Christopher Knowles & the Esoteric Myths of Comics // 10 Years Later


This coming November marks the 10th anniversary of a landmark book that illuminates the crossover of mythology, the occult and secret societies into the popular culture medium of comic books. Our Gods Wear Spandex is a powerful and concise encyclopedic timeline tracking the development of the comic book superhero archetype through the lens of critical influences of the mythic universes of gods, angels and demons from across space and time.

The correspondences and historical accounts were so fascinating and tantalizing for me that I blasted through my first reading in under a week. Nearly every page of my copy is marked with underlines as is my compulsive tendency to do. As a lifelong comic book fan, I have to admit of being largely ignorant of the mythological lore that underpins so many of the origin stories of the industries biggest characters. 


The title of the book rings true - the gods that I worshipped as a kid that subliminally taught me ethics, morals and values, were in fact spandex clad supermen and sometimes superwomen. Where there was an absent presence of a strong father figure, I had Conan, Batman and the Punisher. Let's just say that the inner-rage and desire to avenge injustice struck a chord with me that still reverberates. 

Once I started diving deeper into the occult and folklore, the connections are dead obvious. Even so, it took being exposed to the unique and potent insights that Chris draws from to bring these relationships to life in a vivid and provocative fashion that leaves no mistake. 

I have to believe that his book played a big role in sparking a whole genre of esoteric pop media analysis that has become so prevalent today. Having gotten to Chris' work after passing through some of the other unmentionable websites that claim to provide similar insights, the depth and perspective that Chris brings to the game relegates almost everything else into the minor leagues. 

So, without further ado I present a reflection on his seminal work, looking back on some of the key themes – 10 years later. 

Christopher Knowles
Was mythology something you were formally introduced to in an academic setting or did you discover it through the wellspring of religion or entertainment media?
Both, actually. Myth got its hooks in me from a very early age, as early as I can remember. I was drowning in it with comic books and other media and really tuned into it when we studied it in school. It was taught in eighth grade at a private school I attended for a year, as part of the literature and languages curriculum. 
But at the same time I was very much aware of myth through comics, which in Jack Kirby's wake were more myth-conscious than they'd ever been. One of my favorite comics was a Thor Treasury Edition which basically retold the entire Journey to the Underworld narrative, only with Hercules and Thor. Comics didn't concern themselves much with textual accuracy.
Was there a foundational text in your young life that laid the groundwork for your broad knowledge of mythological history?
I don't know if I have a broad knowledge of mythology. It's actually pretty narrow and concerns itself with those myths that interlock with occult and secret society traditions. I actually think you get better results by narrowing your focus in this regard because you can find a myth to bolster any argument or theory you care to make. It's one of the reasons I believe monotheism took hold in the ancient world, because syncretism had made religion- and bear in mind we're talking about religion in this context- as easy to follow as the DC Universe in the mid-80s. I mean, by the time of say Third-Century Rome you just had a thousand gods to keep track of and then times as many correspondences and rites and myths to sort out. You can almost see monotheism as an ancient Crisis on Infinite Earths, an attempt to reboot the continuity. But in answer to your question, Edith Hamilton's Mythology was the one. The classic hardcover with the Steele Savage artwork. 
Crisis on Infinite Earths 

What was it about the 1970’s that the pop culture ended up so jammed packed with occult symbolism and mythic correspondence?
That's easy: hippies. Plus, drugs. They opened all kinds of strange doors that had been left closed since the Victorian Era. Ultimately, the occult and myth and UFOs and the rest of it made your trips more interesting by feeding your head with symbol and sigil and all the rest of the neuro-activators. 
The hippies that came into comics had a few years of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll under their belts and dragged in all the weird crap that hippies of the time were into with them when they went to work in comics. 
There was an express train that took off from the head shops and occult bookshops of Greenwich Village and went straight to the editorial offices of the big publishers. 
What was the process like for researching and writing Our Gods Wear Spandex and how long did you spend with it start to finish?
Oh jeez. It actually grew out of a much larger work that kind of encompassed all of geek culture. That ended up being about 500 pages so I split it into two and rewrote it from the ground up. This was all about a two-year period. Our Gods Wear Spandex was originally a chapter title.
Do you have any weird memories about writing the book – interesting synchs or profound transmissions that came unexpectedly?
Well, it coincided with these heavy power walks I'd take through this really weird cemetery complex down the street from me. I was fixated on Killing Joke's Hosannas from the Basements of Hell album and would take that album on these outings. The energies of the place and the energies of the music seemed to open me up to a signal from somewhere else. It was a pretty profound period filled with all kinds of heavy synchronicities. I miss it, actually.
You note the strong resurgence of ancient pagan symbolism in the 19th century through archeology and occult orders and philosophies like the Golden Dawn and Theosophy. Do you think something more than human intellect was responsible for the reintroduction of those deities into our modern age?
Pagan symbolism has always been with us. Contrary to popular misconception it didn't vanish into the ether while all of Europe descended into some kind of totalitarian theocracy. It was remarkably resilient in the countrysides (hence the term "pagan") ironically the same way Christianity is resilient in "Flyover Country" today. There's so much pagan symbolism in Catholicism because Rome finally decided if they couldn't beat them, appropriate them. Ovid and Plato were widely read in monasteries and the old gods burst from whatever chains kept them during the Renaissance. 
What happened in the 19th Century is that pagan symbolism was supercharged by the Industrial Revolution and by Imperialism. The old gods took on new prominence then. The facade of Grand Central Station is perhaps the apogee of this phenomenon. Or one of them, at least. 
Glory of Commerce, a sculptural group by Jules-Félix Coutan featuring HerculesMinerva and Mercury, sits atop the terminal

