What replaces Communism as our global enemy? Pirates! by mattsteinglass
April 10, 2009, 11:14 am
Filed under: Crime, Terrorism, War

I remember back in the ’90s when I was writing for children’s cartoon shows (Doug, Arthur), I was bothered by the fact that most action plots still revolved around somebody with an evil plot to take over the world by turning everyone into mindless slaves. That narrative bias reflected a Cold War mindset, and it was already clear from post-Yugoslavia and Somalia that the nature of evil in our time wasn’t going to be people trying to take over the world; it was going to be people trying to tear it apart for fun and profit. But what kinds of bad guys could you use that reflected this new reality? What could be as compelling for kids’ entertainment as the evil-totalitarian-robots narrative?

Duh. Anyway, by the time the trope gets to FOXNews, you know it’s already cliche and thus universally accepted. We’re off to fight the pirates. I consider this an entirely wholesome development. But you can see the ideological difficulty involved in the transition from “fighting global totalitarianism” to “taming global anarchy” in Jennifer Lawinski’s FOXNews piece. Some dumb editor tagged on a lede graf which tries to blame the resurgence of piracy on…international law:

21st century pirates are becoming more brazen in their attacks on commercial and passenger ships, and — thanks to international law — there is little that can be done to stop them.

Lawinski’s piece itself makes it clear that this is nonsense. She does open by noting that while in the 17th century the British Navy could just hang pirates on the waterfront, nowadays they have to be pursued within the confines of international law. But she also points out that international law specifically allows any nation to do so:

Barry Hart Dubner, a law professor at Barry University in Florida who has written extensively on piracy, said that on the high seas, anyone can step up to battle the pirates.

“It gets trickier when you try to get them in territorial waters (within 7.5 miles of the coastline), because theoretically you need permission of the coastal state. But they can use any force they want because they’re considered enemies of mankind,” Dubner said.

It’s true that we can’t just hang them on the waterfront like the British did in the 17th century. Then again, we also can’t use a number of other disciplinary measures available to the British in the 17th century, like punishing traitors by skinning them alive, drawing and quartering them, and stretching their skin out and tacking it to the palace gate.


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