Froma Harrop, your OpEd piece on Aaron Swartz today has brought me out of a blogging hiatus to respond. I feel compelled in the name of combatting the clueless views you espouse in your article.
Ironically today is MLK day- a day to celebrate a man who challenged a population to change, stood up against a crappy system and died doing it. You rest in the cozy assertion that “Aaron committed real crimes.” Guess what: the sit-ins and protests of the 60′s broke laws at the time but they were in pursuit of challenging a broken system and advancing a just and higher cause. Aaron Swartz’s “liberation” of the PACER civil info and subsequently the JSTOR academic docs was an honorable public protest that wound up killing him and he should be revered as a figure like MLK who died in pursuit of pushing this world to be a better place. I wish he would have lived longer to figure out how to fix the software patent system and liberate all the beneficial IP that’s currently imprisoned under an arcane and broken system.
A thicker-skinned individual perhaps would have better weathered the prospect of a lifetime in jail for this protest. You could argue that he knew the consequences going into it and he chose to accept that risk. The fact he suffered depression and therefore was more susceptible to thoughts of suicide is consequential, etc, etc. The point is that the prosecution saw opportunity to target this kid, “rack him in front of the village” and make him an example to warn anyone else thinking of doing something similar. Meanwhile, the architects of the US financial crisis who committed truly damaging, societal-underming crimes for personal gain at the expense of decimating an entire nation and generation are driving around in sports cars and cashing bonuses from bail out money. It’s an issue of perverted civil punitive priorities and abuses of undue force by government officials. And it’s all sickening.
There have been numerous thoughtful pieces on this kid’s story (here, here, here, here, here, here & here) so I’m not going to rehash any more other than to say, you add nothing substantive to this conversation. Like the typical AZ Joe Arpaio Rambo-fuck-you, small-minded attitude of dealing with issues like this, your stance on Aaron Swartz sweeps the real problem under the table. The fact is flagrant, truly-detrimental crimes go unpunished while a young guy who has the guts to “break the animals out of the zoo” gets the Secret Service sicced on him because he’s a progressive muckraker who challenges authority. I don’t expect quality journalism from AZcentral at this point. Your homepage is a sleazy quilt of Enquirer-type gossip, traffic accident reports, deal chicken offers and weekend party photos devoid of any meaningful though-provoking stories so your level of journalism is to be expected I suppose. But don’t tarnish this kid’s memory by kowtowing to your status quo readership and diminishing what he did in hopes of sounding smart.
If any programmers out there have the wherewithal to create a greasemonkey Firefox add-on that redraws Froma Harrop’s pieces as the pile of monkey poop that they are, I will happily fund that effort.