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WaPo: “It’s Not Looting, It’s Hunter-Gathering”

Thank God we have the Solons at the Washington Post to make these fine (but necessary) distinctions for us:

Carried Away – Looting Has Its Roots in the Chaos Of Catastrophe

By Linton Weeks
Thursday, September 1, 2005; Page C01

Benigno E. Aguirre of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware has been watching and reading about looters in Louisiana. "It may look from the outside as if they are stealing or breaking the law," says Aguirre, "when in fact some of them are trying to survive." …

There are looters, he says, but "people use the concept of looting without making distinctions."

Many may be people taking drastic measures required by drastic times. And some, he says, are the in-an-emergency equivalent of hunters/gatherers, foraging for food, fresh water, medicine, matches, batteries, everyday essentials that are just not available. Not at home, not at shelters…

Who is to say whether these were criminals or people desperate to survive, Aguirre says…

Understanding the fact that part of a population, and not the whole population, can be criminals is essential to understanding that not everyone who steals is a looter, he says.

Here is some more exquisite nuancing:

The verb "to loot" is different from the verb "to pillage," says Mike Agnes, editor in chief of Webster’s New World Dictionaries in Cleveland. "Looting puts a criminal tinge on an act, a legal tinge. Pillage is wanton, out-of-control barbaric behavior."

The people on TV appear to be under control. There has been little talk of pillage.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the next time the power goes out in my little burg. I’ve got a lot of hunter-gathering to do!

But no pillaging!

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, September 1st, 2005. Comments are currently closed.

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