Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz

Aaron's death has had a larger effect on me than most things I read about on the web. This death is a little closer than most, and very sad.

I had a number of email conversations with him about his blog posts. His articles often annoyed me in their naivete, and what I perceived as their ignorance as to the way the world worked (especially from an economic perspective) and I have to say I flamed him a bit in that correspondence. We had a few to and fros, in the spirit of young guys who hadn't mastered tact online. My lack more than his.

But it was this naivete, this big disconnect between how he seemed to perceive the world and how it was (as I saw it), that drove him to do what he did. He was foolhardy but pure of heart, earnest, childlike. The little knocks that force most of us into alignment and compliance and conformity from an early age seemed not to have affected him, until the knocks got a lot harder, too hard, and yet he never bent.

The apparent tactics of US prosecution - to overcharge and then plea-bargain to extract guilty verdicts even from innocent parties, owing to the legal risk of one of the charges sticking - are sickening. I conjecture they're due to electoral incentives and the need to be seen to be tough on crime. Theatre to placate the mob, like Nero throwing Christians to the lions.