Going on the Account: Privateers Beyond Booty

I came across a review for the documentary AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD that read like an effort to rush Talk-Like a Pirate Day:  “Avast, Eco-Pirates, Here Be Whalers.”

So of course, the question is, why roll out the Long John Silver Speak?  This becomes obvious as you read Sea Shepherd’s introductory info page.  The group portrayed in the documentary is active in the campaign to protect wildlife, and are willing to take the methods and swagger of old-time buccaneers into the fight.

But does claiming the black flag  of a pirate make you one?

The first thing to remember about all acts of piracy is that they are essentially a sub-class of theft.  There’s goods being seized for personal profit, or at least as part of an strategy where economic warfare is being waged, but in all cases someone is getting rich off of swiped property.

By that test, the Sea Shepherds seem more pirates in name than fact.  As they are working within the confines of enforcing international law in cooperation with the authorities (as claimed by them), it’s hardly going on the account as practiced long ago in the Carib, or today off Somalia.

I suppose if we wanted to be both technical and generous, they could claim to be privateers.  There is a grand tradition of ships being hired to conduct what Zhou Enlai called “diplomacy by other means,” much as the Gale just did in the novel.  While the Sea Shepherds volunteered their services to the UN as opposed to being hired by them, the principal is essentially sound.

So we end up with a group that helps confuse further the taxonomy of pirate, in addition to the environment.  It’s not the first time the terms “privateer” and “pirate” have been confused, and it won’t be the last; especially as sometimes a little confusion can save you form the gibbet when you’re caught…



If you’re still here and anxious to read about “pirates,” there’s word today that the most downloaded TV show right now is HEROES.  Considering how the show’s developed, I have to hope that these viewers were all ripping Season One; the alternative is difficult to accept here…

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