So What's This Pirate Party I Keep Hearing About?

30.7.2012
Words by Kári Tulinius
Recently a group of people, including current Movement MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, announced that they were preparing to found an Icelandic version of the Pirate Party, a political movement that originated in Sweden in the mid-noughties. This received a lot of media coverage, likely because the party would have representation in parliament immediately, albeit by an MP who has founded and abandoned three political parties in the last four years.

Arrr, a pirate never settles down, the high seas always be a-callin'.

These political pirates are not named after oceanic robbers, but rather software piracy. Pirate Parties seek to change patent and copyright law, which they consider outdated and restrictive. They also campaign for free speech, transparency of governments and corporations, and the right of individuals to speak anonymously.

Arrr, that be borin'. Where be the landing of lubber, avasting of mateys, and the yo-ho-hoing of rum?


That sounds more likes euphemisms for obscure sex practices than pirate lingo. In fact, the group of Icelanders who are working to found the party tried to distance themselves from associations with maritime larceny, or any other unlawfulness. Birgitta Jónsdóttir said: "We do not think of ourselves as bandits of any kind." Instead of using an Icelandic translation of their name, "Sjóræningjaflokkurinn," they went with "Píratapartýið," which may look easier to pronounce to a non-Icelandic speaker, which is true, but is something of a nonce word in Icelandic and has received a lot of derision.

Arrr, the pirate's lingo is laughed at by knaves and fools.

Could you please stop with the pirate talk thing? Anyway, Birgitta Jónsdóttir has said that she thinks the names of political parties are silly to begin with, and that the new party may end up being called something completely different. She suggested "the PP-Party" as a name, which I swear does not sound like a lewd euphemism in Icelandic. But while the people involved have avoided the P-word, they have been perfectly comfortable labeling themselves nerds. And please, no pirate talk.

Arrr, they be... sorry... so, Birgitta aside, they're acne-ravaged, Dungeons & Dragons-playing, momma's-basement-dwelling soft-drink addicts?

Not really, though I am sure quite a few of them are well acquainted with twenty-sided dice. Another prominent member is a man named Smári McCarthy, whose credibility in nerd circles is so high that were he a pirate his beard would spontaneously catch fire. Among other things, Smári was one of the original administrators of the Icelandic version of Wikipedia, and has a long-time involvement with WikiLeaks, along with Birgitta Jónsdóttir.

The PP-Party came from WikiLeaks? Stop taking the piss.

Though they have run into teething troubles with naming the organisation, there is no reason to underestimate them. In other countries, the party has gotten far. In Germany the Pirate Party has 45 seats in various regional parliaments and the Swedish Pirate Party has two members in the European Parliament. While there are a lot of new parties vying for political oxygen in the 2013 Icelandic parliamentary election, the Pirate Party does have a clear, easy to explain political ideology, which cannot be said of all the others. They might have a chance if they can somehow get the voting public to talk about anything other than their party name.

No one would talk about their name if they dressed like pirates.

While that is probably true, they do want people to take them seriously, and no one takes nerds running around in pirate costume seriously. The caricature of the Pirate Party is that it is nothing but a group of nerds whose great concern in life is to be able to download any film, game or song they want with impunity.

Arrr... wanting to plunder and pillage, now there be pirates true.

The only thing the Pirate Party is looking to plunder is enough votes to get seats in parliament in the next election. Traditionally, piracy has not been very popular in Iceland, a 17th Century slave-taking expedition by Barbary pirates was one of the most notorious episodes in Icelandic history. On the other hand, Iceland was originally founded as retirement home for Vikings, which are a kind of pirate, so maybe the Icelandic Pirate Party can name themselves the Viking Party.



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