A Word on Looting

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disasters, natural and unnatural

Apparently there is some looting going on in Japan, after all, contrary to myth. Oh, and contrary to Faux News.

It interests me that the “no looting in Japan” meme has been so embraced by the Right. Over the past few days I’ve also seen a number of comments that claimed there was no looting in Iowa after the 2008 floods (not true); there was no looting in New York City after 9/11 (actually there was, but not by poor people), but New Orleans was a looting riot (exaggerated in news stories) after Hurricane Katrina. And this is explained by racial factors, naturally.

I’ve said before that comparisons between 9/11 and Katrina are absurd, because the natures of the tragedies were entirely different. In Katrina, people were trapped for days without rescue or provisions. On 9/11, the survivors could walk a few blocks and find everything from hot dog vendors to grocery stores to five-star gourmet restaurants open for business.

And also, on the days that followed 9/11, lower Manhattan was closed off and patrolled by NYPD and the National Guard.

The more interesting question is why there wasn’t more looting in New York City during the 2003 blackout, when a similar blackout in 1977 touched off a festival of crime. Interesting article about that at History News Network.

In brief, relative order after a disaster has a lot to do with the degree to which people trust the social contract to look out for them. New Orleans residents, particularly in the areas most impacted by floods, had little reason to trust the system. And the system pretty much proved they were right.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Mar 19, 2011 @1:05 pm

    First, if there’s been an emergency on the level of the tsunami, or Katrina, or a 9/11, it ain’t looting (at least to me) when you’re taking food, water, or other necessities from damaged shops if there’s no one guarding those shops (owners washed away to sea, maybe?). Now, sorry, but that 60 inch plasma TV is not a necessity no matter how much you may want one and say it is.

    Second, if you want to see REAL LOOTING, just take a look at what’s happening here in this country, as the wealthy loot the middle class and the poor.
    I guess that’s a lesser crime than what’s going to happen soon, which, after they finally kill all of us, will be ‘grave robbing!’
    But, by then, they’ll change the laws and digging up corpses to pull the pennies off the eyes, or the gold from the teeth, in their never ending quest for more, more, more, grave robbing won’t be a crime, it’ll be called “A Decomposition Donation.” After all, our Galtian Overlords deserve every last shekel from every last one of us. They’ve “earned” it!

    Breaking into a store at night and taking a 60 inch plasma pales in comparison to what’s happening out in broad daylight in this country.
    Shit, the Somali pirates would be ashamed if we were ever to compare them to the rich assholes in this country. At least they “loot” and steal because they need to. Not because they enjoy it.

  2. LillithMc  •  Mar 19, 2011 @4:33 pm

    Good comment cundgulag.

  3. jugheadjack  •  Mar 19, 2011 @7:40 pm

    The Somali pirates steel because a man can’t stand to go without food, and neither will he allow his childeren to go without food. The repugs want to eliminate our government also, so we will be in the same boat as the Somali pirates before you know it.

  4. joanr16  •  Mar 19, 2011 @8:15 pm

    I remember all the Rightie crowing after the Iowa floods. Besides being astonishingly racist, it ignored the fact that Iowa’s then-Republican governor got the Feds there within hours. FEMA showed up, the National Guard, everybody. Also, in Iowa just a river flooded, not a river, a lake and a gulf all at once to inundate and isolate a city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. In short, it was a classic right-wing false equivalence, a (non)discipline in which some (like our pal Teach) have a PhD.

  5. joanr16  •  Mar 19, 2011 @8:21 pm

    Ooh, my bad: Iowa’s governor at the time of the floods was a Democrat. (Chet Culver) The Feds sure treated him a lot better than they did Kathleen Blanco.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Mar 20, 2011 @7:53 am

    And now, completely OT, and apropos of nothing:
    It’s Sunday!
    Which stupid gasbag show(s) have YOU sworn off watching?

    You know how “Meet the Press” may as well be called “Same Ol’ Guests?” Well, I had an idea:
    Get rid of Gregory and the desk.
    Put in a comfortable old sofa big enough to fit the lard asses of Nutz Gingrich, Johnny McSame, and Joe Leibers-himself, then put the host, Pat Buchanan, in an armchair to their left, give them each a beer to drink, and call it “All in the Family!”
    They can then all sit there and bitch about the schvartze in the White House, get out a Ouija board and channel David Broder to remind Obama that this is a center-right nation and that he needs to get rid of Social Security in a bipartisan manner, and get tough on some Muslim nation (the country can vary from week to week – for some variety).
    To lighten things up once in awhile, Buchanan can tell some old Gestapo interrogation jokes – in the original German.
    Towards the end of the show, all three guests and the host get a minute each to tell everyone what they’d do if they were President.
    Now, THAT, I might watch!

    Nah, on second though, that’s what we have now with Gregory and these same guests – just without the sofa, armchair and beer.
    Oh well, I thought I might have had something there…

  7. Swami  •  Mar 20, 2011 @8:24 am

    Let’s give Michelle Bachman a show teaching American history on the History channel! Something reminiscent of Sherman and Peabody.

