Since the very beginning of Bilgemunky.com, I’ve mostly ignored any news regarding modern pirates. I freely admit that my love of historical pirates is selective – frock coats good, rape bad. Rum, flintlocks, cutlasses, ships, pirate hats all good, actual cold-blooded murder or torture bad. Of course, being as the 1700’s were harsh times, and you could easily make the case that pirates of the day were in many ways no better or worse than the very governments they fought against, and that sailing merchants often created an environment so cruel that it left their crew little choice but to go on the account – this only further enables the easy glamorization of historical (and fictional) old-timey pirates.
Modern pirates, from many perspectives, have some definite commonalities with historical pirates – the parallels are astounding and fascinating. But most of these similarities have little to nothing to do with the “fun” part of pirates – Somali pirates don’t have parrots, don’t drink rum, don’t fly a jolly roger, and don’t sing “Yo ho ho.” Therefore they’re not something I intend to focus on. Now that Somali pirates have made additional headlines and the word “pirate” is again becoming a scary word (at least in some contexts), I stand by this policy more than ever.
There are those rare times when modern and historical pirates intersect, and I suppose I’d be dreadfully derelict in my duties were I to ignore such cases. This new article in the Wall Street Journal, Real Pirates Have Taken the ‘Ho Ho’ Out of ‘Yo Ho Ho’ for Cap’n Slappy– for example – where many of our friends and cohorts are quoted (Cap’n Slappy, Rob Ossian, Christine Lampe.)
And then, of course, is the recent episode of South Park, Fatbeard, in which Cartman goes to Somalia in the hopes of finding (and joining) a crew of “proper” tricorn-wearing scallywags, but instead only finds a bunch of modern pirates. It even included a rollicking pirate tune:
You can see the full episode at Southpark Studios.
These few exceptiosn aside, there is little about AK-47 weilding modern day pirates that captures my imagination, and so little more need be said. Save for this: I’ve been asked time and again if the recent crisis in Somalia will hurt pop-cultural pirate enthusiasm, and I know of at least one letter to the editor emploring a town to cancel its annual pirate festival for fear of glorifying evil doers. To my mind, this is the same sort of idiocy that can’t tell the difference between Harry Potter and Satanic worship, between attending a Hawaiian Luau and endorsing human sacrifice, etc. etc. The ocean’s a big place, as is piracy – that Somalia and the Bretheren of the Coast indeed overlap in a few key points doesn’t mean we have to compromise or apologize for our love of Golden Age swashbucklers.