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Aaron Swartz committed suicide for reasons unacceptable to me. Please listen to Amy Goodman's coverage of his life and a speech he gave in 2010.

I can not imagine that here at dailykos are not people who knew him and know about his social justice activism, his achievements as a cyber programmer and activist.

I would beg writers here to cover his life and memorialize him. I can't ask you to follow me over the orange curly, as it is not me who can speak intelligently and sensitively about his life, but I am sure some of you can. Please. This young man shouldn't be forgotten.

With apologies to leave this space empty for others to write about him, who knew him, knew his work and can judge what his death stands for.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The link to DemocracyNow (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is here

    I'm truly sorry Man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union--Robert Burns

    by Eric Blair on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:19:37 AM PST

  •  some coverage (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZenTrainer, mimi, gooderservice, Smoh

    The billions of snippets of sadness and bewilderment spinning across the Net confirm who this amazing boy was to all of us. But as I’ve read these aches, there’s one strain I wish we could resist:

    Please don’t pathologize this story.

    No doubt it is a certain crazy that brings a person as loved as Aaron was loved (and he was surrounded in NY by people who loved him) to do what Aaron did. It angers me that he did what he did. But if we’re going to learn from this, we can’t let slide what brought him here.
    When he was 14 years old, Aaron helped develop the RSS standard; he went on to found Infogami, which became part of Reddit. But more than anything Aaron was a coder with a conscience: a tireless and talented hacker who poured his energy into issues like network neutrality, copyright reform and information freedom.  Among countless causes, he worked with Larry Lessig at the launch of the Creative Commons, architected the Internet Archive’s free public catalog of books,, and in 2010 founded Demand Progress, a non-profit group that helped drive successful grassroots opposition to SOPA last year.


    It couldn’t have helped that he faced a looming federal criminal trial in Boston on hacking and fraud charges, over a headstrong stunt in which he arranged to download millions of academic articles from the JSTOR subscription database for free from September 2010 to January 2011, with plans to release them to the public.

    JSTOR provides searchable, digitized copies of academic journals online. MIT had a subscription to the database, so Aaron brought a laptop onto MIT’s campus, plugged it into the student network and ran a script


    The JSTOR hack was not Aaron’s first experiment in liberating costly public documents. In 2008, the federal court system briefly allowed free access to its court records system, Pacer, which normally charged the public eight cents per page. The free access was only available from computers at 17 libraries across the country, so Aaron went to one of them and installed a small PERL script he had written that cycled sequentially through case numbers, requesting a new document from Pacer every three seconds, and uploading it to the cloud. Aaron pulled nearly 20 million pages of public court documents, which are now available for free on the Internet Archive.

    The FBI investigated that hack, but in the end no charges were filed. Aaron wasn’t so lucky with the JSTOR matter.
    Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.


    Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.

    One word, and endless tears.

  •  and here is his blog (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gooderservice, Pete Dunkelberg

    Aaron Swartz

    Of course the one link they picked in the LA Times is his entry about his depression.


    Listen to the interview with Lawrence Lessig with Amy Goodman this morning and what he says about how to "put depression into context with his suicide, ie NOT accepting it.

  •  He was wrong to do what he did (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    distraught, Lasgalen Lothir

    But prosecutors shouldn't string together multiple charges that way. Think Progress has him on their front page right now, with a list of charges carrying lighter sentences, which includes murder and slavery.

    by DAISHI on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:27:18 AM PST

    •  There is some question as to how wrong he was. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gooderservice, mimi

      I think he might have had guest privilages at MIT, which included computer access.

      I don't think there is a question of how wrong the prosecutors were.

      Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

      by ZenTrainer on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:30:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  JSTOR (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lasgalen Lothir

        pretty firmly lays out that all use is either individual or for classroom assignment. The largest possible distribution is for a workshop, and no program can be used to download JSTOR files under any circumstances.

        Among other prohibited uses:
        "(g) undertake coordinated or systematic activity between or among two or more individuals and/or entities that, in the aggregate, constitutes downloading and/or distributing a significant portion of the Content"

        by DAISHI on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:41:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  and JSTOR didn't want him prosecuted. nt (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gooderservice, SCFrog, ZenTrainer
          •  I know (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lasgalen Lothir

            See the previous point, that the prosecutors are obviously overeager. However, the fact that MIT was unclear on how to proceed gave the prosecutors their window.


            by DAISHI on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 08:23:04 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  re (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I had read your first comment and Rec'd it. But I think your second comment implied that JSTOR wanted the prosecution because their user agreement was violated, and so I made that comment.

              Personally, I have a hard time saying that "he was wrong" to (break the law to) try to make our scientific knowledge available for free. Was it illegal? Yes. But was it immoral? I think no. Maybe he wasn't considering the difficulties that publishers face, but I doubt his plans would have put anyone out of business.

