We’ve come a long way from Steal This Book. That kind of ethos is alien to millennials. Instead it’s “Pay Twenty Bucks for This Book About Why Stealing is Right”.
Or as Graeme Wood, in a brutal takedown of In Defense of Looting, notes, “(Easily my favorite line in the book was written not by the author but by her publisher, right under the copyright notice: “The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property,” it says. “Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.”)
Steal This Book at least pretended to practice the deranged, horrible nonsense it preached. In Defense of Looting, as I delve into in an article for next week, doesn’t even pretend.
And it’s a whole lot less entertaining.
Say what you will about Abbie Hoffman, “Steal This Book is, in a way, a manual of survival in the prison that is Amerika” is a much more entertaining sentence than Vicky/Willie Osterweil’s Mein Kampf meets Das Kapital academese, “Just as Jews were in 1965, Koreans in 1992 were ‘on the front-line of the confrontation between capital and the residents of central LA—they are the face of capital for these communities.”
Good thing depicting Jews as the face of capital who deserve to be assaulted isn’t classic antisemitism or anything.
Wood’s indictment of Osterweil, a troll playing academic, but much less entertaining than actual trolls, is devastating.
“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.”
But that’s the sort of thing you understand if you work for a living.