A new book justifies looting

August 30, 2020 • 9:00 am

It was inevitable. Although many on the left have downplayed looting and violence that sometimes accompanies protests, there have also been some who came close to excusing the violence, if not justifying it. Now comes writer Vicky Osterweil—on National Public Radio (NPR), of all places—touting her new book, In Defense of Looting. The NPR interview link is below, and since the piece dwells a lot on race, I’ll add that Osterweil is white (not capitalized, though she capitalizes “Black” and “Brown”).

First, the book (click on icon to go to Amazon site).

Below is the Amazon blurb. Note that in the interview below Osterweil justifies both looting and “destroying property”. She at least seems to criticize violence against people (hurting them), though she’s curiously reluctant to be clear about that.
Looting–a crowd of people publicly, openly, and directly seizing goods–is one of the more extreme actions that can take place in the midst of social unrest. Even self-identified radicals distance themselves from looters, fearing that violent tactics reflect badly on the broader movement.
But Vicky Osterweil argues that stealing goods and destroying property are direct, pragmatic strategies of wealth redistribution and improving life for the working class–not to mention the brazen messages these methods send to the police and the state. All our beliefs about the innate righteousness of property and ownership, Osterweil explains, are built on the history of anti-Black, anti-Indigenous oppression.
From slave revolts to labor strikes to the modern-day movements for climate change, Black lives, and police abolition, Osterweil makes a convincing case for rioting and looting as weapons that bludgeon the status quo while uplifting the poor and marginalized. In Defense of Looting is a history of violent protest sparking social change, a compelling reframing of revolutionary activism, and a practical vision for a dramatically restructured society.
The book came out on August 25, and so far the Amazon ratings aren’t very good. I’ve also Googled the book and seen a lot of critiques, but I haven’t read any as I want my take to be fresh.

The NPR interview with Osterweil is below; click on screenshot. Note the title of the NPR sub-site as well as its its motto.

Now NPR is about as woke as the New York Times, but I’m still surprised that it would publish something like this. Yes, the piece may foster discussion (in my view, the main benefit of publishing it is to “out” both Osterweil and her minions who think looting is justifiable), but imagine if a right-winger were to publish a book on, say, why it’s good to destroy abortion clinics. You’d never see that on NPR.

Anyway, read and weep, or, as in my case, get angry, for I see Osterweil’s argument as both weak and indefensible. Code Switch is NPR’s “blog on race, ethnicity, and culture.”

First, we should clarify what the author means by “looting”, which she defines as “the mass expropriation of property, mass shoplifting during a moment of upheaval or riot.” She emphasizes that she’s not defending any expropriation of property by force (I guess she means robbery) or in home invasions. To her, “looting” is something that accompanies protests and riots, and is the (“non forcible”???) taking of stuff from stores, whether they be big department stores or mom-and-pop stores.

She begins her blather by saying that “looting is a highly racialized word” (it comes from a Hindi word that means “goods or spoils”). But what is the point of that? Nobody even knows that, but somehow she has to work the idea of race into her interview as early as possible. Her point is obscure. If “looting” is highly racialized, so is “pajamas.”

Osterweil’s defense of looting is that it is an effective tactic to equalize the distribution of wealth, free the looters from having to work for “bosses” to get stuff (I guess she’s a hard socialist or Marxist), and to demonstrate that the concept of “property” is bogus. But read below. I am not making this up.

Can you talk about rioting as a tactic? What are the reasons people deploy it as a strategy? [JAC: I think the questioner, Natalie Escobar, who throws softballs at Osterweil repeatedly, means “looting” rather than “rioting”, though Osterweil sees looting as a subset of rioting.]

It does a number of important things. It gets people what they need for free immediately, which means that they are capable of living and reproducing their lives without having to rely on jobs or a wage—which, during COVID times, is widely unreliable or, particularly in these communities is often not available, or it comes at great risk. That’s looting’s most basic tactical power as a political mode of action.

