Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Aaron Swartz, his suicide, and his off-base supporters

Aaron Swartz is dead.

Aaron Swartz, for those who don’t know (I’d never heard of him before, either), was a pretty bright computer whiz who, for whatever reason, decided to steal millions of academic files from Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) because he'd decided all by himself that everyone in the world should have access to them.

To that end, he broke into the school building’s computer system and installed his own laptop computer, which he used to download 100 times more content than every other legitimate user of the system combined. The school caught on and installed a camera and caught him sneaking back in to remove his computer. When contacted by campus police, he tried to flee but was chased down and captured, at which point, the school decided to press charges and the US Attorneys’ Office began preparing the felony case against him for wire fraud and computer fraud.

Now at this point, Aaron was being treated just like any other accused criminal. He was facing the same potential fate as any other thief and burglar. But Aaron, by his own admission, could not handle the thought of going to prison so he killed himself. Tragic, but not really a big deal. Basically Darwin culled another one from the herd who wasn’t emotionally balanced enough to survive. But then the backlash began.
As of this writing, we’ve got his parents and his friends out there beating the drum and blaming everyone else, to include MIT, the US Attorneys Office and Attorney Carmen Ortiz in particular for having the gall to actually prosecute dear, fragile, special Aaron and for refusing to give him a no-jail plea deal despite the fact that he physically broke into the school’s computer area several times and stole the academic work of hundreds of thousands of people, work in which the school had a proprietary interest. They all want to whitewash his crime, and the fact that he, himself decided to commit the crime and then kill himself rather than stand before the court and accept responsibility for his actions. It’s too bad that he went out this way but the guy was a thief and a coward and he chose his own end. However that hasn’t stopped his supporters from attacking the school (the real victim here), the prosecutor, and everyone involved with investigating the case. Heck, we’ve even got a Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren, (D)—CA, who has taken a break from trying to get our guns to introduce a bill to honor Aaron Swartz as if he’s some sort of saint or hero instead of a cowardly thief who was just fine with stealing the work of others right up until he got caught and the bill for his crime came due. And not only does Lofgren want to honor this loser, but she wants to exempt other hackers and thieves from being punished if and when they get caught breaking into someone else’s computer.

I say screw Zoe Lofgren, and screw Aaron Swartz. The guy made his choices and knew the possible consequences. But like many other spoiled rich white kids, he figured that he’d be exempt from punishment. When he found out otherwise, he made the irrational choice to end his own life. No one forced him to do that and the blame lies with him and him alone.

And lest anyone think that this was a one-time act and first offense, he’d been investigated by the FBI in 2008 for downloading 18,000,000 documents from a government server and putting them all on line. He knew that it was wrong then, but when he didn’t get charged for that theft, he no doubt felt emboldened to do it again. Imagine his surprise when this time he actually got charged. Still, there are rumors that he was offered a plea deal in which he’d serve six months in prison, probably at one of the minimum-security federal camps. Many people would have regarded that as a vacation, but this guy just wasn’t that stable. He chose to hang himself and the responsibility for that choice is his and his alone.


  1. Aaron maintained that the documents he "stole" were public property and should have been publicly available. Current information is that MIT was only using the paywall services of the third party that Aaron purportedly "stole" the documents from due to inertia. They have since made ALL of those documents publicly and freely available. Information available to me indicates that the government files AND the MIT files were generated at taxpayer expense and were purportedly FOR the general public. He was trying to expose the fact that scientific documents that were to be in the public domain by the rules of their publication and were generated using publicly funded grants were being held behind paywalls or otherwise being made onerous to access.

  2. Thanks- I'd only read the "poor victim" angle online. Mainly because I could care less about one more idiot who couldn't do the time the comes with the crime.

    Bradley Manning could take a few pointers from Swartz.

  3. Concur, and he knew he was going down for a LONG time after refusing the plea deal...

  4. Could be worse! Instead of having suicidal tendencies, he could have had predatory rapist tendencies.

    Can you say Julian Assange?

  5. @ Eainsdad: There's a way to draw attention to things that a person personally believes is wrong. You write articles, you buy ad space, you lobby Congress, etc. All of these things would have been very easy for this kid considering his computer connections and completely legal. It's why we have a First Amendment. But he decided not to do that. He made himself judge and jury and just decided to steal the stuff. For a supposed bright kid, he seems pretty stupid.

    @ JD and Owl: Assange and Manning should be fed feet-first into a wood chipper. What they did got people killed.

    @ Old NFO: Hey, if you can't do the time, don't to the crime. That's why prison sentences are used as a deterrent.

  6. Is it significant that I had no idea who this guy was?

  7. He stole. He got caught. He got busted. He refused the bargain. He took the cheap and cowardly way out. His choices, his actions. Any attorney who represents anyone saying otherwise should be the next one strung up. And that Zoe Whazzername....seriously? Where'd I put that bucket of tar...anyone got some spare feathers?

  8. Anonymous3:00 PM

    I agree.Aaron's parents are from the land of Barack Milhous Capone Kardashian.I bet they are supporters of and voters for Obozo

  9. I think you probably should not volunteer for any suicide hotlines:)