Karl Rove, where are you when we need you?
Like Will Bunch
, I'm not going to pretend to know about Aaron Swartz
and feign any vague ideological qualifications in talking about his suicide last week and legacy. First off, just to get it out of the way, it need be said that, like many people of genius, Swartz was a very deeply disturbed young man both emotionally and mentally. America's information superhighway, especially during the last two fascist administrations, is littered with the broken reputations of those who'd opposed their countless evils and oversights. But few whistleblowers, if any, had ever committed suicide when the government inevitably began cracking down on them.
Aaron Swartz sought, and found, a very permanent solution to a very temporary problem. Stupid, stupid boy.
Having said that, Swartz's value to the internet and to America's hi tech culture has morphed and been magnified, increasingly turning into both a synecdoche and a referendum on the overreach of prosecutorial power, a matter of what the
President knew and when he knew it. Swartz's wholly unexpected and shocking suicide to avoid up to three and a half decades in prison and potentially millions in fines has given him far more than mere fame and notoriety than he ever had in life: It's become a growing scandal that highlights the hideously misplaced priorities of an administration that invests far, far more time and energy in protecting robber barons and war criminals instead of the courageous whistleblowers it viciously prosecutes.
People die for the most ridiculous of reasons. At the end of Network
, Paddy Chayefsky informs us, "This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings." Beale had been killed by the same "revolutionaries" who'd been immediately seduced and corrupted by the lure of money from their network. He was killed ultimately not so much for low ratings but because he was becoming a financial albatross around the network's neck. It was about money, which is all ratings have ever been and will always be about.
At the risk of oversimplifying this, Aaron Swartz died indirectly over copyright infringement, ironically, the real issue that was at the heart of the SOPA/PIPA bill that he'd largely helped defeat on Capitol Hill last year through his online petition. As we all know, Swartz snuck onto the campus of MIT, hid a laptop in a janitor's closet and literally stole millions of pages from MIT's mainframe and JSTOR.
Of course, Swartz had no financial interest in doing this. He was of the idealistic, if naive, mindset that all information and new articles ought to be freely available to anyone and everyone who seeks it. Swartz had no patience for firewalls, paywalls and the very concept of proprietary information and technology. Essentially, when he'd stolen and disseminated those millions of pages online, he was poking a sleeping bear with a sharp stick. And when the bear awoke and lurched into the daylight, it turned out to be Carmen Ortiz, our US Attorney for Massachusetts.
Ortiz was handpicked by Obama in 2009 and from the gitgo, with all the ballyhoo about her being the first Latina to be a US Attorney in Massachusetts reeked of Affirmative Action for its own sake. And her abuse of federal power is the worst on record since the not very dissimilar case against Bradley Manning and the equally Kafka-esque persecution of Susan Lindauer.
Lindauer's, Manning's and Swartz's cases are loosely linked in that all three were whistleblowers or challengers to whatever status quo or administration temporarily in power. And, under the fascist Obama administration, whistleblowers and the civilly disobedient have not enjoyed any more protections than they had under the Bush adminsitration. If you don't believe me, ask Bunny Greenhouse and Sibel Edmonds, two other victims of government overreach that the completely worthless mainstream media refuse to even acknowledge.
Swartz was of the identical mindset as Nicola Tesla, a certifiable genius who passionately believed that the technology and information that could most benefit mankind should be the least subject to a profit motive. Tesla's dream of supplying the world with free, wireless AC power through a series of "Tesla towers" ran at stark odds with those such as Morgan and Edison who sought to turn electricity into a salable commodity. In order to save George Westinghouse from certain financial ruin from future lawsuits, Tesla signed away virtually all of his patents and any chance of solvency he would ever have.
And Aaron Swartz was as disinterested in money as Tesla.
And to Carmen Ortiz at the US Attorney's office in Boston, it didn't matter that JSTOR had no interest in prosecuting this case. The problem with criminal prosecutions is it doesn't matter what the complainants say. If a DA or US Attorney thinks they can up their conviction rate, if they think they have a "slam dunk" case in the tank, they will go full bore. It's like creating a monster that cannot be controlled or stopped. And the Massachusetts US Attorney's office is a golem that couldn't be stopped until its medallion was stripped off through Swartz's tragic suicide.
As Will Bunch stated in today's HuffPo article, those most deserving of investigations, prosecution and punishment to the fullest extent of the law are the ones who have benefited from the most protection under Eric Holder's amazingly worthless and corrupt Justice Department. They have shielded and even provided cover for every single one of the worst criminals in the last 12 years, including the robber barons on Wall Street who nearly plunged the entire planet into the worst global depression it's ever seen and the most vicious and evil war criminals since Hitler's Nazi Party.
The last two administrations have detained a mother from boarding her plane over breast milk while allowing a reckless and criminally avaricious oil giant to spill more oil on the planet than any other with utter impunity and to continue even after the disaster the means to do so again. And while a patriot such as Bradley Manning, someone who thought we had a right to know exactly who and how our government was torturing in our name and with our money, is himself prosecuted, persecuted and tortured, the names those who do the torturing are national security secrets.
And while well over 2000 Occupy protesters have been arrested and charged with civil disobedience that used to be one of our civil liberties, not a single Wall Street criminal targeted by the Occupy movement has been seriously investigated much less prosecuted much less convicted much less sentenced by the astoundingly useless Holder Justice Department. In fact, the Occupy movement itself is the entity that's been secretly investigated and harassed by federal, state and city authorities.
Probably before Reddit's co-founder and RSS's inventor successfully spearheaded the effort that thwarted the despicable PIPA/SOPA bills, Swartz probably landed on the Obama administration's baleful radar screen for being an outspoken critic of our drone and assassination programs that have made the Bush administration look like the isolationist Wilson administration by conspicuous relief.
Whether he intended to become a larger-than-life martyr to The Cause or whether he was merely taking an easy way out, Swartz through his suicide has touched off a firestorm bringing into pitiless relief from outraged activists the completely skewed priorities of a thoroughly rotten administration that works in cahoots with criminals and psychopaths while persecuting and prosecuting the most conscientious citizens. But without Swartz to start and put in motion another successful petition the government cannot ignore, all the citizen outrage in the nation will not force Obama to make a voluntary comment on Swartz's suicide and criminally reckless persecution until the mainstream media finally do its job and put Obama's feet to the fire.
And his suicide will have changed nothing but deepen our (I would hope) distrust and cynicism of an administration that is just as corrupt, oppressive and suppressive as the one that came before it. And cynicism without a ray of hope can be a very dangerous thing.