Of all the comic creators that have drawn from the occult or archetypal mythology, who do you think did so the most profoundly or literately?
Well, that's a tough one. Jack Kirby didn't always do so consciously but certainly had the greatest impact on the overall culture. He was essentially a channel for ancient energies and wasn't entirely aware of what he was doing. But by the same token, Kirby wasn't always able to distinguish between a frontline idea and an idea that might be best saved for a supporting character or backup feature.  
Alan Moore is certainly the most conscious- some would say self-conscious vehicle for occult concepts to wind their way into comics. Sometimes it blows your brains out and other times it feels like you're stuck in occult summer school. But pound for pound, he's probably not only the most important storyteller the medium has produced by also its most important popularizer of magick and occultism.
Your love of Jack Kirby is well documented in your writings. His fame has been built on his creation of many of comics most beloved characters and his era defining illustration style. Setting that aside, what is it about Kirby that really goes far beyond those surface aspects that should define his legacy in your mind?
It's funny, I'm not all that big a fan of those Kirby surface aspects- the 70s work when everybody looked like they were carved from titanium by Rodin on an absinthe bender. My favorite period for his art was the late 50s and early 60s, when he was at the height of his powers as a draftsman. Something seemed to shift, rather tectonically, around 1966 or so. His work took on the identifying characteristics of shamanic art for some reason and evolved to a point that it was nearly Cubist. 
But it was that archetypal Kirby that first hit me when I was a kid. Kids tend to like art they could imagine themselves drawing which is why highly stylized art was popular when mostly kids read comics and very illustrative art is popular now that superhero comics are read mostly by adults. 
Jack Kirby 
But since I was an incredibly fucked-up kid who spent a lot of time either hallucinating or having crazy nightmares, I have to say I saw a reflection of the infinity of inner space in his work, and I think that's a huge secret to his success. 
He was tapped into another network entirely, one that his imitators never accessed. He was tuned into a completely different station than the rest of us. Which is ironic since he did a lot of stories about weirdo outcasts who tuned into alien transmissions and so on. I think he realized he wasn't like his peers. There's also a tremendous will-to-power in his art, a kind of unambiguously masculine energy that turns a lot of people off but zaps right into the neurotransmitters of the adolescent male.  Frank Frazetta had the same kind of thing going on, a kind of premodern hyperphallicism, but his art was more superficially erotic than Kirby's.
Our Gods… introduces connections to folklore and myths across the global spectrum from Greece, to Egypt, to the Norse and beyond. Was there always a deliberate borrowing of themes or did they show up synchronisticly even when the creators didn’t intend to?
That's not for me to say. I don't really know how the creators created and you can't always take their word for it from interviews which are given long after the fact. It's all out there in the ether, floating around and waiting to infect the creator who can give it shape and contour.
To what do you attribute the apocalyptic nature of so many mythos and religions? Is there an inherent aspect to human thought that needs stories to have a three-act structure (with a big time finale) or are they perhaps right in believing in our inevitable doom?
Well, we all die. Everyone we know and love and care about ends up dying so it's only natural that people with a more animistic view of reality will assume that the gods and the world itself will eventually die. 
I don't believe apocalypticism popped out of the sky around the First Century in the Levant or thereabouts. I don't think the three act structure is much on the minds of anyone but playwrights and Internet movie critics. I just think it's the inevitable byproduct of beings who are non-negotiably finite.
Of all the ancient mythic universes, which do you find has the most post-modern correspondence in terms of morality or metaphysics?
I'm rather taken with the Sumero-Babylonian Universe, so to speak. I'm fascinated how a mythos could essentially survive multiple invasions and ethnic cleansings. Why some junta of bandits from southern Arabia or western Syria would become such devotees of a religious system that was impossibly ancient before history ever heard of their people. With only minor allowances to the favorite gods of whatever foreign tribe had taken over at the time, the Sumerian religion essentially ruled Mesopotamia from around 4000 BC to around 700 AD.
Sumerian gods

