Granted, it’s not like progressive sympathy for looting is a new thing. Still, I thought the video from that San Fran Walgreens that I posted this morning would draw more uniform condemnation on social media. Normally when liberals defend theft it’s in the context of a riot following an incident of alleged police brutality, when America’s racist history can be cited as provocation.
There’s no provocation in the Walgreens video. Either it’s a junkie looking for something he can sell to get a fix or someone who’s part of an organized shoplifting ring looking to fence the goods or maybe just someone who, somewhat understandably, has concluded that if goods in San Francisco are now effectively free then he might as well help himself.
But opinion about it isn’t uniform. Newsweek has a story about the social media reaction to the clip today under the dystopian headline, “Video of Man Shoplifting from San Francisco Walgreens While Security Watches Sparks Furious Debate.” (Sample quote from one Twitter rando: “Non-violent crime, he stole stuff that wasn’t valuable enough to be under lock and key, and he didn’t even use fossil fuels. SO what?”) Brazen theft caught on camera shouldn’t generate “furious debate,” particularly when it’s part of a pattern of convenience stores being fleeced in the city. But I can tell you firsthand that there is debate about this because I’ve personally been hearing it all day long from progressives after tweeting this morning that the video demonstrated a basic breakdown of law and order.
Plenty of people agreed but those who didn’t divided into a few categories of excuse-making. There was the “who cares, it’s a rich soulless corporation” group:
There was the “shoplifters are Jean Valjean” group:
There was the “America’s facing bigger problems, jerk” group:
That last guy is a film critic for New York magazine. He makes a fair point: One of these days, I really should get around to writing something critical about the insurrection.
Then there was this character, who’s really in his own category:
The common denominator among them is the disparity in power. Walgreens has infinite wealth, the shoplifters have little, therefore all this is is a little grassroots-style redistribution. But the fear among critics like me isn’t that criminals are going to put Walgreens in the poor house. It’s that letting them get away with it risks normalizing looting. In fact, they have normalized it: I’ll remind you again of the quote from this morning’s post, in which a Democratic city supervisor told the Times not long ago that he thinks San Francisco has this problem because “It has become part of the landscape… People say, ‘Oh, well, that just happens.’” It’s a culture of impunity. And no wonder, given the sample of progressive sentiment I’ve just presented.