Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our Government is one big Bully under the guise of justice

Like some of you, I knew of Aaron Swartz but I did not follow his activist activities closely at all. However, upon news of his death on January 11th, I soon began to learn more about him and what pushed him to commit suicide. I'm not going to pretend to know all the facts, or even try to be politically eloquent on this very issue. My vocabulary is not up to par with the essay from Aaron's friend, Matt Stoller, of Naked Capitalism, therefore I will post a small portion of his excellent, informative, and compassionate article in memory of his friend. In addition to Matt's essay, there is also an interesting RollingStone article about Swartz as well. Regardless if you supported Aaron's beliefs and actions or not, we lost a valuable human being who was very young and had so much more potential to helping society.

Just when we as Americans think we live in the best country in the world, the handling of the Swartz case is terrifying and an abuse of power. He was bullied into his death and the treatment he received from the Department of "Justice" gives me yet another pause about my country.

As we think about what happened to Aaron, we need to recognize that it was not just prosecutorial overreach that killed him. That’s too easy, because that implies it’s one bad apple. We know that’s not true. What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn’t just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It’s also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There’s a reason whistleblowers get fired. There’s a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There’s a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriako - who told the world it was going on. There’s a reason those who destroyed the financial system “dine at the White House”, as Lawrence Lessig put it. There’s a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There’s a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There’s a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq. This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice.


And the RollingStone article: Why did the Justic System target Aaron Swartz?

Swartz was well-known in technology circles for helping develop the RSS web feed format and the popular site Reddit, among other accomplishments. At the time of his death, he was facing 13 felony charges and up to 50 years in prison: Prosecutors had accused him of using MIT's network to download too many scholarly articles from an academic database called JSTOR.
Swartz's friends and family have said they believe he was driven to his death by a justice system that hounded him needlessly over an alleged crime with no real victims. "[He was] forced by the government to spend every fiber of his being on this damnable, senseless trial," his partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said at the memorial, "with no guarantee that he could exonerate himself at the end of it."

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The one question on my mind is this, couldn't someone help him with obtaining polical asylum in Canada or some other country? He was clearly being persecuted beyond reason, he was being made an example of (like many others have been). Wasn't there something that could have been done to help him? It's just such a waste.


  1. Cases like this one always puzzle me. Especially when politicians play with human lives like it's a game of chess. Even without a suicide, which is tragic, setting whatever example is not worth ruining a life of a human being by sending him to prison. It's such a shame. Unfortunately, authorities all over the world are infected. And these cases always make me very sad.

  2. I'm glad you feel the same way I do Vera. All too often, the masses are indifferent to the intricacies of these types of cases and cannot, or rather, refuse to believe that the government would intentionally harm one of its own citizens. It's easier to blame the victim for being crazy, anti-social, and disturbed emotionally to willfully and by careful planning, orchestrate his own eventual suicide. Something is terribly amiss with this story and I'm just so sorry that this otherwise brilliant man is no longer with us to help us control our lives and have government be more accountable for their actions and oppressive beliefs over us.

    It's so convenient for the USA to point fingers at other countries and cultures and their faults, but not look inward and realize we have serious problems too.