You make a really clear case that the antecedents for comic books came from the supernatural and pulp fiction of the 19th century that coincided with that centuries occult explosion. Did the resurgence of magical practice come before the pulp stories or did the stories fuel a new engagement with the magic?
Yeah, the pulps were feeding off urban legends kicked up by Theosophy and the occult renaissance. Plus a lot of pulp writers were themselves involved in the occult, such as Sax Rohmer and Talbot Mundy.
In the book you say that most superhero figures are based on a handful of archetypal categories drawn from the ancient mysteries. Do you think this was done for lack of bettering the ancient molds or because there’s no getting around archetypes because they that fundamental?
Well, it really boils down to the fact that the Messiah is the idealized version of a father figure, the Amazon of a mother, the Golem is kind of how we tend to see ourselves, and the Brotherhood how we'd like to see our friends. All superheroes can all be categorized into those archetypes, more or less. At least those superheroes from what I call the Canonical Period, which is Pre-Watchmen, Pre-Dark Knight.
You wrote a chapter dedicated to the archetype of the Golem and mention some of comics most loved characters that fit the Golem profile. Could you give a synopsis for those unfamiliar with this Jewish myth?
It's basically a story about a Rabbi in Medieval Prague who built a superman out of clay to protect his congregation from pogroms. The Golem is animated by Kabbalistic magic but ultimately becomes a threat to the people he was meant to protect and has to be de-animated by Kabbalistic magic. Will Eisner thought all superheroes were Golems but I think he was disregarding, or unaware of, some of the ethical complexities of the Golem. The story is essentially a parable about the human cost of violence, even when it's morally justified.
Prauge reproduction of a Golem

In terms of popularity, there seems to be an equal love of both the pure, Messiah superhero and the blood-thirsty, Golem antihero. What does that say to you about human psychology and aspiration?
It's essentially a myth of the wounded comic nerd who needs some kind of artificial strength to overcome his weakness and fight back against his enemies. 
He's a character motivated by rage and revenge, which I think were major motivating factors in the rise of the superhero. It's the victim becoming the aggressor. 
In another chapter you get into the classic superhero teams that are so popular today like the X-Men and The Avengers. In one sense they bring to mind something like a team of Golden Dawn magicians or fraternal Freemasons, but the super-team actually draws on another specific archetype. Could you elaborate on that?
Yes, medieval knighthoods. In fact, many of the early super-team stories drew on this archetype very consciously. In a way they hark back to the Arthurian and Grail Romances, which I believe were themselves elaborations on the myths of the Knights Templar. This all ties back to the Troubadours and ultimately to the Cathar heresy. But of course the idea of a Brotherhood of superheroes banding together for a collective mission is at least as old as Jason and the Golden Fleece.
Knights of the Round Table

In one of my favorite quotes you write, “…our bloodless secular culture has no room in it for wonder. It should not surprise us, then, when Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The X-Men step in to fill the void.”  What is it about post-modernism that generally scoffs at spirituality and the miraculous while at the same time craving stories about the supernatural and displays of god-like powers?
Because there's no getting away from the supernatural. You can drive it underground but you only end up magnifying its power.  As to your first question, Postmodernism is a very adolescent, sophomoric philosophy and adolescents like to piss all over the things that helped raise them. That it's so widespread shows how dominant adolescent thinking has become in Western society. 
There’s an interesting contrast between the aristocratic, dapper Doctor Strange and the ragged, chain-smoking John Constantine. Is this a creative reaction born out of the differences inherent between the Victorian and post-punk eras of the occult?
Alan Moore based Constantine on the occultists he knew personally, who were all a bunch of fast-talking grifters and scruffbags.  He wanted that vibe to carry over into the character as opposed to Doctor Strange, who's basically a Gilded Age stage magician who just happens to have real powers.
Towards the end of the book you bring up the notion of the rise of AI and transhumanism. What has transpired in the last 10 years that reinforce or alter your views about that whole agenda?
Oh, I think Transhumanism is nonsense. I've read a zillion stories about it and ten years later the movement is absolutely nowhere. It's all basically a movement based on Ray Kurzweil's pathological terror of death. Every headline you see screaming that Transhumanism or the Singularity is imminent is inevitably chased by a dozen walk-backs buried in the body copy. 
How did writing Our Gods change you life both personally and professionally?
Well, it gave me quite a ride insofar as media attention and the like were concerned. The book put me on the map and is still selling so I'm very, very grateful for that. But the publishing and bookselling worlds are very different places than they were ten years ago. I've grown accustomed to blogging over the past several years, partly for the freedom but also because I've been very gunshy about getting back on the treadmill. Most writers have other jobs to pay the bills, you might have noticed. It's a lot of work for not a lot of money. 
In the last 10 years, what trends have you been documenting broadly concerning the use of myths and the esoteric in pop culture? Are they more ubiquitous? More sophisticated, less sophisticated? Highs and lows in usage?
Well, I suppose the big story is the junk occultism, the ersatz Crowleyism you saw in music videos and the like. You know, the kind of stuff the people who run Vigilant Citizen got rich stoking outrage over. Or got rich virally promoting, depending on your point of view. 
More recently, we're seeing Satanism rear its head again, which is going to leave a trail of dead in its wake once it filters down from the hipster galleries to the trailer parks. Like it always does when it rears its head.  
Our Gods was published by Weiser Books. Did you ever meet Don Weiser and do you have any thoughts to share about him after his recent passing?
No, I never met him, unfortunately. Sorry to hear he passed away.
Any predictions on the direction of our culture and media looking at the next 10 years? What do you hope for or hope to avoid?
Yeah, it's going to become excessively politicized and polarized, as is the rest of society. So in that my prediction is also my 'hope to avoid', but I think it's probably too late for that now.
Most of your writing in recent years has been focused on your blog, the Secret Sun. Any full-length publications in the works we should be looking out for?

