While I was browsing the internet for good articles on “tweeting”, I was having problems finding articles other than breaking news stories on the conditions in U.S. prisons. Luckily, using the wonderful skills bestowed upon me by the faculty at the University of Oregon Journalism School, I was able to track down this story from the Boise Weekly that presents an interesting angle to the recent events that have occurred at the world famous MIT.
The title of this piece is, Murder by Prosecutor, and it profiles that accounts that Aaron Swartz’s unexpected death have had on the internet community. This ties into my beat because I’m focusing on the prison system and all things related to it.
“If you’re looking for sympathy, it helps to be white, male and media-savvy. Throw in charm and brains–especially if your smarts tend toward the tech-geek variety–and your online petitions will soon collect more signatures than campaigns against kitten cancer.”
This was the lead presented by Ted Rall about the effects of prosecutors and the internet. I see one great aspect of this lead. It really puts me in the scene of what’s to come, or at least, so I think. Rall writes about a common stereotype in our society, that white men get more privileges and respect than other people. He’s speaking about online petitions, and he analogizes them towards something that’s Google searched more than anything else… Kittens! Everybody loves a cute kitten right? That’s what makes this personal example so good. Well, let’s keep reading and see where this story takes us.
“These advantages weren’t enough to save Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old technology wunderkind who hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment on Jan. 11.”
Whoa! This was not where I thought this was going. It went from a relatively soft lead, to a story about the recent suicide of Swartz. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that this lead was excellent and really drew in the reader by leaving them hanging. This sentence from the nut graf provides great detail to the scene. We get a sense of the kind of person he was and we see the lifestyle that he had, Brooklyn apartments aren’t cheap.
“Swartz, who helped invent RSS feeds as a teenager and co-founded the link-posting social networking site Reddit, was a militant believer in online libertarianism, the idea that everything–data, books, movies and news–ought to be available online for free. Sometimes he hacked into databases of copyrighted material–to make a point, not a profit. Though Swartz reportedly battled depression, the trigger that pushed him to string himself up was apparently his 2011 arrest for breaking into MIT’s computer system.”
This part of the story provides a great visual representation of the kind of person he was, and gives strong reasoning to why this supposed hacking scandal lead to his apparent suicide. He was a libertarian, and believed that people should have free access to information.
What apparently got him was the prosecution by MIT for hacking into their databases. This is the underlying answer that makes for a great narrative. People don’t want to read a story about the obvious, but uncovering unanswered solutions to an unexpected death make for a great story, and a great story this is indeed. It answers so many things that were unexplained for the last several weeks. Apparently, Swartz was not happy that government prosecution was stopping him from working towards what he believed in, so he decided to commit such act.
“Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. The charges were wire fraud, computer fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer. Thirty-five years for stealing data. The average rapist serves between five and six years. The average first-degree murderer does 16.”
To me, this brings up an excellent question trending in our society today. Why are prosecutors and county officials spending so much time pursuing felonies like wire fraud, when there are people stabbing people in the middle of town being released from prisons due to overcrowding? See this article for explanation on the referenced stabbing.
Over the course of last summer, the Lane County Jail released approximately 90 inmates according to an article in The Register Guard, including people with felony offenses. Why? I want to know why these people are being released, while people like Swartz are being prosecuted so hard that the eventually commit suicide out of fear.
This article by Ted Rall raises several questions about our current prison system. Again, what’s the use of spending resources on trivial cases as these, when there are larger felony offenses being overlooked in numerous counties and states?
That’s why this article is so good. Not only does it present the facts about a recent breaking news story about Aaron Swartz, but, through its undertones, raises questions of awareness and appropriate allocations of prosecution and court resources. I believe that this was an excellent written piece.