It also attacks the very way in which food and things are distributed. It attacks the idea of property, and it attacks the idea that in order for someone to have a roof over their head or have a meal ticket, they have to work for a boss, in order to buy things that people just like them somewhere else in the world had to make under the same conditions. It points to the way in which that’s unjust. And the reason that the world is organized that way, obviously, is for the profit of the people who own the stores and the factories. So you get to the heart of that property relation, and demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.

This is unbelievable. For without some form of capitalism, you’re not going to get fancy televisions, sneakers, and and booze for free. And really, “working for a boss”? In fact, many of the small stores that were looted in the spate of recent riots were mom and pop stores, in which the owners worked not for a boss but for themselves.

Further, if looting attacks the idea of “property”, does that mean that the looters don’t consider what they take as their property?

Finally, no, you can’t have things for free under any society. How are you going to have televisions and clothing unless somebody makes them and you have to pay for them? What kind of society is she envisioning? Clearly one without police, which would be a disaster, but she’s even more Communist than the Soviet Communists. And without “state oppression”, how are you going to have the kind of communism Osterweil apparently wants.

But wait! There’s more! Looting is also a form of liberation. Note that she also justifies riots here:

Importantly, I think especially when it’s in the context of a Black uprising like the one we’re living through now, it also attacks the history of whiteness and white supremacy. The very basis of property in the U.S. is derived through whiteness and through Black oppression, through the history of slavery and settler domination of the country. Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police. It gets to the very root of the way those three things are interconnected. And also it provides people with an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure and helps them imagine a world that could be. And I think that’s a part of it that doesn’t really get talked about—that riots and looting are experienced as sort of joyous and liberatory.

. . . But the history of the movement for liberation in America is full of looters and rioters. They’ve always been a part of our movement.

. . . Ultimately, what nonviolence ends up meaning is that the activist doesn’t do anything that makes them feel violent. And I think getting free is messier than that. We have to be willing to do things that scare us and that we wouldn’t do in normal, “peaceful” times, because we need to get free.

I’m not sure whether people who lose their stores or their cars or their houses (after all, arson doesn’t count as “violence” in Osterweil’s world) are becoming free, and are experiencing joy and liberation. As for the fact that many businesses that were looted were owned by minorities, well, Osterweil says that “most stores are insured; it’s just hurting insurance companies on some level. It’s just property. It’s not actually hurting any people.”

Think about that. Have you seen news reports of store owners who lost their business, who were livid with rage and shaken with sorrow because they can’t rebuild and can’t make a living for a while even if they do? Those people aren’t hurt? Well, maybe not physically hurt, but their lives are severely damaged. And if looting of a mom and pop store is okay, and liberatory, why is shoplifting not okay by Osterweil’s lights? Shouldn’t that be liberatory as well? It’s just property after all, and you get stuff for free and it doesn’t really hurt anybody.

Finally, Osterweil tries to cover other bases, like “what about small business owners?” Her response is that it’s a right-wing myth that small business owners create jobs and are “part of the community” and, anyway, looters don’t really attack the good businesses in the community—only the ones that participate in “modes of oppression.” She won’t admit that any businesses that have been destroyed and looted didn’t deserve that.

She tries to dispel the idea that the looters are “outside people” who aren’t protesting, and the idea that looting is not an intrinsic part of “the movement.” By claiming these ideas are wrong, she’s actually flying in the face of those on the Left who have previously explained looting, trying to say it was the work of outsiders and wasn’t inherent in the protest. But Osterweil has a bigger fish to fry: she wants Marxism.

Osterweil’s words make me livid, for the woman is totally clueless. What kind of country does she think this would be if looting weren’t a crime, and if there were no police? What kind of country does she envision? Maybe it’s in her book, but I can’t bear to read it. It wouldn’t be good for my health.

Osterweil is a dangerous person because her ideas and her book are dangerous, for they provides a rationale for those who would riot, loot, and destroy property. Fortunately, Americans aren’t buying her argument. And I hope they’re not buying her book. There’s no doubt, though, that Osterweil will become a hero to certain people on the Left. Such people are to be avoided.