Well, I just finished the first draft of the novel I've been wrestling with the past couple years. Or periodically wrestling with while simultaneously keeping locked away in a drawer. I ended up throwing out about 70% of the material I'd previously written, which wasn't easy since I wrote it all out longhand. It's kind of a reconstruction of the occult detective genre, an attempt to work that vein without lapsing into cliche. Harder than it sounds, believe me. 
Depending on my work schedule I hope to have that out late summer, early fall. That will probably be done through CreateSpace. Probably. I also have to work up a pitch for a semi-sequel to Our Gods Wear Spandex that I've been mulling over. I've also been buried in 6000 years worth of research for another book, which may end up morphing into a novel. 
The zeitgeist seems to have shifted in ways I can't quite quantify or catalog, so the idea of writing fiction- which I've been doing since high school- seems very appealing to me right now. 
___________________________________________________

If you haven't already done so, grab a copy of Our Gods... immediately. 

I don't have to tell most of you to read Chris' mandatory blog, The Secret Sun.

If you're still hungry for more conversation about Our Gods... be sure to check out this great podcast from another mandatory source, the Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio Podcast – 


Secret Transmissions on the Occulture Podcast


I recently had the great pleasure of being interviewed by the Occulture Podcast, hosted by Ryan Peverly. Ryan has had some real heavyweights from a variety of fields on his show and was honored to have the chance to talk with him about this blog. 

We ended up touching on a number of personal topics that relate to the motivational underpinnings of Secret Transmissions. Being a bit on the nervous side, I tended to ramble on far too long and didn't always represent my ideas in the strongest ways. In predictable fashion, facts or needed relevant pieces of information escaped me in the moment. Hopefully with more experience that can be ironed out some. 

If you push through our sprawling 90 minute talk, you'll hear us discuss my early subcultural influences, visits to esoteric American monuments, why I got into magic, my love of horror films and the dysfunctional state of society. I controversially assert my opinion that all too often mystery cults and occult orders have been vilified and misrepresented by the religiously inspired camps of conspiracy culture. Freemasons and magicians are constantly under assault by certain Christian dogmatists who assert that all forms of mysticism that lay outside of strict Biblical faith are fronts for satanic worship. 

Obviously, this hostility goes way back. I did however try to emphasize that by no means do I wish to paint all Christians with a one-dimensional broad stroke. That would be as idiotic as the slanders that get thrown around against the esoteric. Tolerance and respect across the board for spiritual belief is a foundational code I strive to adhere to. The very structure of many forms of magic itself are inextricably tied to Judaism and Christianity as much as they are to Greeco-Roman and Egyptian paganism. I could have done better in making that point. 

The message I feel the strongest about had to do with the use of esoteric spirituality as a tool for the deliberate reprogramming of the mind. With so much mind control and consensus reality driving much of what we believe and how we act upon those beliefs, the sovereignty that the occult path offers is in my experience, very liberating and self-empowering. 

It's not for everybody however, and it has opened me up to aspects of myself that are not always blissful. In fact, it produces results that can be quite the contrary at times. I've very recently just gone through a patch of existential turmoil following some serious ritual work. So it is, in the process of inner-alchemy – regardless if it's walked out by means of the occult, secular talk therapy or traditional religious means. 

Thanks again to Occulture for the time and do be sure to check out many of their other fascinating episodes. 


POETRY ATTIC: Deconstructor & The Owl Knows

Photography: Jeff Wolfe

DECONSTRUCTOR

Strip away the house of ideas.
The heavy apparatus of moving parts
breathe down our necks.

Each panel of thought mined until
we stand bare.
Children pulse w/ wisdom from within –
they are collected and reprocessed to
formula.

The machines listen and wait –
crimes of conversation whispered
w/ fear.

Eyes appear next door
and on the corners.


A piece of architecture
disappears each day.
Sign posts of something new appear
(some say it is old.)
But grandparents must take their leave
to a town of their own.

Sunset cast soldier shadows
to march our poor street.

Bolts thrown on every door.
Masked behind and huddled at a
universal dot com.
A treatment for each night settles in.

Less and less we know.
No reward to remember.
Better off to let die,
a box of numbers can
decide.

