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Review of IOB: “A frightening case study in the power of government”

 

The Internet’s Own Boy (Review)
By Norm Schrager for Paste Magazine  on June 27, 2014

From the Review:

The Internet’s Own Boy is Brian Knappenberger’s (We are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists) account of Swartz’s immensely abbreviated life as one of the most vital and controversial contributors to the progress of the Internet and, more notably, the availability of its contents. A distinctively human tale in a world of software development, Own Boy succeeds on many levels: it’s a compact, descriptive history of a nascent Internet, a frightening case study in the power of government, and a collection of interviews with the most prominent voices of the Web Age. But most important—and most effective to the storytelling—The Internet’s Own Boy is about a brilliant youngster who was becoming a brilliant man before he took his own life…

Knappenberger traces Swartz’s growth and burgeoning activism with the eye of an investigative reporter, assembling some of the most interesting talking heads in the industry, including Tim Berners-Lee (yeah, he invented the World Wide Web) and soft-spoken Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig. Brilliant minds themselves, they all recognized Swartz’s smarts and courage, and express it on screen wonderfully.

Afterword By Aaron Swartz for Cory Doctorow’s “Homeland”

Doctorows_HomelandIn the Huffington Post, Cory Doctorow talks about the afterword that Aaron wrote for Homeland (the sequel to the incredible Little Brother).

This afterword is probably one of the best explanations of the spirit behind having an Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon every year.

 

From Cory Doctorow:

I knew I wanted an afterword from Aaron Swartz, who had the best techno-activist instincts of anyone I knew, and who I’d know since he was a little kid, and who was also being savagely victimized by the US government for his principled work. I’m devastated about what happened with Aaron. I asked him to write me a afterword in the form of a letter to a kid like himself, but who was 14 in the year 2013. What he gave me was a call-to-arms that made me want to rush to a barricade, and left no doubt that we both hoped for the same thing from this book: that it would inspire a generation of activists who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it came to freedom in the information age.

From the Afterword to Homeland by Aaron Swartz:

This is your life, this is your country — and if you want to keep it safe, you need to get involved…

The system is changing. Thanks to the Internet, everyday people can learn about and organize around an issue even if the system is determined to ignore it. Now, maybe we won’t win every time — this is real life, after all — but we finally have a chance.

But it only works if you take part. And now that you’ve read this book and learned how to do it, you’re perfectly suited to make it happen again. That’s right: now it’s up to you to change the system.

Let me know if I can help.

 

 

 

 

Guardian Piece On Ben Wikler and Aaron Swartz’ “Good Fight”

Listen to this: Ben Wikler and Aaron Swartz’s The Good Fight

Wikler’s increasingly popular political podcast tries to ‘inspire people to get involved in stuff that really counts’

By Lilah Raptopoulos for The Guardian

Aaron Swartz and Ben WiklerFrom the Article:
Wikler was close friends with the free-information pioneer Aaron Swartz, who took his life last January – he was facing up to 50 years in prison for allegedly downloading millions of copyrighted academic articles. Wikler and Swartz began The Good Fight’s predecessor, a radio show called the Flaming Sword of Justice, meant to spotlight people making real progressive changes, in January of 2012. Wikler now hosts the show alone, but each episode still evokes Swartz’s quest to empower people and to fight the status quo…

Without a doubt, start with episode 25: Lawrence Lessig, Aaron Swartz, and the Super Pac to end Super Pacs. Then, check out episode 17: the Nanny Uprising, about a group of women who fought to give nannies and other domestic workers basic labor rights they didn’t already have, and episode 26: Pulitzer winner. Undocumented. American, where journalist Jose Antonio Vargas tells his story of coming out as public representative for other undocumented migrants living in America.

Lawrence Lessig, Aaron Swartz, and the Super PAC to end Super PACs

The Good Fight #25: Lawrence Lessig, Aaron Swartz, and the Super PAC to end Super PACs (How challenge and tragedy inspired a mega-plan to fight money in politics)

Right about the time that Aaron was launching the campaign against SOPA, he was founding “The Flaming Sword of Justice” podcast (what would become “The Good Fight”), with Ben Wikler.

This episode covers how Aaron told Lawrence Lessig that he needed to go a different direction in life, and drop the copyright fight to fight corruption in politics.

From the show (at 11:09):

Ben Wikler: How did you start thinking about this broader fight?

