John Perry Barlow Has Left Us Meat Space Folks Behind

We will be remembering John Perry for quite a while, as he was an Aaron Swartz Day advisor and a good friend to this community.

John Perry Barlow (October 3, 1947 – February 6, 2018)

John Perry only met Aaron once, when Aaron was twelve years old. John Perry describes it here.

(Although you often see he and Aaron together in this famous photograph, which of course, was taken much later.)

 

 

The Freedom of the Press Foundation, of which John Perry was a co-founder, has written this piece.

Here’s the EFF’s post, written by Cindy Cohn.

ArsTechnica’s Cyrus Farivar covered it here.

John Perry Barlow Recalls A 12 year-old Aaron Swartz

aaron and john

Although you often see John Perry Barlow sitting behind Aaron in the famous photograph by Daniel J. Sieradski, above, the two of them never actually met each other.

From John Perry on November 8, 2014: “Correction! Aaron and I met and met heavily… But primarily on that one day. We were casual friends later but I think he never got over the initial awe enough to relax and really tell me what happened that day. But he did tell his father.”

John Perry walked up to the front of the room at the very beginning of the “open mic” segment at the end of Aaron’s San Francisco memorial, and explained that they had actually met before, sort-of, many years earlier, when  John Perry came to talk to his school one day, whe Aaron was 11 or 12 years old.

When John Perry ran into Aaron’s father, Robert Swartz, after he had accepted Aaron’s Internet Hall of Fame award last year, he asked if he thought he’d had made an impression on Aaron that day?

Robert replied that he most certainly had.

The rest, as they say, is history.

John Perry Barlow’s speech during “open mic” portion of the San Francisco Memorial, January 24, 2013:

Aaron Swartz was the embodiment and apotheosis of everything that I’ve stood for for the last 25 years, and it is paradoxical that even though that was true, and even though he was profoundly involved with most of my best friends and greatest heroes, I spent almost all the time that I ever spent with him, one afternoon in, I think, 1996, when he really was a very little kid.

I’d been asked by the headmaster of Northshore Country Day to come and speak to the middle school, and, for some reason, there was this 10 or 11 year old that was in among the middle schoolers. And I spent the afternoon – this was a time when, I don’t think there were that many people who felt the way I did about this stuff. Most of them are in this room now. And I was promoting the idea that we could make a world where anybody anywhere could give his thirst for knowledge and his curiosity everything that it wanted to know. And *anybody* could know as much as any human being knew about any thing, in the future. He didn’t say much. He was extremely memorable, however. He was much younger. He was all eyes, and mind, and…spiritual radiance, in a way. And I scarcely saw him again.

But years later… Last year, at one point, when I was with a bunch of copyright barons in Paris at the EG8, and they were all talking about how enforcement and education was gonna come out right, and it was gonna be just like the War on some Drugs. And I happened to be on a panel with these guys. I said “you know, you think you’ve won this thing, or you will win this thing. But the truth is that you’ve turned a whole generation into an electronic Hezbollah. And you will be dead when they are alive. And I was thinking of Aaron Swartz and it’s really very difficult for me to see that he is dead, and they are alive. But he is not dead, and they will be.

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Historical notes:

  1. This was originally republished on November 8, 2016, and republished on February 8, 2018.

2. This post used to say “EFF and Freedom of the Press co-founder John Perry Barlow will be appearing with Freedom of the Press co-founder and executive director Trevor Timm, and Brian Knappenberger, Director of “The Internet’s Own Boy,” for a Q & A with the audience at tonight’s Aaron Swartz Day celebration.” at the top :)

Ben Swartz Writes A Few Words About Aaron

Aaron, 5 years later

by Ben Swartz

From the post:

The last time I ever saw Aaron face to face was Thanksgiving 2012. He wasn’t upset that I was working at Google, he was upset that I wasn’t using my power as a Google employee to effect change. As we talked over the phone after Thanksgiving it was clear that he was proud of me.

Every year, on the anniversary of his death, I spend the day reflecting on Aaron. I reread old blog posts, watch old videos, and read articles. One video I always watch is his Freedom To Connect Speech “How we stopped SOPA”. One especially powerful quote from it is:

It wasn't a dream or a nightmare, it was all very real. And it will happen again. Sure, it will have yet another name and maybe a different excuse and probably do its damage in a different way. But make no mistake the enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared...If we let them persuade us we didn't actually make a difference. If we start seeing it as someone else's responsibility to do this work and it's our job just to go home and pop some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch Transformers, well then next time, they might just win."

In 2017, I had the privilege to respond to this quote exactly. I worked to make sure that Twitch had a response for the Net Neutrality Day of Action.

Working on the project was exhilarating yet exhausting. I felt amazing writing code that I knew would make the world a better place. I felt good when I finally convinced people that we needed to do this. But every time I ran into bureaucratic problems, I felt crushed. Every time I ran into a bug, I felt hopeless. I felt the weight of the entire internet on my shoulders–I felt that if I failed, I would be flattened.

I can only start to imagine how Aaron felt every day fighting for the things he fought for. Hopefully, by giving back even a tiny amount, I’ve made a difference that he would have been proud of.

Read the whole thing here: Aaron, 5 years later.