Yes, The Pirate Party Is A Silly Name, And That's Why It Works

“Pirate Party? Are you serious?” I hear that all the time when I’m canvassing. “With a name like that, how will you succeed?” Well, I reply, it got your attention, didn’t it?

The last time we canvassed in New York City parks, most conversations went something like this:
“Hi, are you tired of politics?”
The person keeps walking.
“Left vs. right always saying the same thing?”
They keep walking.
“I’m with the Pirate Party!”
They stop. They slowly turn around.

Pirates. Arr, shiver me timbers. Swillin’ grog an’ plunderin’ yer treasure. That’s the image the name immediately conjures to many people. They laugh. We tell them that we don’t have a chairman, we have a captain, and they laugh even more. We tell them we want to declare mutiny against the corrupt government, and their sides are splitting.

But now they’ve let their guard down. They’re paying attention. So we talk about how privacy and freedom of speech are at threat. We talk about how intellectual property laws are actually harming, not helping, the economy. We talk about liquid democracy, and its potential to make people more informed, engaged, and in control of their governance. And by golly, they listen. And it sounds like a pretty good idea.

Contrast this to being serious. What if we called ourselves the Knowledge Party, or the Intellectual Freedom Party? The Free Culture Party? The Empowerment Party? Most people wouldn’t give us a second glance. Especially in countries like the United States, where political apathy is at an all-time high, being safe and serious won’t get you anywhere. Counter-intuitively, acting serious is the biggest barrier to being taken seriously that a sociopolitical movement could possibly erect. If you want to engage only a small subset of policy wonks and hardcore activists, by all means, be professional. But if you want the attention of a public that increasingly gets more of its news from satirists and comedians than from journalists, there are worse things you could do than wearing an eyepatch and putting a parrot on your shoulder.

Don’t run from the pirate imagery. Ham it up. And for goodness’ sake, don’t talk like a politician. Loosen up. Talk to people like they’re your friends, get colloquial. Have a sense of humor, and don’t be afraid that cracking a joke or being tongue-in-cheek will harm your credibility. For every boring, uptight person whose support you lose by shouting “Y’arrrrrrr!”, you’ll gain the support of ten awesome people who haven’t paid attention to politics in years.


  1. Janne P. Hukkinen // @PirateStrategy

    Excellent strategic post, Zacqary! What I try to promote here in Finland is the following: you have to define what positive thins being a Pirate means and promote that when people show interest.

    Being your tongue-in-the-cheek self as described above is exactly what is needed to feel comfortable, rise the group-spirit, and connect to people.

    First rule: it is not a bad thing to have a controversial name. It is a good thing, because it makes people interested. Disinterest is a disease of democracy, which results in a low turn-out in elections. It’s a shame. No democracy wants that.

    But Pirates are the cure. YOU can be the cure, because you are able to take the negative connotations and “mutiply them by -1”. Interest into your name is your way in into people’s consciousness.

    Think yourself as a scriptwriter. Be creative. Write all the positive meanings of what being a Pirate means to you and your voters and lLet that information be free.

    Good Luck,

    1. Aelius Blythe

      OK, tried reply a while ago, didn’t work. Take 2..………..

      “you have to define what positive things being a Pirate means and promote that when people show interest.”

      I think that’s really important. “Pirate” as an insult, in the modern sense, is a demonization of very positive things! Sharing. Free and equal access to culture. Empowerment of average people.

      We can be constantly on the defensive, “But we don’t–” “But we’re not–” Or, instead of running from the negative, distorted image, we can proactively embrace and promote the “pirate” image which IS positive and IS constructive and IS relatable.

      Of course “Pirate” sounds ridiculous next to the traditional parties! But traditional is more of the same old, same old, but people don’t want more of the same. And do we really want to cater to those who do?

    2. 6.941

      I wish Pirate Parties would don the mantle of number-crunching, evidence-based policymaking. Build a community* around mathematical models and furious debate over all current issues**, then make it clear that even a single representative will have that hivemind backing it. It would send a strong message of counter-populism, and paint PP as the antidote to gut-based, clueless governance.

      I would vote for a party like that. Actually, that’s what I’m waiting for to happen. I have voted for PP in the past, and will probably do so again. But as long as they stay this far from having their shit properly together, it remains very much discretionary.

      * I’m thinking of something like the Stack Exchange, appropriately adjusted.
      ** I don’t mean to say that there needs to be an uniform stance on all issues. But there should be numbers, simulations, fact checks and discussions. There should be logic.

      1. Rob8urcakes

        Each Country in which a PP is established we really do need to a set out a Party Policy document, a Party Constitution and a short-list of candidates who will stand for either local or National elections.

        We all know our main purpose, but voters are going to need coherent policies on economics, social security, education, defence, etc.

        All of this will take time, debate, and organisation – but it CAN be done. Just have patience with each other and try to debate issues sensibly and peaceably.

  2. Long John Silver

    The first thing to mention after Pirates is the freedom of the high seas.

    The high seas are an international resource, traditional means of free trade and communications.They fulfill these roles admirably only thanks to being placed outside the rule and interference by any particular government.

    In our times, much of free trade and communications are done via the internet. It needs to be protected from meddling in exactly the same way. We need a new international treaty extending the old treaty of the high seas to cover the internet as well.

    1. 6.941

      The mechanics of legislation don’t really allow that. Servers are primarily located onshore, and fall under national jurisdiction. You’d essentially need to effect perfect data and comm privacy in all signatories before you can free the internet.

      1. Long John Silver

        Yes, being under national jurisdiction is exactly the problem.

        All governments and other big centralised entities that hold sway within governments hate being freely and/or anonymously criticised. They look enviously to those that do censor the internet and try to emulate them in all kinds of ways.
        Anyone who does not see this happening nearly every day would have to be blind.

        It is a race to the bottom that we are all going to lose unless the national jurisdiction over the servers is drastically curtailed. A strong international treaty would be one way to do it.

        1. 6.941

          You misunderstand me.

          I’m trying to say that, since servers can’t be singled out for immunity in any meaningful way, even one national piece of regulation on data or communications prevents internationalizing regulations on the internet. So if you want an International Net like you have International Waters, you’d better get to work laying the foundation first. It’s a pretty big foundation.

      2. Long John Silver

        Also, if we don’t have our own alternative, we will get this by default:

  3. Jerker Montelius

    I have always said that for a European the names “Democrats” and “Republican” sounds equally silly.
    Democrats, sure but you are supposed to be a democratic party anyway. Its like calling a party “Political”.
    Republican will always be associated with the French republicans. People that liked to kill other people in the town square with a guillotine.

  4. Dario Castañé

    Yarrr! Here in Catalonia we remixed the opening of a popular anime, Dragon Ball Z: It is very popular in Catalonia and it had a big impact, even in main medias.

  5. Dennis

    The biggest problem I encounter here in The Netherlands is that everybody thinks we only care about downloading copyrighted material.

    When you then try to explain there is more, internet freedom etc. All you get is a blank stare.
    I don’t think the name works for us. At least, not in Holland.

    1. Justus Römeth (@DarthSquig)

      The English and German word for Geuzenaam is actually Geuze Name/Geuzename, so while the branding does not work well in the NL as of yet it will catch on eventually, if only because it does in the rest of Europe and you are one of the most connected European countries.

      1. Anonymous

        What does Geuze mean? Google translate suggests beggar, but doesn’t have an alternative translation, and I don’t know any Dutch (and not enough German).

  6. […] Yes, The Pirate Party Is A Silly Name, And That’s Why It Works“ […]

  7. Israeli Pirate

    You have to take silliness seriously…

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