Michel Foucault wrote in the first volume of The History of Sexuality, “Where there is power, there is resistance” (1978). Resistance takes many forms. According to philosopher Hannah Arendt, “The practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is a more violent world” (1969). In more recent years, with the development and advancements of various modes of social interaction and media networks, cyber warfare has become a central component in the War on Terror. With a surveillance state monitoring Americans like that of a prison (Foucault, 1995), revelatory leaks by Julian Assange, Bradley—now Chelsea—Manning, and Edward Snowden have created a newfound desire for—in the words of Justice Louis Brandeis—“the right to privacy.” In the following paper I will attempt to compare these four subjects—pirates, anarchism, illegal trafficking, and surveillance—to find a common resistance against power throughout history.

Piracy has been an international nuisance to civilized society for centuries. Many pirates, such as the infamous Blackbeard, are notorious for their brutality and warmongering. However in recent years, with the production of Pirates of the Caribbean, piracy has been portrayed as romantic. Today Somali pirates have terrorized cargo ships and their crew, leading to a new age of “maritime terrorism” (Sterio, 2010). However, while in the age of global terrorism, in order to curb both piracy as well as terrorism, one must understand the propensity of the hostis humani generis–enemies of the human race (Burgess, 2008).

There is a fine line between terrorism and piracy. Piracy and terrorism both use violent means to attain wealth; however, piracy is generally limited to international waters while terrorists infiltrate and attack various countries via air and land. In 1982, the United Nations defined “piracy as a violent act committed ‘for private aims’ ” (Sterio, 2010). However some have argued this “excludes state-sponsored piracy,” which is similar to state-sponsored terrorism (2010). Furthermore, using vessels to carry out terrorist attacks against “major maritime powers,” al-Qaida has expanded its reach to Somalia, which is the current and most vibrant piracy hub (2010). As al-Qaida has faded from international headlines, the Islamic State (e.g. ISIL) has risen and taken advantage of the abundant supply of oil in Iraq. Overall, pirates and terrorists are different, but only in name.

Throughout history pirates have been the anarchic wanderers of the high seas. They have no country, nor does any country want them. In Captain Charles Johnson’s account of “Libertalia,” Captain Mission regards all established authority as corrupt, thus desiring to expunge himself of every influence of this polluted society (Comegna, 2016). In Rediker’s “Political Arithmetic of Piracy,” when speaking of Romantic era piracy, Rediker writes that the fluidity of the economy caused sailors to leave their professions to pursue the more profitable occupation as a pirate (2004). Similarly, numerous nations (e.g. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia) have seen the ill effect of Western imperialism—the egregious hypocrisy of the so-called religious. The retaliatory action against nation-states also finds its roots within Somali piracy. In addition, the piracy money is a compensation for lost capital, stolen by international “fishing trawlers” illegally fishing in the Gulf of Aden (Negi, 2011). The rebellious, or revolutionary, spirit of the Aceh and Somali pirates is homogenous with jihadists’ continual resistance against imperial, invasive Western forces (Taylor, 2014). In the end, according Hannah Arendt, violence only begets violence (1969).


Furthermore, in Foucault’s Security, Territory, Population, he alludes to Sophocles’s Oedipus the King, “who is responsible for the city-state and must conduct it as a good pilot properly governs his ship” (1978). However, in an interview with BBC, Noam Chomsky raises the question: What if the city-state acts as the pirates? “In the ‘City of God,’ St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great. The Emperor angrily demanded of him, ‘How dare you molest the seas?’ To which the pirate replied, ‘How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a pirate and a thief. You, with a great navy, molest the world and are called an emperor.’ ”

Francisco Franco, dictator of fascist Spain from 1936-1975, ruled with an iron fist, thus leading to the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936-1939. His totalitarian regime supported both fascist Italy and nationalist Germany during World War Two. After the Allies conquered the Axis Powers, Franco smuggled German and Italian diplomats, generals, scientists, and doctors into Latin America. Though Franco supported the oppressive regimes of Hitler and Mussolini, he offered his newfound support for the United States and Great Britain to stifle the ever-expanding USSR. Therefore the United States ignored the atrocities committed by Franco toward his own people. Those exiled by the Spanish fascist regime to the United States were now deported back to Spain where they would face persecution, torture, and imminent execution (Feu-López, 2016).

However the West’s blatant disregard for the fascist suppression of liberty only bolstered anarchism. Though anarchy is not the predominant ideology for reformers, such “enlightenment” radically shifted towards “concepts like ‘education’ and ‘planning’ ” (Pauli, 2015). New anarchists such as Herbert Read, Noam Chomsky, William Godwin, and Murray Bookchin anathematized the “ambiguous” decentralized rhetoric of their well-meaning predecessors (2015). With this newfound focus on education, new anarchists “proposed that education play a central role…in equipping people for self-government and stimulating social change, going so far as to claim that ‘to introduce a democratic method of education is the only necessary revolution’ ” (2015).


