An author of a new book defending looting is sparking outrage after an NPR interview in which she said looting gives people “an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure.”
“Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police,” author Vicky Osterweil said in the interview. “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.”
Riots and looting have torn through American cities since the death of George Floyd in police custody in May. They were reignited again in Kenosha, Wis., after the police shooting of Jacob Blake Sunday. There also was looting in Minneapolis this week after a suspected gunman killed himself as police neared.
While the looting has taken its toll on local businesses and economies already hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, Osterweil said it also works as a “political mode of action.”
“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,” Osterweil claims. “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.”
The author, who finished the book “In Defense of Looting” in April before the surge in looting over the summer, said she does not condone home invasions or the taking of property by force, and later said that looting “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,” she says.
The author appears to have little sympathy for local and small businesses destroyed by the criminal activity, claiming “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,” she said.
The interview quickly picked up heat online, with many expressing disbelief both at Osterweil’s views, as well as taxpayer-funded NPR’s decision to give them such an airing.
“This glorification of looting and property damage is absolutely despicable and shameful, @NPR,” Erielle Davidson, policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, tweeted.
Hillsdale College Professor Ben Winegard, meanwhile, called the column “absolutely bats***.”
“To be completely clear, she has the absolute right to express these views and make her case. She should not be harassed,” he tweeted. “However, the arguments are extremely poor and I’m shocked that NPR had her on for an interview.”