Aaron SwartzAaron Swartz killed himself on Friday. For those of you who don't know, he was a good guy: a technology savant who co-developed RSS when he was still a teenager. But most of all, he was an activist against our broken and evil intellectual property system. At 26, he was facing up to 35 years in jail for "intending" to release copyrighted documents to the public. That's right: our federal government was threatening him with over twice the maximum federal punishment for rape using a drug.

Certainly, this had something to do with his suicide.

Chris Hayes discussed him on Up today. Check out the video below. But I thought that Dean Baker summed up what I think about all of this:

I have no special insight into the events surrounding his suicide. He had in the past had problems with depression, but there can be little doubt that he was very troubled by the prosecution hanging over his head. The Justice Department was pressing charges after he had been caught trying to download a huge number of academic articles through the M.I.T. computer system. The point was to make this work freely available to the public at large. While both M.I.T. and JSTOR, the system he was alleged to be hacking, asked to have the charges dropped, the Justice Department insisted on pressing the case, threatening Aaron with a lengthy prison sentence.

It is difficult not to be outraged by this part of the story. Here is an administration that could find nothing to prosecute at the Wall Street banks who enriched themselves by passing on hundreds of billions of dollars of fraudulent mortgages in mortgage backed securities and complex derivative instruments, but found the time and resources to prosecute a young man who wanted to make academic research freely available to the world.

That's the liberal administration. Remember that.

Here's Chris Hayes:


I like what Hayes read from Swartz's article on depression. I only want to add that Hayes is wrong: there really isn't any help, as far as I've ever been able to tell. But certainly, great stress (like having the entire federal prosecution machine attack you) only makes it worse. Sometimes, tragically, unbearably worse.