Dear Caitlin Dewey:
I have read some really dumb, cloying, and earnestly written ideological gibberish in the past three years, but you have reset the bar with your recent love letter to online piracy. To be clear, I am confident that piracy itself is a serious problem for both culture and the economy, but this particular disease is nothing compared to the metastasized cancer that has scrambled brains like yours into believing that piracy is actually about something. You write, “See, the Pirate Bay is as much an idea and an orientation to entrainment media as it is/was a torrent-tracking site.” Really? Are you so culturally illiterate that you don’t know a cheap sales pitch when you hear one? The boys of TPB are not the first thieves in history to justify their crimes by claiming to be leading the world toward some New Jerusalem. And being a sucker for that message is more socially toxic than the piracy itself. If you’re going to pirate media, then have the intellectual honesty to say “I’m stealing and I don’t care.” And then shut up about it.
Piracy isn’t an idea or an ideology or a principle. It’s a cheap, tawdry, and frankly sexist (note the ads) enterprise of lazy opportunists who profit from other people’s hard and real work. Profit is why the Pirate Bay and sites like it have existed; and consuming media for free is why people use these sites. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to understand either the “buy” or the “sell” side of these transactions, which make pirate sites profitable; but if pundits like you would at least spare us your banner-waving social revolutionary horse shit, then perhaps actual thought might survive this digital slaughter bench of reason that seems to flip your proverbial kilt.
Again, you write: “But even if TPB doesn’t return, the politics and the conventions it advanced — that content should be free, and if you torrent, they can be! — will be very difficult to eradicate.”
That’s positively adorable, like something a child might write, especially the way your ebullience almost masks the lack of subject/verb agreement.* But that’s the thing, Caitlin, writing is work, and good writing is hard work. And so is making music, television shows, and motion pictures. And it is not in fact the Internet “created by The Pirate Bay” that enables you to jump on this facile bandwagon and spill out a few hundred words for The Washington Post. In truth, you are able to get up in the morning, buy yourself a latte, and have at it with your keyboard because you live in a society in which free people are rewarded for their labor by compensation. And that fundamental, economic principle has a hell of a lot more to do with the freedom you claim to love than does your petulant desire to watch Game of Thrones without bloody well paying for it.
*NOTE: To be fair, Dewey’s error is a singular antecedent with plural pronoun, which sounds like subject/verb disagreement but isn’t quite. See, good writing is hard work. Thanks to one reader for noticing.