The author (from Hachette Books profile):

h/t: Eli

99 thoughts on “A new book justifies looting

  1. Dan “The Zionists” Arel got an advance copy of the book.

    Strange thing is, Arel and the author were chatting on social media, and it emerged that the book will be available on Amazon.

    Surely they should be encouraging people to steal or pirate it…

        1. “Which they are.”

          How have you come by that knowledge? A revelation? Mind-reading? A special “way of knowing”?

          Anything must be true simply and solely because one thinks so.

          By the way, do you hold that sex is a “social construct”?

        2. Let’s try this on:

          All atheists are immoral
          All blacks are lazy


          I hope it’s clear I’m just pointing out the absurdity of painting ANY group with a single brush.

      1. I do wonder how long until someone posts her address online, and how long until her property is “redistributed”. I’m not suggesting someone do that, but write a book like this and you’re practically begging for it.

      2. “Would Vicky like to have her house looted? Let us have her address…!”

        I wonder if it would offend her for one to approach her at an outside restaurant table and inform her that she will be addressed civilly and will not be the least pressured to raise her fist in a salute.

        1. When I first viewed the clip without sound, I thought the bullies surely must be trump supporters. With sound on, still couldn’t believe how truly insane and entirely unself-aware they were.

      3. In general one would think that her trans identity shouldn’t be relevant to discussing her ideas. But in this case it seems relevant because of the intersectionalist connection: she is a trans woman, therefore she has some kind of street cred to defend looting.

        The book is derived from a 2014 article by the same author also justifying looting in thew wake of the Michael Brown killing, about which she wrote:

        “If protesters hadn’t looted and burnt down that QuikTrip on the second day of protests, would Ferguson be a point of worldwide attention? It’s impossible to know, but all the non-violent protests against police killings across the country that go unreported seem to indicate the answer is no.”

        She doesn’t live in Ferguson, MO, so she has no idea what effect the non-violent protests there or elsewhere have wrought on local politics, policing, or anything else. But like so many other clicktivists, she mistakes her twitter feed for reality, and concludes that if it doesn’t show up on twitter then it never happened and it counted for nothing. Therefore riot and looting are justified because it forces these protests from the nonviolent invisible background to the Fox News foreground. And that’s apparently justification enough.

        1. Yes.
          Not strictly relevant, but yes, seems to have some relevance perhaps, & the punk band attitude is interesting.

          If looting is OK, that puts every invading army in history in the clear, including things that are in museums like the Benin Bronzes that were stolen by the British in the 19th C. These are wanted back, but if loot is OK…? A nice philosophical problem!

        2. I could be wrong, but following Andy Ngo I got the impression that MtF transgenders are vastly overrepresented in Antifa. Street cred for sure.

    1. Yes, they’ve gone off the rails. I stopped listening about two years ago. BBC, MSNBC, CNN, NY times…after all the whining about “I don’t trust the liberal media”, conservatives now have an actual reason to label them as the liberal media and to not trust them. It disgusts me. They had been my go-to news source for 20 years, and they only FM preset on my car radio. I even make Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish every year for Thanksgiving. How an honest journalism survive this great infantilizing polarization?

    2. You can add the CBC to that list. It’s all racism all the time. We have an awful and racist history with aboriginal people here, and there are ongoing racist effects continuing now, so there are real stories about real racism in Canada. But at the CBC everything is about racism and far too much of it is about anti-Black racism, which in Canada is largely about how Caribbean immigrants and their descendants are treated in southern Ontario. That history of anti-Black racism includes some awful things but it is a small sideshow compared to the absolute horror that is our treatment of aboriginal people. It’s not easy to shoehorn all that into the American antiracism format (focused on the history and effects of American slavery), but the CBC tries mightily. The irony is that present-day Canada is one of the most liberal, inclusive, and welcoming places for people of colour (not color) anywhere in the world. It’s not perfect, and we have a lot to make up for wrt aboriginal people, but it’s about as good as you can get and it’s getting better in the Pinker sense. One would never know from listening to the CBC these days.

