Why did the feds over-prosecute Aaron Swartz?

| January 17, 2013 | 2 Replies

Glenn Greenwald makes a strong case that the government was intentionally making an example out of Swartz in order to assert corporatocratic control over the Internet. Government information belongs to the government and big business

But the abuses here extend far beyond the statutes in question. There is, as I wrote about on Saturday when news of Swartz’s suicide spread, a general effort to punish with particular harshness anyone who challenges the authority of government and corporations to maintain strict control over the internet and the information that flows on it. Swartz’s persecution was clearly waged by the government as a battle in the broader war for control over the internet. As Swartz’s friend, the NYU professor and Harvard researcher Danah Boyd, described in her superb analysis:

“When the federal government went after him – and MIT sheepishly played along – they weren’t treating him as a person who may or may not have done something stupid. He was an example. And the reason they threw the book at him wasn’t to teach him a lesson, but to make a point to the entire Cambridge hacker community that they were p0wned. It was a threat that had nothing to do with justice and everything to do with a broader battle over systemic power.

The government bullying of Aaron Swartz is one of many government abuses that all fit into a pattern, as Greenwald notes:

The grotesque abuse of Bradley Manning. The dangerous efforts to criminalize WikiLeaks’ journalism. The severe overkill that drives the effort to apprehend and punish minor protests by Anonymous teenagers while ignoring far more serious cyber-threats aimed at government critics. The Obama administration’s unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers. And now the obscene abuse of power applied to Swartz.

Why the focus on the Internet?

[T]he 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.

Share

Category: Censorship, Orwellian, Propaganda, Secrecy, Whistle-blowers

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. The Aaron Swartz story was particularly revealing and disturbing. I thought TYT did a nice job discussing the implications. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoPgFA5AkUY&list=UU1yBKRuGpC1tSM73A0ZjYjQ&index=5
    Thanks for bringing it up.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Michael: That presentation by Cenk Uygur was extraordinary. It certainly comports with my suspicions. This is yet another eruption of class warfare in yet another front.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

Leave a Reply


Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.