The spectacular dumbness of our own!


If we had one wish:
If you only read one opinion column today, we'll recommend the opinion column written by Bret Stephens.

Stephens describes a recent act of supernatural dumbness. Let it be said that principal target of the piece should be understood to be NPR.

According to Stephens, NPR seems to be trying to re-elect Trump. Here's how his column starts:
STEPHENS (9/1/20): On Thursday, as Donald Trump was about to accept the Republican nomination from the South Lawn of the White House with warnings that “No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” National Public Radio was doing its small part to make sure the president would be re-elected.

NPR’s assistance in this matter was surely unwitting. But that doesn’t make it any less effective.

The assist came in the form of a lengthy interview by NPR’s Natalie Escobar with Vicky Osterweil, author of “In Defense of Looting.” The book makes the case for looting because it “attacks some of the core beliefs and structures of cisheteropatriarchal racial capitalist society”; “rejects the legitimacy of ownership rights and property”; and “reveals all these for what they are: not natural facts, but social constructs benefiting a few at the expense of the many, upheld by ideology, economy and state violence.”

To judge by the NPR interview, “In Defense of Looting” is not an interesting book.
It speaks for almost nobody beyond the fringe left—and certainly not for looters who hadn’t thought about “cisheteropatriarchalism.”...

Nonetheless, the book is symbolically important.
"In Defense of Looting!" He isn't making that up!

Our liberal/progressive tribe has always been massively self-impressed. We've always been completely convinced that we're the smart/brilliant/bright/smart ones.

How much better the world would be if we had the ability to comprehend our tribe's enormous capacity for self-defeating dumbness. If we could be granted only one wish, we might well spend it on that.

Spectacular dumbness also exists among The Others, of course. But good lord! How dumb we progressives can be!

This particular NPR interview is just stupendously dumb. Let's set Osterwald to the side as an incurable case. (She's the author of the book in question.)

Instead, consider the dumbness of NPR in assigning, then choosing to publish, this interview about the wonders of rioting and looting.

Start with the interviewer herself. For all we know, Natalie Escobar may be the world's nicest person, She may be on her way to a deeply productive journalistic career.

That said, she's currently two years out of college—Northwestern, class of 2018—and seems to have almost zero savvy, awareness or overall cultural smarts at this point in time.

There's no reason why Escobar should have masterful smarts at this early date. But her questions—she poses nine in all—persistently read like outtakes from a parody interview. Here are questions 2-4:
Questions 2-4:
During the uprisings of this past summer, rioting and looting have often gone hand in hand. Can you talk about the distinction you see between the two?

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

What are some of the most common myths and tropes that you hear about looting?
Dear god, those myths and tropes! Unsurprisingly, they all turn out to be racist or colonial in nature! And by the way:

Why do people turn to rioting as a tactic? "It does a number of important things," Osterweil says as she starts her response. "It gets people what they need for free immediately."

Who but a deep-thinking progressive would have thought of that?

(Also this: "It also attacks the very way in which food and things are distributed...[You] demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.")

(No, we didn't make that up. Yes, NPR put it in print, and it's attracting attention.)

Question 6 goes like this. You can almost hear votes swinging to Trump, even before an answer is attempted:
Question 6:
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?
Apparently, it's OK to destroy a small business if it belongs to someone who's "white!" So that question's logic seems to say. Can you hear the votes swinging over to Trump?

In his column today, Stephens warns about the way over-thinking of this type could help re-elect Donald J. Trump. Inevitably, the dumbster fires within our own tribe swung into action in comments, defending every syllable which ever fell from tribal lips while attacking Stephens as an obvious running dog working in total bad faith.

At any rate, this is the work of NPR, which is branded as one of our pitiful tribe's brainiest news orgs. Despondent anthropologists keep telling us that there's simply no cure for this.

How much better off we'd be if, Over Here in our liberal tents, we could see how thoroughly hapless we libs and progs frequently tend to be. If we could be granted only one wish, we might wish for that.

The answer to Question 6: Meanwhile, how about it? What about when rioters and looters destroy small businesses owned by immigrants or people of color?

Osterweil has an answer for that! According to major credentialed experts, we "humans" always do!


  1. Hah-hah. Yeah, dear Bob, I've read about this, over at zerohedge.

    "It speaks for almost nobody beyond the fringe left"

    Yeah, right, looting is 'left'. It's what Marx and Engels used to do, after dinner.

