Explained (2018) s02e06 Episode Script

Pirates

1 When Adolf Eichmann was found guilty for his role in the Holocaust, the judgment underlying the court's ruling was that Eichmann was, for all intents and purposes, a pirate.
The attorney underlined piracy and slave tradery.
The attorney general believes that in the case of Eichmann, this should be the guiding principle.
This guiding principle that enemies of mankind can be captured and tried by any country regardless of nationality was established by international piracy law.
And that's what justified capturing Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and prosecuting him in Israel for crimes committed in Europe.
The enemy of humanity must be taken care of so that no more harm can be done.
On May 31st 1962, he was hanged.
Today, we don't really think of pirates as enemies of humanity.
They're campy villains, like Captain Hook in Peter Pan.
Or kind of rock n' roll, like Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Or rum-lovers marketed by the Captain Morgan brand.
- Captain? - Captain! So, why are pirates the original enemies of humanity? And why don't we remember them that way? Rise up and put down the pirates which have today made ours a lawless world.
Pirates preyed upon America's growing commerce.
The demon rum, the staple food of the pirates who once terrorized the Caribbean.
Some out-of-work fishermen have turned to piracy, sometimes resorting to murder.
Their business is now very big, around 50 million pounds this year.
The world must come together to end the scourge of piracy.
Pirates franchises entertain hundreds of millions of people around the world.
No one knows, if or when the pirates will try to strike.
I think a pirate is someone that sails on the sea looking for hidden treasure.
Some of them have eye patches.
Some have peg legs.
And some have swords.
Some are good guys and some are bad guys.
A bad pirate tries to, like, take stuff.
And a good pirate tries to, like, protect the stuff.
And they like booty that's actually treasure.
Sometimes the men need help, so the women pirates come in so they can help.
- Argh! - Argh! I think we're drawn to the image of people who are operating outside of authority.
And that really accounts, I think, for a great deal of the persistent romanticization of pirate life.
It's unfortunate that it turns out not to be true.
Comb their hair with catfish bones And we're bound This is Queen Elizabeth knighting Sir Francis Drake in 1581 for circumnavigating the globe and bringing back treasure, treasure he got pirating.
And that's her again with Sir Walter Raleigh, another pirate she knighted.
He founded a colony he named Virginia, after her, the virgin queen.
Its purpose? A pirate base camp.
Queen Elizabeth was actually nicknamed the "pirate queen," and she venerated pirates.
She called them her "sea dogs" for expanding her empire and harming her rivals by robbing their ships.
At the time, European powers were in constant conflict.
Their empires shifting and expanding.
And they all hired pirates to steal and loot from their enemies.
In Europe, when raiding took place on the seas, one of the ways that it was made legitimate was through letters of marque and reprisal.
Pirates coveted these letters.
They meant you could rob ships with the blessing of the state.
And there had never been more ships on the seas.
This was the beginning of our globalized economy, based almost entirely on shipping, which contributed to much of the conflict.
The European empires were fighting for a bigger piece of global trade, clamoring for goods like spices from Indonesia, cotton from India, sugar from the Caribbean and enslaved people from Africa.
Remnants of ships from that era litter the ocean floor today.
And in 1996, a particularly exciting one was discovered off the coast of North Carolina, and for years reporters tracked its recovery.
Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was pulled from the bottom of the sea off our coast today.
Queen Anne's Revenge, it sank off the North Carolina coast.
Beaufort has become known for Blackbeard, whose pirate ship lies wrecked just out there.
What these news reports didn't mention was that this was originally a slave ship named "La Concorde.
" When Blackbeard captured it in 1717, there were 455 enslaved Africans on board.
Almost all of them were sold into slavery, while Blackbeard went on pirating.
Very few people have talked about it as a slave ship that we have evidence of.
You can't understand trade at this time without understanding the slave trade, because slave labor was behind almost all of the goods produced and shipped across the Atlantic.
I think that really helps for people to rethink what they know about the transatlantic slave trade.
In many cases, any ship can be considered a slave ship.
But pirates also literally traded in slaves.
Generally what would happen is when a pirate captured a ship with enslaved people on it, they would take the enslaved people, and in many cases, go to an island where they had connections um, and sell to some local traders there.
And then from there, they would get sold off into local markets and local plantations, causing some of these pirates to also be labeled slave traders.
Although that's not the term people normally associate with them.
Remember Sir Francis Drake? Before he was a pirate and knight, he was one of England's first slave traders.
Pirates were ultimately interested in making as much profit as they could.
And they were doing it to also eventually use that profit to gain status.
Like one of the most famous pirates in pop culture today.
Many people know the more popular drink of Captain Morgan rum, but Captain Morgan, in many ways, was not just a pirate, but also a slave trader and a plantation owner.
Morgan made his wealth as a hired pirate for England.
