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'Dangerously Naive' Aaron Swartz 'Destroyed Himself' 362

Posted by timothy
from the serious-consequences dept.
theodp writes "In July, MIT drew criticism after issuing a report clearing itself in the suicide of Aaron Swartz. So, one wonders what Swartz supporters will make of The Lessons of Aaron Swartz, an MIT Technology Review op-edish piece penned by MIT EE/CS prof Hal Abelson, who chaired the review panel. Calling Swartz 'dangerously naïve about the reality of exercising that power [of technology], to the extent that he destroyed himself' (others say prosecutorial overreach destroyed him), Abelson questions 'whether the people who mentored Swartz and helped him achieve such brilliance and power had a responsibility to cultivate not only his technical excellence and his passion as an advocate but also, as my grandmother would have called it, seykhel-a wonderful Yiddish word that means a combination of intelligence and common sense.'"
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'Dangerously Naive' Aaron Swartz 'Destroyed Himself'

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  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:20AM (#45044355) Journal

    Well, Hal, if this is what it takes to let you sleep at night despite your and your school's part in Swartz's persecution, have at it. But I doubt too many people are buying it; at this late date pretty much everyone's mind is made up anyway.

    It seems that "using power responsibly" usually means subordinating oneself to the whims of politicans and bureaucrats; to defy their will using one's technical prowess is immature, irresponsible, etc. The upshot is that if you're not a politician, you should sit down, shut up, and obey. I don't accept that.

    • by elrous0 (869638) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:39AM (#45044523)

      I wonder if Abelson's grandmother ever taught him about human decency, dignity, or shame?

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:17PM (#45044795)

      Well, Hal, if this is what it takes to let you sleep at night despite your and your school's part in Swartz's persecution

      You'd think MIT's psychology department would have pointed out the obvious flaw [wikipedia.org] in this logic, but I'm guessing management [npr.org] had something to do with that. But I'm sure it's an isolated case. You can't have an entire school convert to fascism [wikipedia.org] overnight without its students noticing something was going horribly wrong. I mean, if something is very, very obviously wrong and you see everybody else doing it, you wouldn't just go along with it [wikipedia.org].

    • by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:30PM (#45044895)

      Dangerously naive? Perhaps.

      I think I can agree with the author on that point.

      Destroyed himself?

      Well thanks for pointing out the obvious, suicide is by definition self destructive.

      ---

      But let's cut through the crap now shall we? MIT, you've disgraced yourself. I don't think it's your fault you don't have a backbone; you hire people for their brains, not for their strength of will or conviction. And so too are your students chosen for intellect and character. Which is something I appreciate and hold in high regard. But it seems you lack strength in your character.

      Neither does this excuse you. Aaron's blood is on your hands, and you must carry that burden.

      It's your responsibility to protect your students. He was a naive idealist, no argument here, but yet you let him die. Yes; you LET him die. Fearful for your own status and the legal action of an out of control prosecutor, you stepped out of the way when the gun was pointed at him. And even now you're trying to dodge all the bullets, trying to cling to neutrality.

      And I say this as someone aspiring to go to MIT some day.

    • by LargeMythicalReptile (531143) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:44PM (#45045027)

      Well, Hal, if this is what it takes to let you sleep at night despite your and your school's part in Swartz's persecution, have at it. But I doubt too many people are buying it; at this late date pretty much everyone's mind is made up anyway.

      Including Slashdotters', apparently. But since you're making this about Abelson rather than Swartz, here are a few facts about the man you're casually brushing off.

      Abelson is an old Lisp hacker. He has a long history of standing up for Freedom, in the sense /. appreciates. He's on the Board of Directors of the FSF, and was in fact one of the directors at its founding. He has solidly been in support of David LaMacchia [wikipedia.org], bunnie Huang [hackingthexbox.com], and Keith Winstein [wikipedia.org].

      He has not shied away from standing up for freedom of information, even if there are heavy legal consequences involved.

      He also puts his money where his mouth is, releasing a number of his own works for free. Before ebooks were a thing, he made sure his book was available for free online [mit.edu]. He helped get OpenCourseWare [wikipedia.org] off the ground. Heck, he's released (under Creative Commons) video of some of his own lectures...from 1986 [mit.edu].