    3. In a word: Yes.

      My local cannot discuss ANY issue now without applying the inequality angle prominently. And the identity politics angle. I’ve forgotten, was there a world before identity politics? Hard to tell.

  2. Well, if Bernie Sanders and others close to his POV of socialism are in Congress, advocating confiscation of wealth (not just income) and other near-communist policy, and BLM is lauded as a benevolent movement even though its leaders spout Marx and its followers are sent out in the streets to destroy property like Red Guards, is it any wonder NPR, a quasi-government voice, considers “Looting is Justified” a legitimate sober subject?

    The long-established socialist-left meme is: “Property is theft, looting it is justice.”

    [sometimes disguised as “You have more than me, government must redistribute.]

    1. Thomas Piketty makes a pretty good argument for taxing wealth (not just income) in the last chapter of his book “Capital in the 21st Century”. His new book “Capital and Ideology” picks up where “Capital” left off. The idea of taxing wealth and redistributing it in the form of basic income plus capital endowment for each citizen is a deeply capitalist idea in that it depends on the investment income from that capital endowment via the markets (just like the investment income that the 0.1% live on now as rentiers). But it’s investment capitalism for the masses. Piketty calls it “participatory socialism”. In the USA it’s probably not possible to implement because the USA is seems to no longer be a liberal economy with the public good as its main goal. But in other countries there may be an opportunity to do something like this. Of course I say this as someone who imagines his wealth (almost entirely the equity in my little apartment) would not be taxed under this plan, and that only guys in tophats with twirly moustaches would be taxed on wealth. But it still seems like an idea worth exploring.

      1. Does Piketty himself attempt to label his scheme “a deeply capitalist idea” or is that your name for it?

        Once expropriated from Twirly Mustache and “endowed” equally to all, is it mandatory that the wealth be held as an investment? Or voluntary? Because it is laughable unless command and control by Authority assures it stays as “an investment”.

        Even if so, is the individual allowed to sell her endowment?

        You can see where I’m going here… unless put under arduous control by Gov, “wealth” will soon accrue to the 10% again, and people whose outlook is day to day will soon be one paycheck away from zero.

        I love how these thinkers spout off with schemes that “wealth” is a zero sum entity, and a wholesome target of opportunity for their schemes.

        You are right it won’t happen in the USA. We stick to the nasty silly notion that our property is our property.

  3. Intriguing

    I suppose we’ll have to get the book to find out if we should include “fire truck”, “ambulance”, “water supply”, or “hospital” in the definition of “property”.

    In the meantime though, we can’t be too careful.

  4. This brought back memories of the 1971 book “Steal This Book” by Abbie Hoffman in which he called America the “Pig Empire” and wrote that it was not immoral to steal from it—in fact, he wrote that it was immoral not to do so.

    In spite of the fact that the book was not advertised or reviewed, it sold over 100,000 copies. Hoffman said, “It’s embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Sellers List.”

    1. Note how Hoffman’s rhetoric mirrored that of the Manson Family.

      BTW, the “ACAB” nonsense has been widespread at Pharyngula for many years now, and has even spread to the comment section at Hemant Mehta’s increasingly regressive “Friendly Atheist”.

    2. Steal this book was advertised and reviewed, probably by places you weren’t familiar with. Hoffman was a master of PR unsettling those at the top. (The Pentagon seriously considered his boast that his followers were going to “levitate the Pentagon.”)

      Hoffman was more Madison Avenue than Manson. From wikipedia, a quote from Steal This Book: “in the section “Free Communication”, Hoffman encourages his readership to take to the stage at rock concerts to use the pre-assembled audience and PA system to get their message out. However, he mentions that “interrupting the concert is frowned upon since it is only spitting in the faces of people you are trying to reach.”

  5. Idiocracy to our left, Idiocracy to our right. The inmates are trying (sometimes succeeding) to take over the asylum.

  6. Even if you accept the premise that looting is merely redistribution of ‘stuff’ there appears to be no mechanism to ensure that the looting is ‘fair’. That is, no one in dire need is looted from and no looter collects more than a just amount.

