"Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

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Velifer
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"Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Velifer » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:08 pm UTC

From this Op Ed piece from the NY Times.
The similarities and overlaps between the two crimes have prompted some jurists to advocate abandoning the term piracy altogether in favor of “maritime terrorism.” By reasserting the traditional definition of pirates as hostis humani generis, and linking it to terrorism, the United States and other nations will not only gain a powerful tool in fighting the Somali pirates, but other incidents of terrorism around the world as well.


Politics aside (or if you'd rather, post a link to a political thread on the topic), "terrorism" is a word that's had quite a widening in meaning in recent years. "Piracy" has also drifted to being applicable to many different activities. Sticking with classical definitions, the two are not the same thing. Piracy is an act for personal profit, terrorism is an act for political gain.

Are these two concepts now so close that they should be grouped together? Is anyone else disturbed by people advocating not to use precise language? Is this linguistic terrorism from a band of Sapir-Whorf-loving pirates?
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Simbera » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:30 pm UTC

Check this out.

It's not on the same topic, by any stretch of the imagination (it's about violence in kids, mental illness, that sort of thing) but raises a similar point about the power of words, and how they can be twisted to suit a person's point...and how these points can often have drastic consequences. Like when doing medical research, or when making international laws - the specific definitions of words is paramount in interpreting laws. I personally like "Deus ex nomen" better than his "Deus ex homonymia", but I'm not basing that on any real Latin ability, just the roll-off-the-tongue meter.

In any case, I really don't like the idea of this. I don't understand why new laws can't be put in place for this specific problem, rather than trying to MacGuyver a solution out of the existing laws. It might conceivably be more difficult; I'm not too familiar with how hard it is to get international laws passed. But I think doing it once, doing it bespoke for the situation and therefore doing it properly is a much better idea than trying alter definitions and classify things differently. It leads down a bad road...like you said, they're really not the same thing, and when definitions can be changed to include only loosely-related concepts, there are very few limits to what could be criminalised.

And IMO imprecise language should be eschewed wherever possible - especially when writing laws.

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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby drbhoneydew » Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:34 pm UTC

Certainly not surprised.

There is ample precedent. In the 1970s, the hijacking of airliners was defined by the United Nations as “aerial piracy.” In 1985, when Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro and held its passengers hostage, President Ronald Reagan called the hijackers “pirates.”

By calling them pirates, the UN and Reagan were deliberately belittling the acts; nothing more than common criminals.
Recent evidence also indicates that the Somali pirates hand over a part of their millions in ransom money to Al Shabaab, the Somali rebel group that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

And with the Somalis it works the other way, conflate what they're doing with something that's the Cause de Jour. There's more vaguaries here - "a part" (somewhere between 0 and all) "linked to" (may have met once)

Linguistic blurring for political effect is as old as the hills. It's the old one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter switcheroo. The amazing bit is when people stop spotting that rhetoricians are doing it...

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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Grop » Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:48 pm UTC

I agree this is giving too much importance to pirates, who are just violent thieves. Or belittling to terrorists.

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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby DougP » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:34 pm UTC

Fear mongering, plain and simple.

Also, I can't wait to play the highly anticipated sequal: Sid Meier's "Maritime Terrorists"

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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kizyr » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:46 pm UTC

The first problem is that there is no consistent definition of terrorism.

Supposed definition (from Merriam-Webster's entry on "terror"):
"4: violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands <insurrection and revolutionary terror>"

The only definition that seems to work:
"A person or group we don't like." ("we" obviously being subjective here)

It's a stretch to call Somali pirates terrorists, since the motive is clearly and unambiguously money. It's not about political gain; the only connection to political gain uses that money as a means to an end. Really, it's not any more a type of terrorism than armed bank robbery is; it's just on a larger scale.

There are only two motives I can see to labeling pirates terrorists. One is to distance modern-day pirates from the romanticized notion of 17th-18th-century pirates of the Caribbean. Another is because "terrorist" is the buzzword of choice these days, and so the more people you call terrorists, the easier it is to justify action. The first motive is reasonable. The second motive is just co-opting an already-ambiguous term, and rather stupidly assumes that people don't want to do something about piracy simply because it's not being labeled with the right buzzword. KF
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kadzar » Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:42 pm UTC

"Music maritime terrorism is a crime."
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby steelmole » Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:17 pm UTC

I'd quite like to call it "maritime piracy". I know it's redundant but I think the gains in clarity are worth it. I keep hearing about piracy on the news and thinking "Which kind?".

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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Clumpy » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:58 am UTC

Why not just call every violent criminal a terrorist if we're trying to get political interest up in prosecution?

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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Velifer » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:15 pm UTC

That President ran into term limits.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Maseiken » Fri Feb 06, 2009 4:32 am UTC

Suggesting that Priacy should be termed "Maritime Terrorism" is not only lazy. It's irresponsible. Properly, as Kizyr noted, Terrorism is the use of extreme violence to further a Political, Theological or Ideological agenda, and while Piracy is not necessarily limited to the purposes of profit, it is certainly not lumpable with Terrorism as a whole.