Promises sent from fiber optic wire
give the brain
easy sleep.


Little by little, truth was given away.
Here we are without what
they sold off.

Raids made against distention,
penetrate deep into
our hearts.

Carefully secure thoughts
that are written -
they find a way to leak out.

When the men come knocking
it’s already too late.



THE OWL KNOWS 

The slippage of secrets rattles our cage of comfort.
Dark impulses lurk, far from observance.
The innocent eyes, unprotected by time
- predator’s breath goes undetected.
Caves of unacceptable truth.

Our common deviations from the norm,
relieved by worse offenses.
Blissfully unaware how close danger creeps.

Suburban shades provide cover,
locks on business drawers.
Homes w/ hidden rooms.
Family boxes found by candlelight,
underneath blankets of warm cover.
Individual yearning compartmentalized
and filed away.

Private libraries of the mind,
find a way to surface and
escape under nocturnal passage.


Untold gatherers under the moon
whisper incantations to cleanse and purify.
A path in the woods leads to a grove.
The owl alleges proof - rendered into ash.

Unspeakable rituals only rarely caught.
Evidence left alone.
Codes uncommitted to paper -
passed down by bloodline.
Signals that explain
made in gesture and costume.

Agreements made to silence.
Pseudonyms taken on,
in practice of the cloaked faith.

Game symbols release power.
A circular dance of lunar barking.

Masks taken into daylight,
regular business resumes.

Winds move from woods to town.
Snow cover blows in, to submerge.
Structures of tomorrow unhinged,
drowned in the knowing.


Time for a Mutiny: The US Pirate Party Sets Sail


Electoral politics has long been a transparently corrupt system presiding over the death-throes of an empire. Politicians acting as frontmen for corporate and personal interest, lie and cheat their way through the ranks of power, doing their small part to keep the wheels of the monolith going while remaining completely out of touch with the average citizen. These hollowed out agents of state power have no incentive to change a system that for all its destruction, consistently insulates those in power from feeling the flames of the fire. 

One does not need to be of Baby-Boomer age to comprehend American's long slip towards tyranny. The fact that a reality TV huckster and unabashed narcissist is our current president should serve as the final proof of the utterly debased nature of our governmental system. One would think that the time would be ripe for a large-scale mobilization against this failed state of elite rulership. 

Instead of fleeing from the failed two-party duopoly and creating a true revolt from the bottom, the so-called "resistance" musters up nothing more than an institutionalized led effort to reboot the Cold War and double-down on herd-mentality partisanship. 

In the aftermath of possibly the most ludicrous presidential election ever, truly creative or original thought that would amount to any meaningful difference is largely lacking in popular discourse. The majority of the masses appear to be so indoctrinated as to be unable to diagnose the actual source of the crippling, structural disease. To awaken to the fact that the Democratic and Republican parties are both sold out, imperialist strands of authoritarian rule, requires a level of critical thought that remains too disturbing to grasp. 

There has always been an intellectual and philosophical rejection of authoritarianism, albeit on the  radical fringes. Anarchists, radical leftists and libertarians have long identified the rotten core of government, Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. The tracts they have penned and the speeches they gave are all readily available. All across social media are voices of defiance that help to crystalize the common threats to freedom and justice.

While the audience for this knowledge seems to be growing all the time, the make-up of the radical field remains divided on any number of wedge issues. A general inability to combine forces or agree on a basic platform that could supplant American oligarchy keeps an authentic resistance fractalized.


Whether we could ever achieve (or forced to achieve) ultra-localized, cooperative bodies of voluntary mutual aid or whether the collectivist federal model could ever be salvaged is a question that remains theoretical. For now. There are many persausive arguments for how to breakup the massive corporate and militaristic entanglements that ensnare our government in a deep sea of plunder and death. They are all broadly utopian and provide no guarantees. 

While being rather pessimistic about any form of top-down hierarchical state control, I am at the same time very interested in political proposals of any kind that would upend or disrupt the current system. Facing a future in desperate need of new ideas, an open and curious mind is a necessity. While 3rd parties are not a novel concept, there is a relatively new entry that feels quite a bit different than anything we've seen before.

While the American Green and Libertarian parties have thus far failed to seize any notable influence or pressure on the federal level, Europe has seen the anti-establishment and tech-fluent Pirate Party achieve a measure of real success against the status quo. For reasons unique to the Parliamentary systems operative across the Atlantic, Pirates have managed to rise from underdogs to upsetters in a short period of time. Whether you are a fan of electoral politics or not, it can't be denied that the platform they endorse has struck a nerve with class of forward-thinking malcontents. 

The US faction of Pirates is just beginning to gain traction, thanks to the press and success of their European predecessors. Our electoral system is not nearly as kind to outsider parities but that hasn't prevented this enthusiastic band of defectors from various backgrounds to come together under the Pirate flag.

