With lawlessness and organized looting threatening to take down Joe Biden (which is why I’ve been calling the riots “spontaneous pro-Trump rallies”—have they filed their in-kind contribution reports with the FEC by the way?), we’ve seen leading Democrats like AOC say looting is just desperate people trying to get necessities. Like flat screen TVs and Nike shoes, though I haven’t been able to find the FDA’s nutritional guidance on any of these necessities.
For people who haven’t read your book, how do you define looting?
When I use the word looting, I mean the mass expropriation of property, mass shoplifting during a moment of upheaval or riot. That’s the thing I’m defending. . .
Can you talk about rioting as a tactic? What are the reasons people deploy it as a strategy?
It does a number of important things. It gets people what they need for free immediately, which means that they are capable of living and reproducing their lives without having to rely on jobs or a wage—which, during COVID times, is widely unreliable or, particularly in these communities is often not available, or it comes at great risk. That’s looting’s most basic tactical power as a political mode of action.
It also attacks the very way in which food and things are distributed. It attacks the idea of property, and it attacks the idea that in order for someone to have a roof over their head or have a meal ticket, they have to work for a boss, in order to buy things that people just like them somewhere else in the world had to make under the same conditions. It points to the way in which that’s unjust. 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?
. . . one is that looters are just acting as consumers: Why are they taking flat screen TVs instead of rice and beans? Like, if they were just surviving, it’d be one thing, but they’re taking liquor. All these tropes come down to claiming that the rioters and the looters don’t know what they’re doing. They’re acting, you know, in a disorganized way, maybe an “animalistic” way. But the history of the movement for liberation in America is full of looters and rioters. They’ve always been a part of our movement.
What would you say to people who are concerned about essential places like grocery stores or pharmacies being attacked in those communities?
When it comes to small business, family owned business or locally owned business, 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. But that’s actually a right-wing myth.
A business being attacked in the community is ultimately about attacking like modes of oppression that exist in the community.
The whole thing is a window into the mental perversion of today’s left. A lot of people are attacking NPR for featuring such an obvious nut job, but I think we should thank NPR for giving such extended exposure to a view that is widespread in the Democratic Party right now.
If ever there was an opportunity for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to have a “Sister Souljah moment,” it would be right now. Anyone making book that they can do it?