In Defense of Looting? Or Against Nonviolence?
Vicky Osterweil in Conversation with Andrew Keen on
the Keen On Podcast
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On today’s episode, Vicky Osterweil, author of In Defense of Looting, discusses the controversy of her new book and a real desire for change in the liberation movements.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: I don’t know how you came up with the title of the book. It’s a good title and I’m sure it’s selling it very well, and it’s getting a lot of press. Could the book have also been called In Defense of Violence? Because there’s a Fanon-ist element, I think, to your work, to the book and to your thinking. Were you influenced by Frantz Fanon and his cult of violence?
Vicky Osterweil: I don’t think Frantz Fanon had a cult of violence.
Andrew Keen: I don’t mean that necessarily critically either for you or Fanon.
Vicky Osterweil: No, no. I appreciate that. I’ve read Fanon’s work, but it wasn’t actually very crucial for this book. In the end, I didn’t end up revisiting him, as much because there was a limited amount of time and research I could do when I was holding down other day jobs and trying to write this book. But I think in defense of violence is not actually what the book is arguing.
Against Nonviolence might be one title for one angle that the book is working on. But the distinction between nonviolence and violence is a lot like the distinction between pro-life and pro-choice. Once you’ve framed it that way, you’ve already lost the fight, you know? Like who wouldn’t want to be pro-life? But when that means actually women suffering with babies they don’t want, suddenly it’s a different question.
So I think the nonviolence-violence dichotomy, which, you know, under that framework, violence includes both the murder of Breonna Taylor in her home and the smashing of a window in response to her murder. If violence includes both those things, it can’t be a concept that truly can guide me morally.
I think ultimately, we either have to define violence much more narrowly—and I don’t think that’s actually very helpful; I think it can be helpful to think about violence as a very broad topic; I actually think that’s a better use of the word—or we have to not try and think about our goals as violent versus nonviolent. But I think that that term, which takes place largely in the 60s, towards judging a movement by its nonviolence, is precisely the problem that I’m trying to grapple with in the book. So it’s not in defense of violence, but I certainly am hoping that people take a different view of nonviolence after reading the book.
Vicky Osterweil is a writer, editor, and agitator and a regular contributor to The New Inquiry. Her writing has also appeared in The Baffler, The Nation, The Rumpus, Real Life, and Al Jazeera America.