Re­mem­ber­ing the hero who fought for our free­dom in the In­ter­net era

The Nation - - OPINION&ANALYSIS -

Last Fri­day marked five years since the day the bril­liant com­puter mind, Aaron Swartz, ap­par­ently com­mit­ted sui­cide at the age of 26. His is a heart­break­ing story. The young man was a ge­nius whose love of life, free­dom and lib­erty in­spired him to wage bat­tle against the pow­ers-that-be who would deny us our birthright.

He was the most im­por­tant de­fender of In­ter­net free­dom of our times, who ral­lied mil­lions to the cause.

“In­for­ma­tion is power,” Swartz once noted. “But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for them­selves. The world’s en­tire sci­en­tific and cul­tural her­itage, pub­lished over cen­turies in books and jour­nals, is in­creas­ingly be­ing digi­tised and locked up by a hand­ful of pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions.”

Swartz was ar­rested for a mi­nor crime of mak­ing archived re­search ma­te­rial avail­able to all. He was strip-searched, thrown in soli­tary con­fine­ment and threat­ened with years in prison. It is ex­tremely doubt­ful that such a bril­liant man – who was about to get mar­ried – com­mit­ted sui­cide. His fa­ther has never be­lieved the au­thor­i­ties’ ver­sion of how his son died, a death that left Swartz’s fam­ily, his fi­ancee and his many fol­low­ers heart­bro­ken.

And now we get the equally sad news that on the very day, six years after Swartz died, his pro­gram­ming part­ner com­mit­ted sui­cide. If it were not so un­be­liev­ably sad, one would have to laugh. Bril­liant peo­ple and hu­man­ity are be­ing cowed into sub­mis­sion, noth­ing less. Peo­ple of the world, wake up! HHB

AARON SWARTZ

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