But then he was able to sort of solidify his wealth by establishing these plantations on Jamaica.
He had over one hundred enslaved Africans sort of under his ownership.
Roughly the same number U.
S.
President Thomas Jefferson had at any given time.
He became significant and prominent in Jamaican society, um, and as a result of that, ended up becoming lieutenant governor and had very close dealings with a lot of the aristocrats.
In 1674, he was knighted by King Charles II.
He's a very good example for thinking about pirates as these people who were not outcasts and rogues and determined to stay on the edges of society.
What they wanted, in fact, was incorporation in society and a way to set up households as elites.
Scotland-born William Kidd was another pirate hired by the English, receiving a commission in 1696.
He was given official papers, and he was given a pass, given a commission by England to, um to work on their behalf.
And the jobs that Captain Kidd was given was as a pirate hunter.
He voyaged from New York, around the Cape of Good Hope, to Madagascar and into the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, where pirates were robbing the ships of the British East India Company.
But then Kidd decided he could make more money as an actual pirate, and he targeted what he thought would make for a profitable raid.
The ship was actually registered to the Mughal Empire, so today India, uh, a trading partner of the English, a huge ally of the English at this time.
Captain Kidd looted the ships, scoring silk, cotton, sugar, opium and iron that today would be worth more than 10 million U.
S.
dollars.
Not bad for a one-time heist.
The English are getting a lot of anger from the Mughal Empire.
They're really fed up with all the English pirates in this region, and they want to see something change.
They want to see concrete action being taken against Captain Kidd.
So the English capture him in colonial Massachusetts and take him to London to stand trial for piracy.
"the growing Trouble, Disturbance and Mischief of the Trading World" England wanted to make the point that his crime was so serious that any state could have done the same thing.
It's a heinous offense, something that was an offense against all mankind.
He was found guilty.
And in 1701, the judge sentenced him to be "hanged by your Necks until you be dead.
" Which is exactly what happened.
And this is the case really where we see a huge sea change, because prior to then, pirates they hadn't been condemned in this way.
They'd kind of been allowed to thrive, because they served a purpose in many ways.
Hostis humani generis is Latin for "enemies of all mankind.
" And that is what the governments of the legitimate world in the early 18th century referred to the Pirates of the Caribbean as.
This is an uncontested area of international law.
No state denies the right of any other state to pick up, capture, prosecute any pirate who they find on the high seas.
So Captain William Kidd is a hugely important figure in terms of the development of universal jurisdiction.
Which means that any state can try an individual, "without regard to where the crime was committed, the nationality of the alleged or convicted perpetrator, or the nationality of the victim" For centuries, this only applied to the original enemies of mankind, pirates which is why piracy law was the precedent used to capture, prosecute, and execute Adolf Eichmann.
He is someone who has committed an offense against the entirety of mankind, against the entire human race.
It wasn't just Captain Kidd who was served a bitter end.
In the following decades, a rash of pirates faced similar fates because, in 1713, European powers briefly reached a peace, and governments stopped hiring pirates to raid enemy ships.
Suddenly, a lot of mariners found themselves in the Atlantic without a legal way to continue raiding, and some of them continued to raid illegally.
A lot of merchant sailors at this time decided to take up a pirate life, too, for simple reasons.
First, the booty.
An average, able seaman earned about twenty five pounds per year.
Pirates could in a single successful take earn 40 times that amount.
In fact, some of them earn even more than that.
And then there was the issue of workplace culture.
Merchant ships were known as very unpleasant work environments.
Their captains had, essentially, kind of autocratic authority over their crews, and as you might expect, sometimes they abused that authority.
While pirates elected their leaders and wrote constitutions, with some pretty progressive worker protections.
One ship promised if "any Man should lose a Limb, he was to have $800 dollars" in compensation.
For about a decade, illegal piracy surged.
This was the peak of the "Golden Age of Piracy.
" And governments weren't too happy about it.
Pirates really threatened the mercantile order of European states.
Without being able to trade with each other, the European states, as we knew them then and know them today, wouldn't have been able to survive.
So, governments cracked down on pirates like never before, ramping up laws and propaganda against them.
In 1717, a British newspaper published "A proclamation for suppressing of pirates" by the king, saying the military would seize any pirate that would "refuse or neglect to surrender.
" And all of this amped up public intrigue around pirates.
So when the book A General History of the Pyrates came out in 1724, it was an instant bestseller.
But while it advertised itself as a history book, a lot of it was made up.
The book tells a tale of Blackbeard, on the eve of his death, answering a question about "whether his wife knew where he had buried his money.
" He answered "that nobody but himself and the Devil knew where it was.
" But pirates almost never buried their money.
Why would they do that? They spent it, often in the bars and brothels of port cities.
One hundred and sixty years later, these stories inspired another book, Treasure Island.
And the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, added his own embellishments, like pirates singing, "Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum," or making people walk the plank, and treasure maps.
