Let’s Call Pirates “Pirates”


Annie Lowery becomes the second person I’ve heard make the suggestion that we shouldn’t call the Somali pirates “pirates”

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 don’t really understand the appeal of this suggestion. What the Somali pirates are doing—hijacking ships at sea through force and threats of force—is exactly what “pirate” and “piracy” have always referred to. “Terrorism” is a pretty different concept. If some Palestinians were to blow up an Israel-bound cruise ship, I would want to call those guys “maritime terrorists” which would denote an activity pretty different from simply robbing the cruise ship.

Insofar as people have overly romantic ideas about pirates, they ought to be disabused of those notions. I recommend Under the Black Flag as an interesting exploration of the fairly grubby reality of “classic” pirates along with the romance that nonetheless managed to attach itself to their exploits.