      He's an expert in the area (in addition to the above personal experience, he also teaches a course on Ethics and Law in the Electronic Frontier [mit.edu]). He also spent six months investigating and writing a book-length report about the Swartz case, and MIT's response to it, in particular. The summary describes the report as MIT "clearing itself"--while the report details that MIT did nothing legally wrong, it also goes into the moral and ethical issues of MIT's response without reaching a bright-line conclusion.

      So, with all of this as context, which is more likely:
      -Abelson is trying to make Swartz look like a bad guy in order that he can "sleep at night", or
      -The man with a long history of views and actions supporting freedom of information, with a background in ethics and law on computer-related issues, who quite possibly is the single individual who has done the most thinking about the details of the Swartz case and MIT's response to it (and certainly knows more about it and has thought more about it than any Slashdotter), honestly and genuinely thinks that Swartz was naive about the realities of the situation he got himself into....and maybe, just maybe, it might make sense to give at least a small amount of genuine, honest consideration to his views?

      • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:04PM (#45045175)

        A lot of us want to live in a society where the "naive" aren't driven to suicide by the government.

        Blaming the victim isn't super helpful, even when you maybe, sort-of have a point

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Shavano (2541114)

          If Aaron Schwartz is the victim in his own death, he's also the perpetrator.

        • by epyT-R (613989) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @03:31PM (#45046337)

          Unfortunately, this will get harder to do as subsequent generations are raised with thinner and thinner skin. The current legal landscape in the USA, completely byzantine and out of control, needs to be fixed, for sure, but the other part of the solution requires us to quit raising generations of pantywaists. Politics that encourage victimhood groupthink mentalities are a large part of the blame here.

      • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @02:52PM (#45046083) Homepage Journal

        IT was MIT who insisted on tough ]punishments and wouldn't allow a slap on the wrist.
        If Abelson was anyway involved it that, then he is at fault regardless of his history'.

        NO, he wasn't naive, his punishment was overblown.

        I'f I am going 5 mph over the speed limit, and I get a ticket I am not naive, that's just the risk I took.

        If I get arrested, taken to jail, refuse bail and threatened. IT didn't happen becasue I was naive, it happened because people were abusing power to make a point.

        • by LargeMythicalReptile (531143) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:48PM (#45047431)

          IT was MIT who insisted on tough ]punishments and wouldn't allow a slap on the wrist.

          No, it wasn't, despite what the highly-modded-up comments on /. and elsewhere would like you to believe. Have you read Abelson's report? It's long but actually quite easy to read. It starts with a detailed description of the facts, and maintains that MIT took a completely hands-off approach. They did not push for any punishment whatsoever. They didn't take action in explicit support of him either--and the report gives a large amount of attention to this decision, its reasoning, and its ramifications. I haven't heard any credible source [read: anyone other than ill-informed Internet commentators] dispute Abelson's facts in any meaningful way, including the claim of MIT's "hands-off" approach.

          NO, he wasn't naive, his punishment was overblown.

          It can't be both?

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        Your entire post is an argument from authority. If you want to support his position, do it with facts and reason, not an appeal to his titles and experience.

        • by LargeMythicalReptile (531143) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:57PM (#45047483)

          Actually, it's not.

          If I had been talking about Swartz, or the case itself, it would be an argument from authority. But as I mentioned at the beginning, I was talking about Abelson.

          Various commenters are slamming Abelson for making a comment they disagree with, when they don't have a clue who he is or what work he's done--he isn't saying what the knee-jerk /. mentality wants him to say, so he has to be tarred as The Enemy.

          I'm not arguing that people should agree with Abelson about Swartz. I'm saying that given his history, it might make sense for people to at least give a reasonable look at what he's saying, and if they then disagree with him to address that on the issues, rather than rushing to post inaccurate, sarcastic posts based on a headline.

      • by russotto (537200) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @05:22PM (#45047007) Journal

        Abelson is an old Lisp hacker.

        He was hacking at a time when hacking (in any sense of the word) was not demonized anything like the way it is today; further, as people gain position within the establishment, they tend to adopt the establishment point of view. By claiming Swartz "destroyed himself", and by focusing on what MIT can do to prevent students from following in his footsteps (rather than what it can do to prevent prosecutors from crushing those who do), he shows he has completely adopted the establishment point of view.

        He has not shied away from standing up for freedom of information, even if there are heavy legal consequences involved.

        So how much time has he spent in jail? How much jail time has he been threatened with? That kind of credential comes with a price, and I don't see that he's paid it.

