Surprise, Surprise! Vicky Osterweil, Author of In Defense of Looting, Used to be Willie Osterweil
08/30/2020
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As I’ve been pointing out for some time, more than a few of our New Idols of Utmost Diversity, male-to-female trans folks, tend to be nasty sons-of-a-gun. Not surprisingly, therefore, a wildly disproportionate percentage of Antifa appear to be trans.

For example, many are currently talking about this NPR interview with Vicky Osterweil, author of In Defense of Looting. Personally, I find this a pretty intelligent point of view, but just from a fundamentally bad person:

AMERICA RECKONS WITH RACIAL INJUSTICE
One Author’s Argument ‘In Defense Of Looting’
Code Switch
August 27, 202012:08 PM ET
Natalie Escobar

… Writer Vicky Osterweil’s book, In Defense of Looting, came out on Tuesday. When she finished it, back in April, she wrote (rather presciently) that “a new energy of resistance is building across the country.” Now, as protests and riots continue to grip cities, she argues that looting is a powerful tool to bring about real, lasting change in society. The rioters who smash windows and take items from stores, she says, are engaging in a powerful tactic that questions the justice of “law and order,” and the distribution of property and wealth in an unequal society.

I spoke with Osterweil about this summer’s riots, the common narratives surrounding looting, and why “nonviolence” can be a misleading term. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

… Q. Is Looting a Loaded Word?

A. Looting is a highly racialized word from its very inception in the English language. It’s taken from Hindi, lút, which means “goods” or “spoils,” and it appears in an English colonial officer’s handbook [on “Indian Vocabulary”] in the 19th century.

… Q. Can you talk about rioting as a tactic? What are the reasons people deploy it as a strategy?

A. 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.

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. 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. 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.

That’s what the videos of black youths looting Targets tend to show: They are having a blast.

Q. What are some of the most common myths and tropes that you hear about looting?

A. One of the ones that’s been very powerful, that’s both been used by Donald Trump and Democrats, has been the outside agitator myth, that the people doing the riots are coming from the outside. This is a classic. This one goes back to slavery, when plantation owners would claim that it was Freedmen and Yankees coming South and giving the enslaved these crazy ideas—that they were real human beings—and that’s why they revolted.

My impression is that the first night of a riot is usually local black kids looting stores. The second night is more white Recreational Rioters who have driven in for the political arson.

Another trope that’s very common is that looters and rioters are not part of the protest, and they’re not part of the movement. That has to do with the history of protesters trying to appear respectable and politically legible as a movement, and not wanting to be too frightening or threatening.

Another 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.

Q. In your book, you note that a lot of people who consider themselves radical or progressive criticize looting. Why is this common?

A. I think a lot of that comes out of the civil rights movement. The popular understanding of the civil rights movement is that it was successful when it was nonviolent, and less successful when it was focused on Black power. It’s a myth that we get taught over and over again from the first moment we learn about the civil rights movement: that it was a nonviolent movement, and that that’s what matters about it. And it’s just not true.

Nonviolence emerged in the ’50s and ’60s during the civil rights movement, [in part] as a way to appeal to Northern liberals. When it did work, like with the lunch counter sit-ins, it worked because Northern liberals could flatter themselves that racism was a Southern condition. This was also in the context of the Cold War and a mass anticolonial revolt going on all over Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Suddenly all these new independent nations had just won liberation from Europe, and the U.S. had to compete with the Soviet Union for influence over them. So it was really in the U.S.’s interests to not be the country of Jim Crow, segregation and fascism, because they had to appeal to all these new Black and Brown nations all over the world.

Those two things combined to make nonviolence a relatively effective tactic. Even under those conditions, Freedom Riders and student protesters were often protected by armed guards. We remember the Birmingham struggle of ’63, with the famous photos of Bull Connor releasing the police dogs and fire hoses on teenagers, as nonviolent. But that actually turned into the first urban riot in the movement. Kids got up, threw rocks and smashed police cars and storefront windows in that combat. There was fear that that kind of rioting would spread. That created the pressure for Robert F. Kennedy to write the Civil Rights bill and force JFK to sign it.

But there’s also another factor, which is anti-Blackness and contempt for poor people who want to live a better life, which looting immediately provides. One thing about looting is it 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.

Q. During recent riots, a sentiment I heard a lot was that looters in cities like Minneapolis were hurting their own cause by destroying small businesses in their own neighborhoods, stores owned by immigrants and people of color. What would you say to people who make that argument?

A. People who made that argument for Minneapolis weren’t suddenly celebrating the looters in Chicago, who drove down to the richest part of Chicago, the Magnificent Mile, and attacked places like Tesla and Gucci—because It’s not really about that. It’s a convenient way of positioning yourself as though you are sympathetic.

