Aaron Swartz Revisited
Almost three months ago today, I titled an article We Have Lost One of Our Own and posted it to this site. I gathered some of the more salient and insightful pieces posted in the wake of Aaron Swartz’s death, and wrote an article about unjust punishment and piracy. I try not to do this very often, but I will make an exception here and include an excerpt from one of my own posts:
“Aaron Swartz is the latest casualty in this abhorrent, excessive, and ineffective exertion of power. This time though, unlike all the last, the prize claimed was not monetary, but the priceless life of a young individual. But hey, those scientific journals, reportedly worth millions according to the prosecutors via Lawrence Lessig — at least they are safe. At least. They. Are. Safe.”
My post was tinged with sorrow and melancholy, as every other article published at the time was, and flavored with a righteous anger. Contrast this with my words from just shy of a month later in an article titled Enough, already:
“With a topic such as this and words such as Tom’s, many will likely label him as insensitive and brusque. Think for a minute though, before writing a very strongly-worded tweet from the vantage point granted by your lofty pedestal, that Aaron Swartz might not have been the saintly do-gooder everyone describes him to be or the martyr we seem to be searching for so desperately. Maybe, just maybe, he was a cowardly child afraid of facing the consequences of his actions, someone that through some twisted reasoning though it acceptable to kill himself and allow one of the few people he loved to find his body suspended from the ceiling. Maybe, just maybe, Tom is right.”
Tom Negrino was few up with the sanctification of the man; I was few up with the sanctification of the man. I drew a bit of flack in the form of comments for this post, but of the three individuals who deigned to comment, only one disagreed with me.
The entire event never sat well with me, and this morning, as some Hacker News poster linked to Aaron Swartz’s last video interview, I finally decided to say something about it. For all the eulogization, crying, and fruitless calls to action; for all the people who were so hurt, so disappointed in our judicial system, and so angry; for all the people whose lives Aaron Swartz touched either directly or indirectly — for all that, I find it almost funny that absolutely nothing changed. Three months later, no one is talking about it anymore: there are no angry blog posts calling someone’s removal from public office, no petitions, and no more eulogies pontificating reform of one degree of another. There is nothing, and we have all moved on.