Lawrence Lessig: In every one of my books, I had sort of pointed to this fact, and left it to the side. Even the first book, Code, I was like “here’s what the right policy would be, but, you know, forget it.” And then, as I was writing my last book on copyright, a book called “Remix,” I was in Berlin, and Aaron came to attend the Chaos Computer Conference. He came to visit me at the center where I was, and we had a long talk.

Ben: What year is this?

Lawrence: It was 2006. And so Aaron, you know, sort of said “How do you ever think you’re going to make any progress on these issues so long as there’s this corruption in the way that our political systems works? And I remember being kind of miffed because I wanted to be excited about what I was doing and he was basically the pouring cold water of reality on the fight.

Because, it’s true. We weren’t going to make any progress. But I defensively sort of said to him, “Look, you know, it’s not my field Aaron. I do internet policy, copyright. I’m not going to write a book about corruption of congress. It’s just not my expertise. And he said “Yeah, I get it, as an academic. But as a citizen. It’s your field as a citizen…”

…I was incredibly vulnerable to him. He was someone who I felt I had worked with for a long time. I’m not his father, but it was kind of relationship like that. And so, when your son says to you “Why can’t you’re not as good as you’re supposed to be?” It’s hard to say “because I can’t. It’s not my job.” I thought, “what is my excuse?” Did I really envision the next ten years of my life tweaking and perfecting the argument to show why copyright shouldn’t be extended. And I thought, “OK fine. I’ll give it up. I’ve got tenure. I’ll have money to feed my family. So yes, Aaron, you’re right. That’s what I should do, and that’s what I’ll do.

LA Times: Aaron’s Story Cannot Help But Touch You

aaron dark

Critic’s Pick ‘Internet’s Own Boy’ outlines suicide of prodigy Aaron Swartz

By Kenneth Turan for the LA Times

From the Review (July 2, 2014):

“The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” is an unemotional title for a moving documentary that will leave you heartsick as well as more than a little angry. Whether Aaron Swartz is a personal hero or someone you’ve never heard of until now, his story cannot help but touch you…

Swartz’s death shocked the Internet community because of the aims and tactics of U.S. prosecutors who, the film contends, exhibited considerably more zeal than sense. Hearing from friends, family, colleagues and admirers makes it clear how unbearably sad it is that someone as young and gifted as Swartz felt compelled to take his own life.”

YOU DID IT! MayDay PAC Reaches Its 5 Million Dollar Goal

maydayLessig’s Mayday Hits $5M Kickstarter Goal To Fund Pro-Campaign Finance Reform Politicians

By Josh Constine for TechCrunch

Lessig told TechCrunch this week that while his group pushed for the ambitious $5 million goal in one month because “the urgency is to be able to pick the districts and begin the campaign. (Plus I am a bit of a drama queen).” There wasn’t time to waste.

He framed the campaign finance issue as a problem for the tech industry because corrupt politicians threaten innovation and a fair Internet. “We have no protection for network neutrality because of the enormous influence of cable company’s money in the political system…If NN is your issue, then this is why you should see that politic$ is your issue too” Lessig says.

If the “Super PAC to end all Super PACs” hits its next $12 million goal and succesfully gets candidates elected in its 2014 pilot campaign, it plans to raise orders of magnitude more money to elect an an more pro-campaign finance reform congress in 2016, enact reforms in 2017, and defend them in 2018.

 

Lessig’s MayDay PAC Fights Fire With Fire – 1 Day left!

We’re a little more than 2/3 of the there (shooting for $5 million by July 4 is the goal). But there’s still time!

DONATE NOW

If you’re just sitting down to this now – that’s great! Here’s a short article that will get you up to speed quickly:

Fighting Fire With Fire: Super PAC Raises Money to Reform Campaign Finance

By Isabel Weisz for Takepart.com

From the article:

Lessig’s Mayday PAC is crowdsourcing donations in an attempt to revamp the system and change the way campaigns and elections are funded.

Mayday is also dubbing itself the Internet’s Super PAC, ready to defend the Internet from “a steady stream of threats and challenges to a free and open Internet,” according to the site. Those threats include net neutrality, SOPA and PIPA, and other regulatory issues…

By Friday we’ll see if the MayDay PAC hits its $5 million goal and is on track to end all super PACs with this new super PAC.

Here’s the timeline. The goal is to raise $5 million by July 5. The MayDay PAC aims to get campaign finance reform–minded candidates elected in 2016 and then help them get fundamental reforms passed. If the MayDay PAC succeeds, it hopes to have big money and corporate influence out of politics by 2018—and we might need to rename that date America’s New Independence Day.

MayDay PAC: The PAC to end all SuperPACs