    • by onyxruby (118189)

      The thing is they are both right. MIT pursued this entire thing when there was much ado about nothing and they should have asked that the whole thing be dropped. Certainly the prosecutor abused their discretion in pursuing the case as if it was round up of the local mafia.

      Should the prosecutor have been fired - certainly. Did MIT Pursue this when they should have let it go - certainly. However, that doesn't change the fact that Swartz was dangerously naive, and I don't think anyone with a clue can honestly

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:51PM (#45045573)

        However, that doesn't change the fact that Swartz was dangerously naive, and I don't think anyone with a clue can honestly dispute that.

        Of course, we're then left to question whether naitivity is a problem with the individual, or society. We're saying he was ignorant, not stupid. That he was young and lacked crucial knowledge about the world that may have enabled him to overcome this obstacle, instead of smashing him into the rocks where a lighthouse should have been present, but wasn't. I don't think someone being naive is the fault of the person; It implies you simply don't know something, and we all have been there. To imply he should have known better, or should have known better at his age, or should have known better because... well... how can you say that? With the enormity of variance in personal experience, there is undoubtedly a few things you don't know that "everyone" else does.

        Which leave us with the prosecutor, who wasn't naive and knew full well what he was doing. When you threaten someone with decades in jail, massive fines, and basically ending life as they know it, there's always the possibility they will lose their composure. The biggest badasses on the street are still the ones that cry like little girls in the back of squad cars as it dawns on them how screwed they are. If you can break a man who's got "Fuck the police" hot sauced across his forehead, what do you think some wet-behind-the-ears kid in MIT is going to do when you threaten the same?

        The prosecutor knew better. There is no 'if' here, it's his job. He did know. He had to have known. So that means he did it intentionally and with full view of the potential consequences... he did it with a blatant disregard for the well-being of others. He doesn't just deserve to be fired, he deserves to be in jail for being the proximate cause of another's death; He deserves a criminal record.

        Of course, fortunately for him, our legal system doesn't work that way. No matter how much shit you lay out on someone, how much abuse you give them, how many times you beat them to a pulp, to the point that they're reduced to ash... as long as they're the one that pulls the trigger and not you; You are not responsible for their death.

        Swartz is dead, and nothing can change that. But what we can change is the people employed by the state prosecution -- we can remove this man's name and ensure he can never harm anyone like this again, and then start talking about reforming the system and putting audits in place so that this kind of prosecutorial misconduct is dealt with swiftly and evenly. Because while Swartz took the ultimate get out of jail card, there's plenty of innocent people in jail because they opted for the more reasonable approach of pleading guilty to crimes they were innocent of, because the odds were not in their favor and the charge sheet was long and would have kept them in jail for life if they lost a bet they already had bad odds on.

        If we're going to assign blame, if we're going to point fingers... then I'd say it's 95% the prosecutor, 5% the kid. Ignorance may be no excuse from the law, but it's not an excuse for the law to abuse people either.

    • by fermion (181285)
      The naivete is that there will not be consequences. Responsible parents and educators tell their kids that when they try to make a name for themselves, when they start playing with big boys in the real world, and not the fake world of high school or college, there will be no protection. That daddy's money and lawyers will no longer keep you out of jail.

      You don't think that his father did not have to do some questionable things to win his lawsuit in an attempt to stop Linux from crushing his company?

      I

    • There is a scene in Shindler's list were jewish prison laborers are constructing the baracks of a concentration camp. One of them, a young woman, goes to some nazi overseers and tells them the constructions are being done wrong, she is apparently an engineer.

      She is shot for daring to talk to them.

      Who do YOU blame for the outcome of that scene? The woman or the nazi? You might think that if she had kept quiet she would have been fine... but that just shows you have a lousy grasp of history. But if someone

    • by retchdog (1319261) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @07:39PM (#45047725) Journal

      The lulz here is that Prof. Abelson tells an anecdote about how he was led to his study and career by a chance discussion with one of the Students for a Democratic Society, which he had during a sit-in at the President's office to protest the Vietnam war. He went to the AI Lab the next day, made some connections, and that was that.

      But, yeah, I'm sure his career would have unfolded the same way if he'd instead been arrested and threatened with 20 years of prison. Trespassing is trespassing. Copyright violation is merely a civil offense, and should be orthogonal.

  • Common sense? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guruevi (827432) <evi.smokingcube@be> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:20AM (#45044357) Homepage

    Being prosecuted for being a whistleblower, being followed, being harassed... to expect and deal with that is common sense?