To put on my pompous historian hat for a moment; The Spartans refused to write down their laws, for fear that specific wording would leave them open to misinterpretation. This is why.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby 22/7 » Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:14 pm UTC

Maseiken wrote:To put on my pompous historian hat for a moment; The Spartans refused to write down their laws, for fear that specific wording would leave them open to misinterpretation. This is why.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Maseiken » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:40 pm UTC

Glad to hear it. It's a tasty little factoid.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kewangji » Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:07 pm UTC

There were 'pirates' hired by governments who sought out and attacked ships of other nations. Isn't that political gain? Though I like the word piracy, it shouldn't be changed.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kizyr » Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:15 pm UTC

Kewangji wrote:There were 'pirates' hired by governments who sought out and attacked ships of other nations. Isn't that political gain? Though I like the word piracy, it shouldn't be changed.

That's actually a good point... Privateers like Sir Francis Drake were considered pirates by the Spanish (or whoever they were contracted to raid). Although, since that was an action by one state against another (the British government versus the Spanish), I don't think it would qualify as "terrorism" in the modern sense--terrorism seems to be applied mostly, albeit incorrectly, to non-state entities. The only time I've seen it applied to state entities is when a particular government is considered illegitimate anyhow (the Taliban, Hamas in Gaza, etc.). KF
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Maseiken » Tue Feb 10, 2009 1:07 am UTC

Weell... The Bush administration has defined terrorism as being perpetrated by NGOs, but that's wildly incorrect, and frankly, quite worrying. State-sponsored terrorism is very real, and the idea that it should not be considered terrorism is absurd. So yes, I suppose the privateers could have been said to have been Maritime terrorists. Although it should be said that even these acts of terror against the Spanish navy in particular were also for considerable immediate gain.

I suppose the terms of piracy and miritime terrorism are not mutually exclusive, and they probably overlap quite often, but they are faaaaaaaa-a-a-ar from the same thing.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kadzar » Tue Feb 10, 2009 2:14 am UTC

If you do a search for "maritime terrorism" on wikipedia, it gets redirected to Piracy, and on the Talk:Piracy page, there's this discussion.

(Also, "International Talk Like a Maritime Terrorist Day" :P )
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby scarecrovv » Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:37 am UTC

In my book, terrorism is doing violent things to a small number of people to make a large number afraid of you, and so hopefully cause them to do what you want. Piracy is boarding a moving vessel, getting the crew/passengers out of the way (killing them, taking them hostage, setting them adrift, or something), and then disposing with the vessel and cargo for personal profit (by stealing them, holding them hostage, or something more complicated). An act of piracy could also be an act of terrorism, but except for privateering (mentioned earlier), I can't think of any examples.

I don't consider hijacking to be piracy, even if it's done for personal gain, because, the hijacker got on in the normal way (on the ground, in port, or at the bus station), rather than forcing their way on board later. It's a subtle distinction, and plenty of people may disagree, but that's my opinion. Also, because of this, I think it would be pretty much impossible to commit an act of piracy on an airplane, because even if you could make the transfer from one plane to another if both aircraft were cooperating, it would be so easy to defend against boarding an airplane that it would just be silly to try. Movies are an exception of course.

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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Velifer » Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:12 pm UTC

I appreciate scarecrovv's subtle distinction, though it does break down a bit. If someone forces themselves into your car at a stoplight, that's still close to "grapple and board" to me. Would carjacking be automotive piracy? Motor vehicle terrorism? Luckily, we have a pretty good portmanteau for it already: "carjacking."
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kadzar » Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:04 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:I appreciate scarecrovv's subtle distinction, though it does break down a bit. If someone forces themselves into your car at a stoplight, that's still close to "grapple and board" to me. Would carjacking be automotive piracy? Motor vehicle terrorism? Luckily, we have a pretty good portmanteau for it already: "carjacking."
But what if they didn't steal your car, but just came over and stole your valuables, rendered your vehicle completely inoperable and drove off?

(Also:"Maritime Terrorists vs. Ninjas"?I think I've run out of material.)
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Velifer » Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:14 pm UTC

Kadzar wrote:But what if they didn't steal your car, but just came over and stole your valuables, rendered your vehicle completely inoperable and drove off?

Then I call them "Ohio State University Transportation and Parking."

So we have "piracy" for all sorts of copyright infringement activity and general naughtiness,
"piracy" for plundering some booty,
"privateering" for plundering booty for the crown,
"terrorism" for, well, terrorizing people, (this word is problematic on its own...)
and "state sponsored terrorism for... um, terrorizing for the crown.

Each of these is very different. I'd not want to face hanging from the yardarm for downloading Dumbledore singing MacArthur Park. Using the same legal structure for each case is foolish (even if you ignore the copyright example).
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kisama » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:07 am UTC

I'm shocked at this news, but their true aim is quite obvious! If pirates are considered terrorists then innocent Pastafarians dressed in their pirate regalia will be harassed at airports (and worse.. seaports) and suffer other forms of persecution! This is probably a way to get back at worshippers of His Noodliness for the good work they have done in promoting the teaching of FSMism alongside ID in schools.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Bobber » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:30 am UTC

Kisama: What an obnoxious fucking signature.

Kisama: Holy cow, what a signature!
Last edited by Bobber on Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:53 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Kisama » Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:42 am UTC

Bobber wrote:Kisama: What an obnoxious fucking signature.

Indeed you may be correct sir :<

Fixed :D

Back on topic, it sucks how people can be stereotyped as terrorists just because of their religious beliefs.
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Re: "Piracy" or "Maritime Terrorism"

Postby Velifer » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:04 pm UTC

But pirates have been stereotyped as romantic swashbucklers. You know how it is: "Once word leaks out that a pirate has gone soft, people begin to disobey you, and then it's nothing but work, work, work, all the time."
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