We've talked about the growing success
of The Pirate Parties in Europe, with particularly strong growth in Germany
. While some continue to dismiss the phenomenon as unimportant, it appears that more and more people are realizing why it is important. I don't think more than maybe a handful of people actually believe The Pirate Party will ever become a significant political party on its own... but what it can do (and is already doing in some areas) is changing how politics works
. Even the NY Times is taking notice, publishing a fascinating piece by Steve Kettmann about how The Pirate Party in Germany is having a much wider impact
. He notes that the official platform -- and what many people associate the party with -- may be niche, but the overall goal
is something much bigger:
But their real goal, and the root of their success, is more meta: using the Internet to create a new structure of politics that can solve the problem of how to energize citizens — not only for the excitement of a campaign but also the often dreary realities of actual governance.
And he gives an example of how The Pirate Party is experimenting with technology to get the public much more engaged. They're not fighting back against the system just by talking -- but they're actually trying to hack the system from within:
Using a software package they call Liquid Feedback, the Pirates are able to create a continuous, real-time political forum in which every member has equal input on party decisions, 24 hours a day. It’s more than just a gimmicky Web forum, though: complex algorithms track member input and generate instantaneous collective decisions.
Of course, on some level Liquid Feedback is a gimmick, an effort to get young people interested and involved in the humdrum of German politics, outside the campaign season and even off line. Whatever it is, it works: late last month some 1,300 members trekked to the small northern city of Neumunster to elect a new executive board.
And the real point in all of this: there's no reason that others can't learn from what The Pirate Parties are doing, and make use of them to make all
politics much more engaging and inclusive:
There’s no reason the party’s lessons couldn’t be applied elsewhere, including the United States. One of the biggest problems for President Obama has been to maintain the vigorous online following that Candidate Obama generated in 2008. But while the Obama campaign at least gave the impression that he was influenced by input from his supporters, they have been shut out of the White House.
If Mr. Obama had followed the Pirate method, he would not only have sent updates via Facebook and Twitter, but he would have involved larger numbers of supporters in an extensive dialogue and given them an actual say in determining such priorities as which issues to pursue in his first months in office and how much to reach out to conservatives.
Indeed, the Obama administration did
at least try to do some of that with various online tools, but it rarely seemed to take them very seriously, reverting to politics as usual, rather than actually doing much with what information the public sent in. It was a step in the right direction, but hardly a full step. If The Pirate Party's one big success is convincing other major political parties to be more responsive to the public, rather than special interests, I'd argue that it would be a massive success.