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Mar 20, 2011 @8:50 am

    Swami,
    That’s MR. Peabody!
    My favorite line from that cartoon came from Mr. Peabody: “Every dog should have a boy!”

  9. erinyes  •  Mar 20, 2011 @8:53 am

    Half a dozen “Nucular” reactors are melting down in Japan, Israel is using air power in retaliation for Pals launchng bottle rockets. Netan Yahoo presses on for more “settlements”, sticks middle finger in Obama’s eye.
    What does Obama do?
    Attack Libya with Tommahawk missiles!
    U.S. and British forces launch over 111 cruse missiles, Stealth bombers dropping bombs with “minimal” collateral damage.General Barry McCaffery is back with his cerebral “Anal-ysis”; why can’t he just fucking retire?
    The “five sided war box ” is at it again.
    Now THAT”S change we can believe in.

    Obama needs to establish a “NO FLY” zone over Gaza and the west bank, and help the Japanese get the nuke plants stabilized.
    Prioritah for the authoritah!
    ‘Might as well face it, we’re addicted to war……….

  10. erinyes  •  Mar 20, 2011 @8:57 am
  11. goatherd  •  Mar 20, 2011 @9:20 am

    I suppose the low point of Katrina, out of so many world class contenders, would be the incident at Gretna bridge, where police turned back a group of survivors escaping from New Orleans.

    This was an event that would be unthinkable in any social order resembling civilization, until it happened. And it happened HERE. As the social contract is shredded we seem to be losing the status of being a nation, if I can require that a nation is a group of people with a shared history and a compatible set of social values. A nation is a group of people with disparate needs and resources bound together by a social order that is sufficiemtly just and egalitarian to be stable and secure. (Okay, this is entirely subjective and almost certainly incorrect, but that is what we WERE.)

    We seem to be headed toward being “The United Corporations of America” which has its designs for empire. We’re not so much a nation, but just a group of consumers, formerly know as citizens, living on the same land mass. Of course there are big, important consumers and little consumers, those of us who just seem to get in the way.

  12. Swami  •  Mar 20, 2011 @10:23 am

    General Barry McCaffery is back with his cerebral “Anal-ysis”; why can’t he just fucking retire?

    Maybe because he hasn’t gotten his Freedom Medal yet. Actually, I thought Gen. Benard Trainor or Tommy Franks would have gotten the gig. Franks holds the trademark for Shock and Awe™ and I would suspect that a 121 Tomahawk cruise missile launch constitutes some sort of shock and awe, so I’m surprised he’s allowing McCarefree to muscle in on his turf.

    One thing I can say about McCaffrey is that he was the best drug czar we ever had. He was to the drug war what Grant was to the Civil War.

  13. joanr16  •  Mar 20, 2011 @12:57 pm

    It’s Sunday! Which stupid gasbag show(s) have YOU sworn off watching?

    In my case, all of them. I reserve my Sunday mornings for the First Church of the Maytag (laundromat). It has no teevee, and the tumbling clothes in the dryers make more sense than the bloviating noggins on the talk shows.

    I suppose the low point of Katrina, out of so many world class contenders, would be the incident at Gretna bridge, where police turned back a group of survivors escaping from New Orleans.

    Agreed… I still have trouble comprehending that it happened in the USA, in 2005. Never mind looting, people were shot by the cops while leaving.

  14. Kathleen in Baton Rouge  •  Mar 20, 2011 @10:19 pm

    Ah, Katrina, a nightmare for all of us. The cops were not only shooting victims of the storm, but officers also met people trying to get out of the city with guns, not letting them come into ‘their’ parish. The absolute worst looting occurred systematically by a group of NOLA’s finest and they even stole the bus to haul their goodies out of town with. I keep wondering what the nuts think America would look like without a government. To me, it would look like NOLA after Katrina. Blanco got a bad rap all the way around and Jindal and his crowd made sure to make her look imcompetent in order to win the governor seat. And it worked!

    ON a personal note, I do so much enjoy all of you. I read this blog and all the comments daily. I usually stay silent cuz I have nothing to add to all the brilliance that shines from all of you.

    However, my best news is that I leave for Honolulu this week for a 6 week vacation! I have 5 grandchildren I haven’t met and three who haven’t seen me in a long time. I managed to purchase my ticket just before the madness about oil began and the prices became ridiculous. So, I will be reading you from the sunny leeward coast of Oahu by this Friday…ke aloha pumehana, Kathleen

  15. joanr16  •  Mar 21, 2011 @8:53 am

    Kathleen… enjoy the sun! Safe travels to you.

  16. c u n d gulag  •  Mar 21, 2011 @9:33 am

    If you can, Kathleen, go to the big island of Hawaii. It’s beautiful. Especially the volcanoes.
    But be careful where you step.
    And don’t take any stones as souveniers. They’re the children of the Volcano Goddess, and she seeks revenge on anyone who takes even one of them.



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