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I weep for Aaron Swartz. Today on Democracy Now Lawrence Lessig gave us insight into this brilliant man who died--hounded to death in the most literal sense of the term 'to hound'--to torment. When asked about Aaron Swartz's depression Lessig said this:

LAWRENCE LESSIG: "Yeah, Aaron was depressed. He was rationally depressed. You know, he was losing everything, because his government was overreaching in the most ridiculous way to persecute him. . . . Of course he was depressed. He wasn’t depressed because he had no loving parents—he did have loving parents who did everything they could for him—or because he didn’t have loving friends. Every time you saw Aaron, he was surrounded by five or 10 different people who loved and respected and worked with him. He was depressed because he was increasingly recognizing that the idealism he brought to this fight maybe wasn’t enough. When he saw all of his wealth gone, and he recognized his parents were going to have to mortgage their house so he could afford a lawyer to fight a government that treated him as if he were a 9/11 terrorist, as if what he was doing was threatening the infrastructure of the United States, when he saw that and he recognized how—how incredibly difficult that fight was going to be, of course he was depressed." (my bold)
Aaron Swartz was not just looking at his own ruin, but the ruin of his parents. How could he possibly have accepted that? What was the only way out, for either him or his parents? He saw only one way.

In this country many face a similar devil's bargain. The person who elects not to be treated because of the debt that treatment will incur, to herself and her family. In those cases the individual's death is a macabre benefit to those who would bear the expense of treating it. What is certain to these victims is that if they stay alive their families will reap a diminished future; maybe they will be homeless. We all try to believe we would chin up and have the bake sales or the appeals to the church or community and we could eke it out. But really can you wager your family will be ruined  because of the perverse circumstance that makes your death a benefit to those you love? Would you wish to survive to witness your family's impoverishment? I can't say that I could.

Aaron Swartz was a victim. His indictment inflicted a punishment before he was ever found guilty of anything.

Originally posted to Marihilda on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 09:25 PM PST.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. Marx

    by Marihilda on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 09:25:45 PM PST

  •  Note how his story (8+ / 0-)

    being labeled a terrorist or near to it, hounded, mirrors how the Occupy movement was treated.

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 09:48:42 PM PST

  •  sobering and thoughtful commentary (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marihilda, AoT, Agathena, worldlotus, Sean X, sfinx
  •  He was far more "dangerous" to the (6+ / 0-)

    government of the US and the status quo than the 9/11 terrorists.

    as if what he was doing was threatening the infrastructure of the United States, when he saw that and he recognized how—how incredibly difficult that fight was going to be, of course he was depressed.
    Freeing information is one of the most powerful acts that we can take, as shown by the governments treatment of people who do it. Swartz, Manning, Assange, etc.
  •  Thank you for your contribution to the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marihilda, AoT, Lucy Montrose

    Aaron Swartz story.

    In his keynote speech on Democracy Now, Aaron tells the story of meeting a Senator who had a friendly politician's smile on his face until Aaron mentioned the internet. The smile dropped, the politician became wild-eyed and shouted that they think they can do anything and we need to get them under control.

    The shouting Senator summed up the government's attitude towards the internet and its heroes like Aaron Swartz.

    ❧To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 10:59:41 PM PST

    •  The suicide story (0+ / 0-)

      puts Aaron under their control, finally.

      If Aaron did not commit suicide, then he was never under their control, except physically, which was their last resort.

      It is not wrong to question herd mentality.

      You may read of Aaron's alleged crimes, but the word "alleged" appears less and less, even though he was never tried and found guilty in a court of law.

      To speak of his "alleged suicide" is of course IMPROPER, once the authorities have made their pronouncement. We need not examine a Medical Examiner's report; it is done.

      Witness the spread, like a drop of black ink into once clear water, of the mental poison.

      Resistance Is Fertile - Occupy

      by Sean X on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 02:15:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Aaron's next-generation electioneering tool (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose, Marihilda, sfinx, AoT

    "I wrote to Aaron for help with Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother to get his ideas on a next-generation electioneering tool that could be used by committed, passionate candidates who didn't want to end up beholden to monied interests and power-brokers. Here's what he wrote back:

         First he decides to take over the whole California Senate, so he can do things at scale. He finds a friend in each Senate district to run and plugs them into a web app he's made for managing their campaigns. It has a database of all the local reporters, so there's lots of local coverage for each of their campaign announcements.

