The Psychology of Post-Storm Looting

Looters have reportedly stolen and destroyed private property in the aftermath of the hurricane and flooding in North Carolina.

Police officers in Wilmington, North Carolina, arrested five people Saturday evening for allegedly ransacking a Dollar General store, and officers reported looting at a Family Dollar store downtown when they noticed the store’s windows had been busted in. Charges are pending against the individuals, authorities said.

“It’s just unfortunate that people look for these opportunities to prey on the vulnerabilities of these people when the situation is at its worst,” a police spokesperson said. “We are trying our best to make sure we can contain that as much as possible.”

Why does this happen?

The superficial answer is “desperation”. But think about that. Most people are in the same desperate situation. Yet most don’t engage in looting. No matter how bad the storm, most are concerned with protecting their own lives and well-being, not stealing and destroying what remains of the well-being of others. There has to be more to the story.

You have to think about it from the point-of-view of a looter. A looter was likely on the edge to begin with. By “on the edge”, I mean on the edge of civilized behavior. Perhaps some of the looters were convicted criminals before the present looting, but probably many of them were not. Although not officially criminals, they probably walked around with a barely expressed chip on their shoulders, a sense that, “I deserve what’s mine. I’m sick of others getting theirs, and me not getting mine.” It’s a pervasive sense of bitterness with no way to express itself until opportunity knocks. Although police, private property and civilization still exist in the aftermath of a bad storm, it’s harder for civilization to assert itself, at least for a brief period. And that’s when the internal “chip on the shoulder” strikes, in the form of looting.

If you think further, the looters do make a certain kind of twisted sense. They operate on the premise that, “I should get what’s mine. Everyone should have the same stuff.” That’s the precise attitude of politicians in our national Imperial City, operating every day of the week with other people’s money. More accurately, it’s the precise attitude of the people who keep voting for these types of politicians. Their elected officials are merely their pimps, to get them “what’s theirs”.

Looters after a storm are not victims, because the vast majority of a storm’s victims don’t engage in looting — and would never think of doing so. But they are of the same mentality of our looters in the nation’s capital, confiscating and spending money and property that does not belong to them. It’s done under a cynical, dishonest and pretentious veneer of legitimacy, but the moral reality of what they’re doing is precisely the same.

I’m glad local police clamp down on looters after a flood in North Carolina. Now if we could only clamp down on the high-end looters in Washington DC, as well.


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