If you think the Tea Party movement has the potential to be disruptive in the 2012 election, consider what the Pirate Party recently achieved in "poor but sexy" Berlin. A ragtag group of twentysomethings campaigning on a single, big issue — freedom of the Internet — just took over 15 seats in the Berlin state parliament by winning nearly 9 percent of the vote - despite being dismissed by many as a single-issue fringe movement. In comparison, the FDP pro-business party, which has ties to the nation’s establishment won only 1.8 percent of the vote. The Pirate Party, true to its core ethos, celebrated its brash (and surprising) win at a Berlin discotheque, after posing for a group picture on the steps of Berlin’s parliament building dressed in comic book hero t-shirts and other garb befitting a modern-day Internet pirate.
Is it possible that the Pirate Party's core platform — free wireless Internet access for all, an end to restrictive copyright laws, and a promise to make all government data open — could influence the narrative of America’s 2012 presidential campaign?
The Pirate Party, like the Tea Party movement, is a grassroots movement that has shown a surprising ability to get out the vote. A single tweet from a party leader has the ability to activate youthful voters. Not only that, there is a reckless disregard for tradition that is deeply rooted in the freewheeling culture of the Internet — a culture that celebrates openness and collaboration, while simultaneously supporting digital piracy (what some might refer to as the complete absence of copyright protection). That same culture has given rise to hacktivist organizations like Anonymous as well as troublemaking collectives like LulzSec. There’s even an International Talk Like a Pirate Day on the Internet, which was widely celebrated on Twitter and other social media sites just hours following the Pirate Party’s surprising win.
Clearly, there’s something interesting going on here in the popular zeitgeist — not just in America, but also in Europe, where concerns over an economic crisis are similarly mounting. The same type of voter passion that has led to many of the Tea Party movement’s most prolific “let’s show Washington” rallies is now uniting with the Internet’s unparalleled ability to self-organize to activate passionate voters. People want to Do It for the Lulz and, as a result, we see stunts like #occupywallstreet by Anonymous, which sought to cripple our nation’s financial markets by mobilizing thousands of (mask-wearing) demonstrators to take over Wall Street this past weekend.
As The Economist points out, the Pirate Party's surprising win is “one of those what-does-it-all-mean moments.” Pirates, once thought to be on the fringe of the political scene (as well as the legal and criminal justice scene), now have the ability to influence our politics. The success of the Pirate Party in Europe should be a wake-up call for American politicians that the status quo in politics is no longer sufficient. As much as we would like to frame the 2012 campaign year solely in terms of jobs, taxes and the economy, there might just be a wildcard factor that involves the nation’s youth and the freewheeling culture of the Internet. The candidate who campaigns for open government data, a free Internet and an end to anti-piracy laws might just find himself or herself sailing away in a pirate galleon in November 2012.
Read more news and ideas on Innovations: