Ahoy, matey! The Pirate Party is about to board your campaign


Delegates of the Pirate Party (Piraten Partei) faction in the Berlin city state parliament pose for pictures in the parliament building in Berlin September 19, 2011. (THOMAS PETER/REUTERS)

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.


Young people hold a banner of the Pirate Party on September 16, 2011 as they paddle on the Spree river in Berlin. (HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

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.


Delegates of the Pirate Party (Piraten Partei) faction in the Berlin city state parliament vote during their faction's constituting session in Berlin September 22, 2011. (THOMAS PETER/REUTERS)

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Dominic Basulto is a futurist and blogger based in New York City.

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