    • by chill (34294)

      When that has been the pattern throughout history? Yes. He should have expected his treatment, as wrong as it is, at the very least it shouldn't have been a surprise.

      • Re:Common sense? (Score:5, Informative)

        by jythie (914043) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:41AM (#45044547)
        Thing is, the treatment is so randomly applied that it should be a surprise. We occasionally hear about stories that get big, but for the most part the same basic actions, even when discovered, result in minimal problems 99% of the time. One never knows when some ambitious DA will decide to up the profile of the case and make an example of the person.

        To say it was his fault is a bit like saying "well, this family was killed by a drunk driver, but they should have known better then to go on a highway when bars were closing". While technically true that their actions had a risk, the fault still was elsewhere and the odds were normally on their side.
    • Out of interest, what did he whistleblow? I thought he just decided that access to a particular journel or somethign was too expensive and decided to download and distribute as much as he cold get his hands on?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, he decided that access to taxpayer-funded research shouldn't be locked behind a third-party paywall.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      In a word, "yes". What do you think happens to other people who use civil disobedience? Garden party invitations?

    • Yeah, actually; and if you do what he did, be sure to do it more secretly, otherwise you'd be a fool to expect different treatment.
  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:20AM (#45044361)
    Common sense would have dictated a year of probation with a suspended sentence for such a silly offense. Surely Hal has the 'chutzpah' to admit when he's being a shnook.
    • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:56AM (#45044663)

      Just out of curiosity, exactly what "offense" did he commit that you think is worth even a year's probabation with a suspended sentence.

      He used MIT's computer system to accomplish what it was designed to do. All he did was do a lot more of it than the designers were expecting.

      There mght have been a civil copyright issue here, but none of the copyright holders appeared interested in pursuing such a case.

      And there definitely was a "using more than your fair share of shared resources" issue, which is not a crime (unless you're a federal prosecutor with an axe to grind).

      To me, "common sense" dictates that MIT should have pulled him aside, and informed him that his massive downloads were not acceptable, and if they didn't stop, he would be officially banned from using MIT's network in the future. Once banned from the network, if he continued his activities he would *then* actually be guilty of a crime worthy of prosecution.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:21AM (#45044365)
    Since we all know that all the progress depends on unreasonable people, what's the point of trying to make everyone grow up reasonable?
  • Common sense? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deanklear (2529024) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:22AM (#45044375)

    Is there a yiddish word for asshole?

    The most damage Aaron could have possibly done is damage the profits of a private corporation. For that, he was hounded until he decided to take his own life.

    Common sense tells me that his death is a tragedy, period. The only people who should be feeling shame are the sycophants who are defending the right of the powerful to abuse the powerless. May you reap what you sow.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      > Is there a yiddish word for asshole?

      Schmuck
      (well, at least it is the neighbor of an asshole)

    • Doing something I disagree with.

    • Spanish may be the best language for swearing, but Yiddish is the greatest language for insulting people. I'm sure it has many words that would be appropriate here.

  • by TwineLogic (1679802) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:28AM (#45044437)
    This Aaron Swartz affair has guaranteed that none of my kids will be attending MIT.
    • by Guru80 (1579277)
      You might as well expand that to every single major University in the world. They are all the same more or less from that perspective.
      • Hardly. MIT operates a national laboratory (Lincoln Lab) and is essentially an off-shoot of the federal government. Yes, all schools take funding. Schools like Caltech, MIT, and others which operate national labs are extreme examples of federal entanglement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:29AM (#45044451)

    Will not be getting my renewal payment now.

    This opinion piece by Abelson is the equivalent of the childish "why are you hitting yourself?" game.

    Swartz commits what in any rational country is a minor infraction at best, local prosecutors decide it's not worth pursuing, so federal prosecutors with immunity from any liability decide to threaten him with a few decades in federal prison.

    His response was actually the most logical of all. Highlight what has become a dangerous threat to liberty by becoming a martyr.

  • Naïve to think there aren't load of scumbag professors like that one.
  • by HuguesT (84078) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:47AM (#45044583)

    People like Swartz are trying to change the world, much in the way older generations of engineers like some famous person from a large corporation called Steve, who also did things at a younger age that would be very sternly punished now.

    Did anyone teach the prosecutors to be reasonable as well? That would be a change. Right now prosecutors across the country wield unreasonable powers to threaten, harass and destroy people's life without check, which is unworthy of a democracy. Is there a review going on? Did anyone caught on that the USA has the highest imprisonment rate [wikipedia.org] of any country? Is the USA really more violent and dangerous than Russia or Cuba? I don't think so.

