There Is No Defense for Looting
National Public Radio’s interview last month with Vicky Osterweil, author of a new book called “In Defense of Looting,” generated so much pushback that the network had to add a clarification providing more “context” to help readers “fully assess” her “controversial” views. But there isn’t anything that NPR’s editors could do to contextualize Osterweil’s dangerous message.
In technical terms, her argument—that the American system of property rights is oppressive and looting and mayhem will bring about positive social change—is nuts. The interview contains myriad quotations that read like a parody from The Babylon Bee. I’m not unhappy that NPR published it, as it’s important to know what such people think. But why didn’t the interviewer ask any tough questions?
NPR asked Osterweil to talk about rioting as a tactic, in the way a lifestyle reporter might ask a celebrity to talk a little about a new movie. As the author explains, rioting accomplishes “important things.” For starters, “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…That’s looting’s most basic tactical power as a political mode of action.”
Got that? People steal stuff because they then don’t have to pay for it and, well, that means they don’t have to work to earn money to pay for those things. I’m not sure how theft becomes a “political mode of action,” but Osterweil assured readers that breaking store windows and grabbing consumer goods is more important now than ever—given that “during COVID times” jobs are unreliable, unavailable, or sometimes dangerous.
As an aside, many official coronavirus-related policies strike me as glorified looting, even though lawmakers don’t use bricks and Molotov cocktails. The governor, and even
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