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Love that looting ideology!

By Laurence Maher - posted Wednesday, 9 September 2020

It is to be hoped that the controversy about who has been perpetrating the recent violence in cities and towns across the United States of America can be subjected to a prompt, thorough and independent investigation. In large measure, that controversy is at the forefront of the clash of ideas which will be tested in the looming Presidential election. The fervent anti-Trump camp blames Right-wing Anarcho-Fascists and their police and other supporters. The fervent Trump camp blames Left-wing Anarcho-Fascists and their media and other supporters.

The mobs have terrorised the people who have had the singular misfortune to be in their rampaging path. They have looted and burned down homes, churches, factories, corner grocery stores and other retail business premises in low income neighbourhoods, targeting police stations, and satisfying their cravings by making smash and grab raids on their favourite high-end designer retail outlets.

For readers interested in sampling the anti-Trump case, it can be found in Paul Krugman's op-ed piece in The New York Times on 3 September last. This has been described by skeptics as the "mostly peaceful rioting" thesis. For readers interested in obtaining some sense of the nature and scale of the violence, destruction and effects of the rampaging rioters, the US Left dissenter, Michael Tracey, has described his weeks-long trip from New Jersey to the West Coast surveying what had occurred along the way, and eliciting responses from the locals.


To the extent that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution protects "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms", there are armed militias on both sides of Left/Right political divide. Sections of each travelled to Charlottesville, Virginia to protest on 12 August 2017 against, or to support, the decision of the City of Charlottesville to remove two Civil War monuments. In the Report of the (Heaphy) Review which was set up by the City to inquire into the breakdown in public order on 12 August 2017 and events before and after that day, both sets of armed militias (and the Council and law enforcement agencies) were found to have contributed to the breakdown in law and order and the ensuing violence, deaths and injuries in Charlottesville.

Before that report was released, the City of Charlottesville applied in the State Circuit Court for an injunction forbidding a threatened return of the warring militias to "mark" the first anniversary of the 2017 clashes of the militias. Although the City tried to differentiate between the roles and culpability of the competing militias and although there was a lot of indignation on the part of some of the defendants, including the dangerous Left Redneck Revolt militia (which was lionized in early 2018 by our foolish national broadcaster which flagrantly flouts its explicit statutory obligations in barracking for the anti-Trump cause). However, none of the defendants could muster the civic fortitude to fight the case peacefully on its merits; they all consented to the Court's order forbidding them to return to make more trouble for the good, peaceful folks in Charlottesville on both sides of the (continuing) statues controversy.

There are several strands to the anti-Trump camp's position on the Left's use of violence: it is always a response to the violence initiated by the "Trumpers", any response is always justified personal self-defence and/or the defence of others, and the overall scale of such violence is on a markedly lower level than the Right's. However, some sections of the anti-Trump camp dispense with those claims and insist on the ideological position that property destruction and harming human beings are profoundly different actions.

In what a generation ago would have found a leading place in the theatre of Monty Python absurdity, the US has entered an era of the ideology of Strategic Looting Studies. One of its leading lights who has authored a book entitled, An Argument for Looting, said recently "Often, looting is more common among movements that are coming from below. It tends to be an attack on a business, a commercial space, maybe a government building-taking those things that would otherwise be commodified and controlled and sharing them for free."

What is more contemptible – that such bizarre thinking deserves any publicity, or that sections of the anti-Trump Left are so disaffected with the rule of law that they applaud such a violation of individual liberty? One wit has drawn attention to the fact that the author of the book insists on asserting her property rights in the book.

The Postmodern irony seems to be limitless. The inherent contradictions in the prevailing ideological version of multiculturalism prevalent in many Western societies nowadays has reached a turning point not only in the history of ideas but also, not surprisingly, in the history of the selling of ideas. An inventive mind can produce a campaign to sell anything, from the most mundane consumer product to the craziest or most despicable of ideas. The powerful combination of State compulsion, private sector mercantile ingenuity, fear and faddism has given birth to the [stupendous] money-making "space" in modern Capitalism which is the Cultural Diversity Re-education, Training and Management Sector.


In the context of race, the strict policing of ideas and speech has been atomised to the point where the prevailing multicultural concept of "diversity" has led to a frowned-upon inherited racial characteristic called "Whiteness" (the study of which has been incubating in academia here for decades). How is it possible to "deconstruct" the recent sudden outbursts of quasi-religious hysteria, self-shaming, and public displays of group self-abasement by individuals who, on the face of it, appear to have fallen for the idea that they have been born with a form of Original Racial Sin - a lifelong disabling and incurable physical/mental defect which can only be alleviated by systematic de-programming and lifelong self-abasement.

One way is to draw a line commencing with Voltaire's Candide (1759) and the quest of Dr Pangloss for the best for all in the best of all possible worlds, followed by Adam Smith, Charles Mackey (Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness Of Crowds (1841)), Samuel Smiles, (Self-Help–National and Individual (1859)), Karl Marx, and Phineas T Barnum.

By the end of the Nineteenth Century,the integrated world of advertising and marketing, PR, and the scientific analysis of human psychology had been established. In time, The Self in all its obsessive dimensions (including modern self-loathing) emerged at the forefront of highly marketable "products". The line proceeds to the contribution of Dale Carnegie (born Carnagey), for three decades a failed salesman, who hit the self-help/self-obsession/journey jackpot with How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) and followed up in the Post-war new age with How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1948).

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About the Author

L W Maher is a Melbourne barrister with a special interest in defamation and other free speech-related disputes. He has written extensively on Australian Cold War legal history.

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