    • by b4upoo (166390) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:39PM (#45044987)

      We do need some laws that would limit the threats a prosecutor can make or imply. We saw a similar problem with condominiums in Florida. The condo associations would file suits for huge sums against a condo owner. The condo owner would be forced to retain expensive legal talent to defend and then the association would drop the suit. The condo owners were made aware that they could be bankrupted by that tactic as numerous suits just might be filed against them. The legal solution was to force the completion of each suit filed by a condo association. The same could be done for criminal law. A defendant could only be tried for the highest charge stated or implied. Since the prosecution knows they only intend to prove a lesser charge it forces the prosecution to only indict for the actual crime they feel they can prove. It takes bluffing out of the game.

      • by nbauman (624611)

        We do need some laws that would limit the threats a prosecutor can make or imply.

        We had one. The Constitution. It didn't work.

      • by pikine (771084)

        A defendant could only be tried for the highest charge stated or implied.

        To work around that, the prosecutor would simply break the charges down to multiple suits. Even though the Fifth Amendment prohibits a single offense to be tried twice, the same act typically involves multiple offenses and multiple counts and can be tried separately.

        It simply has to become more common knowledge that prosecutors can use any intimidation tactic, including pressing charges that are way out of the ballpark, but it is the f

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been trying to make sense of this whole affair, and the above metaphor helps.

    Miners used canaries to monitor oxygen and harmful gas levels because canaries are more vulnerable than miners, and while a dead canary is a clear warning, a happy, chirping canary is a true comfort.

    If we give the canary some free will, mixed with smarts and some innocence, we get a bird who wanted to look at the miners, who was willing to accept some degree of risk associated with flying in a mine, but who instead unexpectedl

  • Here we go again (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:55AM (#45044653) Homepage

    The biggest tragedy about the actions leading to Aaron Swartz's death is that he's become a martyr for a ridiculous cause. Swartz once worked with a friend of mine, and from what I've been told, "naive" isn't too far outside his personality. I'm told he was an idealist, with little regard for consequences, and often a blind faith that things would work out with good triumphing over evil. Unfortunately, he was stuck living in the real world.

    While I agree on the principles of his actions, that science should be freely available, the actions he took to accomplish his goals were asinine. Wantonly breaking the rules of the institution you're trying to change will not actually bring about change; it just makes your opponents mad. When your opponents have vastly superior power, that's a pretty bad idea.

    What makes civil disobedience an effective form of protest is that the laws broken are trivial, but the trials must be public, so the whole affair is a PR campaign. Few remember that Rosa Parks' disobedience was not the first of its kind, but rather just the best candidate to go through a full (and widely-publicized) trial. By Parks becoming a celebrity over an injustice, the whole civil rights movement gained popularity.

    What I see now is a disturbing trend of irresponsible lawbreaking, under the banner of "protesting". Websites are hacked, contracts are ignored, and people with small problems feel entitled to disrupt all normal business until somebody takes care of them. Somewhere, people have forgotten that change comes slowly.

    Bradley Manning could have released his information in small quantities to human rights advocates. Edward Snowden could have sent information anonymously to the EFF. There are responsible channels for changing the world, but they are slow and often frustrating. Swartz had already founded Demand Progress [demandprogress.org] to fight various forms of online censorship; adding scientific lockdown to that campaign would not have taken much effort, and would be much more likely to succeed than going after JSTOR directly.

    Can we as a society please stop this madness? Let's stop glorifying leaks, stop vilifying our opponents, and stop encouraging concerned citizens to become martyred heroes. Instead, let's promote patience, compromise, and a steady societal change, rather than an overnight revolution.

    • You should feel lucky the Continental Congress didn't take your "long" view.

      • Re:Here we go again (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sarten-X (1102295) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:40PM (#45045005) Homepage

        Maybe if they had, they would have written essays for years prior to the Declaration of Independence, slowly building public support and highlighting the injustice of the British rule. Following the official channels, they should have sent representatives to England to attempt to have their interests heard, even knowing that their requests would be denied. After the first stirrings of independence, it would probably have taken at least ten years before support was widespread enough to actually go ahead with a revolution.

        Oh, right... that's exactly what happened.

    • by Kohath (38547)

      Edward Snowden could have sent information anonymously to the EFF.