But looters and rioters don’t attack private homes. They don’t attack community centers. In Minneapolis, there was a small independent bookstore that was untouched. All the blocks around it were basically looted or even leveled, burned down. And that store just remained untouched through weeks of rioting.

I wonder why?

To say you’re attacking your own community is to say to rioters, you don’t know what you’re doing. But I disagree. I think people know. They might have worked in those shops. They might have shopped and been followed around by security guards or by the owner. You know, one of the causes of the L.A. riots was a Korean small-business owner murdering 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, who had come in to buy orange juice. And that was a family-owned, immigrant-owned business where anti-Blackness and white supremacist violence was being perpetrated.

I think Vicky is just trolling with the “Korean small business owner” perpetrating “white supremacist violence” by this point.

Q. What would you say to people who are concerned about essential places like grocery stores or pharmacies being attacked in those communities?

A. 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. It is true and possible that there are instances historically when businesses have refused to reopen or to come back. But that is a part of the inequity of the society, that people live in places where there is only one place where they can get access to something [like food or medicine]. That question assumes well, what if you’re in a food desert? But the food desert is already an incredibly unjust situation. There’s this real tendency to try and blame people for fighting back, for revealing the inequity of the injustice that’s already been formed by the time that they’re fighting.

Q. I have heard a lot of talk about white anarchists who weren’t part of the movement, but they just came in to smash windows and make a ruckus.

A. It’s a classic trope, because it jams up people who might otherwise be sort of sympathetic to looters. There’s a reason that Trump has embraced the “white anarchist” line so intensely. It does a double service: It both creates a boogeyman around which you can stir up fear and potential repression, and it also totally erases the Black folks who are at the core of the protests. It makes invisible the Black people who are rising up and who are initiating this movement, who are at its core and its center, and who are doing its most important and valuable organizing and its most dangerous fighting.

Not surprisingly, Vicky Osterweil was previously peddling the same line under the name of Willie Osterweil:

Either Vicky Osterweil is Willie Osterweil’s plagiarist sister or …

Thanks to a commenter for this from Vice:

We Can’t Have a Feminist Future Without Abolishing the Family

The feminist thinker Sophie Lewis has a radical proposal for what comes next.

Sophie Lewis is more or less the real-life (?) Titania McGrath, as I’ve pointed out a couple of times. Back to Vice:

By Marie Solis
February 21, 2020, 6:00am

… Earlier that month, at a lecture in Lower Manhattan hosted by the arts journal e-flux, Lewis, who is 31, reflected on what some might see as an obvious irony to her crisscrossing the ocean to care for her ailing mother: Verso Books had just published her first book, Full Surrogacy Now, a polemic that calls for abolishing the family. …

When Lewis demands “full surrogacy now,” she isn’t talking about commercial surrogacy, or ”Surrogacy™,” as she puts it. Instead, she uses the surrogacy industry to build the argument that all gestation is work because of the immense physical and emotional labor it requires of those who do it. …

She imagines a future where the labor of making new human beings is shared among all of us, “mother” no longer being a natural category, but instead something we can choose.

… Her radical proposition is that we practice “full surrogacy” by abolishing the family. That means caring for each other not in discrete private units (also known as nuclear households), but rather within larger systems of care that can provide us with the love and support we can’t always get from blood relations—something Lewis knows all too well.

Even those of us who might call our family situations relatively “happy” should sign onto this project of demolishing their essential structure, Lewis says. Nuclear households create the infrastructure for capitalism, passing wealth and property down family trees, concentrating it in the hands of the few at the top of our class hierarchy. Maintaining the traditional family structure over time has also meant exploiting people of color and disowning queer children. …

When I visited Lewis in Philadelphia in December, we met at a cafe across the street from her apartment around 1 pm. We’d planned to meet earlier, but that morning Lewis had texted me asking if we could push back our breakfast date a couple of hours—she’d stayed out until 5 am dancing at her partner Vicky Osterweil’s birthday party.

Okaaaaay …

As I wrote in 2019 in a posting entitled: “Sophie Lewis: Is She Titania McGrath’s Sister by a Different Mister?,” “As far as I can tell, Sophie’s career is either for real or a truly elaborate hoax.”

What if the reality is that Osterweil and Lewis are simply a normal young white heterosexual couple trying to make it in the intellectual business in an era that is increasingly hostile to normal young white heterosexuals, so, as self-promoting but also self-defensive branding exercises, they have concocted absurdly radical — Abolish the Family! In Defense of Looting! — standpoints?

This sounds like a couple of characters in an Evelyn Waugh satire updated 90 years to 2020.

Or maybe they are sincere …

[Comment at Unz.com]

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