Exclusive Interview with James O’Keefe, Chairman of the Massachusetts Pirate Party & Vice Chairman of the U.S. Pirate Party


ATPR: Could you tell the readers first what it means to be a Pirate in politics? What you stand for and so forth..?

Capt. O’Keefe: Fundamentally we believe that people should have privacy and power and governments and corporations shouldn’t. The US has tended to concentrate political power and economic power among fewer and fewer people. This has lead to governments getting us into wars we don’t need to fight and a massive transfer of wealth, income and ultimately people’s well being from the poor and middle class to the rich. The Pirate Party stands against this trend and only by reversing it will we improve people’s well being and control over their destiny.

ATPR: Birgitta Jonsdottir and the Iceland Pirate Party are set to crush the opposition in the next election. What makes them so successful there and how can you apply their road map to success here in the states and Massachusetts?

Capt. O’Keefe: Iceland is a unique place so I am not sure their success can be duplicated here. Demographically it is about one tenth the size of Massachusetts. Politically, they have proportional representation so that when the Pirates win 40% of the popular vote, they will win 40% of the Icelandic parliament. Massachusetts, like all US states, elects their legislature in single member districts. Getting 40% of the vote in all 200 legislative districts may result in no elected Pirates, some elected Pirates or all elected Pirates depending on what other candidates are running in each district and how they do.

Clearly the Icelandic Pirate Party’s call for greater transparency has helped them to be successful and that is a position we feel will help us in Massachusetts.

ATPR: A constant criticism Pirates face in politics is that they are a one-issue party. Namely that of copyright law. But this isn’t true, tell us why..

Capt. O’Keefe: Pirates take a objective, even scientific approach to policies. We are looking for the policies that benefit truly people and are not just another give away to corporations wrapped up in the flag or calls for competitiveness. Our focus is on increasing democratic power for people in Massachusetts. Increasing government transparency is part of that, but so is ensuring the corporations aren’t hiding their money. You should not be able to reap the rewards of our country without paying for it.

We see reining in copyright and eliminating patents as methods to encourage individual and collective creativity, but also as ways of increasing competition in an economy that is dominated by a fewer large companies. Ultimately though, people cannot compete if they don’t have enough to eat, are denied access to a decent education, have poor health or lack a place to call home. If we truly want a competitive economy that benefits all, then we need to ensure that there is a minimum economic and social level beyond which no one is allowed to fall. If we don’t do that, then we will only have competition in name only.

ATPR: The Massachusetts Pirate Party have run local candidates in previous election years with no victories but success is not always measured in that way when it comes to third party politics. Do you plan on running any candidates this year and what would you consider a successful campaign?

Capt. O’Keefe: We elected a town meeting member in 2015 after our two successful runs for State Representative in 2014. In 2016 we will run at least one candidate for State Representative.

We believe we can win local offices, but also focus on state legislative offices as they offer us the best opportunity to get our name out while being able to talk with individual voters. We recognize that winning partisan elections is an uphill battle, but the more Pirates we run year after year helps us to identify and register Pirate voters and will lead to greater success in the years ahead.
ATPR: You also are a high-ranking pirate national in the US Pirate Party. We have not heard much from them, what is going on nationally that the voters should know?

Capt. O’Keefe:  We decided a few years back to focus on state parties so we structured the national party to do that. Expect the national party to be more active in the years ahead as we build state parties.

ATPR: This election cycle has been as off the wall in any in modern history. What is your opinion as a voter on everything that is going on? (Trump, protests, violence, Hillary’s super delegates, sanders not on ballot in DC, etc.)

Capt. O’Keefe:  We focus on Massachusetts and the issues we care the most about us. While the Presidential election is important, it isn’t the only game in town and not the best place for us to put our energy.

ATPR: Has Obama’s term as President been a success when it comes to issues the Pirate Party cares about and why or why not?

Capt. O’Keefe:  Obama has encouraged corporate power grabs such as the TransPacific Partnership, expanded NSA surveillance, bailed out the banksters while aiding their effort to steal people’s property with illegal foreclosures and expanded the number of countries we are blowing up or overthrowing. Obama hasn’t been good for Pirate Party issues.

ATPR: Is the MPP on the Left or the Right of the political spectrum?

Capt. O’Keefe:  Our supporters run from libertarian to libertarian socialist. We are an anti-authoritarian/pro-democratic party.
ATPR: In your term as Captain of the MPP, what do you hope to accomplish?

Capt. O’Keefe:  My immediate goals are to convince more people to join the Pirate Party, encourage them to be Pirate activists in their community and run for office. We aren’t limited to those goals and have run numerous cryptoparties that help people to protect their privacy on-line.

ATPR: Any events, campaigns, protests, etc. coming up?

Capt. O’Keefe:  Currently we are working to get Aaron James on the ballot and have until May 3rd to do that. Our yearly conference will be on June 25th in Boston.

We help with a monthly cryptoparty on the last Wednesday of the month in Somerville and are helping with other cryptoparties on April 26th and May 22nd.

We will participate in International Day Against DRM on May 3rd and march, as we have done for the last several years, in the Boston LBGTQ Parade on June 11th. We plan to be at Freedom Rally in September, as we have for many years.

Thank you Captain for your time and good luck!

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