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. 

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?  
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! 

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


  1. thanks


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