    "This particular NPR interview is just stupendously dumb."

    No, dear Bob, NPR itself is stupendously dumb. It used to be just dumb, but after 11/9/2016 it's become stupendously dumb, along with your whole cult.

    "How much better off we'd be if, Over Here in our liberal tents, we could see how thoroughly hapless we libs and progs frequently tend to be."

    But you can always leave your zombie cult, and join us humyns again, dear Bob. Or do they have something on you?

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  2. Somerby understands it took a civil war to end slavery, right? He understands that? Understands the violent rioting that gave birth to the USA?

    Protests are not always popular but they are effective.

    1. It used to be the case that the media frowned upon protest universally. Somerby found some comfort in that, but now the media is less hostile to protest, so now Somerby finds comfort in conservative media, his last remaining safe space.

    2. Protesting is fine, rioting is not. If you can't make that distinction, expect a Trump win in November.

    3. Rioting is a protest made by more desperate people.

      All it takes to turn a protest into a riot is someone willing to instigate violence. Cops start riots, alt-right militias start riots, anarchists start riots, sports fans start riots. In other countries, people seeking food start riots, those seeking free speech start riots when police move in on desperate people. In our country, people want jobs and they want their lives back, they want a sense of control over something. There is agency in spray painting and breaking glass, setting fires. Once someone starts a riot, lots of people participate because people follow the herd. Look at how trampling incidents start -- what conditions start them. Riots are similar.

      We are having these riots because of covid anxieties, job loss and racial conflict (black and brown people are suffering the worst effects of our times). Trump is provoking rioting and conflict, not reducing it.

    4. Studies show that politically left and right people view protests and riots differently.

      If rioting is engaged with purpose, not only is that how we founded this country, got rid of slavery, and gained rights, but it also does not sway presidential elections.

      If Trump wins it will be because we failed to motivate our voters. He won last time, our voters felt unheard, they were not motivated to vote.

      Study: Conservatives are Terrified

    5. Riots sure do slow down a lot when somebody starts shooting, though. Ask the rooftop Koreans.

    6. @4:23 -- we did win the popular vote last time. Russia and Comey had nothing to do with listening to voters.

    7. 4:28 Fair enough, Republicans are expert at suppressing our vote and motivating their base.

    8. The riots, looting, etc. saved us from talking about the dreary virus. We should be thankful!

    9. Ha! You found the silver lining.


    10. “Somerby understands it took a civil war to end slavery, right? He understands that? Understands the violent rioting that gave birth to the USA?

      Protests are not always popular but they are effective.”

      Oh, please. Biden, your candidate, has said that he condemns rioting, violence, and looting.

      Who are you kidding, Che?

    11. Effective? Nuclear bomb is also effective.

      Riots could be a symptom of the underlying social problems. Or they could be instigated by incitement and by professional agitators, paid for by rich and powerful, a-la Soros' 'color revolutions'.

      Or a combination of thereof. Because social problems always do exist. It's just a matter of pushing the right buttons, shifting the blame to one group or another.

      This time, the cops are being scapegoated. Which is, of course, absurd, but hey, liberals have no brains.

      Oh well.

    12. "Because social problems always do exist."

      Thanks Trump.

  3. Somerby grabs a book from what he characterizes as "the fringe left" and attributes it to the entire left, all of us, calling us dumb again. I guarantee that we liberals didn't all write that book.

    Somerby, in his preoccupation with chastising liberals, ignores that many liberals considered Bernie to be just as oddball, fringey and unrealistic as this book seems to Somerby. Bernie the marxist calling for a revolution struck mainstream liberals exactly as misguided as he find this book which argues against property rights and in favor of shared, common equity.

    But then he says: "How dumb we progressives can be!"

    So, maybe he has gotten around to criticizing the bros, who are more likely than liberals to be interested in this kind of viewpoint.

    But Somerby never does draw the connection between an analysis of the meaning of looting and voting for Trump. If someone on the left wrote a dumb book, does it represent Biden's views or anyone's except the author's? How does voting for a manifestly crazy person who has killed people with his lack of covid response outweigh a book that Biden has never endorsed or shown any support for? There have always been left-wing crazies (Susan Sarandon did more to elect Trump, so does Michael Moore and Bill Maher) and they don't swing any votes because everyone with any left leanings sees them for what they are.

