January 12, 2013

Aaron Swartz suicide and the "JSTOR" case

The facts: "Aaron Swartz commits suicide": "Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide in New York City yesterday, Jan. 11 ..."

Others can write eulogies. I'm not good at that. Forgive me for not doing a personal remembrance in this post - it's an area where my writing skills fail me. I must take refuge in a certain distance.

I've been trying to articulate why I think his death had deeper implications than intrinsic personal tragedy. Maybe it's too soon to take that up. Too political, too distracting now. I know the moment I start writing about my view that his prosecution for various felony charges in the "JSTOR" case was a key cause, I'll get a backlash. People will say, you can't know that for sure (right - that I can't prove it doesn't stop me from thinking it's true). His other problems have been mentioned in many discussions (however, combinations of factors still mean each one was a contributor). They'll be an argument that the law can't take into account such stress on a defendant (even if so, the effect is still real).

But I've read through almost all the case documents, and it felt to me like the prosecution was doing their best to make an example of him. And that was going to harm his life even if he was eventually acquitted (after a long grueling ordeal which would cost a fortune and take a huge emotional toll). It's the sort of situation where even if you win, you still lose in many ways.

Maybe I'll say more later. Or maybe there isn't any more for me to say.


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on January 12, 2013 09:02 AM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Normally I don't do much in the way of commenting on articles, but this one struck a chord with me. It highlights a problem with our justice system. Instead of being about justice, way to often, it is about politics. It is about prosecutors trying to climb over the bodies of the people that they prosecute. This is just the latest in a long line of high profile defendants, being used for political gain. Some will say what Swartz did was bad, others will say he was striking a blow for freedom. But all of them seemed to have forgotten in their zeal to push an agenda, a mans life was being destroyed. Seth is right, even if he had won the trial, he still would have lost in so many ways. How can anyone stand up under such a burden is beyond me.

But if you want it to get better, if you want justice to become part of our legal system, you are going to have to stand up to the politicians, and force the system to change. Seth is one lone voice in the wilderness. Listen. Spread the ideas. Reach out to others. If you don't you have no one to blame but yourself.

Posted by: Robert T Childers at January 12, 2013 11:25 AM