We inhabit a culture in which high-brow polemics are banned and banished from the public square by grubby, low-brow, social engineers like Facebook functionaries.
In the same culture, a new kind of Kafka confronts any author whose thoughts veer from those of the mono-cultural mainstream.
Books that enlighten never see the light of day; badly written pamphlets that dim debate find publishers and “respectable” reviewers (for now).
One such immoral enterprise is Vicky Osterweil’s In Defence of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action.
To its disgrace, the Economist has gone along and dignified the author’s hedonistic “argument” from criminality:
Some civil-rights activists fret that the latest events in Chicago will weaken national support for police reform that has grown in the months since Floyd was killed. The Rev Jesse Jackson called the events in Chicago “humiliating, embarrassing” and “morally wrong” on August 10th. Not everyone agreed.
A few radical activists, including some associated with Black Lives Matter in Chicago, argued that looting can be legitimate. One woman, protesting at a police station that held arrested looters, called it a form of “reparations” for white oppression.
This really is a live debate. Vicky Osterweil, author of “In Defence of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action”, published this month, sets out the same argument at book length. Looting by the poor, black or otherwise repressed is a radical tactic that brings welcome change, in her view. Peaceful civil-rights demonstrations are too easily ignored, whereas “riots and looting are more effective at attracting attention to a cause”. The shared experience of looting can also be “joyous”, produce “community cohesion”, count as a small act of “direct redistribution of wealth” and, she reckons, does little harm to those who have insurance. She thinks it also leads people to question high levels of inequality.
Her claims are unconvincing. Those who snatched swag from Gucci or Louis Vuitton in order to sell them on hardly share her anti-capitalist views. Nor is it clear that looting spreads solidarity in poor neighbourhoods. The grandmother of the man shot by police condemned the looting. Ms Osterweil might be right, however, that residents of poor areas, who rarely even set foot in the wealthy central parts of their city, are fed up. Looting is not a helpful way to respond, but the resentment at this disparity is real enough …
Osterweil’s political porn has two rotten reader reviews on Amazon:
1. “Poorly written, poorly reasoned.” One star.
2. “Garbage: terrible ideas and a terrible book.” One star.
Yet, is has a rather good Amazon rank. How you ask? The rank is not market-generated, but is due to the corrupt enterprise of university book-buying. State subsidized university libraries have enormous budgets to purchase drek with which to indoctrinate your kids. They will pay hundreds of dollars a copy.
Down to its libraries, the American universities are corrupt.
China might control thinking in its universities, but do their apparatchiks promote material meant to make the people thieving, dumb and decadent? Unlikely, considering that the Chinese have a wicked work ethic, low-crime rates and that criminality is severely punished.
Here’s the disgrace of In Defense Of Looting, a “book”: someone read the book, endorsed its publication, someone edited it, someone else set it in type, designed a cover, compiled an index, read the proofs. Now people are reviewing it.
The sophistry required to make these arguments, and to believe that a de-individuated mob engaged in looting and arson can somehow rationally focus its destruction on the “right targets” and limit its actions, is incredible.
‘In Defense of Looting' https://t.co/F0bn7jEFLy
— Nicholas A. Christakis (@NAChristakis) August 29, 2020