            Then it's just a vote-finding machine. First it goes through your contacts list (via Facebook, twitter, IM, email, etc.) and lets you go down the list and try to recruit everyone to be a supporter. Every supporter is then asked to do the same thing with their contacts list. Once it's done people you know, it has you go after local activists who are likely to be supportive. Once all those people are recruited, it does donors (grabbing the local campaign donor records). And then it moves on to voters and people you could register to vote. All the while, it's doing massive A/B testing to optimize talking points for all these things. So as more calls are made and more supporters are recruited, it just keeps getting better and better at figuring out what will persuade people to volunteer. Plus the whole thing is built into a larger game/karma/points thing that makes it utterly addictive, with you always trying to stay one step ahead of your friends.

            Meanwhile GIS software that knows where every voter is is calculating the optimal places to hold events around the district. The press database is blasting them out -- and the press is coming, because they're actually fun. Instead of sober speeches about random words, they're much more like standup or the Daily Show -- full of great, witty soundbites that work perfectly in an evening newscast or a newspaper story. And because they're so entertaining and always a little different, they bring quite a following; they become events. And a big part of all of them getting the people there to pull out their smartphones and actually do some recruiting in the app, getting more people hooked on the game.

            He doesn't talk like a politician -- he knows you're sick of politicians spouting lies and politicians complaining about politicians spouting lies and the whole damn thing. He admits up front you don't trust a word he says -- and you shouldn't! But here's the difference: he's not in the pocket of the big corporations. And you know how you can tell? Because each week he brings out a new whistleblower to tell a story about how a big corporation has mistreated its workers or the environment or its customers -- just the kind of thing the current corruption in Sacramento is trying to cover up and that only he is going to fix.

            (Obviously shades of Sinclair here...)

            also you have to read

            For his TV ads, his volunteer base all take a stab at making an ad for him and the program automatically A/B tests them by asking people in the district to review a new TV show. The ads are then inserted into the commercial breaks and at the end of the show, when you ask the user how they liked it, you also sneak in some political questions. Web ads are tested by getting people to click on ads for a free personality test and then giving them a personality test with your political ad along the side and asking them some political questions. (Ever see ads for a free personality test? That's what they really are. Everybody turns out to have the personality of a sparkle fish, which is nice and pleasant except when it meets someone it doesn't like, ...) Since it's random, whichever group scores closest to you on the political questions must be most affected by the ad. Then they're bought at what research shows to be the optimal time before the election, with careful selection of television show to maximize the appropriate voter demographics based on Nielsen data.

            anyway, i could go on, but i should actually take a break and do some of this... hope you're well

    Resistance Is Fertile - Occupy

    by Sean X on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:14:42 AM PST

  •  We live in a time of corporate authoritarianism. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy Montrose, Marihilda

    Justice has been twisted so thoroughly that somehow only what is good for corporate and moneyed interests is just.  

    Truer words were never spoken:

    He was depressed because he was increasingly recognizing that the idealism he brought to this fight maybe wasn’t enough.
    It is incredible that we are at the point where when justice runs up against the profit margin, somehow justice changes in nature.  That change is then repeated again and again as a talking point.

    When I think that in a few hours people will be getting up and going to work on Wall Street - people that participated in wrecking our economy and people that continue to perpetuate and benefit from such activities, then I also think about Swartz and what he was put through - it all seems pretty hopeless.  

    There are times when I look around and all I can see is idealism dying before my eyes. My own small acts of idealism start to seem completely meaningless.  I also think that I am not the only one who feels this way.  

    This loss is so tragic.  

    It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

    by ciganka on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:55:08 AM PST

  •  His suicide was completely rational. If you (0+ / 0-)

    are going to be spending the rest of your life in prison (and it would be a maximum security prison due to the length of the sentence) anyway why not end it instead?

    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 03:23:21 AM PST

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