Myths surrounding a man in the Internet hall of fame


Around this time, every year I wait for a mother’s declaration of love for her dead son. As he tweeted on January 11: “10 years without a face, without a voice, without intelligence, without love, without light.” I find the sad laments and their honest clichés more thrilling than the highs. the prose of good writers with an acting class. Perhaps the origin of human language was in sadness. In some years, Susan Swartz’s message is shorter. “9 years. 9 YEARS,” he tweeted last year. “It’s been an incredible 8 years. SAY it, my dear son,” he wrote earlier. A mother does not need anniversaries to remember her son. So, “6 years, 2 months. DO MY DEAR SON”. His messages are always accompanied by an image of a smiling young man or a childhood picture.

He is programming prodigy Aaron Swartz. When he was 14, he worked on an early version of Really Simple Syndication, also known as an RSS feed. At age 15, he helped develop the Creative Commons license, a way to make copyrighted material free. At the age of 19, he was one of the founders of Reddit. Eventually, he became an activist and fought for a cause that seemed noble 10 years ago but doesn’t make much sense today: a “free internet.” He hanged himself on January 11, 2013 in Brooklyn. He was 26 years old.

After his startup was merged into Reddit, and he made a small fortune after Reddit was later sold, he became involved in activism, mainly to make information free. He hacked into MIT’s servers and apparently stole a large number of academic articles from a paywalled journal to make them publicly available. He was caught and faced more serious charges than he had imagined. It seems that he had no intention of becoming a martyr. But he rejected an offer to plead guilty, which would have given him a maximum sentence of six months in prison. In his Brooklyn apartment at the time of his suicide, he faced 35 years in prison in addition to financial loss.

Many believe that MIT and the US federal government overreacted to one boy’s symbolic act of defiance against capitalism. Ten years after his death, his status as an influential internet martyr is undisputed. However, the truth is probably more remarkable than the myths surrounding a hero. After each suicide, people try to find reasons that match their passion and grief.

Swartz was an activist, but by the time he died, he had moved beyond the uncertain space of internet freedom. The network itself had become complex. By 2013, it was starting to look like the world, and no one is fighting to keep anything “free” in the real world.

Like many successful activists, Swartz had certain conditions that made a normal life and its simple joys difficult. He had dietary problems, hypersensitivity to common practices, ulcerative colitis, and possibly other concerns. A few weeks after his death, Larissa MacFarquhar wrote about him The New Yorker Journal. I was impressed by this part: “His boyfriend Taren was always dealing with taxi drivers and waiters. “He hated to feel that he had power over someone, to ask for help.”

Swartz once wrote on his blog, “When I go to the library and see the librarian reading at his desk, I’m afraid to interrupt him, even though he’s specifically sitting there, even though he’s interrupted. Such reasons for people like me are his work.”

MacFarquhar writes, “It was not a matter of simple modesty. Having power over other people made you something he hated. Being a boss wasn’t just immoral; the bosses were stupid.”

He tried a corporate job but didn’t survive long.

In an interview on Reddit, the interviewer asks Swartz, “Do you work as a full-time programmer at Reddit?”

Swartz: “No, I left reddit a few months ago.”

Interviewer: “Why did you leave?”

Swartz: “My boss asked me to.”

Interviewer: “Can you explain what happened?”

Swartz then gives a vague answer about vacationing in Europe and returning to work in the US, where he is surprised to have been fired. But while he was in Europe, ulcerative colitis flared up. He didn’t tell anyone. This condition can lead to suicidal thoughts. Checking his Reddit boss’ blog, he found a short fic about a character named Aaron who was fired from his job and then committed suicide. He was fired in real life a few days after this episode.

In a 2005 blog post, he says he quit computer programming and studied sociology because “I want to save the world.”

Another one, closer to home, did something similar. Microbiology student Rohith Vemula switched to sociology because, as he says, he wanted to make the world a better place. He also hanged himself. On Jan. 17, six days after the third anniversary of Swartz’s death.

Sociology is a strange field for those who want to save the world. One of the fathers of sociology is Auguste Comte, who invented and wore a dress that buttoned only at the back so that he could not put it on without help, thus requiring the participation of another person for the simple act of dressing. What good can come of such minds?

The latent darkness in some ideas endures as only darkness can, infecting young people writhing in their own agony, looking for a glorious cause to hang their unwarranted pain on.

Manu Joseph is a journalist, novelist and creator of the Netflix series Decoupled.

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