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[liberationtech] Tragic News: Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Greg Norcie greg at
Sat Jan 12 22:59:39 PST 2013

I really respect Aaron's work, and don't mean to detract from it.

But perhaps we can use this to talk about the issue of depression in the
technology community? (Especially academia - we are, after all on  a
Stanford run email list)

I have several friends in academia who suffer from depression. I am
known  for being a good listening IRL, and I've offered to be there for
many of them.

You know what depressed ME?

All of them remain oblivious the others exist - because they all believe
that publicly acknowledging their mental illness will kill their chances
for tenure and/or prestigious industry research jobs, and have sworn me
to secrecy. These friends come from multiple universities/companies - it
is not a problem endemic to one place.

Depression kills more people than terrorism, DUI, heart disease, breast
cancer - more than so many popular causes.

Again - I do not in any way, shape, or form intend to detract from
Alex's contributions. He was a great inspiration to me, and I greatly
respect his contributions to us all.

But I think that by opening a conversation about mental illness, we can
help more people than debating about JSTOR, and do not want to see this
opportunity lost.

We could remove the stigma from talking about mental illness in academia
today, if we chose. And maybe we could save someone thinking of making
the choice Aaron made.

Personally, I dislike the term "suicide". I prefer the wording
"died of depression" - to emphasize that depression is as much as a
disease as any other.

In closing... I offer my condolences to Aaron's surviving family, and
hope we can use this moment to achieve some sort of silver lining to an
extremely dark cloud.

RIP Aaron.
Greg Norcie (greg at
GPG key: 0x1B873635

On 1/12/13 3:35 AM, Yosem Companys wrote:
> This is a tragic loss and a terrible blow to the liberationtech community.
> Yosem
> Aaron Swartz commits suicide
> Web Update
> By Anne Cai
> NEWS EDITOR; UPDATED AT 2:15 A.M. 1/12/13
> Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide in New York City
> yesterday, Jan. 11, according to his uncle, Michael Wolf, in a comment
> to The Tech. Swartz was 26.
> “The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is,
> regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of
> Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech.
> Swartz was indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly
> mass downloading documents from the JSTOR online journal archive with
> the intent to distribute them. He subsequently moved to Brooklyn, New
> York, where he then worked for Avaaz Foundation, a nonprofit “global
> web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making
> everywhere.” Swartz appeared in court on Sept. 24, 2012 and pleaded
> not guilty.
> The accomplished Swartz co-authored the now widely-used RSS 1.0
> specification at age 14, was one of the three co-owners of the popular
> social news site Reddit, and completed a fellowship at Harvard’s
> Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption. In 2010, he founded
>, a “campaign against the Internet censorship bills
> --
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