My initial reaction to the loss of Aaron Swartz can be summed up in this quote from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
While his methods were provocative, the goal that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — is one that we should all support.
Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, and particularly their punishment regimes. Aaron's act was undoubtedly political activism, and taking such an act in the physical world would, at most, have a meant he faced light penalties akin to trespassing as part of a political protest. Because he used a computer, he instead faced long-term incarceration. This is a disparity that EFF has fought against for years. Yesterday, it had tragic consequences. Lawrence Lessig has called for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them. We agree.
The law that made it possible for people/companies to take public funds but then keep the results of the work to themselves is so wrong. It was pushed through Congress by corporate interests and one of the first laws put into place by Ronald Reagan. It does a huge injustice to our society and furthers the selfish, greedy, murderous ideals of crapitalism. If we all pay for the research, we should all benefit. We should all be shareholders of it and any profit derived from it's results. At the minimum we should all have access to the results of what we paid for.
This was Aaron Swartz' political statement. He wasn't hurting anybody. He was pushing for justice. He envisioned a world where a few people don't lord over everyone else. A more egalitarian society. For this he was pushed to suicide. Every single one of us who doesn't stand up to these abuses by our government, nor the fact that our government is now wholly owned by corporate interests, is responsible for Aaron Swartz' death. We have a lost a brilliant person who had already given so much in his young life and who probably had even more gifts to offer, which he did in service to all. We sacrificed him to the altar of the status quo. We were more concerned with whether a protest would block traffic. Or a window might get broken. We don't have the moral clarity to fight alongside Aaron or any of the people wrongfully arrested and abused by the police in this country.
This is our legacy. What we don't fight for will never happen. What we put with will be what we burden our children and others who come behind us with. Why are we standing idle, letting corporations be deemed people with rights which usurp those of real people?
I am angry that we lost this extraordinary young man. So angry. I'm furious. I'm frightened for my daughter's future. Mostly, right now, though, I'm fuming with disgust at all my friends and neighbors who choose to keep their head down so that they can be assured of their comfortable life, regardless of how much they know it is costing others and the planet. Is the legacy you really want to leave behind?
Nobody should talk to me right now.