Sorry, I Don’t Have A Clever Title For Today

Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday. He helped create Reddit. He did a lot of stuff I had no idea about. I had no idea because I don’t really move in those circles, and had only seen his name mentioned in passing once or twice. so why do I mention him? Probably for the same reason as most people on the internet today. We ARE the internet, and from the most to least active of us, we need to pay attention to what the Establishment is willing to do to us if we use the internet to undermine their authority.

See, Aaron dabbled heavily in some hacking-type activity as well. Kind of a shit-disturber, as Cory Doctorow called him affectionately. Aaron may have pissed off some Feds. And it seems clear that he was to Be Made An Example Of, for ‘harvesting’ some journals from MITs private servers. MIT and JSTOR  weren’t pressing charges. It was the prosecution that had the bit in its teeth. and so Aaron was to be sent up for hard time. Something like 35 years, according to people who know better than me.

Now, Aaron did a lot of very cool, innovative stuff. He also ruffled some serious feathers, and he didn’t like playing ball, as near as I can tell. He made enemies and estranged friends, but apparently a lot of them forgave him his excessive behaviour, which speaks volumes for his character. What it doesn’t do is excuse his actions. But his actions were pretty harmless, in the long run. He was a hoarder of internet secrets, it seems, but no one ever proved he did anything with the data. So there it is.

And in reality, don’t we all do some of the same things he did? Sure, my uncle just organizes his photos and looks for amateur country song tabs online, but most of us get our daily news online, and a fair bit of that comes from sources that aren’t governed by elected officials or self-appointed dictators. Forces are at work in the political and economic spheres that are determined to get this crazy information highway under control. (Fascist) Governments are being toppled. Copyright laws (held by monolithic price gougers) are being flouted. The gate keepers are being bypassed at every gate. The world is democratizing itself.

And you are a part of that, whether you acknowledge it or not. Try to imagine what the internet would be like if it were being governed by the same people that give near-monopolistic markets free reign in ‘Meatspace’. The information highway is designed for sharing, and it does so without prejudice or discrimination, and that scares those who are in the market of controlling ideas and information. If they have their way, the internet will be broken up and turned into something that is so useless, we’ll have little choice but to go back to the way things were thirty years ago. The encyclopaedia industry will be pleased, at least.

And that’s my paranoid rambling for the day. I have to go buy cat litter, and then do some art. Have a good day. But not too good.


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