While the rescue of the American ship captain from B-List terrorists in the Gulf of Aden is fantastic news, it is now time to re-examine our society’s glorification of pirate culture. These kidnappers weren’t wearing puffy shirts and didn’t look like Somalian Johnny Depps, but they still “deserve” to call themselves pirates.
After all, the original pirates were greedy, murderous bastards. And I’m not buying the PR campaign that these are nice pirates only interested in fundraising by ransom. They don’t carry AK-47s for the conversation value.
The CIA generally does not take advice from pop culture columnists. They should. I warned about this threat back in 2005…
CULTURE SCHLOCK – BY DARREN GARNICK
“Unwelcome Comeback: Time for landlubbers to strike back at the pirates”
Originally Published: December 1, 2005
Given the widespread backlash against toy guns and other violent toys, it is astounding how many kumbaya-singing parents out there are okay with their kids pretending to be pirates. Saying “Bang, bang, you’re dead!” is bad. But it’s perfectly fine for the kiddies to impale each other with a plastic sword.
Let’s be frank. Once you move beyond their charming relationships with parrots, pirates are nothing more than flamboyantly dressed street thugs.
They rape. They loot. They pillage.
Yet, if you survey the toy world, you might think pirates are as innocuous as Care Bears or Rainbow Brite. Lego has a whole slew of new pirates led by a maniacal-looking Captain Redbeard, who, according to his bio, “believes in fair play.” Playmobil, the European playsets popular with preschoolers, dedicates a two-page spread in its new catalog to its smiling band of thieves. And there’s even a pirate version of Hello Kitty, the sweet Japanese icon of pre-teen femininity.
You have to give credit to the Wiggles. To my knowledge, Jeff, Anthony, Greg and Murray are the only elite pop culture figures to publicly call for the demilitarization of pirates. Captain Feathersword, whose name is self-explanatory, currently headlines the Wiggles’ “Sailing Around the World” tour.
All of this might be cuter than a pair of pirate pajamas from The Gap if these binge-drinking scoundrels weren’t in the midst of a meteoric comeback. According to an Associated Press report than ran in The Telegraph (“21st century pirates can be found around the world,” Nov. 17), more than 100 commercial and private ships were hijacked this year between January and June – most in the South China Sea. Attempted attacks have occurred off the coast of every continent except for Antarctica.
Part of the blame belongs to Johnny Depp, who made the profession sexy again in the 2003 movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean.” He is now concurrently filming two sequels slated for release in 2006 and 2007. But today’s pirates aren’t prancing around in puffy shirts and eyeliner. They’re packing machine guns and holding passengers and crewmembers hostage for whatever measly riches they can pocket. Cash. Jewelry. All-U-Can-Eat shrimp platters.
In the past six months alone, pirates have struck 25 times off the coast of Somalia. In early November, the Seabourn Spirit luxury cruise ship was 100 miles off shore in the Indian Ocean when it was greeted with rocket-propelled grenades and the pop of AK-47s. The crew miraculously fended off two pirate attack boats with a defensive weapon “that directs earsplitting noise” at enemy eardrums and then sped away to safety.
Betsy and Dick Egan, of Amherst, Mass., were two of the 151 passengers on board who found the captain’s candid announcement rather unsettling. “There are some boats out there that don’t look, that I don’t like the looks of,” the Egans recalled hearing on the public address system. “… We are under attack!”
Dick Egan told WHDH-TV that he later looked out his window and saw an unexploded rocket wedged into the side of the cruise ship. Not something he saw in the brochure.
A quick glance at the Seabourn Cruise Web site reveals no mention of anti-pirate weaponry on board. If I were in charge of marketing, I’d brag about it at least as much as the spacious suites and gourmet salad bar.
What’s most impressive about the Seabourn’s hellish noise device is that the crew knew when and how to use it. Add a few cruise missiles (no pun intended) and hire a few Navy Seals (have them teach pottery or ballroom dancing during downtime) and I might even sign up for the next “Sights of Somalia” tour.
I don’t know if the Egans have young grandchildren. But if they do, I bet you they won’t be buying them pirate pajamas.
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” columns were originally published in The Telegraph.
Reader comments are welcomed at darrengarnick @ gmail.com
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