I’ve gotten enough emails and Twitter queries asking me if I’m going to write about the suicide of Internet notable Aaron Swartz (and at least one sort of angry email wondering way I haven’t written about it) that I feel it’s worth saying why I haven’t: Because until Friday, when the first reports of the suicide began to surface online, I had no idea who Mr. Swartz was, nor (as a consequence) any knowledge of the controversies with him and the US government over JSTOR. I am basically ignorant of the entire situation and the major players.
So: I don’t have anything really useful or relevant to say here. In a general sense, if I don’t feel like I have anything useful or relevant to say on a subject, I try not to say anything. In this particular case, there’s a suicide of a young man to consider, and a political aspect to it all that seems very complicated, and so I feel there’s a great opportunity to make an ass out of myself by saying something that does little more than reveal everything I don’t know. I would prefer not to do that. My participation in the story is confined to retweeting thoughts from friends who better knew Aaron Swartz and the situation, so those interested who follow me on that service can do as I was doing, and find out more.
The two things I can say here are thus: One, this reminds me to remind people who suffer from depression, as Aaron Swartz apparently did, to seek help for their condition. My friend Wil Wheaton talks about suicide and depression here and I recommend you see what he has to say about it. Two, I am heartily sorry for friends like Cory Doctorow and Quinn Norton that they and many others have lost someone they loved and cared about.
That’s what I have to say on Aaron Swartz at this point.
To the fellow who chastised me for not writing about this subject — and to the others who from time to time demand I write on some subject that’s important to them without regard to my own interest or knowledge — look, guys: I’m not your tool or bullhorn, and there’s a difference between asking me if I have thoughts on a subject and demanding I have thoughts on it (and incidentally,implicitly or explicitly, that those thoughts should mirror yours). There are some subjects I know next to nothing about, like this one. There are others where I know something but choose not to say anything publicly, for whatever personal reason I choose. Those things I don’t write about.
Either way, the choice to write about (or not write about) a subject is mine, not yours. If you get confused about this and bother me with your misapprehension, I may be rude to you about it if I feel you deserve rudeness. I believe this constitutes fair warning.