6 Reasons Why ISIS Are Basically 21st Century Pirates

London, United Kingdom (TFC) – ISIS has been compared to many types of people- gangsters, cults, militias. But what if I told you that ISIS are a lot like pirates? I don’t mean the modern-day pirates of Somalia, who depend on piracy to feed their families and are increasingly recruited into piracy as children. I’m talking about the swashbuckling buccaneers of the high seas. Sounds mad? Read on…it sort of starts to make sense after a bit. Honest.

1. The Flag

The obvious one- they fly a black and white flag which is a little more creative than the obligatory stripes or stars.


2. The Outlaw State

Both ISIS and pirates created their own state which was nevertheless unrecognised by existing States. In the pirates’ case it was called Libertalia in the legends which preceded it, and found its terrestial incarnation in the Carribean island of Tortuga in the 1600s. Tortuga attracted pirates from as far away as Britain, Portugal and Holland, and eventually the pirates outnumbered the indigenous population by 90%. To protect their piracy operations the pirates built fortifications which included a 24-gun castle. The ‘Pirate State’ continued its existence until the 18th century.


3. Being Lovable Bad Boys

Just like ISIS, the pirates’ violent actions were nevertheless glamourised by the social media of the day: ballad singers and penny newspapers. Many pirates were seen as Robin Hood-type heroes by an oppressed British working class. Today ISIS lures teenagers to join them through slick propaganda videos and persuasive Twitter and Facebook messages.


Image Source: Pascal, Flickr, Creative Commons [259/365] Pirates

Image Source: Pascal, Flickr, Creative Commons
[259/365] Pirates

4. Their Crimes Pay

Captain Kidd was a Scottish privateer who was executed in 1701. He only made a few pirate attacks compared to his contemporaries, but is remembered because of the sensational nature of his trial. Some historians speculate that Kidd may have been unjustly accused as he was denied information that would have helped his defence. Also, some of the evidence which would have supported his innocent plea was misfiled. Ever since Kidd tried to bribe his way out of trouble by claiming he had a hoard of treasure “which I desire the government to have the benefit of”, the legend of buried pirate treasure has never really gone away. But while piles of stolen gold might be more myth than reality, pirates did sometimes get rich off their plunder- again, not dissimilar to ISIS, who are never short on funds from oil, extortion, ransoms and funding from States.


5. Having The Latest Defence Gear

The pirates were kitted out with the latest in weapons tech; Blackbeard for example wore two pistols. This was a smart move, as pistols back then were single-shot, so carrying two meant he could fire off two shots while his opponent was still tamping powder. The pistol was carried as a last line of defence, with swords being both the pirates’ and the Royal Navy’s weapon of choice. These days ISIS doesn’t appear short on AK47s and have nicked the Iraqi Army’s American weapons too. Not only that, they also managed to capture Saddam Hussein’s long-sought weapons of mass destruction. Admittedly he didn’t actually have very much, but ISIS still managed to do what the US and UK didn’t even though they had ten years to do it. Sadly, the Syrians fighting ISIS don’t have the latest war-toys and their guns sometimes clog with sand, which is very dangerous.


6. Promising More Than They Can Deliver
Pirates were often violent. This violence was to some extent cheered by the downtrodden people of London as being anti-establishment. While their violence no doubt did affect the government’s trade interests and was directed at those rich enough to own ships full of plunder, and while pirates did give their crews more rights (especially over decision-making and free speech) than the Navy did, piracy didn’t actually benefit the oppressed masses back home. Likewise ISIS uses an anti-establishment appeal to lure young people to their cause and claims to be protecting Muslim civilians and defending Islam from the war crimes of the West. But ISIS kills Muslims and commits war crimes against anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs. In fact most of ISIS’ victims are not Western, but the ordinary people of Syria and Iraq. Just like the pirates, ISIS confers absolutely no benefits on the common people- even Muslims- but likes to be seen as their hero.