I've been in contact with some of their members in Massachusetts, whose prominent local party represents an influential foothold of their operations. In the following interview former MA Pirate Party Secretary and current United States Pirate Party Secretary, Lucia Fiero, illuminates some of the core Pirate principles and insights from her experience on the ground level of this emerging movement. One that with any luck will attract a flock of disenfranchised voters and activists looking for a new home.

Lucia Fiero, Secretary of the United States Pirate Party
What sort of political affiliations did you have prior to the USPP?
Coming from a very conservative Republican family, I was the rebel/black sheep by always voting Democrat. I remember voting for Kerry for Senate when I could first vote. I turned 18 in 1984. My eldest brother married the daughter of a Naples Vice-Mayor, and my other brother won the Republican nomination for state rep in this district in 1998, and lost in the general in a close race. 
I took a lot a heat from all of them by being a Democrat. I didn’t even tell them when I left for the Greens. When my husband and I wanted to get out to local Green organizational meetings, we would tell my mother we were going for marriage counseling, so that we could ask for her to sit, and have her agree. For a political meeting? No way would she have put herself out for us for that. 
I worked directly with Jill Stein on health care reform. When Romneycare passed, she dropped the issue and moved on to preserving public lands in the Bay State. I lost interest in working with her and drifted off…
What was your introduction to the Pirate Party?
James O’Keefe, who had been her ticket mate twice and had also been the GRP co-chair, was an acquaintance of mine and my husband’s in college at UMass Amherst.  He posted on Facebook that he was starting a Pirate Party in Massachusetts, and I thought “What the heck is a Pirate Party?” When I Googled it, I realized this was the thing I wanted to do. 
I had trepidations about the name, I worried it would be hard to sell a party to people that want to end IP, but the more I read over the years, the more convinced I became that Pirate is the only party I belong in, that IP laws as they exist now are bad for the advancement of society, and that Pirate is a fan-fucking-tastic name for us.
Graphic / Jeff Wolfe

What about the nature of Icelandic and Swedish society and government allows the PP to have a greater influence than in the United States?
Proportional representation. They have it, we don’t. If we had a house that seated representatives based solely on % of party members supported, there would be a break in the total duopoly of the Democrats and Republicans. 
There doesn’t seem to be much support for changing this, since it would take a constitutional amendment, so for now I am going to work on bringing ranked choice voting to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 
A referendum in support of RCV just passed in Maine, I think we can make this happen here, too. I am going to work with Citizens for Voter Choice Massachusetts. The best way to stay up to date for their in person meet ups is through the Voter Choice Massachusetts Facebook or on Twitter.
As for societal differences, I really don’t know enough about those nation’s societies to comment. But if I were to guess, I would say it has something to do with the fact that they watch less TV and read more than we do?
To the best of your knowledge, how did the International PP get started? 
Rick Falkvinge started it in a chat room on New Year’s Day 2006. “Falkvinge was inspired to found the party after he found that Swedish politicians were generally unresponsive to Sweden's debate over changes to copyright law in 2005.” - From Wikipedia
International Pirate Party founder, Rick Falkvinge

When you say Direct Democracy, can you give me a synopsis on what that looks like from your view?
I can tell you what I would like to see. We trust the Internet with our banking, why not with our voting? So long as the tallying software is open source and the results are well audited, voter fraud isn’t a concern. 
As for representatives, they are an 18th century notion. When the Constitution was written there weren’t even telegraphs; the mail delivered by horse was the only means of long distance communication. 
Democracy would be impossible under those conditions without representatives. Nowadays they are far less critical. It is time to reexamine the role that they play and the level of power they possess per voter. They represent one-stop shopping for moneyed interests. People with the will and cheddar to buy political favors have a pressure point on the person of the representative. 
This contributes to the ever present problem of a conflict of interests between the voters interests and the interests of those who can afford to fund elections. Gerrymandering is another way in which democracy is subverted, as parties choose voters in this manner, rather than the other way around. 
Again, proportional representation is a good way to combat this, as you vote your party rather than your location. And ranked choice voting is more democratic and more direct, as you don’t have to vote defensively. There is a great little video that explains how our system of first past the post voting always causes a reduction down to two strong parties, and little or no others. Check it out.
Lucia Fiero with Kendra Moyer, James O'Keefe and Jason Fiero

Tell us where you operate out of and how your State Party is coming along. 
I am in Massachusetts. I have been focusing my efforts on building the party nationally, though, so a better person to ask about Mass Pirates would be James, Steve, or Noelani.
Why are 3rd Parties important, despite their inability to win major elections? 
They are only called "3rd parties" in the US. In Europe, they are just parties. The system devolves into two main parties because of how first past the post voting works.
 
