NPR Promotes Author’s Defense of Looting as ‘Imaginative Sense of Freedom and Pleasure’

Vicky Osterweil justified the violent rioters who smash store windows and steal the property of store owners are simply engaging looting as a means to address the unequal distribution of wealth.

According to NPR, Osterweil somehow differentiates between the “looting” she says she is “defending,” i.e., “the mass expropriation of property, mass shoplifting during a moment of upheaval or riot,” and “any situation in which property is stolen by force.”

Without any pushback from NPR, Osterweil said looting demonstrates how the world is “unjust” and it “attacks the history of whiteness and white supremacy”:

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.

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.

“What are some of the most common myths and tropes that you hear about looting?” is an example of a question NPR asked Osterweil.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Osterweil also said progressives who criticize the violent riots have bought into the premise that the civil rights movement of the 1960s was “nonviolent.”

“Nonviolence emerged in the ’50s and ’60s during the civil rights movement, [in part] as a way to appeal to Northern liberals,” she told NPR. “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.”

She added the fact that while looting “freaks people out,” it is still “basically nonviolent.”

“You’re mass shoplifting,” she minimized. “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.”

Osterweil continued it is “a Republican myth” that small, family-owned businesses provide greater benefits to a local community than big corporations.

“They are no more likely to have to provide good stuff for the community than big businesses,” she said, adding it’s a “right-wing myth” that has “crawled into even leftist discourse” that “the small business owner must be respected” because he or she “creates jobs.”

Osterweil concluded by denying the value of nonviolent protests.

“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,” she defended.