I feel that I ought to pay tribute to Ian Murdock, father of Linux Debian, former Sun VP and Linux Foundation CTO. And I do, by linking to this piece at ArsTechnica, painting a much better picture than I ever could:
As this, according to Murdock’s tweets appears to be a suicide and me not knowing anything much about the circumstances, my first thought was to leave it there. But the Internet led me on. Apparently there had been some confrontation with the police. (Murdock’s tweets ») And that is a red flag.
Back to Ars Technica:
On Monday at 2:13pm Eastern Time, Murdock apparently posted that he was going to kill himself:
» I’m committing suicide tonight…do not intervene as I have many stories to tell and do not want them to die with me #debian #runnerkrysty67 «
Also on Monday, Murdock wrote a string of posts that indicate he had a confrontation with police. Inquiries to the San Francisco Police Department by Ars went unanswered. Update: Public records indicate Murdock was arrested in San Francisco on December 27 and released on bail, but no details were available on the charges.
Of course, I know nothing about the circumstances. And I shouldn’t speculate. But the story of Aaron Swartz falls into one’s mind. He was a champion for a free and open internet, who actually managed to accomplish things and who stopped harmful political bills. He was prosecuted in a very strange federal case of possible copyright infringements and faced $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. He declined a plea bargain and shortly after that he killed himself. (Also see the documentary: The Internet’s Own Boy The Story of Aaron Swartz ») There are some disturbing similarities with the Murdock case.
But it might just be similarities. And people do fall over the edge sometimes. But standing eye to eye with the judicial system and the police definitely can push someone over that edge. Trust me on that one.
Do you remember Michael Hastings, the successful investigative reporter? His car mysteriously ran into a palm tree and exploded in LA, shortly after he had told his associates that he was on to something big, once again. And his targets were usually the darker side of government and its functionaries.
Journalist and internet activist Barrett Brown clearly was pushed into a corner by the authorities, resulting in him currently spending 63 months in federal prison. It all happened when he was working on ProjectPM, investigating outsourcing of government intelligence operations to private contractors — and the inner workings of the cyber-military-industrial complex.
Chelsea Manning is spending 35 years in prison, basically for having exposed the truth about the government’s politics and actions to the public. This imprisonment is right out offensive.
Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange is confined to the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where his freedom of action is quite limited. This following a European Arrest Warrant after some rather vague accusations about sexual misconduct in Sweden. And NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is stuck in Russia, after the US retracted his passport. In both these cases it’s about people who have made information public — that the people in a democracy ought to have the right to know about anyhow.
There is a disturbing pattern emerging. If you push the envelope too far, bad things happen to you.
No, I am not a conspiracy theorist. Clearly Brown, Manning, Assange and Snowden had it coming. Murdock and Swartz obviously were under harrowing pressure. And there is no hard evidence of foul play in the Hastings case, just strange circumstances. But still, it’s all very troublesome and sad.
Are journalists, internet activists and whistleblowers the imprisoned and fallen political dissidents of our time? Is the truth and a free flow of information really that dangerous to the Establishment? If so, what kind of a society is this?
Our thoughts are with Ian Murdock’s family and friends.