A Tool's Guide to Loot

"We fear the anarchy, the feral fanaticism and, at the heart of it, the primeval bugbear . . . " Yes, and what we fear most of all has come to pass: Linton Weeks, the WaPo's poetaster of Style, breaks down the cultural meaning of looting. But 12 or so graphs into his bugbear-baiting, our Style savant clearly loses track of things and resorts to that last desperate gambit of all lazy elementary school book report authors: He supplies a dictionary etymology. "The word 'loot' comes from Sanskrit and means 'booty' or 'spoil.'" But I dunno, that just isn't folksy enough somehow, is it? You can just picture Linton whittling on the porch as he adds: "It has that basic sound to the ear. Something meaningful; something valuable."

Something . . . meandering. But, you know, also historically significant:

Surely looting dates back to the dawn of humans and their caves full of stuff. Looting has always been a tenet of war. The Vandals looted Rome in the 5th century. The Nazis were notorious looters.

Caves. Vandals. Nazis. Check. Now let's go for some contemporary relevance, shall we?

We've seen looting by the rich before a company like Enron goes bust. And looting by the poor after a National Basketball Association game.

And we've seen a horrifying national calamity looted for precious-sounding copy that tells us precisely nothing. We never thought we'd say this, but if this is how the Style section rallies to a Katrina-scale catastrophe, it should stick to writing about all the pretty things it sees in summer.

Carried Away [Washington Post]


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