Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Exactly Is A Pirate, Anyhow?

As we await a verdict in Sweden's Pirate Bay trial, another group of "pirates" has been dominating the news. I'm talking, of course, about the Somali pirates, who last week attacked an American ship and upon fleeing, took the captain hostage. He was eventually freed and the three remaining Somali pirates were shot dead. But with the term "pirate" now strong in the public consciousness -- and we're not talking Johnny Depp -- you have to wonder who the publicist for these scruffy Swedes are.

Sure, they're fighting for free use and against "the man" but the word has recently taken on a far more sinister connotation -- something that doesn't bode well in a trial being played mostly in the media.

Frank Luntz, author of Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, is known for his reliance on language in political campaigns and is credited with coining phrases like "deep sea energy exploration" (aka drilling). Maybe they should consider hiring him.

And I only bring up politics because these men on trial actually have a political party and call it none other than... the Pirate Party! But the implications of a negative connotation can go a long way and if TPB are in this for the long, gamechanging haul, they should consider a language-based makeover. There's already a call for papers in a journal equating pirates and piracy. Not a good sign for things to come...

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