The Pirate Party - the politics of protest: Rick Falkvinge at TEDxObserver (2012)

oldie but good refresher vid on pirate party culture


Transcript (Formatted as an psudo essay)

  • Translator: Theresa Ranft
  • Reviewer: Mile Ĺ˝ivković

Introduction and context

Hi! I’m Rick, and… Wow, this was more difficult for me than I had expected. (Sigh)

I’m just going to say it, aren’t I? Hi, I’m Rick, I’m a politician. (Laughter) (Applause)

I didn’t expect my life to lead down this path, you know. It started out with talking politics in the pub on Friday and Saturday nights.Then things scaled up, and we talked a little bit of politics over coffee at work, and before you know it you’ve put multiple people in the European Parliament and founded a political movement that spread to over 50 countries. (Laughter)

It could happen to any of you, you know. (Laughter)

So, to introduce the Pirate Party, how many in here have heard of the Swedish Pirate Party before?
Let’s see a show of hands. Well that’s about half to two-thirds, which is pretty much what we see across the world, actually.
So I put it in the presentation. (Laughter)

Just for kicks, how many in here have heard of any other Swedish political party? Let’s see a show of hands. (Laughter)

Yup, same thing as all over the world, scattered hands here in the audience. Isn’t that funny? (Laughter)

Who is the Swedish pirate party?

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Swedish Pirate Party before, basically, we love the Net, we love copying and sharing, and we love civil liberties. For that, some people call us pirates. Rather than being ashamed by this which I think was their intent, we decided to stand tall about it, and as a result of that, we now have two seats in the European Parliament, 15 seats in the Berlin Parliament, we have almost 200 seats in local councils across Europe, and we are present in 56 countries, starting on January 1st, 2006 in Sweden as Piratpartiet. So for the next 12 minutes, we’re going to spend four minutes each on a little bit of: what is the message of this new movement, my story on it, and ending with what we all can learn from there.

Historical Context and the formation of a movement

The title is Politics of Protest, and we hear that a lot. Like, You’re just a protest movement, come on!

Well, like protest? We’re not talking about defiance for defiance’s sake here. (Laughter) But rather, if you’re not in government and disagreeing with what the government does, then, by definition, you’re dissenting. If you want to change the status quo, you’re part of a protest.

There have been many before us, you know. The Greens came 40 years ago, they protested pollution.
Labour came 80 years ago, they protested exploitation of workers. And you had Liberals who came 120 years ago, which protested overbearing power from royalty and the church. They all became established politics and policy making.

All of these waves start out as a protest against something, and then solidifying into an ideology. 40 years ago, the rallying cry of the youth were peace and love, usually coupled with smoking one of the odd exotic plant, you know, for the correct tone of voice in saying this on media.

That was later solidified into a political standpoint of sustainability, - which has many more syllables - and therefore can’t be pronounced the same way, but this has stood until now.

When you look at a value survey of 17-year olds, environment and sustainability is no longer on the top of their agenda.
Something else overtook it just in recent years, and that is freedoms of speech and openness.

And here’s where the old guard gets confused. Freedom of speech, we introduced that 120 years ago; we already have that! Why are these people rallying? And, honestly, I don’t think they understand that.

This, in its easiest translation, is Leave the net alone.

Because when you look at what the old guard is doing, they’re introducing censorship, they’re introducing wiretapping, they’re introducing an end to anonymity, and all of this amounts to cracking down freedom of speech.

If the old politicians understood that the laws they are making are the equivalent of putting microphones under every café table, I think they would be absolutely horrified, but they don’t live online, so they don’t understand that. There’s a crackdown going on of the net all over the world, only the excuses differ.

If you look at ex-President Mubarak, it was almost to the day, a year ago, as he shut down the Internet to prevent the uprising in Egypt.

[Internet was acting weird so I tried turning it off and on again]

You can kind of question his sanity, if he wants people to stay at home indoors and he’s shutting off the Internet, if he wants people to stay indoors he should crank it up, for heaven’s sake!
But, still. Only the excuses differ.

Here in the West it’s terrorism, it’s battling organized crime, and it’s sometimes battling pornography in various forms. In Muslim countries, it’s preserving the sanctity of the prophet. In some other countries, it’s security of the nation.
But it’s always the same action: censorship, wiretapping, identifying, and crackdown.

What that tells me is that if the politicians of today see the entire growing up generation as a problem, then maybe it’s the politicians who are the problem. (Applause) Thank you.

What we are demanding isn’t really rocket science. We’re demanding the same rights that our parents had 40 years ago.

If you sent a letter in the mail, you and you alone would determine whether you identified yourself on the outside of the envelope, on the inside, just on the letter, or not at all.