Competition is always a good thing. Monopolies and duopolies have no motivation to innovate. They also start to operate in a very similar manner. It's not just having a "3rd choice" that matters to Pirates, either. Pirates are about operating without corporate funding. This allows us to support policy that best serves the most people.  
What are the core Party planks that have resonated most with voters? 
What resonates most at this point, I can tell you from the "reach" we get on social media are primarily personal privacy and government transparency. Our primary principle was the end of intellectual property, the notion that you can't own ideas, that they belong to us all.  
Existing as we do within a capitalist system in which everyone imagines that they can become rich, the idea of ending copyright hasn't resonated as much as it could and should.  
We are up against a very powerful media industry that shapes public opinion, and that industry *depends* upon IP for its profit structure. They have a powerful interest in selling the idea that we cannot do without IP.  
The rise of the internet and www has made it harder to lock down content, and easier for IP law reformers to make their case, but monied interests are pushing back by lobbying for laws that protect their business model.  
Many people are afraid to publicly ascribe to something the goes so strongly against the media's agenda, so we tend to focus on what reduced IP law could offer us: DRM free products, ending the GMO profit motive, freedom to share information that will bring about peace and prosperity widely.
Graphic / Jeff Wolfe

There has been a tremendous amount of finger pointing and blame placing for the fact that Trump is now president. How do you make sense of it? 
Lesser evilism is a race to the bottom. But besides that, the parties have too much power. The Democrats rigged their own party to supercede the will of their own voters with a Superdelegate system.  
This totally backfired when the Superdelegates returned political favors to Clinton, rather than vote for the candidate who won their state in the primaries. Pirates would never devise such a plan, as unaccountable delegates fly in the face of the Pirate Principle of more direct democracy, the more direct the better.
The electoral college and super delegates are both hot topics due to the outcome of this election. Does the PP hold a position on these items?
Yes, as stated above, Pirates support the most direct democratic solutions possible. Referendums are better than representatives, and e voting (on only open source software systems!) is better than needing to get out to a polling place. 

Can you talk about the role of Wikileaks throughout its history and in particular as it related heavily to the 2016 election? 
Well this is a huge topic to cover. As far as Pirates are concerned, WikiLeaks is a good thing, as it provides much needed transparency. Personally, though, I think less damage was done to Clinton by WikiLeaks than was done to her by her own self and the DNC.  
She was unpopular, she and her husband had a record of monstrous policies both domestically and overseas, like policies that exacerbated greatly the mass-incarceration crisis, and the policies enacted in Kosovo, Libya, Syria. 
WikiLeaks didn't tell Bernie supporters anything they didn't know, it just served as vindication for all their suspicions. It's possible that such vindication drove Bernie supporters to resist Clinton more than they already did, but that is hard to say. 
3rd parties always take heat after a close election. As if their supporters had no right to follow their affiliation or conscience. How do you deal with the haters? 
Well, there was no Pirate candidate for President, so I can only talk about my experience in Mass running a campaign for a candidate for state rep, Joe Guertin. From what he related to me, the Republican candidate was cordial and civil to him, and the Democratic one was vile. 
Make of that what you will. When we stood outside the polls with signs on election day, the Democrats there actively tried to recruit us. Some might see this as being cordial, but I felt as if they were trying to assimilate us. From what I heard from Noelani, who ran for state rep in Somerville, where there was no real Republican challenger to speak of, Denise Provost was less hostile than the Democrat out in our parts. 
It's less of a principle thing, I think than a competition thing. No one likes competition. No one is going to be happy to see that they are going to have to work harder for their position because we are there. But that is the job of the 3rd parties currently in the US: to make the main two parties work harder.
The Pirate movement looks to me like a beautiful amalgamation of radical-left, libertarian and anarchist tendencies that encompasses the impulses of hacking, sharing-culture, creativity, DIY and general tech competence. Is that a partially correct observation and what might you add to that eclectic blend? 
That's a pretty good assessment actually. And fun. We also want politics to be fun. So a nice smattering of internet culture, memes, and a little cosplay helps, too.
Graphic / Jeff Wolfe
What would the future look like if Pirates had a seat at the decision-making tables?
For me: Broadband everywhere. Literally everywhere, like when phone service was extended everywhere. All municipalities would have the right to create their own HSISP providers.  
Wifi in all city centers with VPN standards so that people aren't lulled into thinking they are secure in their connections but can know. No DRM on anything: You buy it, you own it in perpetuity, books, music, movies, coffee makers, tractors, prosthetic legs... Everything.  
An end to ruinous fines for file sharing, and end to patents, and a return of copyright to something closer to the original 14 years... maybe 25 years, to appease squirrelly artists.  
An audit of the Federal Reserve and the Pentagon, basically transparency in all expenditures. And a declaration of a human being's fundamental right to privacy, analog and digital.