In “What is Anarchism?” Chomsky recognizes America as a “plutocracy.” He, like other New Anarchists, identifies America as a self-mutilating force, slowly giving up freedoms for “security” (2013). Though Spain, like Germany and Italy, forbade the practice of free press and literacy, the people revolted against the suppression of their inalienable rights. Furthermore, the philosophical inquiries established in the classroom uninhibited by “the sovereign” is indicative of subtle educational revolution (Foucault, 1995). The fact that we learn about classical and new anarchism with its differences and agnostic agendas for a more egalitarian/anarcho-communal society is a step in the right direction. Education is revolution.

The drug prohibition regime began in the early to mid-twentieth century after the United Nations conducted a network of treaties detailing studies concerning various narcotics and psychotropic substances. With seventy-three countries in attendance, these three treaties spurred the United States to commence the War on Drugs. Under the Nixon administration, this drug prohibition regime was instituted as a means to wage war against the African-American community after the criminalization of Jim Crow. This new era of prohibition did not merely regulate the sale and production of narcotics but criminalized all forms of possession, consumption and distribution. Alcohol prohibition not only failed to eliminate organized crime but also created a new market for bootleggers. Similarly, today, these bootleggers (i.e. pirates) and organized criminals are known as “drug-traffickers” and “cartels.” In his book Mexico’s Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction, Dr. Nathan Jones posits “that there are three ideal types of illicit networks: (1) insurgent, (2) ‘transactional’ or trafficking-oriented, and (3) territorial” (2016).

According to Dr. Jones, “Illicit networks include insurgent networks such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Mexican drug networks such as the Arellano Félix Organization (AFO), prison gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood, and street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)” (2016). Fueled by “political, religious, and ethnonationalist ideologies,” insurgents use “terrorism as a ‘logic of action’ ” to “overthrow the state through violence” (2016). Furthermore, transactional, or trafficking-oriented, networks are contingent upon the consumers (i.e. the American people). In turn, pharmaceutical companies raise prices, causing people to choose cheaper alternatives to Oxycontin (i.e. oxycodone) such as heroin. These transactional, trafficking-oriented networks must transport the goods through other networks’ territory. Organizations such as the AFO and Los Zetas recruit former Mexican Special Forces, who have defected to a more profitable lifestyle (2016), as well as Islamic militant insurgents infiltrating Latin American immigrants (2016). However, this “promotes anarchy and thus triggers” a strong state-reaction against these networks to impede recruitment and corruption within law enforcement (2016).


Similarly, the case of the Somali pirates and drug traffickers is parallel. Due to suboptimal economies, both the Somali pirates and Latin American drug traffickers must resort to illegal lucrative means. The Somali pirates, retaliating against the fishing trawlers stealing fish off the African coast, hijack cargo ships and fishing trawlers for ransom. Drug traffickers wage war against fellow drug traffickers while abducting higher-level figures for ransom. These are also identified in Foucault’s Discipline & Punish (1995).

State-reaction to the drug networks’ actions either precipitates positive change for the benefit of the society (i.e. reasonable policies) or negative change resulting from a knee-jerk reaction by the heads of state without forethought. The state-reaction toward drug networks’ dissolution, fragmentation or transition from one mode of revenue to another can either stifle resilience or indirectly assist the maimed beast.
The state-reaction should be political as well as legal. Whenever considering alternatives to drug prohibition, various world leaders have advocated for the legalization of medical marijuana as a step in the direction to mitigate cartel profits (Jones, 2016). Though the United States is an economic and militaristic superpower, we fall behind much of the civilized world in drug reform. For example, Presidents and Prime Ministers of Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, Portugal, and the Netherlands have further advocated for drug reform as a method to combat drug trafficking and curb the epidemic of drug-reliance. In recent years, with the overwhelming majority of Americans supporting the legalization of medical marijuana, it “has shown…to be a topic of mainstream policy discussion” (2016). Jones notes multiple states have demonstrated such actions “could cut Mexican cartel profits” (2016). This, like the legalization of same-sex marriage as well as anarchists’ educational revolution, is indicative of continual resistance against the encroaching, ever-expanding, over-reaching arm of the federal government.

“The US alcohol analogy is illustrative. The end of Prohibition did not eliminate organized crime in the United States. It did, however…help…to turn organized crime into a manageable problem over the subsequent decades” (2016). Rather than continue in the footsteps of a racially motivated Nixon, it would behoove the nation to overcome such stained history and to progress to a more reasonable, historically-aware, statistically and scientifically literate manner of conducting politics. Fighting drug networks and their recruitment of gang-related as well as terrorist-related individuals is imperative to not only the safety of the country but ending the national epidemic of drug-reliance. Combating insurgent, transactional or trafficking-oriented, and territorial networks will cultivate a less racially motivated legislature as well as inhibit the furtherance of the drug prohibition regime (2016).

In Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Michel Foucault eloquently explains the origins of the Western criminal justice system. Divulging atrocities committed by the French government upon criminals is viewed today, in retrospect, as especially heinous. The investigations posed by the authorities were cloaked in secrecy while “the spectacle of the scaffold” was freely accessible by the public within the town, or city, square. Western civilization has shifted from a concealed investigation with a public execution to a transparent investigation with a more reserved execution. Foucault notes in “the spectacle of the scaffold,” the penalty of torture—“economy of power”—acted as an important aspect of the investigation. If the subject withstood the pain and agony inflicted upon his body, this was sufficient evidence proving he, or she, was indeed innocent. This process was meant to extract confession. Confession played a vital role in submission to authority as well as penitence to God. Likewise, “The public execution was the logical culmination of a procedure governed by the [Spanish] Inquisition” (1995). This parallel’s Captain Charles Johnson’s account of Captain Mission in “Libertalia” who expressed disdain for governmental and religious authority, thus reflecting Marx’s “religion is the opiate of the masses” anarchic consensus.


Using time to “penetrate the body,” the authorities did not hesitate to structure the prisons as that of an observatory to enhance “the means of correct training.” Modeled after an astronomical, medical, or military observatory, this propagation of an all-seeing eye was perfectly “calculated”: “The perfect disciplinary apparatus would make it possible for a single gaze to see everything constantly” (1995). Furthermore, the normalization of observation would permeate into the normalization of judgment (i.e. the normalization of abdicating civil liberties for securities) (Chomsky, 2013).

Foucault critiques the “carceral system” by implying its counterproductivity (1995). The anger and resentment against these authoritative forces culminate, resulting in further violence. Reflecting on the French prison riots from 1972-1974, Foucault observes prison riots are not aimed to destroy the tangible walls enclosing depraved humanity. Instead the riot is an outward expression of an inner struggle against the stains that seep deep within the fabric of the human conscience. This deprivation of liberty and perpetuation of “illegalities and delinquency” promulgates violence while initiating the public’s desire for reform. Foucault further explicates the designed-for-failure model intrinsic within “the carceral system” (1995). He notes the political implications for specified modes of action against popular illegalities and socio-economical “schema” (1995). For example, manipulating federal, local, and/or state laws to pinpoint criminals affiliated with the lower class due to over-incarceration is a type of institutional racism (e.g. Nixon and War of Drugs).

Foucault concludes his rendition of the origins and development of the criminal justice system with the allusion to the Mettray prison colony. Opened in 1840, this began a new era of psychology, human and behavioral sciences within the prison system. While establishing a more modern normality of judgment and taking the “disciplinary form at its most extreme,” the delicate care of the inmates parallels the discipline of a parent to a child, thus precisely identifying the immaturity and juvenile proclivities within each individual to formally correct and rehabilitate (1995). Foucault allegorizes the relationship between government and the governed as a relationship demanding participation and mutual accountability of both parties. This, like the brotherhood of pirates and anarchist scholars, confirms Foucault’s hypothesis that power is not possessed but rather flows (1995). Consider Nero, Caligula, and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin who were all childish, using their authority to augment their own power by means of upsetting the people. Nevertheless one could retort that the spirit of liberty never dies since throughout history resistance to power pervades every era.

In conclusion, with the resurgence of an appreciation for liberty and “the right to privacy” and profusion of social media networks and the dissemination of information, it is reasonable to expect some sort of reciprocation against all forms of power. Pirates act violently against hypocritical, unscrupulous, self-legitimizing nation-states; New Anarchists plunged themselves into academia to reform from within; illicit/dark networks (e.g. ISIL, al-Qaida) and other trafficking organizations (e.g. AFO, Los Zetas), in retaliation against “the sovereign,” make war by corrupting the law enforcement, military, and government officials via terroristic activities (e.g. kidnapping, extortion, etc.); and convicts riot against the all-seeing eye of the criminal justice system. With recent revelations by various whistleblowers and WikiLeaks, many argue (e.g. pirates, terrorists) these methods (i.e. torture) to extract information are recurrent within the federal government. Therefore, since the government and the governed are engaged in this type of partnership of mutual accountability, it would behoove the American people to rightfully act to be vigilant and reform and resist against all forms of tyranny. As “the spectacle of the scaffold” was the central hub of justice surrounded by the markets and homes, so relevant is the Walls Unit as the centerpiece to the picture of Huntsville. Used to represent the state’s justice against criminality, the primary site of execution stands as a reminder to the surrounding area that the government is the sole executor of justice. However it could also be said that the people, who surveil the authorities, surround the government on all sides.


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