“Stop calling them pirates”

So says the FP’s Annie Lowery:

It’s a sorry, sorry state of affairs. And it suggests two things to me.
First, pirate exhaustion looms. (Though we’ve tested the limits on this blog, and found them boundlessly wide.) At one point, the pirates seemed a welcome distraction. Not so much any more — people are dying, Somalia is a failed state. Second, as others have suggested, we should stop calling them pirates and start calling them something like “maritime terrorists,” to end any remaining romanticization.

I have to wonder who reads about or watches coveragegallery-somali-pirates-pi-0041 of Somali piracy and envisions Long John Silver or Jack Sparrow. I’m pretty imaginative but Somali piracy doesn’t exactly jive with Treasure Island or Pirates of the Caribbean. Maybe it’s just me but “Avast, ye scurvy dog!” just doesn’t fit the image of a Somali standing on a tanker or freighter, waving an RPG around while waiting for a helicopter to drop a bundle of cash. Maybe a century or two from now history and popular culture will have polished the Somali pirate up a bit and some enterprising author or movie director will have a go at the romantic and swashbuckling adventures of Abdul Hassan.

I’m not too keen on any new terminology that contains the word terrorist. It’s a term bandied about too easily and too often and doesn’t, in my opinion, fit the nature of a Somali pirate. There’s a bit of a difference between a sustained, murderous campaign of bloodshed and holding ships for ransom.

I think a more fitting term would be one that indicates criminality rather than terrorism. “Maritime armed robbers” or “blue water hijackers” or maybe something simple like “pirates.”

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17 Responses to “Stop calling them pirates”

  1. Memphispi says:

    There is a term that is not time worn and very apt … criminals.

  2. tdaxp says:

    Romanticism (on the part of the Disney corporation) and hysteria (on the part of the RIAA) have debased the meaning of “pirate.” Now people remember who they are, now that we have a President they do not fear.

  3. pok says:

    Call them whatever you like, but start killing them.

  4. Roy Berman says:

    Ms. Lowery is completely wrong. There is no possible definition of the term “terrorist” which describes these guys, as they have no political motives. They are simply pirates, and there isn’t any better word to describe them.

  5. Younghusband says:

    I too vote for retaining pirates. In relation to Dan’s comment, I think John Gruber made a good point:

    I try to use the term bootlegging when discussing casual downloading and sharing of copyrighted material. Piracy is a violent crime.

  6. CT Dahl says:

    “Now people remember who they are, now that we have a President they do not fear.”

    From what I can tell from being un-worldly Westerner, Somoli piracy has been around since 1990. It kinda hit it’s peak during 2005, near the start of Bush’s second term.

    Not pinning this on Bush, but I have a feeling that these pirates really don’t give a hoot who is in charge of USA in the long run, since any president will only be in charge for a max of 8 years. They have a good thing going for them.

  7. Arcane says:

    The fact that we obsess more over what to name a terrorist, or an Islamist, or a pirate, or whatever, than discussing what to do about them, says a lot about the sordid state of our civilization. Once a great many years ago, we confidently bestrode the earth and asserted our will in a pragmatic and realistic manner. We would go to war over a hostage. Now we lack the confidence even to hang even a few terrorists.

    How pathetic we have become.

  8. Muscovite says:

    Dr. Robert D. Kaplan on ‘rowing gangs’ in NY Times Op-Ed article – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/opinion/12kaplan.html

  9. Cyclohexane says:

    Shall we rename thieves because Hollywood made movies romanticizing Robin hood and his merry men. These modern pirates appear to fit the classical pirate definition to a T, so I don’t see why a another, lamer and less accurate description, should be manufactured for them.

  10. Arcane, are you suggesting that the US doesn’t assert it’s will or that it’s done in a fashion that’s not pragmatic nor realistic?

    Muscovite, thanks for the link.

  11. Curzon wrote a lengthy and informative post on the origins of Somali piracy.

    Dan makes an interesting point. Why, after nearly two decades did the pirates target a US ship? Is it based on perceptions of the new President or is it simply a matter of luck? Iirc there are only 300 or so US flagged ships that pass through this area of the Indian Ocean.

  12. As a matter of law, they are pirates. They are theives operating on the high seas.

    We should treat them accordingly. Hunt them down like rats, hang them, burn their boats, destroy their bases, and root them out like rats. That is the time-honored method.

  13. Pingback: Pirates: not quite the swahsbuckling heroes our movies paint them « Uncovered History

  14. Arcane says:

    Arcane, are you suggesting that the US doesn’t assert it’s will or that it’s done in a fashion that’s not pragmatic nor realistic?

    Yes, this is what I am suggesting has taken place over the past few years. I do not think the unilateralist liberal internationalism espoused by neoconservatives or the transnationalist liberal internationalism is pragmatic or realistic enough.

  15. Roy Berman says:

    “Not pinning this on Bush, but I have a feeling that these pirates really don’t give a hoot who is in charge of USA in the long run, since any president will only be in charge for a max of 8 years. They have a good thing going for them.”

    These four pirates are aged 17-19, and I would be a little bit shocked if they aren’t illiterate. Does anyone really think that they care about who is president of the USA? Piracy is, like most violent types of violent robbery, born out of desperation and lack of better economic options (as has been argued at more length in some of the linked articles).

    BTW, it’s worth noting that many of the romantic swashbucklers were actually privateers, a position which bears virtually no resemblance with these pirates.

  16. Pingback: ComingAnarchy.com » “Stop calling them terrorists”

  17. No_Money says:

    Somali pirates are the true pirates like any other pirates in history. Even greater because they haven’t got the support from any country. Back in the all days pirates were just a mercenaries who were stealing money for themselves or for their country (Britain, France, Spain, Turkey…) and they had a huge support from their native countries in money,weapons,men… They were almost the same as the regular navy. Somali pirates don’t have that support so they are actually bigger pirates then the pirates we all know. Only the people who don’t know nothing about pirates have romantic view on them.
    People need to stand up to this cruel money-making world in their own ways, some people do it by peaceful protesting some people do it by sinking ships. I mean I know they are criminals who are doing all that for the money , but the great thing is that by doing that they are attacking the system.
    I wish them luck.