Aaron Swartz was not special

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice makes an important point about the online community’s reaction to the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz:

But there remains a side of this tragedy that the geek community misses. Government overreaching, “bullying” as Lessig calls it, didn’t start on the day Aaron Swartz was arrested.  The eulogists, friends, watchers from the Hacktivist side seem to think this was an affliction that happened only to Swartz.  

Hardly. Aaron Swartz was just today’s victim of government overreaching and abusive prosecution, largely undistinguishable from the multitudes who came before him. But you don’t know about them, as they weren’t 14-year-old RSS code writers. So you didn’t notice. You didn’t care. They didn’t exist to you, even as they faced 50 year sentences just like Swartz….

Now you know what we know. Will your anger and interest end when Aaron Swartz is buried, and you can go back to writing code and thinking cool ideas? If you want to honor his memory, perhaps you might want to put all those brilliant minds to use changing the system that drove Swartz to take his own life. It’s still here, and it’s still just as bad as it was in Swartz’s case. And it will continue to be, even as you move back to your more pleasant pursuits.


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