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Caught in the web

JEFF SAWTELL recommends a documentary on the fate of internet ‘pirate’ Aaron Swartz

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz (12A)

Directed by Brian Knappenberger

4/5

AARON SWARTZ was certainly a child of the internet age, being born just three years before British computer scientist Timothy Berner-Lee invented the worldwide web in 1989.

His contribution was developing RSS, Creative Commons and Reddit before becoming disillusioned with capitalism and transforming into an advocate of the Progressive Change campaign.

Naturally such a “communist” was anathema to corporate capitalism and, targeted by US security forces, he was hounded for the heinous crime of downloading academic articles.

With the introduction of the politically motivated Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, following the paranoia of the Patriot Act, his “piracy” was seen as a threat to the US policy of pursuing their war on the world.

Yes, Swartz made money. But it was increasingly seen as a means to an end. Sharing his and others’ information to the world, he was not adding more to the aggressive US armoury.

Ironically, like his hero Tom Paine — an Englishman who penned the US constitution only to see it amended to exclude slaves — Swartz wouldn’t comply with what he considered a crime against the principles of freedom it proclaims.

Paine died almost forgotten. Swartz hanged himself in 2011. Yet unlike many other anonymous contributors to advancing democracy, the latter’s saga can be shared through the technology he developed.

Director Brian Knappenberger relates Swartz’s brief life by combining old film footage with  contributions from friends and foes throughout his short career. The result is an informative and heartfelt documentary.

Swartz’s story is increasingly that of our own times, especially given the social media generation’s contribution to Obama’s election by promoting the concept of change.

Sadly, like most anti-capitalist anarchists promoting abstract freedoms, they forgot that the political-military-industrial complex doesn’t take prisoners.

See and share.

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