Fellow of the Harvard Ethics Center,  committed suicide by hanging, in New York on January 11, 2013.  Born on Nov. 8, 1986, he was just 26.The digital activist and “Reddit” first-team employee became despondent over facing jail time, and his limited funds to fight off relentless U.S. attorneys.
  In this case, the Justice Department reveals itself.  It has
shown us that bank fraud is too big to fail, while vulnerable activists like Aaron Swartz can, through bullying and intimidation, be made too small to succeed, or even survive.
Already struggling with depression, the pressure was too much, and sent him over the edge.
Swartz was a fiery proponent of Internet freedom.He was a co-creator of the RSS 1.0 standard, and he was an engaging public speaker, leading the way in challenging corporate dominance of the Internet.
The Demandprogress website points to the fact that, “Aaron’s legal troubles began approximately commensurate with the launch of that anti-COICA petition,” which fought against a complete corporate takeover of the Internet.”Persecution by an institutionally corrupted criminal justice system weighed heavily on him throughout the last two years, and certainly more so of late.”Swartz was in the news in 2011 for allegedly taking 4 million
documents from JSTOR, an online aggregator of scientific journals.
The U.S. Attorney, Carmen Ortiz from Massachusetts charged him
with computer fraud to which he plead not guilty.  JSTOR refused to
press charges, but the U.S. Attorney’s office mercilessly pursued
the case regardless.The Justice Department kept watch on Swartz 24/7, and in
Gastapoish fashion, harassed him frequently to accept deals that
would include up to 35 years in prison.  Many believe that because
of Swartz’ demands for Internet freedom, he was made a political
domestic example by the Obama administration–much like Man-
ning has been made example of by the Military Industrial Com-
plex, under Obama–with both threatening the exclusionary right
of government, and the wealth and power it represents.Aaron’s family released a statement Saturday saying MIT and
the US attorney’s office in Massachusetts contributed to Swartz’s
death through “intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”In a speech (seen in full Monday, on DemocracyNow!) Swartz
attacked the “control” of the Internet corporations were push-
ing through Congress, via their lobbyists, representing the larg-
est telecommunication conglomerates in the world.  He
lead the way in drawing the nation’s attention to Internet bills
before Congress, such as SOPA and PIPA.  He was considered
a catalyst in getting more progressive legislation enacted.  And he
was also seen as a direct domestic threat to the status quo or
America Inc. Coincidentally,  the U.S. prosecutors brought the
case against him when his petiion against COICA went on-line.
Most Americans feel the last remaining bastion of free speech
is the Internet.

Aaron had allegedly downloaded information from the JSTOR
web site as a form of protest–as the on-line store was charging
for public scientific documents that had already been paid for
by the U.S. taxpayer.

On DemocracyNow! Swartz made it clear that he felt this
information should be free public knowledge.  And further,
that its cost was, in effect, the censorship of free speech com-
mitted on those who could not afford to pay twice for substance.
Swartz would not be the first or last to challenge patents on
information.  Referring to ideas as a flow of nature, Thomas Jef-
ferson wrote in 1813 that, “ideas should freely spread from one
to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction
of man, and improvement of his condition”  Jefferson concluded,
“Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property…
without claim or complaint from anybody.”

Perhaps Jefferson had insight to what awaited us, when  gray-
haired lawmakers and corporate Lobbyists would be so intwined
in emperor’s clothes, they could no longer make common sense;
but rather twist, restrict, and fabricate the free flow of democratic
information.  Aaron Swartz was just following Jefferson’s suggestion,
trying to patch or right some of those loopholes of corruption for
the benefit of each of us.  After all, he spent his short life doing just

Swartz’ death prompted the inventor of the web, Sir Tim
Bermers-Lee to eulogize: “Aaron dead. World wanderers, we
have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down.
Parents all, we have lost a child.  Let us weep.”

Harvard professor Lawrence.Lessig: “, who worked with,
and befreinded Aaron as a co-Fellow at Harvard said, “The
question this government needs to answer is why it was so
necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a ‘felon.’ For in the
18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing
to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million
dollar trial in April …I get how the prospect of this fight,
defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled
boy to end it.”

Cory Doctorow, a copyright reform activist and sci-fi writer–
who knew Aaron when he was just 15, while living in San Fran-
cisco, commented:  “He belonged in the place where your
thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you
are…A lot of people are speculating that Aaron killed himself
because he was worried about doing time. That might be so.
Imprisonment is one of my most visceral terrors, and it’s at least
credible that fear of losing his liberty, of being subjected to vio-
lence (and perhaps sexual violence) in prison, was what drove
Aaron to take this step…”

“The “hacktivist” group Anonymous has stepped in, and in
Swartz’ honor, has attacked websites run by the Massachsetts
Institute of Technology following Aaron’s suicide.  Annony-
mous produced this statement on the MIT website:

MIT announced Monday that it will now hold an investigation into the handling of the Aaron Swartz case.

On the heals of American Nazi justice, The Huffington Post commented:  “The sharing of information is a greater crime than bringing down the economy”–or for that matter, prosecuting for torture, or challenging the Supreme Court’s ruling of corporate personhood, or the legality of drone attacks…the list goes on ..

Alternet lists the top ten crimes U.S. attorneys do nothing a- bout, or which receive far less attention demanded of Swartz. Some of these crimes, says Alternet, “carry lighter sentences than Aaron Swartz faced, including man-slaughter, the selling of slaves, genocidal eugenics, helping Bin Laden develop nuclear weapons…”

(One need only refer to the 35 counts Kucinich had in his
congressional bill against the previous Bush/Cheney cabal).

The bullying by the U.S. DA was simply inappropriate to the crime(s)
committed, that served to put a rope around Swartz’ neck, and
pull out the life from under him.

Swartz death should show us that we are all Jews in fascist

We wear the black, brown yellow, red, pink, and rag-
ged armbands of the powerless, whose inequality can be at-
tacked by the powerful for whatever reason.  Let us never for-
get the death of Aaron Swartz by this USS regime. If we do
not remember his death together, we will all fall eventually.  His
death is no less than America’s version of Ann Frank–from
its wars on indigenous peoples around the globe to its war on
drugs, to its war on the political poor, which includes the
growing numbers of the rest of us.  Long live Aaron Swartz.

Clay Shirky, professor at New York University’s interactive
telecommunications programme  mournfully stated, “What was so
striking about Aaron is that he always wanted to solve the hard-
er problem, not just to find some issue-specific workaround, but
to understand how whatever system he was thinking about
worked, and then to understand how to make it work better for
all of us, however unusual such changes might be. He will be
missed, both for who he was but also for all the good things
he was clearly planning but will never do.”

Let we too remember Aaron by remembering Cervantes wind- mill chaser Don Quiote, who said, “No one should die just like that.”

Yes, remembering Aaron means that none of us should die with-
out taking the courage to stand up and make a difference, and
that difference being the surety of freedom for all of us and not
just the few.  We too, should not die “just like that,” as we must
not let Aaron’s life die in vain either.  He HAS made a difference
for each of us.  Let’s honor him by doing the same in our lives,
toward the betterment of the lives of ALL Americans.  Isn’t this the
ideal Aaron Swartz was striving for, before the U.S.S. Attorneys
Office in Massachusettes bullied him into a rope around his
neck, and aborted his life?

Anyone who fights for democracy, who fights for the middle
class, and the poor, for individual rights, for the environment, for
peace instead of war, for the freedom of shared information, and
yes, for justice and democracy in America, for young and old,
and for all races and genders–

We are all Aaron Swartz.

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