BY KALAHAN DENG
Iceland’s anti-establishment Pirate Party—led by a “poetician” who worships Julian Assange—looks set to win the country’s national election.
The currency would be Bitcoin. Edward Snowden would have a passport. Drugs would be legal, synth-pop plentiful, and the national leadership would have Julian Assange’s number on speed-dial, assuming his line hasn’t been disconnected by Ecuador. They’ve even got their free own island. (Eat your heart out, Peter Thiel.)
Iceland’s anti-establishment Pirate Party, which is about as close to a collective of futurist Fourierists as now exists in contemporary politics, is expected to come in first in tomorrow’s national election, winning between 18 and 20 seats in parliament. While that is not an outright majority, it does give the Pirates a good chance to form a coalition government, which it maintains it will not do with either of Iceland’s two ruling parties, the mildly conservative Independence Party, and the more centrist Progressive Party, whose last chairman and prime minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, resigned last April after the Panama Papers disclosed that he and his rich wife kept secret assets in the British Virgin Islands. A mass protest movement against him ensued, and he was gone. Rather, the Pirates vow to align with smaller, more radical outcroppings, such as the Left-Greens, which hew closer to their marauding agenda.
And what is that, exactly?
Pirate leader and prospective premier or parliamentary speaker Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a self-described “poetician,” given her mutual fondness for versification and vote-gathering. Currently a 49 year-old MP in Icelandic parliament, she became famous in 2010 when she helped WikiLeaks — an organization committed to total transparency now trying to elect a millionaire who won’t publish his tax returns—release scandalous video footage from inside a U.S. Apache helicopter as it fired on and killed a Reuters journalist, his driver and assistant, and other civilians in Baghdad in 2007. The pilot took mistook his quarry for armed insurgents, and the camera equipment for an RPG launcher, according to the U.S. military. The video was titled “Collateral Murder.”
Jónsdóttir’s core philosophy is not difficult to discern. Her favorite word is “revolution.” She believes primarily in the Internet and secondarily in corporeal reality. She has cited, for instance, as her inspirational manifesto a 1996 essay, which states, as she is wont to quote from it: “Governments of the industrial world, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”
But that was in the past. In the future, and on behalf of it, Jónsdóttir may well have sovereignty to lead not avatars but real people in what she has called “fundamental system change”. Systems such as capitalism, neoliberalism and Unix are evidently integral to the Pirate ideology. “We do not define ourselves as left or right but rather as a party that focuses on the systems,” Jónsdóttir has said. “In other words, we consider ourselves hackers—so to speak—of our current outdated systems of government.”
The preferred system is really no system at all, for the Pirates would have hacker-citizens lead themselves. Everyone will be able to introduce his own legislation, under the new non-system, and to determine whether or not it qualifies as worthy of being non-systemic law by way of national referenda. Such crowd-sourced “direct democracy” is meant to apply to everything from arcane rules pertaining to Iceland’s fishing and tourism industries (the main drivers of its economy) as well as to weightier geopolitical considerations such as climate change and the country’s full accession to the European Union, which other Western democracies appear more eager to exit, also by way of referenda, than to enter.
Does the Pirate Party have any major legislation of its own on offer at the moment? No, not really, because, according to Fortune magazine, “the official party stance on some of Iceland’s biggest political questions is unclear, in part, because its members believe in deferring to the wishes of voters.”
Under normal political circumstances, parties tend to decipher that in advance of coming to power. No one can fairly claim, however, that the Pirates do not have a handle on the vagaries of the outmoded systems they are decidedly ranged again. In a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session — surely the Pirate’s answer to Britain’s Prime Minister’s Questions — a Pirate MP, Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir, was asked about intellectual property laws, the current terms of which are considered too restrictive. Helgadóttir admitted that the situation was “complicated” and further explained: “But the problem is that we are bound by treaties and respecting those treaties is actually necessary to be part of stuff like, the UN and stuff. No country is an island in a globalized world, not even Iceland which is really an Island.”