          •  That's irrelevant, actually. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            At the point that a crime is committed, the victim of said crime (in this case, both MIT and JSTOR), become irrelevant to the process because, in the theory of the law, the crime is against the state.

            JSTOR can choose not to sue, but they really can't direct the prosecutor's office.

            And, frankly, we want things that way.

    •  yes this is a little (0+ / 0-)

      like saying, if someone the police are out to get for some other reason is shot for jaywalking, that while it was "wrong" of her to cross against the light, it was also wrong to shoot him. Everyone jaywalks. Everyone violates the terms of use of web sites - which is all he really did. It's so common that it's basically expected and figured in. It's very hard to see how it's "wrong" in any absolute moral sense.

        or if you want to make the analogy more exact, shot for jaywalking while engaged in an act of explicit civil disobedience - since that was what he was doing. I.e., Gandhi is sitting in the road with some people blocking traffic during the "quit India" campaign, some British soldiers shoots him in the head for violating traffic regulations , and you respond, "while it was wrong for Gandhi to do what he did..."

  •  It takes me time to read about him more (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it's just the shout-out, because I think it's important.

  •  unless you are him, you don't know why (7+ / 0-)

    he committed suicide.  If you've ever been there, you know that

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:30:33 AM PST

    •  Yes, and also the "reasons unacceptable to me" (0+ / 0-)

      line was a tad jarring . . .. and probably unintentionally so.

      Just saying, to me, it distracted me from the main point of the diary to instead start musing about what reasons the diarist * would * find acceptable for suicide.

      •  I had exactly five minutes time to (0+ / 0-)

        write the shout-out. I wrote it directly after having listened to democracy now's coverage. So ... that's why I said I can't write sensitively about his life not having had time to research, read and formulate anything that would be acceptable as a diary.

        What Mindful Nature said is true, but ... that's true in any suicide... and this one came at a point in time that suggest they were reasons to get over the cliff for him that might have been induced by outside forces that were to much to handle for him.

        There is a general theme in here somewhere and that is ... overreach ...

        don't feel like discussing that ... here and now.

    •  agreed (0+ / 0-)

      -You want to change the system, run for office.

      by Deep Texan on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:49:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There were several diaries about this over the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    weekend, at least two that I know of (the ones by UnaSpenser and FishOutofWater) spent time on the Rec List, so the young man's death was certainly not ignored on this site, which is how Mimi's intro reads. It is truly tragic, and a huge loss of talent, but I'm not clear on what the diarist expects. More diaries? Longer ones? How many is enough to honor Aaron's memory? Not being flippant here, but I think Mimi didn't use the search feature before assuming this sad event was not acknowledged at all here.

    „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

    by translatorpro on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 08:21:15 AM PST

    •  OK I am sorry for that, I was offline (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      over the weekend. My bad and my apologies.

    •  Yes, you are right, I had no time to search (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      for previous diaries and I shouldn't have written the shout-out. I was clearly just under "the influence" of what I had listened to this morning ten minutes earlier on the Democracy Now show. As I always am, but to the credit of Democracy Now, I hear there things I otherwise would not. And usually I understand what they are saying and am not distracted by multiple comments that sometimes lead me to confusion.  

      I am very sorry for that. It's just that I have not the time to read dailykos all days. Also, I have to admit, that I find Amy's coverage very good, short and to the point with interviews I appreciate to listen to.

      OK, I will erase this shout-out?  

      I guess not. I want to save the links for later reading.

      •  Not a problem for me, as there is no limit now (0+ / 0-)

        on the number of diaries on any given topic, but you should understand that you might not get a lot of comments because the subject matter was already dealt with pretty thoroughly, including the accusation by his parents that he was driven to suicide.  Since it happened on Friday, it would have been surprising if it had NOT been a topic of much discussion here over the weekend, so you might want to catch up on your reading. :-)

        „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

        by translatorpro on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 11:24:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  well, I wished I could read as much and as (0+ / 0-)

          often as apparently so many of you can do here. I am average, work in a job that doesn't allow me to read and comprehend. My awake hours  (and my nerves) are used up with other stuff. I wished I had the time and strength "to do the research". You know working mom in a minor job. If you live a life that allows you to make a living and read for hours each day blogs on the internet, be happy You are lucky. There certainly millions, who can't afford that.

          Sorry for being emotional.

    •  ok, I read the above linked diary, (0+ / 0-)

      and the one from The Threat of an Informed Public: Where Hackers & Whistleblowers interact

      The comment threads I could live without.