    Academics are supposed to examine even cherished beliefs, such as that looting is wrong. It is what a public intellectual does. The author of that book is not running for any office. No candidate has endorsed her ideas. Why then is it any threat to Biden's election or our party?

    Somerby should be examining why Bret Stephens would predict that votes are being swung to Trump on the basis of this stuff. He is directly telling people that they SHOULD consider voting for Trump if they reject looting as a tactic. Somerby SHOULD be arguing against that belief, not suggesting that academics shouldn't be examining our most cherished beliefs.

    A socialist state would apportion goods according to need. With looting, people apportion those goods to themselves based on their own perceived need. The difference is the distribution system. A capitalist grabs more goods than they need by any means possible, often not legal or fair, and a looter does the same thing. How are they not similar? These are ideas worth considering in the middle of pandemic riots and looting in our society. Especially when a segment of the population thinks it is OK to shoot looters on sight. But Somerby thinks the problem is NPR (not even Bret Stephens). What planet does he live on?


    1. So why is a pro-looting book by a mentally ill SJW being pushed by Hachette? Woke for $$$?

    2. See how easy it is to call someone crazy.


    4. See how easy it is to call someone crazy.

  5. Question 6 -- Doesn't Somerby understand that most businesses in minority neighborhoods are not owned by minorities?

    Looters are not thinking about who owns what. They are thinking about what they need. Has Somerby never experienced want?

    1. I too often experience want, then I get up and go to work. For that, they give me money and I buy stuff. No need to loot.

    2. Do you really believe you're a special person because you work in an industry where you didn't get laid off?

      The people who are jobless are having a hard time because of covid. If you were a restaurant worker, for example, where do you go to get another job? All of the restaurants are closed.

    3. I'm going way out on a limb right now but I think most of these looters and rioters aren't unemployed restaurant workers.

    4. It is a good question. Somerby does not work. Who funds Somerby?

      Being forced to do labor to merely meet one's basic needs sounds like a miserable way to live life. Employers only profit when employees are exploited. The cult of work is so ingrained in our society, people submit to it without questioning.

      Having said that, looters are not looting for immediate needs, it is to send a message of protest to the inequalities and inequities of a society ruled by corportatists and capitalists.

    5. 6:05 evidence?

      Trump won last time running against a neoliberal, promising safe space for racists and sexists, and promising health care and a good economy for the working class. He delivered on the former promise, did not even bother with the latter promise. Polls show Sanders would have beat Trump.

      Are Marxists assholes? Marx rightfully criticized capitalism. Thanks for the largest wealth inequality and most miserable society.

    6. Correction, fuck you, Bernie Bro. Go take a nap on your mama's couch, you sound cranky.

    7. If Sanders couldn't win the Democratic primaries (two elections in a row), how was he going to win the general election? Face reality. Was he going to run as a Republican?

    8. Actually I voted for Clinton in 2016, but I think Sanders has the better policies, voted for him this year, and I'll be voting for Biden, as Trump is a nightmare.

      Marx is not popular due to decades of corporatist propaganda, but Marxist ideas are popular among Americans. Some of our country is already socialist, from social security and medicare to the military and highways, from Wall Street bailouts to oil and farm subsidies.

    9. In order to think this helps Trump, you have to remember to forget that Trump won in 2016 with huge support from the NRA, who said the 2nd Amendment is for the citizenry to fight the tyranny of the government (i.e. shoot cops).

    10. Russia funneled money through the NRA to help Trump and Bernie both. The NRA has never advocated shooting cops, who are among their members. They advocate shooting looters and rioters (i.e. peaceful protesters). The NRA is arming white supremacists for the upcoming next civil war (boogaloo).

    11. The NRA was always full of shit.
      They're one of a million scammers who like taking money from dumb Right-wingers.
      Just as you rob a bank because that's where the money is, the reason grifters target Right-wingers is because that's where the simple-minded are.

  6. It seems impossible for parody to out-do reality. Anything that's cutting-edge gets promoted in today's media.

    Aside from this nonsense helping Trump, it's harming society. A certain number of readers and listeners will be persuaded that looting is OK. It's already the case that a number of Democrat-run cities are making little or no effort to imprison looters.

    1. If police won't apprehend murderers such as Rittenhouse, why would they arrest looters?

    2. Holding the police accountable for their actions does not harm society.

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  9. We needed something to come along to save us from talking about the dreary virus all the time. Now, the main issue of the election will be which party lets us have our rioting/looting/arson--which is a much more fun topic. Soon, in about two months, we will be talking about the most catastrophic election in world history--with no winner known for months. American stupidity rescued us from boredom to make this year the best ever!

