For the Gadflies Among Us

Peter Ludlow's (Northwestern) essay in the Times brings needed attention to the extreme measures the established order will take to obliterate the iconoclasts it finds irritating. From the essay,

In a world in which nearly everyone is technically a felon, we rely on the good judgment of prosecutors to decide who should be targets and how hard the law should come down on them. We have thus entered a legal reality not so different from that faced by Socrates when the Thirty Tyrants ruled Athens, and it is a dangerous one. When everyone is guilty of something, those most harshly prosecuted tend to be the ones that are challenging the established order, poking fun at the authorities, speaking truth to power — in other words, the gadflies of our society.

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 This entire system is

 This entire system is confused from top to bottom.  Traditional methods of handling crime have spilled over into the information age, and people in power are rudderless with respect to distinguishing one form of "cyber crime" from another.  When this amount of ignorance exists, these trolls always go with the most inane, senseless approach imaginable.  Then viola: you have Aaron Swartz facing up to at least 35 years in prison for simple civil disobedience.  It amounts to a modified motto: "When you aren't sure what to do: Sentence first, ask questions later."  Those in power (including the masses) definitely tend to lack tolerance for any disobedience, and they are often anti-intellectual and unbearably unreflective.  So much for iconoclasts of any age or era...  The stupidity of the majority weighs more than a lone voice of dissent.
Great article.