In Defense of Looting

In Defense of Looting December 4, 2014

Willie Osterweil (a white punk rocker) has written a defense of the looting in Ferguson, Missouri.  Read it, excerpted and linked to after the jump.  You might also take a look at Time‘s article “In Defense of Rioting.”  How would you answer these arguments?

From Willie Osterweil, In Defense of Looting – The New Inquiry:

Recently an Instagram video circulated of a Ferguson protester discussing the looting and burning of the QuikTrip convenience store. He retorts the all too common accusation thrown at rioters: “People wanna say we destroying our own neighborhoods. We don’t own nothing out here!” This is the crux of the matter, and could be said of most majority black neighborhoods in America, which have much higher concentrations of chain stores and fast food restaurants than non-black neighborhoods. The average per capita income in Ferguson, MO is less than $21,000, and that number almost certainly gets lower if you remove the 35% white population of Ferguson from the equation. How could the average Ferguson resident really say it’s “our QuikTrip”? Indeed, although you might hang out in it, how can a chain convenience store or corporate restaurant earnestly be part of anyone’s neighborhood? The same white liberals who inveigh against corporations for destroying local communities are aghast when rioters take their critique to its actual material conclusion.

The mystifying ideological claim that looting is violent and non-political is one that has been carefully produced by the ruling class because it is precisely the violent maintenance of property which is both the basis and end of their power. Looting is extremely dangerous to the rich (and most white people) because it reveals, with an immediacy that has to be moralized away, that the idea of private property is just that: an idea, a tenuous and contingent structure of consent, backed up by the lethal force of the state. When rioters take territory and loot, they are revealing precisely how, in a space without cops, property relations can be destroyed and things can be had for free.

On a less abstract level there is a practical and tactical benefit to looting. Whenever people worry about looting, there is an implicit sense that the looter must necessarily be acting selfishly, “opportunistically,” and in excess. But why is it bad to grab an opportunity to improve well-being, to make life better, easier, or more comfortable? Or, as Hannah Black put it on Twitter: “Cops exist so people can’t loot ie have nice things for free so idk why it’s so confusing that people loot when they protest against cops” [sic]. Only if you believe that having nice things for free is amoral, if you believe, in short, that the current (white-supremacist, settler-colonialist) regime of property is just, can you believe that looting is amoral in itself.

[Read the rest of it. . .]

HT:  Walter Hudson (and read his response

 

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