  •  Matt Stoller (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Smoh, peacestpete, mimi

    Matt Stoller:

    Aaron Swartz was my friend, and I will always miss him. I think it’s important that, as we remember him, we remember that Aaron had a much broader agenda than the information freedom fights for which he had become known. Most people have focused on Aaron’s work as an advocate for more open information systems, because that’s what the Feds went after him for, and because he’s well-understood as a technologist who founded Reddit and invented RSS. But I knew a different side of him. I knew Aaron as a political activist interested in health care, financial corruption, and the drug war (we were working on a project on that just before he died). He was a great technologist, for sure, but when we were working together that was not all I saw.

    In 2009, I was working in Rep. Alan Grayson’s office as a policy advisor. We were engaged in fights around the health care bill that eventually became Obamacare, as well as a much narrower but significant fight on auditing the Federal Reserve that eventually became a provision in Dodd-Frank. Aaron came into our office to intern for a few weeks to learn about Congress and how bills were put together. He worked with me on organizing the campaign within the Financial Services Committee to pass the amendment sponsored by Ron Paul and Alan Grayson on transparency at the Fed. He helped with the website, a site dedicated to publicizing the 44,000 Americans that die every year because they don’t have health insurance. Aaron learned about Congress by just spending time there, which seems like an obvious thing to do. Many activists prefer to keep their distance from policymakers, because they are afraid of the complexity of the system and believe that it is inherently corrupting. Aaron, as with much of his endeavors, simply let his curiosity, which he saw as synonymous with brilliance, drive him.

    Aaron also spent a lot of time learning how advocacy and electoral politics works from outside of Congress. He helped found the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that sought to replace existing political consulting machinery in the Democratic Party. At the PCCC, he worked on stopping Ben Bernanke’s reconfirmation (the email Aaron wrote called him “Bailout Ben”), auditing the Fed and passing health care reform. I remember he sent me this video of Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, on Reddit, offering his support to Grayson’s provision. A very small piece of the victory on Fed openness belongs to Aaron.

    Not just a hacker...
    •  Lambert Strether has more (0+ / 0-)

      Taking on Rentiers

      Sound familiar?  For our rentier state then, siphoning rents on intellectual property into private hands is central to mission. Swartz stopped SOPA because his mission (or vision) was radically different:

      There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

      We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

      Which is what Swartz did, and for which he was punished. (empty wheel points to the procedural sloppiness of the charges, but that’s hardly the point when a rentier’s rice bowl is broken, and weak states are lousy at law anyhow.)

      This isn’t a post about intellectual property rights, so I’ll merely present an example of the good that Swartz’s vision can do. As is well known, Swartz wrote the spec for RSS (Really Simple Syndication). At age 14. And so:

      Read the whole piece to understand what is at stake...
      •  RSS: Changing Lives (0+ / 0-)

        Lambert Strether:

        RSS changed our lives

        I need to let the people who knew and loved Aaron know that his work changed my son’s life for the better, forever.

        Diagnosed with autism at age 2, My son’s best help came from the RSS feeds and papers that I could get access to that offered the truth and science about autism. Every morning I read the RSS feeds from academic journals world wide to find out more about my son’s regressive autism, fragile X premutation (which is only known in scientific academic circles) the MTHFR gene and new and critical treatments. Because of his work I was able to find out about UC Davis, about current scientific treatment, and research studies to get us this treatment. My son is now four and his is doing great… BECAUSE of the scientific information I had access to. I have an MLIS. I interned at Elsevier. I have seen all sides of the academic pay wall and I have felt my ignorance around my neck like a boulder, at great cost to my son’s health. But Aaron, you helped us. Thank you. Until we see that the populace will never be scientifically aware UNLESS we have access to the information we will not be able to go from a people of belief to a people of ideas [not a bug].

        In other words, Swartz helped this woman and her son by removing information from the grasp of rentiers. That’s what “open access” means, operationally.  (See also on PACER, where Swartz provided open access to the law.)

        I would now like to dolly back from Swartz’s views on open access, and show how three overlapping lethal systems, each one structured for its own corrupt purposes by our rentier state, narrowed his life chances by piling on risk factors, and set him up for an untimely death. First, I’ll look at the health care system, then at health in the tech community, and finally at health in the technical activist community. In each system, Aaron Swartz was at risk — or the nature of our current arrangements in political economy put him at risk.

        I know many of us have not advanced to this level of understanding and are not on the same page.  Try to step outside the box and understand a different view.
  •  It is not wrong to question herd mentality (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SCFrog, NYFM, mimi

    Two days before his death, JSTOR, the organizational “victim” of Aaron’s theft, not only had declined to press charges against him, but announced that the archives of more than 1,200 of its journals would be available to the public for free.

    Yet, that act of generosity and public spiritedness meant nothing to the  “justice” system, which continued to make Aaron’s life a living hell.

