Dear friends and readers,
Stop, take out the time to listen Freedom to connect: Victory to save the Open Internet: Aaron Swartz (1986-2013), Fight Online Censors
We need to do whatever is in our power, what is in you to do, to keep the gov’t officials of whatever sort and other powerful people from shutting the Internet down, closing off vast areas of it, and strictly controlling what people can say and do.
I cannot over-estimate how my life has changed radically for the better since the coming into my house of the Internet. I’ve published conventionally (books, essays, reviews, poems) and unconventionally (my website, postings on list-servs, now blogs), have so many friends and acquaintances (I go to conferences, daily on facebook), am continually able to reach serious important and accurate news, frank assessments, not to omit good scholarship, books galore (too many but I’m not lamenting, wikipedia), and what’s the core of it:
the freedom to connect.
The average person is not excluded by the means that select people use to structure pre-Net physical life (And while in-roads have been made from Net groups, the older pre-Net groups mostly still do work the same methods outside the Net, including for example physicians and any profession which wants to keep a monopoly on information about itself to maximize profits.)
Aaron Swartz killed himself this past weekend (hanged himself) after a couple of years of harassment and threats from groups of people who want to put a stop to all this free connection. He had also been bankrupted by his lawyer’s fees. Two sets of murderers here:
Not just those whose profits are threatened by gov’t officials who appalled at the nerve of those on the Net doing what they want within the limits of law and social acceptability. How dare they, one senator told Swartz? Who do they think they are? The way to hinder people is to keep information from them. Keep them isolated. (The great danger of the Occupy movement was it bought hitherto separated poor together and made them visible.)
One night on Amy Goodman they spent 10 more minutes on the persecution of Aaron Swartz. It was chilling to listen to Eric Holder justify not only the attorney general but the accepted procedure of terrifying people with outrageous sentences in order to get them to confess so they get an accurate sentence. As the Republican (mind you) who was questioning this guy said, this prank really should have gotten a 4 months sentence, then suspended. In the 1950s Republicans were for civil and social liberty. Ted Raill, a thorough radical had a long piece arguing strongly against the criminal justice system’s routine use of terrifying bullying tactics such as life-time sentences and solitary confinement when they know very well they supposedly mean to mete out something reasonable. On what grounds do people behave this way? he asked.
A tragic loss for himself, for in this YouTube it’s clear Aaron Swartz was a thoughtful, intelligent, deeply humane fighter for liberty, equality, fraternity (probably not against sisterhood either). And a terrible loss for us as the way tyrants have ended social movements is to kill the effective leaders, put them in jail, terrorize them. The people trying to put Aaro Swartz away in jail for 35 years could only be fought off by expensive lawyers whose fees had just about bankrupted him.
DemocracyNow.org devoted nearly 45 minutes to Swartz. They had his mentor and friend, Larry Lessig, a Harvard prof, talking about him. Lessig has been fighting the use of copyright to stifle exchange, connections and also Citizens United, the supreme court decision which allows corporations to spend undisclosed unlimited amounts of money to candidate. Amy Goodman also made the decision to air this eloquent 36 minute speech so it’s thanks to her (once again) I heard it and can try to share it with others. Here is the transcript.
When I listen to him speak and realize he’s dead, I feel tears come into my eyes.
See Amy Goodman’s column.
A thoughtful New Yorker tribute: Requiem for a Dream. The trouble is the person ignores the central role of the criminal justice system when she dismisses the father’s idea the prosecution/persecution murdered Swartz.
Back to internet: It was a dream come true when I first came onto the Internet. It still gives me so much more than ever I had but the early ideal hopes for companionship in reading are over for me.