Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
– Blaise Pascal, Pensées
In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.
– Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.
– Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Most days, I find it absolutely incredible that Americans continue to subsidize NPR. It seems a bit insane to have a state-sponsored news organization in a democratic society in general, though the fact that NPR is a sort of anti-government propaganda source should be a fun twist for historians. But, really, as a source of information, NPR is just awful, and their standards get lower and lower with every passing year.
Now they have a glowing interview with Vicky Osterweil, an activist who wrote a book called In Defense of Looting. Anyone who has watched the critical theory train wreck that the American left has become for like five minutes can imagine what her arguments involve. This has been a banner year for batshit books promoting racism and violence. All I can say is I feel so sorry for the kids in college now, as their Boomer liberal professors shove this nonsense down their throats (in exchange for them going deeper and deeper into debt).
NPR published this in a week where thousands of Americans have had their personal property destroyed by political zealots. What you see happening in Kenosha or along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, for example, are not simply behavior these folks concoct excuses for. It’s their political ideal.
NPR describes Osterweil as “prescient” in her prediction that “a new energy of resistance is building across the country.”
I usually try to avoid sending traffic to websites that promote dangerous and anti-social behavior, but I think people need to see this to understand the forces that are controlling our social institutions. From the interview:
When I use the word looting, I mean the mass expropriation of property, mass shoplifting during a moment of upheaval or riot. That’s the thing I’m defending. I’m not defending any situation in which property is stolen by force. It’s not a home invasion, either. It’s about a certain kind of action that’s taken during protests and riots.
Looting is a highly racialized word from its very inception in the English language. It’s taken from Hindi, lút, which means “goods” or “spoils,” and it appears in an English colonial officer’s handbook [on “Indian Vocabulary”] in the 19th century.
So the problem with the word looting is mere cultural appropriation… evil colonialists stole the word and they gave it an evil connotation that has been handed down across the centuries. If that had never happened, people would probably regard backing a U-Haul truck up to Saks Fifth Avenue differently. That’s it.
“Rioting” generally refers to any moment of mass unrest or upheaval.Riots are a space in which a mass of people has produced a situation in which the general laws that govern society no longer function, and people can act in different ways in the street and in public. I’d say that rioting is a broader category, in which looting appears as a tactic.
Often, looting is more common among movements that are coming from below. It tends to be an attack on a business, a commercial space, maybe a government building—taking those things that would otherwise be commodified and controlled and sharing them for free.
See, looting is about sharing. You learned that kindergarten, didn’t you? But it gets crazier.
[Rioting] 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.
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.
Yeah, that’s what’s missing from mainstream media coverage these days: How rioting is an act of joy. Honestly, I do believe, at the very least, that the looters derive pleasure from the act of looting, but that is an altogether different thing than joy. It’s part of what makes this behavior so demented when considered en masse.
NPR then goes on to talk about what they call the “outside agitator myth.” This is pretty hilarious, especially in the wake of Kenosha, where all locals – Black and White – agree that the people trashing their small town were almost exclusively from out of state. This is confirmed by reports on the police scanner in real time, which include caravans of cars with blacked out plates entering the town to drop off rioters and supplies for their week of pure destruction – gas cans, improvised explosives, bricks. Some of these drivers were arrested en route. But that’s not going to stop a taxpayer-subsidized outlet from trying to gaslight people with outright lies about what is happening.
One of the ones that’s been very powerful, that’s both been used by Donald Trump and Democrats, has been the outside agitator myth, that the people doing the riots are coming from the outside. This is a classic. This one goes back to slavery, when plantation owners would claim that it was Freedmen and Yankees coming South and giving the enslaved these crazy ideas—that they were real human beings—and that’s why they revolted.
Another trope that’s very common is that looters and rioters are not part of the protest, and they’re not part of the movement. That has to do with the history of protesters trying to appear respectable and politically legible as a movement, and not wanting to be too frightening or threatening.
Another one is that looters are just acting as consumers: Why are they taking flat screen TVs instead of rice and beans? Like, if they were just surviving, it’d be one thing, but they’re taking liquor. All these tropes come down to claiming that the rioters and the looters don’t know what they’re doing. They’re acting, you know, in a disorganized way, maybe an “animalistic” way. 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.
The author also believes that the notion that the civil rights movement was successful precisely because it was non-violent is another myth.
