Personal response #4 (Documentary)

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz:  Recommended

Director: Brian Knappenberger

Category: Film (Documentary)

When I watched this documentary, I truly believed it would be another film on some unknown guy that made something that changed the world. However, I did not expect to be so outraged at the American justice system, and to feel motivated to stand up for the rights of people from all over the world. The Internets Own Boy is a documentary on a man called Aaron Swartz. He was a child prodigy, and a gifted computer programmer. “If you had a magical power, would you use it for doing good in the world, or for making piles of money?” Aaron believed that programming was a super power. By the age of 19, he was already a millionaire, having built hundreds of websites and further developed business through. However, as he grew older he wanted to make a bigger difference. He started working on projects for the good of the people, he started to fight the government when they wanted to pass bills that could harm internet users, he stood up for everything he believed in, and then fought the justice system with it tirelessly. He made me realise that the world was far from perfect, and that that’s okay. Anyone, anywhere, can help change the world, you just have to start by fighting for what you believe in, and if your rights have already been stood up for, then go stand up for someone else’s. Young adults and other people in year twelve need to watch this documentary, because it enlightens the viewer on how badly corrupted the world is, and how it’s vital that we start to change that. This lesson is invaluable to learn because it’s shaping the future we’re about to grow up in, the future our children will grow up in.

Throughout the film, Aaron signified our ideas on changing the modern day culture we are forced to live with, and symbolised the links between the individual struggles he faced in the documentary, and modern day society. The lesson he taught in the documentary showed us how ordinary people from ordinary places really do have an undeniable power that will allow us to adapt the political opinions of billions of people. He tirelessly fought the government when the freedom of speech and innovation online was threatened. “On the internet, everyone gets a license to speak, it’s a question of who gets heard”. This quote represents his idea on how the digital freedom of our society is important, because the internet has proposed a way in which people from all walks of life have the opportunity to advertise their opinions, and the choice of who gets heard between these millions of people, should be up to us. Not the government. This is why when the government was passing a bill that threatened this freedom, Aaron was right up there trying to stop it getting passed. This is an important lesson, where it teaches young people to stand up for their rights and what they believe in, even if it goes against what the governments and people in positions power want. For young adults in year twelve, this lesson is something we need to keep in mind as we grow up, because it’s up to us to create the future we want to live in. “You know it’s easy sometimes to think like you’re powerless, like when you come out on the streets and you march and you yell, and nobody hears you. But I’m here to tell you that you are powerful. You can stop this bill”. This was a quote taken from Aaron during the protests to stop SOPA, and the bill that threatened digital freedom. He saw a problem with the government, and set out to fix it using the power of people. He told them that it’s easy to feel powerless and like you can’t make a difference in the world, but if you keep persisting and protesting, and doing everything in your power to change something, sometimes you really can. And they did. I greatly enjoyed this part of the documentary because it surprised me on how much they achieved. It taught me how powerful a group of people can be. I also think that this part of the film would be valuable for year twelves to see, because it shows how effective protesting is, and how important it is to develop our society.

Aaron had an ideology, where he believed he could change the world by simply informing people about it. He thought that by explaining the problems our world faces to everyone, that we could all realise how we can fix it. “Aaron wasn’t trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it.” This quote represents Aaron’s ideas on this, where we can understand how he believes that the world doesn’t need to just “work”, it’s already pretty good, we just need to fix it a little bit. By doing this, we can make a safer and more positive environment for everyone. At the age of 19, Aaron was already a millionaire and chose to leave the money behind to persue more fulfilling activities. He wanted to use his computer programming skills for the good of the people, by pushing for political change, and putting himself on the line to gain public access to documents that should be public anyway. This is important for young people to learn these days, because people like Aaron are the ones who do change the world. They can see an opportunity where they have a chance to make a positive difference to so many people’s lives, and they leave the money behind to pursue that. “Aaron believed that you ought to be asking yourself all of the time “What is the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now?” and if you’re not out working on that, why aren’t you?”. From the whole documentary, I think that this quote has the most relation to today’s society. There are so many problems that wouldn’t even exist if people just took their daily lives, and worked on the things that were wrong, the most important taking priority. Young adults and year twelve could learn so much from this, because not only does this quote aim to push change, but it would also create more positive lives for people. Aaron’s ideas were well portrayed in the documentary, and I felt that the lessons I have highlighted would be very important for year twelves to learn, and therefore I would highly recommend this to other people my age.

One of the constant ideas through the text was Aaron’s interference with the law. The American government wanted to stop everything Aaron was doing, because they knew it wouldn’t benefit them. The laws against certain computer uses are too out of date. Almost all of them are based on a fictional film called “War Games” where the main character accidentally started a nuclear war from his computer. 11 of the 13 charges against Aaron hadn’t been updated since 1986. The amount that our lives have changed since then is extraordinary, why would they enforce laws that are almost redundant to modern day society? Nearly everyone has broken at least one of them, simply by using social media, Google, or copying facts for a research assignment. Aaron’s constant struggles with the law were supposedly due to the government wanting to make an example of him. They made a huge deal over his prosecution, because they didn’t want other Americans to access information like Aaron, and threaten the government. Knowledge really is power in this case, and the American government knew this. This part of the film shows how desperately we need change in order for our society to move forward. These laws are so outdated that almost everyone beaks them, so rather than trying to catch everyday citizens that mean no harm by their actions, why not create laws that will stop dangerous computer hackers, that pose more of a threat to American citizens than the citizens themselves? We are letting modern day be decided by the old world “He was the internet’s own boy, and the old world killed him”. Today, too many people believe that things should be as they were, because that’s how it’s always been. That we don’t need to change the world, because this is how it’s always been, and that’s worked pretty well for us, but that’s not true. “Growing up, I slowly had this process of realising that all the things around me that people had told me was just the natural way things were, the way things always would be. They weren’t natural at all, they were things that could be changed, and they were things that more importantly were wrong, and things that should change. As soon as I started to realise that, there was really kind of no going back”. This quote shows Aaron’s perspective on this, and how he believed that the old laws, and the old justice system cannot dictate modern day life, because it just won’t work. It present a distorted version of today’s society, and the more we enforce these, the worse it’s going to get. This is very important for young people my age to learn, because they’re the people who are going to go out there and bring the change. That is why I would highly recommend this documentary to year twelve.

This film is very important, because it showed me the perspectives of victims who hadn’t done anything drastically wrong. People who were actually doing more good than bad by breaking the law, something I hadn’t previously considered. That, for me, really showed how corrupted the American justice system is, if they’re willing to prosecute and bring people to suicide who could be the reason we find the cure to cancer. Aaron took hundreds of thousands of research papers that were legally public property, and gave them to the people who needed them. MIT and other educational institutes were previously charging for the downloading of each document, causing many professors and researchers to just not bother because it wasn’t worth the hassle. However, at the end of the documentary it was noted how one of the papers Aaron gave out, helped a young scientist to find a way to detect pancreatic cancer early, a cancer that previously was only detected when it was too late. The American justice system killed Aaron, even though he could be the reason that their children get to live longer, happier lives. If that doesn’t prove there’s a problem, I don’t know what does. This film is important because it showed me the perspectives of people like Aaron, a set of opinions I hadn’t previously considered. I think that it’s important for people to understand the things that Aaron fought for, because even if you don’t go and try to bring down laws and government actions, it’s equally important to question everything. “I feel very strongly that it’s not enough to just live in the world as it is, to just take what you’re given, and follow the things that adults told you to do, or parents told you to do, or society told you to do, I think you should always be questioning.”. Aaron couldn’t have done everything he did by going and doing things as people had told him before. If no one broke out of what’s normal, then nothing would change, and nothing would progress. Questioning things is how we learn about the world and how we can change it. If we didn’t question things, we would still be living like cavemen. If we didn’t question things, we would still have slavery, and no electricity. Questioning things is vital to human development. I highly recommend this documentary because it teaches you to question things and to do the things that people often try and prevent you from doing in a way that helps you understand it’s necessity and urgency.

This documentary greatly adapted the way I viewed the world. Everything that happened to Aaron was completely unjust. He was brought to his death by providing the truth for the good of the people. We have given people who we think to be important such power over defendants, to which they use in a way we didn’t want them too – they try and force people to plea, break them. “Governments have an insatiable desire to control,” as said in the documentary, and we are sitting back and giving them even more control over us, giving them more power, even though what they’re doing is wrong. 97% of people in the American justice system plea, claiming they’ve done something wrong even if they haven’t, and going to jail for it simply because they feel they have no other option. Another recent study has shown that around 10,000 innocent people in America are wrongly convicted each year. The number of people in jail is overwhelming. We are in a position now where the justice system needs to be fixed, and we should be angry about that. By giving these people this power, we are saying to them “we think that what you’re doing is okay, and we want you to keep prosecuting and destroying people for even the smallest, most insignificant crimes”. But the truth is, it’s not okay. We are not okay with the justice system, we are not okay with the problems in the world, and we are going to do something about that. This film wants to highlight these errors in the justice system and help people to understand why we need to change it, and how we can. This documentary has outlined modern day issues that need to be resolved, and helped me to understand that it’s vitally important to fix them. It’s relation to today’s society was overwhelming, and deeply engrained throughout, by explaining everything in an easy to understand way. But overall, the main reason why I would recommend this documentary to other year twelves, is because of this: Everything that happened to Aaron shouldn’t have. It would be criminal for us to sit back and let government’s control and manipulate innocent people. “Aaron was willing to put himself at risk for the causes that he believed in”. Now it’s our turn.

By Dharma Bratley


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