    Another curious aspect of this: Most of us spend a lifetime without ever accomplishing anything like cajoling a huge organization to place the public interest above its own. Are we to believe that, just two days after this very significant victory, instead of being pleased, Aaron was depressed enough to hang himself?

    Catherine Austin-Fitts (Assistant Secretary of Housing in the George H. W. Bush’s Administration:

    “I hate to use a personal example, but I was a former Assistant Secretary of Housing. I had my own business in Washington, and I was helping the Department of Housing and Urban Development, essentially run things clean, and [they] had to get rid of the clean team to run the housing bubble and I was targeted, I was poisoned, I had dead animals left on my doorstep, and my home had been broken into and people trying to run me off the road.  You know it was very, very violent and it went on for years.  So people who try to run the government clean or run Wall Street clean are targeted, and literally have to fear for their lives.  I mean, people have been dying, so you know, it’s a very, very dangerous situation..."
    Aaron was a strong and effective threat to the status quo. Aaron was harassed by the press and FBI and legal system. Aaron met an untimely death.

    How he died, I do not know. But it might be worthwhile to take note of which voices are strident in insisting we not examine the question, and repeat the same obvious tactics in trying to force upon us a morally dull consensus reality.

    Resistance Is Fertile - Occupy

    by Sean X on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 08:46:18 AM PST

  •  University & College libraries pay a lot... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...for JSTOR access.  I mean, a LOT.

    I worked for my university's library's acquisitions department during JSTOR's infancy, when we were just joining the project.  It has since grown quite a bit.

    Its subscription rates to university and college libraries is its business model.  By stealing (and let's make no mistake about this--it's a theft, pure and simple) the database and making it public, Aaron Swartz was taking money out of a fairly small organization's hands.

    Moreover, he was stealing from the good guys.  Had he been stealing Elsevier (the big dog in academic publishing), maybe I'd be sympathetic, but JSTOR started as a consortium of universities and colleges joining together to combat Elsevier's (and others') journal subscription price increases.

    And furthermore, who suicides over this?  No, there was something else here.  Young men--even (or especially) smart young men--often have volatile personal lives.

  •  Per Wikipedia: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, mimi

    This wasn't David vs. Goliath:

    JSTOR was originally conceived as a solution to one of the problems faced by libraries, especially research and university libraries, due to the increasing number of academic journals in existence...

    Most libraries found it prohibitively expensive in terms of cost and space to maintain a comprehensive collection of journals. By digitizing many journal titles, JSTOR allowed libraries to outsource the storage of these journals with the confidence that they would remain available for the long term. Online access and full-text search ability improved access dramatically.

    JSTOR was initiated in 1995 at seven different library sites, and originally encompassed ten economics and history journals. JSTOR access was improved based on feedback from its initial sites, and it became a fully searchable index accessible from any ordinary Web browser. Special software was put in place to make pictures and graphs clear and readable.

    With the success of this limited project, Bowen and Kevin Guthrie, then-president of JSTOR, were interested in expanding the number of participating journals. They met with representatives of the Royal Society of London, and an agreement was made to digitize the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society back to its beginning in 1665. The work of adding these volumes to JSTOR was completed by December 2000.

    JSTOR was originally funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and until January 2009, was an independent, self-sustaining not-for-profit organization with offices in New York City and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Then, JSTOR merged with ITHAKA, becoming part of that organization. ITHAKA is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 "dedicated to helping the academic community take full advantage of rapidly advancing information and networking technologies.

    The fact is that JSTOR is accessible to anyone in the public who goes into an academic library that pays for it.  Period.  There's no cost, other than going to a library that has access.
  •  Carmen Ortiz apparently wants to be MA governor (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    No one with her propensity to abuse of power and government intimidation should have a role in public life.

    I signed the online WH petition to fire her, fully knowing that it will do nothing. Obama likes the law the way it is. (He also likes assassination lists, FISA and NDAA) But we can at least try to meet the 25,000 threshold that requires an official response. Again, meaningless, but on the record.

    Progressives have a real dilemma: we can't protect our side from THEM. Bradley Manning, Assange, Occupiers tracked by FBI and a long legacy of official intimidations intended to lead to submission or suicide.

    We need to start working on this....

  •  no sympathy (0+ / 0-)

    The man was a criminal.

    He knowingly committed those crimes.

    He was to small to own-up to what he had done.

    Swartz's acts were economic terrorism. He did not swipe a single paper and post everywhere as a statement. No, he hundreds of thousands of papers, millions maybe. He put in jeopardy the lively hods of thousands.

    It is as if he wanted everyone to own a Ford Explorer, so he goes to the Ford plant and seals 20 or 30,000 Explorers that are sitting there, then burns down the plant. As I said economic terrorism.

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