Graeme Wood of The Atlantic wrote, “Last week, NPR’s Code Switch published an interview with Vicky Osterweil, the author of In Defense of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action. NPR summarizes the book as an argument that ‘looting is a powerful tool to bring about real, lasting change in society.’ If the real, lasting change you wish to effect is burning society to cinders and crippling for a generation its ability to serve its poorest citizens, then I suppose I am forced to agree.”
Wood also wrote, “I am also from recent-immigrant stock. Osterweil euphemizes looting as ‘proletarian shopping,’ and no one from a place that has recently experienced this phenomenon can take seriously her assurance that it can happen justly and bloodlessly. When I think of riots and smashed storefronts, I think of Kristallnacht. I think of American businesses built by penniless immigrants who preferred to forfeit their vacations and weekends for 30 years rather than see their children suffer as they did; I think of these businesses ransacked in 30 minutes and left in ruins. Osterweil at least has the psychology right when she says that looting can be ‘joyous and liberatory.’ I have never seen a sullen looter, but I have seen plenty of shop owners crying next to the smoking remains of their children’s future.”
There were reasons looters once were shot on sight.
They were good reasons, too.