    The ‘Left’ are really keen on amorphous ‘fairness’ but rarely explain how it works in practice…

  7. Here’s just a thought. Is it possible that Osterweil is much smarter than we give her credit for? Maybe she said this to herself: “I will write the most insane book possible and see how many morons on the left will praise me. I can become the Ann Coulter of the left. I have already found a publisher for the book. Obviously, the publisher thinks it can make money off it and so will I. I now have the prospects for more fame and fortune by being interviewed by nitwits that take me seriously. Sure, the book will help Trump, but I don’t give a crap. Like Ann, I’m really an entertainer and there are many rubes out there who will buy my product. The far leftists are as nuts as the far rightists, but not as smart. I can’t believe I’m the first person to write a book like this. However, if anyone tries to steal the book, he/she must be arrested and prosecuted. Let them loot other people’s property, but not mine. God, P.T. Barnum was a genius.”

    1. I can well believe that Ann Coulter deliberately makes outrageous and ridiculous statements that she knows to not be true in order to stake out a market for herself. But I do think she is also a far right lunatic.

      1. There’s a direct way to measure political ideologues: observe if they bump into an empirical data field, which Coulter has done on both evolution(she channeled Bill Dembsky to deride “Darwiniacs”) and climate science (she denies global warming).

        Bad Methods yield Bad Arguments and Bad Results.

        The moment the looting defender dismissed the role of small businesses in the economy or avoided even thinking about how they have been affected by looting, that’s bumping into an empirical data field, and tripping flat on the dogmatic face.

      1. I certainly think marriage is nothing to do with the state & as a single person I am discriminated against for being single, for example tax, or if I were to go on holiday! Not sure without reading her article if I agree, but then I have no family& family is a pretty vague term.

        Collective farms for babies?!

    2. @Historia that’s a brilliant thought experiment. Sort of like the idea that George and Kellyanne Conway concocted duelling alter egos for public consumption of their opposing political views? I wonder if we could predict where along that arc the Osterweil-Lewis power couple would decide to exit in order to spend more time with their family, like the Conways recently announced they will do?

    3. Osterweil is not a moron. I agree with Steve Sailer’s take:

      “I actually think that much of Vickie (a.k.a., Willie) Osterweil’s NPR interview “In Defense of Rioting” is smart and insightful. It is just from a fundamentally rotten person who enjoys destruction.”

      1. Yes not a moron for sure. But I think Historian’s comment was about whether she is a sincere Communist or just an opportunist who invented an extremist persona in order to cash in on recent and current events.

    4. Wearing symbolic “chains of oppression” for a photo shoot? Did she go out and buy these for the photoshoot? For a book she is going to sell, and (presumably) not give away to the truly needy? Did she free someone from metaphorical slavery?

      And why a standard head shot with neutral background and a smile? Was she told that’s what you have to do to “sell the book”? Or did she think it made her look…

      I have no idea what she thinks she’s doing. Just looks like virtue signaling to me.

  8. The Amazon blurb says, “[…] Osterweil makes a convincing case for rioting and looting as weapons that bludgeon the status quo while uplifting the poor and marginalized.” Yeah, right – easy for an online retailer with no physical stores on the street to say!

  9. *Sigh* So much wrong. As if for example the looting and burning and breaking of windows is ever ever confined to the wealthier areas of a town. No. Since these events are sparked in marginalized areas, that is where you see a lot of it.
    And how ironic that this destruction in the cause of BLM will target black-owned and white-owned businesses alike.

    1. Donated recently to fundraisers for two separate small minority and women-owned business in Minneapolis. They were well respected, community based, destroyed by arson. They weren’t the main targets, but once you start setting fires, they’re hard to contain.

  10. If the brain of this person could be viewed it would include the sign – vacancy. There is a lot of vacancy in American, just consider how they are handling a pandemic.

  11. Some people just want to watch the world burn. I will do Osterweil the courtesy of hoping she doesn’t find herself being restributed. Mobs, as we have seen, are not particularly discriminating.