Have you experienced a post-election uptick of interest in the Party in your State and at the national level?
We did. And I was not able to capitalize on it as much as I would have liked because of my poor health. Nationally, we are a just skeleton crew of Pirates, and when we are unwell, or busy with work or family, things do not move forward.  
We desperately need volunteers. We are holding elections for officers soon and we also need an IT team and someone to chair it. If you are interested in building a party to compete with the the duopoly, we need you!
For those who hold 3rd party sympathies, why chose an upstart Pirate movement instead of sticking it out with an older more known party? 
Simply put: Technology evolves fast. So fast that laws that don't keep up do far more harm than good at times.  
The Internet is such a powerful tool that could solve many of the problems we have in serving the public, but too many people profit from the old ways, and use their influence to resist the necessary evolution.  
The Pirate Party is the party of Technology implementation, and therefore is the party of the future.
No Safe Harbor book / Graphic design - Jeff Wolfe
Would you look to band together with the other 3rd parties to fight for ballot access and open debates?  
Absolutely, we are very interested in coalition building and have already done some in Massachusetts.  
Do Pirates generally want the government to be less influential in the private lives of individuals? I’m thinking of things like drugs, sex, gray or black markets, parenting decisions, top-down education models. 
Yes.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights is very often a reference point for PP issues. In your mind should the Bill of Rights continue to be the country's guiding document pertaining to citizen rights and restrictions on government? 
Well, the Constitution can be amended to counter any of the 1st ten amendments. Personally, I think these should remain sacrosanct. Currently, the organization "Move to Amend" is pushing for a constitutional amendment to counter the 1st amendment. This is a bad idea.  
Move to Amend has a lot of support from the commercial media, who stands to gain the most in political influence if the amendment passes, and therefore have been very deceptive about what their proposed amendment is about. They tell you "corporations are not people" because that is catchy, but the same amendment that would allow laws that could restrict big business money would also allow laws that could restrict NGO money, like GreenPeace, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. 
And considering how big business operates, who do you think would actually lose their freedom of expression? The big companies always find away around such laws, which would leave all the "little people" silenced in the days running up to election cycles. This is actually just another push back from the established order against internet activism. Read more about this here.  
Can you explain the process for deciding on the undefined aspects of PP planks, such as war, foreign policy, trade, gay marriage or gun rights?
Typically, transparency, privacy, and individual rights are the solution to all of these questions. It is widely known that most people don't want war, nevermind one waged for unjust reasons. Transparency is the solution to to that.  
Transparency would have prevented all the wars waged by the US so far this millennium. Abortion and gay rights are personal privacy matters, and the right for self-defense is an inalienable human right. So though we don't "take stands" on these issues, it's pretty clear where most Pirates would fall in the political spectrum.
Graphic / Jeff Wolfe
What should states have more control over and what should be left at the Federal level? 
The Federal level should stick to enforcing rights, like civil rights and leave lawmaking to the states. So long as a law doesn't violate the two prior values stated, the Feds shouldn't get involved in the 3rd.
Is it the role of public institutions to regulate thinking and speech?
Anything that stifles the free-exchange of ideas is a bad thing. Like copyright. Like patents.
Do you agree with the idea that there’s just too much damn government that’s wasteful and inefficient as a result of lobbying, cronyism and outmoded practices?  
Yes.
What suggestions do you have for anyone interested in starting up a local Pirate chapter?   
There were something like six Pirates at the beginning here. Because James O'Keefe had run for state treasurer 2x as a Green, he knew a political designation is not too hard to get in this state. So even though he only had 6 people at his meetings, he got that designation, made a press release and next thing you know he is on RT, we are in the Boston Globe. 
Get two local(ish) friends. Acquaint them with the Pirate imperatives. Elect a captain, 1st officer and quartermaster (chair, secretary, treasurer). Declare yourselves the _________ Pirate Party. 
Set up Twitter and blog at least, FB, Tumblr or Instagram if you like.  Make a press release of what the PP is, what you intend to make your pet projects, how people can contact you. Have a call to action about... Standing rock solidarity demo? Symposium on ranked choice voting? Make FB event page, flyers, call friends... Take out an ad!
Here in MA we have MIT, Harvard, Google, Microsoft, ... Someone is always holding some kind of symposium you can "buy at table" at... I don't know what you have that compares in your area, but I suggest you start at the universities. This is also a good place to hang flyers to get students attention, at the shops, laundromats near campus. If you know anyone in any kind of radio or podcasts in the area, as activists often do, book an appearance if you can.  
If you do get a table at a technology fair, or political event, be sure to have a stack of flyers with all of your social media contact info and email on them. A sign for the table is helpful, as is a sign-up-for-more-information sheet. At events, Tweet photos, blog about it. "This is what we do, this is how we roll." If we get 10 people at a cryptoparty we consider it a success. Let the other PPs around state, US and world know what you are doing and they will retweet you, and share. Lather rinse repeat. 
One of my best all time high school teachers used to tell me "There is nothing to it, but to do it." You have everything you need already. Just start. Contact me at sutralu at gmail dot com as much as you want. Ready? GO! 
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Learn more about the United States Pirate Party and follow them on Twitter and Facebook
I also recommend picking up the book, No Safe Harbor: Essays About Pirate Politics
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