Nobody had the right to open this letter in transit just to see what you sent. Translated to the growing up generation, that means that people are demanding to send whatever they like on the Net without being tracked, wiretapped, and identified.
And I think it’s absolutely reasonable that our children have the same rights and civil liberties that our parents had in their environment.

Now the copyright industry, in particular, objects to this. As in, But we can’t make money in that case. That does not matter.

An entrepreneur is tasked with making money given the constraints of society and technology. They do not get to dismantle civil liberties, even if, and perhaps especially if, they can’t make money otherwise.

That’s why you’re seeing rallies for freedom of speech across Europe and the world.
Here’s a map of the anti-ACTA rallies, and I think it’s quite impressive.

The Journey of pirate party sweden from inception to winning the election

So, what’s my story?
How do I do this?
Going from an ugly web page to actually having people in parliament?

There are many people working on this, obviously, and the Pirate Party is just one movement out of many, but this is my story. In 2005, I found three things objectionable. There was the software patent debate in the European parliament which would criminalize knowledge.

There was yet another copyright monopoly harshening in Sweden, and finally, the Data Retention Directive being voted in the European Parliament, which made all our mobile phones into governmental tracking devices. I took exception to that, but realized at the end of the day that people are people; these politicians aren’t evil, they’re just trying their best to make a better world. So instead, you’ve got to have a bit of empathy with your adversary, and understand their position, and I found that the best way to effectuate change here was to threaten to fire them.

So I posted a manifesto.

Short version is that I wrote two lines in a chat, and more or less overnight, it just blew up in my face. 300 activists on the first day, and that became the original crew.

I realized this was my chance to change the world for the better. I had a choice here; I could either be overwhelmed by the scale of it, and retreat back into the gray mass, or, like I did, I had a high paying IT job, I could take a loan to live off of, quit my job - in that order, very important - (Laughter) and build a Pirate Party.

So I decided to try to change the world. Elections were coming up eight months out; elections of 2006. That was eight months, right? It was plenty of time.

An engineering project is just over the weekend, so eight months, come on. Turns out we got 0.63% in the first elections, but there was an important change there. We had been, Here is this year’s joker party. Going from that to, Sir, do you have time for an interview sometime in the next two weeks? It was quite a change. Anyway, my loan ran out, inevitably. I asked the activists for help.

If you have spare money and want me to do this full-term, please give me a little bit of change at the end of the month. I lived off begging for 18 months, and tabloids scandalized me for it, of course. But it worked.

So the EU elections came. We won the world. Three and a half years after founding we got 7%, 7.13%, and two seats in the European elections. That was the quickest way of getting into parliament that I found anywhere, and we became the largest party for people under 30, with 25% of those votes. That just sent shockwaves through the establishment. And this was then followed by successes pretty much all over Europe. We’re called the fastest-growing political movement, and today I’m instead employed by the European Parliament; again scandal, trying to be scandalized by tabloids over that instead of begging.

Lessons learnt

So, what do we learn from this? What can we learn? There’s a Futurama quote, I like Futurama; I’m a nerd.

When push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love - even when it’s not a good idea. (Laughter)

What kind of idiot thinks they can change the world by founding a new political party, really? This kind of idiot. (Pointing To Self)

There’s another good quote.

If it’s stupid but works, it ain’t stupid.

So we learn here that people aren’t evil. Your worst adversaries aren’t evil, and trying to portray them as such does not help your cause, but it does something else; it defines you.

And that’s very important, no matter what cause you’re setting out on. So, whether you believe that you can or cannot make a difference, it’s a matter of attitude.

And, in both cases, you’re probably right. This is about leadership. This is about saying, I’m going to change the world, who’s with me?

And choose a reasonable approach. Don’t shoot for the moon, that’s just silly.That’s been done already. Shoot for Mars. End illiteracy, help two billion people learn to read.

You can do this. Everyone in this room has some cause they would love to make a difference in. You can do it. Don’t dare let anybody tell you otherwise.

You’ve got to be credible, inclusive, and tangible when communicating this. As long as you do that, it’s just a matter of telling people, I believe; I know we can do this. We can write ourselves into the history books by going to Mars.

Going home, it’s a matter of setting a couple of bullet points: recruit one dozen volunteer rocket scientists, two dozen mechanical engineers, and someone who’s willing to mix rocket fuel in their backyard.

Some of you are laughing. This is how you do it.

People will take your vision and do whatever they can to further it, you just have to let them. So, as a final note: change doesn’t just happen, somebody makes it happen. And you, everyone in this room, can be that person. And that’s my presentation.

Please tweet any feedback you have, I love to see my name on Twitter. (Laughter) (Applause)

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