Aaron Swartz (1986–2013) was an American computer programmer, a writer, a political organizer, and an Internet hacktivist, devoted to a free and open internet. He was involved in the development of RSS, Creative Commons, web.py, and Reddit. When he tried to 'liberate' data from an academic website, US authorities responded fiercely. He faced a fine of up to $1m and 35 years in jail. In 2013, he tragically took his own life.
The Boy Who Could Change the World is a newly-published collection of his writings; the life’s work of one of the most original minds of our time. In tribute to Swartz, this book is available to download for FREE—for one day only! We’ve also included other ebooks such as Inventing the Future, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, and The Wikileaks Files.
Aaron Swartz read widely, posting annual lists of the books he enjoyed (and didn’t). Taken from The Boy Who Could Change the World, we bring you a hacktivist reading list – books that Swartz posted about from 2006-2011, presented here in his own words.
To what extent should the US disrupt the growth of ISIS? And should it be on the offense or defense? Wikileaks Whistleblower Chelsea Manning was an all-source analyst in Iraq during the beginnings of the brutal extremist group and writes in the Guardian:
Attacking Isis directly, by air strikes or special operations forces, is a very tempting option available to policymakers, with immediate (but not always good) results. Unfortunately, when the west fights fire with fire, we feed into a cycle of outrage, recruitment, organizing and even more fighting that goes back decades. This is exactly what happened in Iraq during the height of a civil war in 2006 and 2007, and it can only be expected to occur again.
The panicky response to WikiLeaks from some liberals has had its opera buffa highlights. WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer and New Yorker liberal hawk George Packer clucked like wet hens in horror at WikiLeaks’ release of a (ludicrously) classified list of world locations of strategic interest to the United States. Can we ever be safe now that the terrorists know there are vast mineral reserves in Central Africa, and that the Strait of Gibraltar is a vital shipping lane? Ambrose Bierce said that war is God’s way of teaching geography to Americans, but have we become so infantilized that grade-school factoids must be guarded as state secrets?
Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Story, wrote this 'My Hero' piece in the Guardian.
There could be no more bitterly appropriate coda to our Iraq conflict – a debacle schemed up behind official secrecy, distortion and lies – than the prosecution of a conscience-stricken soldier who delivered us the truth. Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks' source inside the US military, was this week convicted of charges that could put him away for 136 years. His crime is to release some 700,000 documents, many of them classified – the largest security breach in US history – though well under 1% of what Washington classified last year.
But his real sin is a failure of cynicism. He thought Operation Iraqi Freedom would promote Iraqi freedom.He thought that a nation where everyone claims to hate the very idea of government would want to know some of the hateful things their government was doing. He probably even thought journalists might stick up for their source if he got busted. His gifts have not been well received at home. A depoliticised society cannot comprehend political motives and reduces them to psychology, sex, celebrity-envy. The fact that Manning was considering gender transition has been seized on as the obvious explanation for the soldier's heroic actions, which makes perfect sense only if you blame the gender straightness of Bush and Blair for the invasion of Iraq.
At his trial, the prosecutors laboured to paint Manning as a traitor, a crazy person, a self-absorbed loser – themes that the "quality" press had helpfully outlined in more muted tints over the last three years.But a young man bearing no resemblance to these cartoon smears took the stand to speak for himself on 1 March.Poised, articulate and with just the faintest tint of indignation, Manning soberly explained why he thought people should know the truth about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about the foreign policy of the world's mightiest nation. Standing 5' 2" in his crisp uniform, he seemed the living incarnation of the still, small voice of reason and conscience.
Manning has not communicated with journalists in the three-year course of his imprisonment, but this will probably changeonce his sentence is handed down at the end of August. I expect that the more people hear from him, the more they are going to realise who in this story has been the responsible and decent human, and who have been the destructive narcissists.
- Featured in the Guardian
Chase Madar is the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikieaks Whistleblower.