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Re: <nettime> How right wing are the Pirates?
Florian Cramer on Sun, 20 Sep 2009 21:51:25 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> How right wing are the Pirates?


Felix:
 
> It drew much criticism after two of its leaders gave interviews to a  
> weekly newspaper, Junge Freiheit (young freedom), which is well-known 
> for its history of providing far-right positions with a respectable,  
> intellectual veneer [1].                                              

I might be wrong, but I know no other Western (so-called) democratic
country than Germany where people are even whipped only for _talking_ to
the wrong media, irregardless their actual statements.  (In that
interview, the Pirate Party representative took a clear stance against
the extreme right, btw.) This kind of political witch hunt has all the
signs of Germany's post-war political anxiousness and inconfidence to
which a true civil rights party, if the Pirates mature into one, could
make a much-needed difference. 

It should be noted that this "affair" has been mostly cooked up by the
newspaper "die tageszeitung" ("taz") and has the funny smell of a
political smear campaign. The editor covering the German Pirate
Party, Julia Seeliger, recently joined the paper after having being a
national council member of the German Greens, the party most likely to
lose votes to the Pirates. (And the prominent Green Party assemblyman
Christian Ströbele happens to be on the board of trustees of the
tageszeitung's endowment.) 

> There are some aspects makes them prone to steering to the right, or
> being hijacked, so to speak, by the far right.

There is really one controversial issue: a radical civil rights party
would also defend freedom of speech for the extreme right.  This is, for
sure, also the policy of organizations like the ACLU and the EFF. In
Germany, the established liberal and left-wing parties would not agree.
Even the Green Party program says: "The state must prohibit
right-extremist propaganda rigorously and with all constitutional means"
("Der Staat muss rechtsextremistische Propaganda konsequent und mit
allen rechtsstaatlichen Mitteln unterbinden",
http://www.gruene.de/einzelansicht/artikel/rechtsextremismus.html). 

What brought the Pirate Party to prominence in Germany was the
introduction of a national Internet content filtering system through the
federal government and German federal police, allegedly to block child
pornography sites. A third of the Green Party members of parliament
abstained from voting against that law, probably through out of feminist
considerations - mostly the kind of authoritarian German 1970/80s
feminism that also makes up the Green Party's DNA. 

> There have been long attempts of the far right to create a tactical 
> alliance with the radical left based on a presumed common opposition to the 
> state. The left always rejected that on all levels for good reasons.

If you read the interview in "Junge Freiheit", then it's very obvious
that the newspaper editors are trying to find out whether the Pirate
Party is a useful tactical partner against the imminent filtering of
extreme right web sites in Germany. While these are shady motives, it is
the typical German knee-jerk reaction to take the opposite position
purely for the sake of not siding with the extreme right. If I lived in
Germany, I would clearly speak up against filtering extreme right web
sites - and be it only for the sake of freedom of research.  (For
example, my own public lecture on the visual style and rhetoric of the
so-called "Autonomous Nationalists", Neo-Nazis who mimic the subcultural
left, would not have been possible without a whole weekend spent on
surfing Neonazi sites.) 

> The Pirate Party, on the other hand, seems to be quite open to the
> right. Not in terms of explicit political coalitions, they reject
> those like most Germans do, but in terms of the debates they foster
> among their members and sympathizers. 

I don't know what is wrong with this per se. We've had the same in the
realm of the humanities and intellectual debates since the 1970s. It was
called poststructuralism and postmodernism and heavily borrowed, among others,
from right-wing thinkers like Nietzsche, Heidegger and Carl Schmitt.

> This could be just a processes of finding their political identity,
> like the Green Party went through in the late 1970s, but I think it's
> not.

In many ways, the German Green party and the Pirate Party have opposite
histories. About half of the founders of the German Greens came from the
political right (such as its early frontrunner Herbert Gruhl and the
AUD, a former extreme right party), but left the party soon. In these
early beginnings, there was a common sense of "opposition to the
system". The Pirate Party however is, unlike any previous alternative
German party, completely unambiguous in its support for the German
constitution, and also completely unambiguous in its support for freedom
of speech. 

> The pirates, by and large angry white (young) men, advance primarily a 
> negative concept of freedom (no surveillance, no copyright) in service of 
> strong, productive individuals.  Based on this atomistic view of freedom 
> they envision organic communities of the like-minded. A kind of American-
> style libertarianism.

Here's the political agenda of the German Pirate Party
<http://www.piratenpartei.de/navigation/politik/unsere-ziele>:

(1) To defend civil rights; (2) 'informational self-determination' [i.e.
privacy]; (3) transparency of public administration; (4) Open Access in
research and education; (5) [liberalization of] copyright; (6) [reform
of] patents; (7) free public education.

I see only point 5 and 6 as negative goals, in the sense that the
discontent with a current system prevails an alternative vision or
demand. Point 7 is squarely opposed to American-style libertarianism.
The platform of the American Libertarian party states: "Education, like
any other service, is best provided by the free market, achieving
greater quality and efficiency with more diversity of choice.",
http://www.lp.org/platform . 

And while the latter document makes no statements on intellectual
property, its general statements on property policies do not fare well
with copyright reforms and Open Access policies. Quote: "The owners of
property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any
manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the
exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. [...] We
oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of
contract, and freedom of trade." 

So, in a nutshell, there's a strong notion of the public domain in the
Pirate Party's program that is completely absent from libertarianism.

> This does not invalidate their core concerns (digital civil liberties, 
> copyright / patent reform), nor do I want to imply that all pirates are 
> crypto right wingers, it just indicates how easily progressive-seeming 
> digital culture can serve the far right.

Isn't it that the progressive-seeming digital culture has always
included the libertarian far right if we think, for example, of people
like Eric S. Raymond? And in comparison to, for example, of John Perry
Barlow's "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace", the Pirate
Party's libertarianism is already extremely watered down.

Florian

-- 
blog:     http://en.pleintekst.nl
homepage: http://cramer.pleintekst.nl:70
          gopher://cramer.pleintekst.nl


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