  12. On the ground in the Real World, my neighbor who operates a small restaurant was the victim of looting. He closed his joint but put a pallet of bottled water outside with a sign reading, “Hydration Station.”

    The looters in their quest for equality and redistribution of wealth smashed his front door and window, rampaged through his kitchen taking very little but making a huge mess, propping open his walk-in refrigerator with a chair and smashing light fixtures. The only redistribution of wealth was about $20,000 to the glass company, electricians, food suppliers, cleaners and a renewal of his health certificate.

    I don’t think it’s possible to present any justification for what happened or that it did anything other than hurt my neighbor and his customers.

  13. This book is essentially virtue signalling. The more far-left, “anti-racist”, “smash the system”, anti-capitalist you are, the more virtuous you are.

  14. Does anyone of those here blabbing on about communism and marxism have a writing from either Marx or Engels approving of theft, or advocating it, as part of their social philosophies?

    1. I don’t want to cite the writings of Marx, because Marx said “I am not a Marxist.”

      [yes, i know, he probably did not actually say it. it’s just a meme. I’m joke meme-ing back as sarcasm.]

      Seriously, though: communism is total theft, and socialism is the same, but agonizingly slower. Marx got the ball rolling.

      1. So apparently you do not have anything specific written as commie doctrine which advocates looting in the way done in this book.

        And apparently you completely disagree with efforts of governments, such as progrssive income tax, to achieve some income redistribution, and would like to smear it by trying to use this stupid book as ammunition.

        The claim, that the commies taking over Russia 100 years ago and Castro taking over Cuba about 60 years ago, will never be regarded as legal in any sense just wastes peoples’ time with simplistic cant. The takeover of US in 1776 or thereabouts, and by the British a few centuries earlier, have exactly the same legal’ status.

        1. 1) The looting championed in this book is spectacularly lame compared to the systemic, root, fundamental looting at the base of communism and socialism.

          2) I don’t need this book in order to smear income redistribution. It is theft/looting on its face.

          3) it does not matter if a collectivist political system “gets in” by ‘takeover’ or by being voted in.

          1. Have been binge-watching old “Parks and Recreation” during the pandemic. This comment could come straight from some Ron Swanson dialogue.

            No one is saying that all wealth is bad. But there is good evidence that extreme wealth inequality is bad for democracy and damages the common good.

            As Sastra used to say around here, it’s true but trivial to say that wealth redistribution via looting is wrong. By contrast, it’s profound but false to say that therefore all wealth redistribution is theft.

    2. Yes, of course, and I am not a Marxist by persuasion. But there is a difference between a government instituting a policy which tries to achieve some wealth redistribution and the looting she writes about. Progressive income tax is an example.

      What gets up my nose is the thoughtless USian anti-communism I’ve been seeing everywhere for the last 75 years since I could read, and that seems to include here to some degree.

      1. Seems to me the Communist experiment was a spectacular failure. Their sample size was significantly >1 and they failed.

        Why would anyone work hard and practice deferring gratification (the most important behavior to ensure success in life) when there is a office/bureau/department that is going to enforce equal outcomes?

        Why would I go through he cost, work, deprivation, and lost opportunity costs of higher education if it won’t get me ahead economically?

        The model flies in the face of human nature and can only be sustained by a stern authoritarian state.

        (I, too, regard progressive income taxation as just. I think the FICA tax should not have a ceiling, for instance, even though I’ve hit it regularly he last few years. I also regard basic social safety net (SSA income, SSA for disabled people (though I personally know people who are, right now, cheating on this), and Medicare. I favor Medicare for all, though I think this is not the political moment for it.)

  15. I wonder if her readership includes many looters? How does she feel about her own property being looted? Her book seems like an opportunistic ploy. I agree that it is virtue signalling but who would have guessed that looting would become a virtue? These people are nuts.

    1. I would highly doubt that potential looters would see this book on Amazon, purchase it, wait for it to arrive, read it and then thoughtfully ponder looting. It’s a stretch.

