What’s with the Rich Kid Revolutionaries?
What’s with the Rich Kid Revolutionaries? by Zachary Yost for Mises
By now, readers are no doubt familiar with the sight of angry mobs smashing windows, looting stores, and harassing pedestrians and street diners around the country, supposedly in the name of advocating for the rights of black Americans. Around the country, these mobs are diverse and have diverse motives, ranging from simply wanting to loot and get free stuff to being driven by deeply held ideological beliefs. However, one can’t help but notice that in many places a significant number of those causing disturbances are not the subjects of the state oppression in question, but are often white and sometimes even affluent, and as a result are almost completely isolated from the consequences of their destructive sprees.
Portland, site of over a hundred straight days of protests and often violent rioting, seems like the poster child for this phenomenon. Portland is, in fact, the whitest big city in the US.
In New York City, the Daily Mail reported on the recent arrest of seven members of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, a revolutionary Maoist group, after a rioting spree that caused at least $100,000 in damages. Every one of them appears to be white from their mugshots, and among them are an art director who has done work for Pepsi and Samsung, a model and actress, and the son of famous comic book writers. The New York Post profiled one rioter, twenty-year-old Clara Kraebber, and discovered that her mother runs her own architecture firm and her father is a psychiatrist who teaches at Columbia University. The family paid $1.8 million in 2016 for their New York City apartment and also own a home in Connecticut with four fireplaces.
Or consider Vicky Osterweil, the white author of the much-discussed book In Defense of Looting, who is also the daughter of a college professor. As Matt Taibbi reports in his review of the book, “there’s little evidence the author of In Defense of Looting has ever been outside” and “she confesses to a ‘personal aversion to violence,’ lamenting a ‘refusal to attack property’ that ‘does not lessen the degree to which I benefit from systems of domination.’” In Taibbi’s words “this is a 288-page book written by a Very Online Person in support of the idea that other people should loot, riot, and burn things in the real world.”
Rioting by the affluent is not limited to white people either. Consider the case of the two nonwhite attorneys, one of whom graduated from Princeton before law school, whose arrest for throwing a molotov cocktail at a riot in New York City made the headlines precisely because of their high-status, well-paying jobs.
What all of these examples have in common is that the rioting and destruction, or advocacy for the same, is being perpetrated by people who have no skin in the game and will not be exposed to the long-term consequences for the people and communities that they are ostensibly trying to help. Neighborhoods that suffer through riots often end up economically depressed for decades to come, but people like Clara Kraebber will not have to worry about such things.
In the last century, there has been a great deal of scholarship attempting to discover the roots of these kinds of widespread revolutionary movements. In Liberalism, Mises discusses the idea of a Fourier complex, where antiliberal revolutionary ideas are adopted by people as a means of dealing with their own inadequacy in the face of reality. Political theorist Eric Voegelin (who attended Mises’s Vienna seminars) also posits a similar, though more complex, explanation with his theory of gnosticism.