      Are you really trying to say Edward Snowden wouldn't have been caught if he did that? Really?

      If he'd done what you suggest, he'd be in jail or worse.

    • Do you really not get the irony of mentioning the civil rights movement while speaking about "patience, compromise, and steady change?" Do you know why there was this relatively sudden burst of demonstrations, protests, marches, and so on and so forth? Because for the past fifty years since the Atlanta compromise, gradualism was mainly used by the government as an excuse to do nothing about existing issues with no real plans on the agenda for integration. From 1895 until the 1950s, "patience, compromise, an

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        From 1895 until the 1950s, "patience, compromise, and steady change" did jack shit and only served to retard progress.

        I'd bet the NAACP [wikipedia.org] would beg to differ. They were manipulating the civil rights movement since their founding in 1909, highlighting every injustice to build public support, eventually making the protests and demonstrations of the '50s effective. They were the ones who actively chose not to emphasize earlier bus disobedience, until Rosa Parks presented the perfect candidate.

        thoughts and cultural memes get entrenched ... and the only thing that'll force them out is conflict.

        Absolutely true, but it doesn't have to be a conflict with the law, or anything putting people's lives or livelihoods at risk. Often the

    • And that's putting it gently.

      What I see now is a disturbing trend of irresponsible lawbreaking, under the banner of "protesting".

      Copyright infringement was only recently criminalized. Now its like the war on drugs only with 10X the potential for persecution.

      Bradley Manning could have released his information in small quantities to human rights advocates.

      Small is a relative term, especially in view of the gargantuan apetite government and large corporations developed for our personal information. And anyway, Manning approached papers like the New York times but they weren't interested in handling the info until there was a whipping boy (Wikileaks) between them and the federal government.

    • Instead, let's promote patience, compromise, and a steady societal change, rather than an overnight revolution.

      Ah yes. The "Occupy" doctrine. Sit peaceably outside your opponent's house of crime and continually ask him to "stop being bad" until he stops being a criminal, or oppressor, or whatever. The sound of his boots continuing to trample your head should only strengthen your resolve to be the best non-commital, passive-agressive protestor you can be.

      Or you can get up off your apathetic rear end and actu

  • True lesson (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero (934156) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:10PM (#45044741)

    I think the real lesson to be learned here is how dangerous the legal system really is. I do say legal system because it's not a justice system as there was no justice served here.

    It's abhorrent how people can simply claim they had nothing to do with it when their actions or lack there of are the most critical aspect in this case.
    May the gravity of their [in]actions weigh upon those participating or complicit in this farce. This is not a penalty or punishment, this is your wage.

    • Don't know if it really can be legitimately called a legal system when it clearly does not work--- tomatoes are vegetables, corporations are people, HSBC launders billions in drug money... banks commit outright fraud that crashes economies around the planet... minorities get higher sentences... innocent people go broke or plea to things they are not guilty to.... people spend YEARS in court and jail without a swift trial, and my favorite one: the prisons can't even the keep illegal drugs out!

      Seriously,

  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:13PM (#45044769) Homepage Journal

    with a length of rope.

    It's dangerous and futile to assign blame in a suicide to anyone other than a victim. Swartz's death is not MIT's fault.

    That doesn't mean that mean that MIT is off the hook for killing a plea bargain deal that JSTOR was happy with. That was wrong, but it would have been wrong even had Swartz not taken his life.

  • That would sure be a lot nicer than having to admit to yourself that your harsh actions led directly to the death of someone who was still basically a child in your care, wouldn't it? Well, he's still dead, you're still an asshole and thousands of idealistic young kids like him still apply to your school every year, so I guess it all worked out for just about everyone, didn't it? Perhaps as part of the new student orientation you should give the Fight Club "God Hates You" [youtube.com] speech to all the new students. The
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:19PM (#45044807)

    Rather than allow this to blow over, you decided to write a self serving piece to somehow make your report look unbiased.
    Someone is dead, your institution was involved in the series of events that lead to it no matter what you try to otherwise claim.

    You seem dangerously naive about what a knee jerk reaction from a university can cause to happen, completely moronic about attempting damage control, and have managed to bring the ire for your employer back to the forefront.
    Maybe you really should have listened to your Grandmother and taken her words to heart yourself.

    Sometimes it is better to remain silent and appear a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

     

  • Part of using "civil disobedience" as a form of protest is paying the price. In fact, that's pretty much what makes it effective as a form of protest: it's a vital part of constructing the image you want to convey. Swartz did the deed without being prepared to pay the price. In that sense, he did indeed bring it upon himself.