  16. The Catholic Church has the doctrine of recompense called occult compensation: “An extra-legal manner of recovering from loss or damage; the taking, by stealth and on one’s private authority, of the value or equivalent of one’s goods from a person who refuses to meet the demands of justice.” https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04186a.htm. The only difference is that it’s covert instead of overt.

    1. Does the church’s doctrine imply that the person who is seeking redress has a valid claim on the person he’s taking from, and not just a desire exercised against a random person?

    2. Centuries ago, there was a time when the Catholic hierarchy insisted that workers’ wages were to be only enough for maintenance of livelihood re home, food, clothing and tools of trade; nothing more. Those rules seemed to apply to workers only, not the wealthy. Most methods of wealth redistribution in our own age seem to redistribute predominantly to the wealthy with little concern for the basic wellbeing of the poor.

      Redistribution of wealth by looting, however, seems to target high priced goods more than necessities. As has been mentioned, though, looting and burning is not restricted to the wealthy areas of town.

      I think looting and burning is never called for and always demeans/deters whatever social issue was targeted for change/redress. How often have you seen longterm social change brought about in this manner?

      1. Thanks for this. I just finished composing a lengthy reply and right after I clicked “Post Comment” I lost my Internet connection and it went poof. I might try to reconstruct it but I think it’s too much trouble for what it’s worth.

  17. I would file this away under my ‘not helping’ section of commentary. It’s not novel, thoughtful or clever. It won’t bring about anything good, and doesn’t add anything needed to the conversation.

  18. Ms. Osterwell is perhaps a marketing genius in the tradition of Judith H. Katz and Robin DiAngelo. She is counting on a big welcome first at NPR, and then from the Diversity consultant and Anti-Racist training circles.

    As for the ancient history of her thoughts:
    after it came to power in 1917, the Bolsheviks instituted a routine program of “expropriating the expropiators”, in which
    the Party—and its faithful operatives—
    seized everything owned by erstwhile “class
    enemies” of the Revolution. What could be more happily “Revolutionary”, with a capital R.? The program gained force particularly during the subsequent Russian Civil War

    Long ago, I read a Russian novel which described how a whole cohort of opportunists joined the Bolshevik Party at precisely this period, in order to share in the spoils as well as to gain power over others. We are seeing a version of this comedy. Of course Ms. Osterwell is white, with a small w.

  19. It occurs to me that if we go by the leftist dictionary, by disagreeing with Osterwiel we are committing an act of “violence” towards her. That, of course, is not allowed while beating up a shop keeper, stealing the register takings, “redistributing” the shop’s products, and burning what’s left of the building to the foundation is not violence, it’s “justice”. As a wise cartoon character once said “Can’t argue with that. It’s too stupid!”

  20. I’ve now read Ms. Osterweil’s NPR interview and the introduction to her book through the preview feature at the Amazon site. Her book comes off as an exercise in controversy for controversy’s sake, her approach a half-cooked salmagundi of fringe ideas and metaphors mistaken for literalisms.

    She also seems to fancy herself a recontextualized feminist version of the clown-prince of the Sixties’s anti-war Left, Abbie Hoffman, who gave one of his books the too-on-the-nose title, Steal This Book. But she comes off more like the bank robber played by Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon who tries to rally the New York street bystanders to his side by chanting “Attica! Attica!”:

  21. Qu’est-ce que la propriété ?

    La propriété, c’est le vol !

    I have no problem with this sentiment as articulated by Proudhon, were it to be truly universally adopted (underline that), but looting is taking ownership, which would not it seems to me conform with Proudhon’s thought.

  22. “Her response is that it’s a right-wing myth that small business owners create jobs and are “part of the community” and, anyway, looters don’t really attack the good businesses in the community—only the ones that participate in “modes of oppression.”

    She seems a couple of fries short of a happy meal, and this is one of her worst arguments. So many of these small-business owners that are having their stores looted and destroyed are first generation immigrants just trying to make a living…this is a textbook case of blaming the victim.

    The hypocrisy is also infuriating. I assume that she would want her own private property protected!

