In 2000, Aaron Swartz, aged 14, had just released his astonishing invention, RSS, liberating news and information. Around the same time, one of Piers Morgan's stringers hacked into the phone of Sir Paul McCartney's wife and stole some highly personal, and highly valuable, information. But Piers is serving time on prime time while Swartz was prosecuted and driven to commit suicide.
:::::::: This is the tale of two geniuses. One on TV. One Dead.
Portrait of a Genius ( Not Piers Morgan)
In 2000, Aaron Swartz, aged 14, had just released his astonishing invention, RSS, liberating news and information, replacing the selection of the tiny minds of editors with your own wide judgment.
Around the same time, one of Piers Morgan's stringers hacked into the phone of Sir Paul McCartney's wife and stole some highly personal, and highly valuable, information -- the type of gossip used to sell Morgan's grotty little scandal sheet, The Daily Mirror, the cornerstone of Morgan's $20 million fortune based on tittle and t*tties.
Electronic burglary for profit is a crime in the UK and USA both. But Piers is serving time on prime time, on CNN.
Aaron Swartz did not get a TV show. The Robin Hood of the Information Liberation Front faced 35 years in prison for a selfless act of civil disobedience. Swartz was charged for the crime of attempting to liberate documents from JSTOR computers. JSTOR is the Goldman Sachs and Politburo of university research papers, a giant information sucker squid that hordes research and discoveries crucial to the public - the public which paid for most of the research.
(If Oxford joined JSTOR when Isaac Newton published, only a well-heeled elite would have the secret of thermodynamics. If Newton worked for Microsoft, we'd be paying a royalty for the use of gravity.)
Aaron, rather than face a life in Obama's dungeon, chose suicide. And Piers?
This is Part IV of "Alex Jones, Guns, Piers Morgan & My Penis," my first series of columns for Vice magazine. Get the whole series at www.Vice.com - including the full version of this story. This week only, at the Vice site, readers may download my bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, free of charge.
Next Wednesday in Vice: The XL Keystone Pipeline, Hugo Chavez and the Brothers Koch.
Piers liberated information as well - but for his own profit. To his loot from hacked gossip, Piers added fraud on the stock market. His scheme: Two of Morgan's influential financial columnists would make recommendations to the rubes reading The Mirror. Piers bought the stocks just before they were boosted in his paper. and thereby pocketed tens of thousands of dollars when the stocks got tips went public. His co-conspirators, the reporters, got jail time. Not Piers. He admitted to the profiteering and walked away with a fine.
So how did Piers get through US immigration when surrounded by a cloud of criminality? Easy: Morgan's a "genius."
Piers Morgan (L) and US Ambassador to the Queen Louis Susman (R) at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The guy in the middle is a literary agent cadging free drinks.
The US embassy gave him a rare O-1 work permit, known as the "Genius Visa" for "the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts"".
Odd that: Genius or not, US laws, especially the mellifluously titled, "Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act" of 1996, bar work visas to those who have admitted to "the essential elements of a crime" including fraud and white collar felonies.
But the US Embassy can exercise its "discretion" on visas. And no one is more discrete than the US Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Mr. Louis Susman, whose credentials are listed as former Vice-Chairman of Citibank and "prolific fundraiser for [the] Democratic Party". Susman's embassy did a thorough review of Piers' visa and stamped Piers a genius and innocent as a lamb. (Here is a photo of Ambassador Susman with Piers at the CNN launch party of Morgan's show.)
What does "genius" Morgan have to do with the horror of the arrest and death of Aaron Swartz?
It's the story of How The System Works--and Whom It Works For
Swartz, after creating RSS, went on to co-found internet phenomenon Reddit, then social activist group Demand Progress and was named Research Fellow at Harvard University's Safra Center for Ethics. From there, he led the national uprising against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have criminalized the spread of information and corporatized its control -- all by the age of 26. (Makes you question what the hell you've been doing all these years.)
I've read the Justice Department's indictment of Swartz. The charge would have made Pinochet blush--and Torquemada proud. Swartz hoped to make public millions of university research papers, as the Great Liberator had already done for federal court records. Our rulers couldn't tolerate this any more than Kings and Popes could accept the printing press and translations of the Bible.
The Internet was supposed to bring us freedom by making the world's information available to all. No tyrant, no corporation, no commercial or political monopolist could keep vital information from even the remotest village. But electronic democracy, the free flow of information, has always scared the crap out of the political and commercial oligarchs.
Did Aaron Swartz deny the oligarchs the ability to extract a monopoly rent for information rightly belonging to us? Of that he was guilty. And by stopping the "Stop Online Piracy Act," he stopped the theft of our online discourse. Our rulers determined Swartz had to be punished.
But they would never punish Piers--because Piers Morgan is the puppet clown of the information counter-revolution. I joke about Piers and his newspaper's attack on my penis --but, as I've explained last week [See "Piers Morgan and My Pee-Pee']
, Morgan's un-humorous purpose was to smear this reporter to discredit my investigation of the corporate takeover of the British government, his two masters.
You might find it ironic that the government gave Morgan, the fraudster, a Genius visa while indicting Swartz, a true genius.
But that's the genius of the system. Democrats and Republicans, Microsoft and Citibank, not to mention the Chinese Politburo, need a huckster like Morgan who, for a mere $2 million from Time Warner
(CNN's owner) will present whatever tickles his bosses and betters. Whether the host of Piers Morgan Tonight
is fawning on the feckless landlords of the planet ("Romney is one of the least principled politicians I've ever met -- and [so] Mitt Romney might just save America"), or merely distracting the public with Britney Spears and pretend controversies, America will be defended from real information by his puppet show.
Should we deport Piers? Yes: certainly America's Got Talent
has got to be a deportable offense. But as long as the puppeteers dangle $2 million strings, they'll just find another willing Pinocchio with the genius to let their show go on. -- Read the full article at Vice.com.
Author of the New York Times and international bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse, Palast is Patron of the Trinity College Philosophical Society, an honor previously held by Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde.
Palast turned his skills to journalism after two decades as a top investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering. Palast's reports appear on BBC's Newsnight and in Britain's Guardian, Rolling Stone and Harper's.
Palast is best known as the investigative reported who uncovered how Katherine Harris purged thousands of African-Americans from Florida's voter rolls in the 2000 Presidential Election.
Palast directed the US government's largest racketeering case in history--winning a $4.3 billion jury award. He also conducted the investigation of the Exxon Valdez on behalf of the Alaskan Natives.
Palast is recipient of the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Prize for his BBC television documentary, Bush Family Fortunes.
Greg Palast's newest book, Vultures' Picnic will be released by Penguin Books in November of 2011. Find out more info at VulturesPicnic.org