Arc (NetGalley) Review: The Idealist- Aaron Swartz And The Rise Of Free Culture On The Internet

The Idealist


Product Details: 

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (January 12, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476767726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476767727
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds



A smart, lively history of the Internet free culture movement and its larger effects on society—and the life and shocking suicide of Aaron Swartz, a founding developer of Reddit and Creative Commons—from Slatecorrespondent Justin Peters.

Aaron Swartz was a zealous young advocate for the free exchange of information and creative content online. He committed suicide in 2013 after being indicted by the government for illegally downloading millions of academic articles from a nonprofit online database. From the age of fifteen, when Swartz, a computer prodigy, worked with Lawrence Lessig to launch Creative Commons, to his years as a fighter for copyright reform and open information, to his work leading the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), to his posthumous status as a cultural icon, Swartz’s life was inextricably connected to the free culture movement. Now Justin Peters examines Swartz’s life in the context of 200 years of struggle over the control of information.

In vivid, accessible prose, The Idealist situates Swartz in the context of other “data moralists” past and present, from lexicographer Noah Webster to ebook pioneer Michael Hart to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the process, the book explores the history of copyright statutes and the public domain; examines archivists’ ongoing quest to build the “library of the future”; and charts the rise of open access, copyleft, and other ideologies that have come to challenge protectionist IP policies. Peters also breaks down the government’s case against Swartz and explains how we reached the point where federally funded academic research came to be considered private property, and downloading that material in bulk came to be considered a federal crime.

The Idealist is an important investigation of the fate of the digital commons in an increasingly corporatized Internet, and an essential look at the impact of the free culture movement on our daily lives and on generations to come.



For those who have yet to watch the documentary The Internet’s Own Boy, this book by Author Justin Peters poses as both alternative and complement. United States Vs. Swartz has been a much talked about trial in the history of the Internet. After all, it was the moment when the legal system failed to prove that it was unbiased and didn’t have to resort to ‘making examples’ out of people.

You will NOT be disappointed by this book. It shows how academic research sanctioned by the government such as J-Stor can be kept from the hands of the researchers unless they cough up a premium fee. Is this what education has come to? A haven where profit is prioritized over knowledge? Aaron died a martyr, but he was demonized by many for standing up to a system which systematically took apart his confidence piece by piece until he could bear it no longer and took his own life much to the dismay of the online community.

Knowledge is power, Aaron knew this, and so he tried to make information as uniform as possible. His contributions span from helping form the creative commons to being the man behind RSS feeds and Reddit. He’s done his part, so it’s time that we do ours.


When Life Gives You Lemons Just So That It Can Take Them Back

The boy who called himself No Name stood stock still like a silent specter seeing his life laid out before him for the first time and being underwhelmed by the proceedings. To add to the effect, he decided to play Saturnus’ ‘All Alone’ on the Bose Bluetooth soundbar that he had recently purchased with his parent’s money.

For those who are genuinely curious about the choice of name, let it be known that the story behind it isn’t all that interesting. No Name had simply never gotten to know anyone on a first name basis. Also, while the bullies wanted to call him names, they had deemed his existence unworthy of their attention. Hence, he was simply referred to as No Name.

This had gone on for an incalculable amount of time, as a result, even the boy could not recall his real identity. Not that it mattered! He was one of those faces you see on the high school senior yearbook without really caring to know who is behind the picture. In fact, his quote read: “I am the sum total of all that has not happened to me. Sometimes it’s the things which never end up happening which affect us the most.”

Having decided that ‘Falling Snow’ By Agalloch would be a better song to listen to before kicking the bucket, he did just that. He needed to numb himself in order to imitate the feeling which had come to haunt him in his dreams. Nothing hurts more than frostbite of the soul. Losing oneself one chunk at a time. Unfortunately, it was always sunny where he lived so he tried to make up for it by turning the air conditioner to ultra-low-temperature mode. The attempt failed miserably since his car’s batteries had died. Guess he wouldn’t be the only one dying today.

With a deadpan look in his eyes, he decided that he had stalled enough. He got out of the car, the same car whose engine had stalled as soon as he drove out of the driveway and limped towards the lawn gnome that had made its home on his property-Well his parent’s property, but let the lawyers worry about that.

After arriving at his chosen destination, he unholstered the patient gun and pointed it at his temple. Right at that fateful moment his mind went blank. Why was he doing this again?

No, he was not terminally ill. Au contraire he was in good shape as he had hit the gym so the bullies wouldn’t hit him, it seemed like the rational thing to do at the time.

He never had a girlfriend so that ruled out a devastating breakup. Besides, he was one of the few people who had seen the last episode of Tom & Jerry, ‘Blue Cat Blues’ for what it was- a joke. He knew better than to throw his life away for a relationship. Ships were meant to sink after all, the flagship being Titanic which had split into two, another way of symbolizing divorce.

His parents were neither doting nor disapproving. Once in a blue moon would they speak to him, justifiably it was a request for him to pass the salt.

True, he didn’t have any friends, but that just meant he didn’t have to be anyone’s secret Santa.

That garage band he wanted to be a part of didn’t even let him audition because his house did not include a garage. The band never managed to take off or find an audience so it didn’t matter in the end. The only audience No Name needed to play for was himself. The less the merrier.

Worst of all, or perhaps, best of all, the only person in his school who knew his name was none other than the janitor. Unlike Will Hunting from the movie Good Will Hunting, the janitor was a typical fellow.  An Honest bloke who was just smart enough to figure out when he saw a good human being, which was exactly what he pictured No Name as.

Although the lad had been forced to quit the community service club because the president had taken a personal dislike to the taciturn boy, he continued to do his part in what way he could. Every day as soon as everyone had left the school premises and the only ones left would be No Name and The Janitor, both of them would get to work.

Any lost articles which the dynamic duo bumped into would be returned within the week. However, unlike the janitor No Name would resort to indirect means to return the possessions in question. He would leave a note along with the personal effects telling the loser not to weep but to keep their possessions under hawk’s eye so as not to repeat the same mistake.

Yes, he never did get any credit, but Luca Pacioli need not always be right. Not every debit must have a credit.

Regardless of recollecting the time he had made a difference No Name pulled the trembling trigger.

The water gun splashed his face with a bitter alarm call. The lemonade he had filled it with made his eyes tear up and as he sank to his knees he could feel the acerbity in his mouth- it reminded him of his life. The sweet lost in the bitter, further enhancing the flavor.

  • Death is inevitable, suicide is optional.