  23. It is interesting though that all eyes are on looting, but the Big Looting goes through mostly undetected and also unpunished (whether in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis or since). Not trying Whataboutery here, it‘s just one paragraph and the absense of this would be grossly misleading.

    Looting is counterproductive. Some unusual action is often required to draw attention to a cause and pressure politicians, just like with strikes that disrupt productivity. But as soon as it resembles known criminal behavior, violence, arson, looting etcetera, the intended political message gets deflated quickly and media and political opposition will reframe the protests as that criminal behaviour. The idea that looting is somehow a corrective to the mass-scale transfer of wealth from botton to the top is just ludicrous.

  24. Send the bills for all of the looting to every Sociology Department of every University in the US. They want to breed and foment this craziness, they can pay for it.

  25. I think it’s worth having people who can discuss some of the social disorders associated with protesting / civil disobedience, as that’s what civilised societies ought to be willing to do. How a society views the conduct of dissidents and troublemakers is at the very basis of law, and that has to be opened to challenge for any hope of improvements to it.

    That said, it’s gonna take a lot to see looting as anything other than profiting off the chaos, and as destructive acts that undermine the basic values of civilisation. Same goes for those who are not inexplicably arguing that shooting protesters is a heroic act.

    Though more than anything, asking people to live with the disorder is eventually going to translate into questions at the ballot box. There’s only going to be so much sympathy for a cause that negatively affects social order, and I would struggle to see how looting is going to be taken as anything other than a stain on the ideals of the protests. But time will tell on that count.

  26. I’m a moderate leftist, IDW wannabe member, Hillary campaign volunteer and in the last, say, 5-10 years I’m increasingly embarrassed by our side’s fanatics, fundamentalists and Marxists.

    Of course the right have MORE barking mad crazies (Falwell, Coulter, Fox anyone?) but I feel outflanked in the crazy dpt by my own side. It is….. dispiriting.

    I heard about this book on Bret and Heather Weinstein’s (excellent) Dark Horse podcast and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
    This deranged person clearly has some mental/identity/anger problems.

    Nobody will say it but its quietly known in psychiatric circles there is an overlap in the venn diagram of mental illness and the transsexual “activist” movement. And some pretty convincing arguments as to why this is the case. It exhibits/expresses itself in things like this looting book garbage.

    D.A., B.A. (psych), J.D., NYC

    “Clowns to the left of me
    Jokers to the right…”

    1. Democrats are only passingly similar to the British Labour Party but both & I suppose this applies to other political groupings, inevitably cover a multitude of sins. They have to accommodate a broad range of views & all parties are compromises. The more radical elements usually form their own groups, realise they will never convert the masses, then infiltrate a party & try to push the collective view towards their agenda. You either have to live together or apart. Their problem is the two party systems we both have. In other lands the full spectrum of views gets a chance to be elected, BUT then has to compromise with coalition partners to govern.

  27. I haven’t read the book or the interview, but when I went to the Amazon web site, the first review visible was:

    I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because while it is empty headed garbage, it was a bargain since I shoplifted it.

  28. And I hope they’re not buying her book.

    Why didn’t she give it away freely as a pdf? No doubt both the author and publisher of “In defense of looting” would aggressively defend their copyright, with no thought given to the irony whatsoever.

  29. “Amazon has noticed unusual reviewing activity on this product. Due to this activity, we have limited this product to verified purchase reviews.”

    (As of 9:30am today)

  30. No one should be able to convince anyone that looting is ok. Taking something that isn’t yours and that you didn’t work for never redistributes wealth. You may get away with a TV, radio or some other items but no one has ever raised their class status by this type of rebellion. That only comes from planning and hard work. Looting is not only morally, ethically and legally wrong but the “benefits” are minimal at best and not worth going to jail over. Think about how much you can uplift your family by taking only what you can grab with your hands. I can’t even go grocery shopping for my family if I could only grab what will fit in my hands. Also, burning down properties of those in local neighborhoods only exacerbates problems. Looting is a lose lose for the majority and sadly, the cities where looting was present in response to police brutality still haven’t seen any justice.

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