    Aaron Swartz did a lot of things, most of them good, some of them not so much. But the man was a fallen zealot, not a saint. It does nobody any good to put him on a pedestal.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:43PM (#45045019)

    "And we only want people to have just enough so that we can sell you more of it."

    Aaron was, by every measure, an extraordinarily brilliant individual and we collectively suffered a great loss earlier this year. He was a champion of the kind of freedom that the forefathers of any free country would have themselves admired. Were it not for him, we might have been seeing people with ten-year prison sentences for downloading movies [wikipedia.org] by today.

    MIT feared him because because of this brilliance and brazenness. They knew he was on the fast track to upsetting the establishment. Then they continued acting like cowards and looked the other way while the full force of the US Government sought to destroy his life for the "horrible crime" of publicizing publicly-funded research (with an added dose of vindictiveness for doing the same with PACER ... also publicly-funded knowledge).

    Aaron, like many of us, was frustrated and angered at how the establishment deliberately moves at a snail's pace and seeks to hold knowledge at ransom. Knowledge that gives the people power. They fear people with this power. This, apparently, includes MIT and they should be ashamed of themselves. After all, an intelligence organization that fears intelligence? Historically, not awesome.

    And, if you want to honestly talk about the dangers of exercising the power technology gives you, there's a three-letter government agency I'd like to bring to your attention who's been dangerously and recklessly abusing the power of technology in all sorts of ways. Maybe you've heard of them, they've been in the news a lot lately.

  • The events surrounding the death of Aaron Swartz have irreversibly tainted MIT in my eyes. Every time I see some colleagues' affiliation to include MIT, I can't help but take a dim view of them.
  • This is a very odd juxtaposition of concepts. It could be said that the Jewish people should have know better than to tweak the nose of a Gestapo agent and thus they are to blame for their own deaths because they opposed the policies in Nazi Germany. The public cleansing of conscience serves as a warning to others that established power will continue to act as they have before and others should come in line or they will get the same.
    This type of post event manipulation of public opinion is a hallmark of go
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:38PM (#45045471)

    My brief experiences on the wrong side of the law, way back when I was a youngster, lead me to firmly believe that Prosecutors are way more interested in scoring wins, making examples of people and furthering their careers than in truth and justice. To that end, they always strive to apply as many charges as they can think of and pursue the most harsh punishments available to help ensure they have the maximum leverage and/or win at least something regardless of the facts and circumstances and/or consequences (sound familiar House Republicans?). It's very easy for the accused, especially if young and naive, to be overwhelmed by this process, even with a good, reassuring defense attorney. If I faced the behavior of the Prosecutors in this case, I might also see the ultimate path Aaron chose as the only way out...

    From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

    On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, after systematically downloading academic journal articles from JSTOR. Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release.

    Meaning, he bypassed a website pay/firewall and downloaded some (okay, many) articles. Is that something warranting 35 years in prison? I think not. We could easily enumerate many, many worse crimes - against actual people - that get less severe punishments. It's seems there's a disconnect in this country between "protecting the innocent" - especially people vs. corporations - and the actual crime and damages. I won't say "punishing the guilty" because Prosecutors don't actually care what someone is guilty of - as long as they win.

  • That's how much you should trust MIT. What else is there to say?

  • by elistan (578864) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:52PM (#45045577)
    I wonder what Professor Abelson's views are on the reality of exercising the powers of criminal prosecution, and the responsibilities of prosecutors to exhibit seykhel.
  • 'dangerously naïve about the reality of exercising that power [of technology], to the extent that he destroyed himself'

    They are trying to set their conscience at ease by Blaming the victim.

    Schwartz did not destroy himself. They destroyed him.

    MIT was complicit in everything that happened to him.

    Schwartz did nothing wrong.

  • From what I have been able to research on the guy, he had lots of friends, was not isolating himself and was very active in what he believed to be correct human behaviour with regards to compassion and what that means in the pursuit of knowledge.

    He was also worth millions.

    He had no reason, whatsoever to take his own life, in fact from what I have seen had every reason to be quite happy.

    He had some problems, but to the extent that would warrant his personality profile to kill himself. Also the manner of suc

  • Can someone tell me why it's newsworthy that MIT clowns exonerate themselves & blame their victim?

    Other than to demonstrate how low some people can go.

"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near

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