Effective Pirating: Choose your Opponents Carefully

Effective Pirating: Choose your Opponents Carefully

With this article the Pirate Times will start a series that will help you to be effective in getting your point of view across to other Pirates. The first point is who not to enter into debate with. There are two types of people to be avoided.

Fifth Columnists

We are a serious threat to many entities that are making enormous profits and garnering unwarranted political power over governments and the net. There are state and private intelligence agencies that would like to see us destroyed or debilitated. They do not have a difficult job either. We are open and transparent, we welcome everyone and we encourage participation and freedom of expression. We are Pirates, that’s what we do. A fifth columnist’s dream.

Now how can we identify these  fifth columnists? The simple answer is we can’t.

However, you don’t have to be paranoid and wonder if the Pirate next to you at a meeting or in a mumble chat is a saboteur. If you remember to apply a few rules in your interactions, then not only will you be helping to defend the Party you will be increasing your influence in it.

Signs to watch for. If a Pirate does and/or wants you to do any of the following, they might not be a saboteur but they might as well be :

Act illegally:

Pirates work within the democratic processes of the countries they are in. To act against the law gives our political adversaries ammunition to use against us. Protests marches and actions within the law should be used but only within the law. There are plenty of organisations that share our aims that act outside the law or through civil disobedience.

Exception: In some regimes it is almost impossible to take political action without coming into conflict with the law. In Russia Pirates face a law that forbids assemblies of four or more people. An enterprising Pirate started distributing leaflets with life-size cutouts portraits of some fellow Pirates. She and her artificial friends were all arrested.

Do something that substantially harms the image of the Party.

Even though not illegal there are many actions that could bring the image of the Party into disrepute by breaking cultural taboos or offending sections of the community. This will depend on the culture that you are in but as a general rule, offending potential voters is not the best way to get Pirates elected.

Engage in bullying or mobbing of a fellow Pirate.

We are nothing if we are not democratic. There is a right of free speech but if it is used to engage in character assassination, bullying, mobbing or intimidation, it is impinging on the human rights of others . Anyone who  makes personal attacks based on race, gender, sexuality, religion and ideology should feel out of place in the Pirate Party.

 “We need to make the Pirate Party a fairly inhospitable place for people who repeatedly refuse to respect their fellow pirates. For instance, we have no use for people who are derogatory towards women, LGBT people and people from other countries. They can never be a sound foundation for the free future we want to build”. Anna Troberg leader of the Pirate Party in Sweden.


anna troberg piratpartiet

Photo by: Michelle Dunbar

If these people continue in such behaviour then avoid them and make sure other Pirates are warned of their actions and its consequences.

Time and Resource Wasters

There is another enemy of a well run and harmonious Pirate Party and that is the realm of  those who waste time and resources and divert the Party from its fundamental work. Most are not malicious and are merely applying tactics they see used in mainstream politics. This makes us vulnerable to sabotage as we are building our parties as we go. This is like sailing a fleet into stormy weather while building, redesigning and repairing our ships as we go. Even well intentioned Pirates can end up endangering their own vessels. Self created disasters are not only possible, they are to be planned for.

Users of False Arguments

The best way to promote a policy or course of action is to use reasoned arguments. There are many types of fallacious arguments and the Pirate Times will explain the most important of them in a series of articles. They are extensively used in politics, because they are a good way to win an argument even when you are in the wrong. Pirates should know how to identify and refute them. Also you can use these people to test your arguing skills and see if an argument you are developing has weaknesses.

Undemocratic Practices

Every Pirate Party should have statues that detail how policy and decisions are made. To go outside these methods is unfair and undemocratic.  In the vast majority of Parties the officials, elected or not, are volunteers and to try and lobby, bribe or threaten them in anyway is not the Pirate way.


A traffic warning sign saying Caution Troll ahead

CC BY sboneham

Many Pirates defend trolling under the flag of free speech. This may well be the case but we do not have the resources to waste on frivolities. Trolls are as old as the Internet and the rule “Don’t feed the trolls” is just about as old. They waste time, disrupt reasoned debate, upset anyone they can and give a bad impression to the public.

One Trick Ponies

These are people who have one topic as a bandwagon and will try to twist any debate to their only topic. We all have subjects that we feel passionate about but in a party, we listen to what others have to say and if they are convincing, we accept their arguments.


People who leave the party and under the guise of advice or straight out blame publicly attack the Party they left. There may be good reason for someone to leave a Pirate Party if they feel that they cannot, in good conscious, agree with a policy of tactic. However, we believe in free speech so there must be every opportunity to criticise within the Party. To do so publicly, especially in the press, is seldom done with good intentions.

Exception: if a Pirate Party is suppressing dissent within its ranks, this may be the only way to effect change.

In most cases engaging with these people will be worthwhile as most will not realise that what they are doing is harmful to the Party. If you have the time you can also use reasoned arguments to show them where they are going wrong. This will be more convincing and you will be improving your rhetorical skills.


Do not get paranoid. Do not start an inquisition. The vast majority of Pirates are just like you and passionate to make a change in the world. Treat them with politeness and respect and you will find most of them will do the same.

In game theory there is a strategy called Reciprocal Altruism or Tit-For-Tat. It suggests that you are open to everyone and only withdraw that openness when you are faced with someone who is hostile to you. Should they then change their behaviour you restore the openness back to them. Should they continue being difficult, continue withdrawing from them until all contact is stopped. If we all act like this then we will see the type of Pirate Party that Anna Troberg and most of us want to see and where outside agents will find little to work with.


Featured image: CC BY-NC-SA Len Matthews