I think a lot of that comes out of the civil rights movement. The popular understanding of the civil rights movement is that it was successful when it was nonviolent, and less successful when it was focused on Black power. It’s a myth that we get taught over and over again from the first moment we learn about the civil rights movement: that it was a nonviolent movement, and that that’s what matters about it. And it’s just not true.
Nonviolence emerged in the ’50s and ’60s during the civil rights movement, [in part] as a way to appeal to Northern liberals. When it did work, like with the lunch counter sit-ins, it worked because Northern liberals could flatter themselves that racism was a Southern condition. This was also in the context of the Cold War and a mass anticolonial revolt going on all over Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Suddenly all these new independent nations had just won liberation from Europe, and the U.S. had to compete with the Soviet Union for influence over them. So it was really in the U.S.’s interests to not be the country of Jim Crow, segregation and fascism, because they had to appeal to all these new Black and Brown nations all over the world.
Those two things combined to make nonviolence a relatively effective tactic. Even under those conditions, Freedom Riders and student protesters were often protected by armed guards. We remember the Birmingham struggle of ’63, with the famous photos of Bull Connor releasing the police dogs and fire hoses on teenagers, as nonviolent. But that actually turned into the first urban riot in the movement. Kids got up, threw rocks and smashed police cars and storefront windows in that combat. There was fear that that kind of rioting would spread. That created the pressure for Robert F. Kennedy to write the Civil Rights bill and force JFK to sign it.
But there’s also another factor, which is anti-Blackness and contempt for poor people who want to live a better life, which looting immediately provides. One thing about looting is it freaks people out. But in terms of potential crimes that people can commit against the state, it’s basically nonviolent. You’re mass shoplifting. Most stores are insured; it’s just hurting insurance companies on some level. It’s just money. It’s just property. It’s not actually hurting any people.
Got that? It’s not money – it’s just property – and that isn’t actually hurting anyone. So feel free to burn down the houses of the author and the folks at NPR. They’ll get over it, right?
She has some thoughts about the Magnificent Mile too:
People who made that argument for Minneapolis weren’t suddenly celebrating the looters in Chicago, who drove down to the richest part of Chicago, the Magnificent Mile, and attacked places like Tesla and Gucci—because It’s not really about that. It’s a convenient way of positioning yourself as though you are sympathetic.
But looters and rioters don’t attack private homes. They don’t attack community centers. In Minneapolis, there was a small independent bookstore that was untouched. All the blocks around it were basically looted or even leveled, burned down. And that store just remained untouched through weeks of rioting.
It is factually incorrect that these riots are not affecting or terrorizing residents or moving into residential neighborhoods. In fact, they are terrorizing a lot of minority residents, and I’m sure the Trump campaign thanks them for that. The McCloskeys would not be a household name if the riots were a purely commercial effort. And there are endless videos on YouTube now of rioters going into “gentrified” neighborhoods, which as far as I can tell, are any neighborhoods that are deemed middle class and up.
She now gets into how the shopkeepers whose stuff was taken or destroyed probably deserved it:
To say you’re attacking your own community is to say to rioters, you don’t know what you’re doing. But I disagree. I think people know. They might have worked in those shops. They might have shopped and been followed around by security guards or by the owner. You know, one of the causes of the L.A. riots was a Korean small-business owner murdering 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, who had come in to buy orange juice. And that was a family-owned, immigrant-owned business where anti-Blackness and white supremacist violence was being perpetrated.
And it’s a “right-wing myth” that small business owners create jobs in the community. No kidding, I guess the Bureau of Labor Statistics is in on the scheme too:
When it comes to small business, family owned business or locally owned business, they are no more likely to provide worker protections. They are no more likely to have to provide good stuff for the community than big businesses. It’s actually a Republican myth that has, over the last 20 years, really crawled into even leftist discourse: that the small business owner must be respected, that the small business owner creates jobs and is part of the community. But that’s actually a right-wing myth.
A business being attacked in the community is ultimately about attacking like modes of oppression that exist in the community. It is true and possible that there are instances historically when businesses have refused to reopen or to come back. But that is a part of the inequity of the society, that people live in places where there is only one place where they can get access to something [like food or medicine]. That question assumes well, what if you’re in a food desert? But the food desert is already an incredibly unjust situation. There’s this real tendency to try and blame people for fighting back, for revealing the inequity of the injustice that’s already been formed by the time that they’re fighting.
Fucking insane. The Democratic Party has gone absolutely fucking insane. I honestly cannot believe these lunatics live among us.
So… Here is what the left thinks is righteous: