NPR Provides Platform to Author Who Defends Looting
Written by Steve Byas
National Public Radio (NPR) recently provided a platform to an author who has written a book, In Defense of Looting, in which the author, Vicky Osterweil, argues that looting is morally justified, because “without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.”
In the interview, Osterweil offered her definition of looting — which has become a staple of what many in the mainstream media insist on calling “peaceful protests” sweeping the country. “When I use the word looting, I mean the mass expropriation of property, mass shoplifting during a moment of upheaval or riot. It’s not a home invasion, either. It’s about a certain kind of action that’s taken during protests and riots.”
She added that the word has been “racialized.”
Looting, Osterweil insisted, “does a number of important things.” First, “it gets people what they need immediately,” without having to “rely” on a job. “It attacks the very way in which food and things are distributed.” It attacks the idea of property, because to get the property to buy things, they have to work for a boss, in order to buy things. She considers this “unjust,” because the way the “world is organized” in this manner is “for the profit of the people who own the stores and the factories.”
In short, according to Osterweil, looting demonstrates that “without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.”
Of course, contrary to Osterweil’s nonsense, it is quite clear that, as the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Someone paid for it. That someone, as Osterweil alluded to, is the person who either made the product, or provided the service of storing the product until someone is willing and able to buy it. It is important to note, in the present atmosphere in which local police are under assault — both figuratively and literally — that the police’s role in society, of protecting those who actually pay for things, is condemned. After all, they keep looters from just taking your stuff “for free.” At least free to them.
Osterweil also argued that looting is a way of attacking “white supremacy,” because it “strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police.” Because of this, rioting and looting is “joyous.” No doubt Jesse James and the Younger brothers had a few laughs, too.
Not only is looting “joyous,” it is also part of the “history of the movement for liberation in America.” According to Osterweil’s radicalized version of American history, looters have “always” been a part of “our movement.”
Despite her references to “history,” historical accuracy does not seem to be a strength of Osterweil’s argument (not that her argument has any strengths). She argued that the “Birmingham struggle of ’63, with the famous photos of Bull Connor releasing the police dogs and fire hoses on teenagers,” created the “pressure for Robert F. Kennedy to write the Civil Rights bill and force JFK to sign it.” It is probable that Attorney General Robert Kennedy had quite a bit of input into President John Kennedy’s proposal of a civil rights bill. But contrary to Osterweil’s assertion, JFK never signed the Civil Rights bill. It never made it to the president’ desk to sign it, as it did not pass Congress until after the assassination of President Kennedy. It was President Lyndon Johnson who signed the bill, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which Congress passed (with a larger percentage of Republican votes than Democratic votes).
Another erroneous assertion made by Osterweil in the interview was that looting was not only nonviolent, “it’s not actually hurting any people.” Her reasoning was, “Most stores are insured; it’s just hurting insurance companies on some level. It’s just money. It’s just property.”
Actually, it is hurting people, because people own property. Property has no rights in itself — people have a right to own property in a free society. And if insurance companies have to pay out settlements to businesses, that means that they may not be able to employ as many individuals. Of course, in Osterweil’s Marxist view, employees are oppressed anyway, because they are working for a boss. As Frederic Bastiat, a 19th-century French philosopher who opposed the socialists of his day, explained it, what is seen is that the business is rebuilt (not always, of course, as some business owners opt to leave areas most vulnerable to looting and arson), with the help of insurance. What is not seen is that the cost of providing insurance in such riot-prone areas will rise. That means a business owner will have less money to buy other products, hire more workers, and the like.
Osterweil has no sympathy for local small business owners, anyway. “To say you’re attacking you 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 the owner.” (I wonder why they would follow around someone prone to shoplifting.)
“When it comes to small business,” Osterweil argues, “family owned business or locally owned business, they are not more likely to provide worker protections [than big business].” Osterweil dismissed admiration for small business owners as a “Republican myth,” and a “right-wing myth.”
What Osterweil has demonstrated with her book is that Marxism is really not primarily a disease of poor people, or working people, but more often it is a malady suffered by pseudo-intellectuals like Vicky Osterweil. While she writes her books about how looting is a way for those who do not want to work for boss to get stuff, these very same small business owners might just choose to leave such high-crime areas. Others who might otherwise have opened, say, a small grocery store, may think twice about it — or maybe even three times. Insurance companies are not too keen on insuring businesses that are likely to be burned down or looted, and a prospective business owner just might not be able to get insured.
This explains why so many leftists are enamored with anarchism. They hate government because they see it as an institution that protects private property. And the people who are given the task of protecting private property most directly are the police. That is why the police are so hated by those on the Left. At least, they hate local police. They tend to favor the abolition of local police, so as to replace it with federal police. They also favor taking guns away from law-abiding citizens, leaving them without the means to defend themselves when the police are taken away. So then only federal police will have guns.
Stealing stuff can be a very dangerous proposition if the stuff is stolen from those who may be armed. But once the fear of getting shot by a homeowner or storeowner is diminished by disarming them, looting will become a much more attractive career choice (you might even be your own boss in your looting business).
And NPR, funded by the taxpayers like you, provided a forum for this nonsense.
Steve Byas is a university instructor in history and government and the author of History’s Greatest Libels. He may be contacted at [email protected].
Courtesy of The New American