Treasure Island so gripped generations that Disney adapted it into a movie in 1950, advertising it as a landmark event.
Walt Disney now sets a new milestone with his first all-live action feature, Treasure Island.
And actor Robert Newton decided to exaggerate a particular letter of the alphabet - Argh.
- Argh.
Argh.
More pirate movies followed, largely inspired by the flamboyant style of Treasure Island.
I've waited years for this.
Hook! There's this Disneyfication of piracy that happens, where they're seen as sort of the Captain Hook in Peter Pan where they're the mean guy, but they're not really dealing in killing, or harming, or harassing, or torturing individuals.
And the original source material for all of this only chronicled that so-called "Golden Age of Piracy.
" And that's where our image of pirates has been frozen in time, even though pirates have existed for as long as ships have been at sea, like Ancient Mediterranean pirates, Viking pirates, Barbary pirates, and one of the world's most powerful pirates, Cheng I Sao.
She strictly enforced her own pirate constitution.
For raping a female captive, the penalty was death.
For 15 years, at the turn of the 19th century, pirates dominated the South China coast, and Cheng I Sao commanded the largest pirate fleet ever recorded, more than 1,200 ships and up to 70,000 men.
She controlled most of China's salt trade and destroyed government ships that tried to stop her, disabling the Chinese navy and threatening the country's ability to trade.
There's no obvious bright line that distinguishes when you're dealing with pirates as someone who's a petty robber, like a small band of thieves on the high seas, and pirates as controlling kind of empires, as controlling vast armies.
And it is quite difficult to actually say, you know, where does your pirate end and where does your organized political community begin.
When Cheng I Sao decided to finally surrender, the Chinese government essentially treated her like a nation.
They negotiated a deal that allowed most of her pirates to either become military officials or be resettled on land.
And Cheng I Sao received no punishment.
A pirate receiving that kind of treatment would be absurd today.
The world has changed since then.
Borders are mostly fixed and international order is held together by laws, treaties, and trade.
Shipping is still the backbone of our globalized economy.
Ninety percent of internationally traded goods are transported by sea.
The total value of those goods is just more than 2,000 times higher than in the time of Cheng I Sao.
And they're no longer transported in the hulls of wooden sailboats, but in containers stacked on massive cargo ships, which are a whole lot harder to pirate.
And the most sought after booty these days isn't gold, silver or spices, but oil If the price is high enough.
In 2013, pirates hijacked 13 oil ships in West Africa.
But when the price of oil plummeted the following year, they shifted to a different strategy.
Instead of targeting a ship's cargo, targeting a ship's crew.
We take kidnap for ransom quite a bit more seriously because of the human impact.
Just like pirates of the past, these pirates have victims.
Only today, we can hear those first-hand accounts directly.
Please from the bottom of your heart, open your heart to help us.
We need your help.
They thought maybe I am from a very rich family, and they beat.
They hit They tie my hands from behind.
What we have experienced I think nobody can even imagine.
This is what piracy looks like now around the world.
It tends to flare up in spots where national or international order breaks down.
Like in Somalia, a country that was in anarchy when piracy surged from 2007 to 2012.
Or in Venezuela today, where there's been an uptick in piracy since its economy began collapsing in 2014.
A state has less capacity to govern its maritime space when it is focused on a crisis within its borders.
Pirates don't just emerge out of nowhere.
There are certain structures in place that, in some cases, facilitate or, in some cases, necessitate the idea of individuals working outside of existing structures to sort of proliferate illegal activity.
Just like pirates centuries ago, people are driven to piracy today for simple reasons.
An absence of viable economic alternatives for would-be pirates and access to vessels to attack.
But today's pirates aren't portrayed as romanticized rogues by Hollywood.
They're desperate criminals.
Like in this Oscar-nominated film based on the true story of Somali pirates taking an American ship captain hostage in 2009.
Pirates today also no longer slip in and out of high society.
So in terms of why are we here and pirates are there? They are on the wrong side of history essentially.
Politically, the civilized states that form the world today came out on top.
In large part because those states were so successful at something barbaric: trading slaves.
Into the 1700s, pirates just couldn't compete as the slave trade became more industrial in scale, transporting millions of Africans to Europe's colonies in the Americas, where their labor generated enormous wealth, solidifying the global dominance of the European powers and, ultimately the United States.
When the U.
S.
finally banned the slave trade in the early 1800s, it passed a law saying any citizen "engaged in the slave trade shall be adjudged a pirate and shall suffer death.
" But only one slave trader was ever executed by a Western state: Nathanial Gordon, convicted in 1862 of piracy.
Pirates is a label that, throughout history, you assigned to your rivals or enemies to suggest that what they were doing was illegitimate, whereas what you were doing was entirely legitimate.
Pirates were an important part of history.
They just aren't the part of history that we tend to think they are.