Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Aaron Swartz matters

Am I the only one who wrestles with how much time and attention to pay to politics? Sometimes I wish I could just tune it all out. When Michael Johnson puts up a new post at Overweening Generalist, I usually feel compelled to read it right away, or (if I'm at work and I'm busy) at least skim it. When I saw his latest post, on the political scene, I put off reading it for a couple of days -- not because I thought I would disagree with it, but because I was sure I would agree with 90 percent of it, and feel helpless rage. (And when I read it, sure enough ... ) Michael himself seems to understand my ambivalence; in one of the comments on his post, he writes, "Every now and then I have to VENT on this stuff; I could write 3 articles a day on similar aspects of this Friendly Fascism (see underrated book by Bertram Gross from around 1990), but no one's paying me, and besides, I don't attain any sort of catharsis when I write on this subject. I only feel worse from having to confront "all that" for 75 minutes, in a concentrated fashion. "

But I still can't help but think that Internet freedom really matters, and it's worth fighting for. Techno visionaries such as Robert Anton Wilson and the Boing Boing crowd have recognized that the freedom that still reigns over much of the Internet is something special, and something worth defending.

Glenn Greenwald has a long post about the Aaron Swartz case and notes:

"In most of what I've written and spoken about over the past several years, this is probably the overarching point: the abuse of state power, the systematic violation of civil liberties, is about creating a Climate of Fear, one that is geared toward entrenching the power and position of elites by intimidating the rest of society from meaningful challenges and dissent. There is a particular overzealousness when it comes to internet activism because the internet is one of the few weapons - perhaps the only one - that can be effectively harnessed to galvanize movements and challenge the prevailing order. That's why so much effort is devoted to destroying the ability to use it anonymously - the Surveillance State - and why there is so much effort to punishing as virtual Terrorists anyone like Swartz who uses it for political activism or dissent."