In a heartfelt tumblr, the girlfriend of fallen Internet activist, Aaron Swartz, explained why she thinks he committed suicide. After revealing intimate details of his seemingly chipper, curious lifestyle, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman argues that “I believe Aaron’s death was caused by exhaustion, by fear, and by uncertainty. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a persecution and a prosecution that had already wound on for 2 years.”
Stinebrickner-Kauffman, who found Swartz hanging by his own belt on January 11, devotes the lion’s share of her post to dispelling the myth of Swartz’s depression. “Over the last 20 months of his life, Aaron spent more time with me than with anyone else in the world. For much of the last 8 months of his life, we lived together, commuted together, and worked in the same office,” she writes. “I was never worried he was depressed until the last 24 hours of his life.”
“The Aaron I knew was sociable and excited to spend time with his favorite people, right up to the very end. He had plans and ambitions — huge ones. On January 9, two days before he died, he spent hours deep in conversation with our Australian friend Sam about the new organization Aaron was in the early stages of building. Sam asked him whether he had support, and Aaron replied that everyone who was competent enough to support him was, in fact, supporting him — classic Aaron pessimistic arrogance, but also a reminder that he knew his friends were standing with him. Sam gave Aaron a quick overview of Australian politics; Aaron expressed astonishment at how easy it would be to “take over Australia”, but concluded that a country of only 20 million probably wouldn’t be worth it. Self-esteem, needless to say, was definitely not Aaron’s problem.”
Placing the blame on mental health, she argues, diverts attention from the true cause of his suicide: an overzealous prosecution. Swartz was the target of a controversial legal case for releasing millions of pay-walled academic papers from the popular JSTOR database. In response, Hacktivist organization, Anonymous, replaced part of MIT’s website with a statement condemning the prosecution and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has proposed a bill to limit the prosecutorial power of similar crimes, dubbed “Aaron’s Law.”
The AtlanticWire boldly surmised the opposite, that he may have in fact been depressed, even if he wasn’t outwardly showing signs, leading Stinebrickner-Kauffman to tweet:
Controversy aside, the post is heartbreaking and well written. Let us hope his death was not in vain.