    1. Nobody likes the riots and looting. A lot of people in these times and economy are not having much fun. If you enjoy other people's pain, there is something wrong with you.

    2. Somebody obviously loves riots and looting, who are you to deny them their fun?

    3. Russia loves riots. It loves to use riots to discredit and divide the left, discouraging voters and suppressing the vote.

      Someone here has been asking where Somerby gets his funding. The Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization, has been funding Facebook pages used to spread disinformation intended to divide the left. Why would they not also fund people like Somerby, who are clearly not liberal and who use their pages to criticize the left and similarly spread dissension?

      Somerby has attacked Biden during the primary and has not supported him since then. Somerby presents barely disguised conservative talking points. Somerby spews non-stop criticism against liberals and their efforts. Everything Somerby does here is in service of Russian goals on behalf of Trump. It is hard to believe Somerby would work this hard for free. Like his preferred candidate, Bernie, Somerby may have no compunctions about accepting Russian funding.

      And who is Goucon? And why has an army of conservative trolls popped up here, on a supposedly liberal blog? There are so many conservative voices that liberals can hardly get a word in edgewise.

      The way to combat this disinformation is to support Biden and not be deterred by the rubbish being circulated here. Trump is not winning, he will not win (as suggested by non-liberals Bill Maher and Michael Moore), and liberals do not need to waste their time listening to Russian lies coming from people pretending to be against Trump while actually moving his agenda forward.

  10. "Gunfire broke out while Charles McMillon Jr., his son, and childhood friend Kendrick Clemons were dropping off a U-Haul truck. The next thing they say they saw was an older couple coming toward them, both pointing guns in their direction.

    The couple ordered them to not move, but McMillon sped off in his truck in a panic. Speaking to the Tallahassee Democrat, McMillon says he thinks they were being racially profiled because they’re Black.

    The two shooters, Wallace Fountain, 77, and his wife, Beverly Fountain, 72, own the Tennessee strip mall where the incident took place and were reportedly staking it out inside another U-Haul truck. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the couple said they were having problems with people stealing gas. But according to McMillon and Clemons, they were profiled by vigilantes and never given a chance to explain why they were there."

    From Rawstory

  11. Right-wing calls for rioters to be "cancelled" is the least surprising thing to happen in my lifetime.
    Every Right-wing accusation is really a confession.

  12. Today Digby's blog discusses the impact of suppression of the black vote on Gore's vote count in Florida in 2000:

    "Filkins recounts the voter purges ordered in 2000 by Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris that may have decided the presidential contest:

    They hired a company called Database Technologies, which was founded by Hank Asher, a former cocaine smuggler and a self-taught computer entrepreneur who sometimes consulted with Rudolph Giuliani on anti-terrorist ventures. Database Technologies presented Florida officials with a choice: they could run a precisely focussed search or a broader one. “The state dictated to us that they wanted to go broader,” George Bruder, a D.B.T. executive, later testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “And we did it in the fashion that they requested.”

    Broader meant much, much sloppier. People with mismatched Social Security numbers and genders, dead people, infants even, plus felons from 10 other states. It meant a list of 60,000 names sent to local Boards of Elections:

    In Leon County, Ion Sancho was skeptical. The list that he received enumerated nearly seven hundred suspected felons, and he doubted that his voter rolls contained so many. Looking more closely, he found that most of the names didn’t match. “We were being told to purge a voter named Johnston, even though the felon’s name was Johnson,” he told me. Fewer than forty turned out to be felons.

    Computer-forensics expert David Klausner worked with the plaintiffs who sued Harris after the election. He estimated 40 percent were Black, saying, “The project was explicitly racial—as Jim Crow as you can get.”


    Someday maybe Somerby will understand why Gore actually lost and stop talking about four-button suits and instead focus on Republican vote-suppression tactics. If he won't do it to combat racism, perhaps he will do it on behalf of his friend's lost election.

  13. Somerby says if you read one opinion column, let it be Bret Stephens. I think you should read Jonathan Chait instead. Digby quotes him:

    Digby concludes: "Of course, Chait also chastises Trump’s critics for being hysterical about these Nazis in our midst because .. well, I don’t know. This seems really bad to me, particularly since we hear from former members of the DHS that white supremacy is a growing global movement led by this faction in the USA."

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