Thursday, 17 January 2013

Transparency as Camouflage...

Aaron Swartz.  I hadn't even heard of him until recent events, and was a bit wary about the twitter-storm and almost cod-Shakespearian lamentation.  Strangely, reminded me a bit about the declaiming when Diana died.

Not wanting to judge superficially, I read some of his writing showcased on this memorial blogpost by the excellent David Sasaki.

Man is a nuanced and complex beast, so who knows what he was like as a man (yes, it's sad that he died - no more or less sad or precious than every other anonymous sufferer of depression who tops themselves).  But Swartz definitely makes solid, solid points in those essays.

The need to focus on the real underlying struggles, and mobilise whatever is needed to address the structural problems.  To fight the real fight, to not be captured or anaesthetised by "transparency" or "openness"...transparency as camouflage, an opiate, ultimately as yet another tool for manufacturing consent...?  You should read those featured writings yourself, I don't need to synopsise his (very readable) writing.

Btw, an irony is that the lamenters seem to be all falling over themselves proposing ideas to "honour" him and his struggle.  By, of course, glomming him on to pet projects, typically aimed at superficial, technocratic transparency - see here for an example.  Based on those writings, he was more focused on the underlying struggles, than just a fight against "those who control information"...(perhaps such would-be subversion is unsurprising - after all, war is peace).

Anyway, RIP Mr. Swartz - there are others still around who seem to share his core motivations, as this good piece shows (see the second-last paragraph for example), so hopefully they will continue.

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