Permission to Enrage

People have opinions on my food truck article. I write provocatively. It's a choice, to the degree anything I do is a choice vs. a symptom of pathology.

Among the reasons I publish in Antigravity is that I find it a good editorial fit for this style of nonfiction, a su byorek  of journalistic expose & personal opinion-- or, let's be honest, polemical savagery. Some more traditional journalists, including writers I respect, are discomfited by how nakedly I present my own viewpoint; they feel my rhetoric is a distraction from the facts or renders the facts suspect. On the other hand, there are those who love the ranty razzle-dazzle but find the underlying politics or dot-connecting boring.

Nobody reading my work is going to mistake me for any kind of objective, professionally-detached anything. Some strive for respectability or the appearance of neutrality. I don't; I'm about war. I don't care about being "fair" to the powerful or the wealthy; I care about destroying those who would destroy what I love.

This doesn't mean I'm just a raving dickbag all the time, but it definitely means my work isn't to every taste, and it means when people bother to read my stuff-- something I don't take for granted-- I get some angry reactions. I read them all, and I wonder: should I wade in and engage? The ferocity of my writing doesn't mean I'm not bothered by people returning fire. I have the impulse to rebut, the old Usenet veteran's urge to go point-for-point.

But what would that accomplish? Shouldn't I let the article speak for itself, regardless of whether or not I'm "a left-wing Pat Buchanan?" (hilarious, btw)

On the other hand, by not entering the comment stream below the post, I feel I'm pretending to be above the fray, which I'm absolutely not. I have bad impulse control-- I upvote and downvote things within the recently-added "DISQUS" comment system, although I feel ashamed of doing so. It's a sneaky way of trying to control the conversation without further exposing myself. Is it ethical?

There are people upset by the article commenting on it both "anonymously" and under their own names. That's ethically questionable too, but I look at it as a triumph; I've pulled some of these sanctimonious liberals down into the muck.

The response thus far hasn't focused on the racial- & class-exclusion aspects of the article, although I agree with the commenter who said Ben Passmore's art makes those points far more eloquently than my writing. Maybe because the readership are concerned with whether or not they themselves are hipsters, a lot of the response has to do with hipsters. Worryingly, no-one has accused me of being one. Am I so clearly over-the-hill that I'm not suspect?

I'm not sure I even know what a hipster is anymore, if I ever did. What's going on in the Bywater these days is at least a solid Campanella-phase beyond "hipster." It's more conservatively dressed, more overtly affluent: globe-trotters with elegant evening-wear and late-model Porsches.

My frustration with a lot of the talk of hipsters, especially with regard to gentrification (and even with Richard Campanella's recent article) is the lack of a power analysis. Too often, vague talk of culture or subculture obscures the realities of who has the money and who has the power.

If everything and everyone is "gentrification," then the word gentrification becomes as meaningless as "hipster." If low-income white people who find housing they can afford in mostly-black neighborhoods are told to feel liberal guilt over "gentrifying"-- first of all, that's a waste of time, but more importantly, it lets off the hook some specific people who've been deliberately driving these changes behind the scenes-- the developers, the jail-builders, the politicos and connected corporations who stand to profit.

For the record, I'm not saying I don't  believe white people deserve extermination-- I'm just saying that belly-button-gazing guilt is pointless. Stewing in angst about your own whiteness doesn't do anything for the thousands of New Orleanians in Sheriff Gusman's deathcamp, and it doesn't shed any light on the real forces that are reshaping our communities. The same is true of the arguments over what and who is "authentically" New Orleans. At the end of the day, under capitalism, what matters is the money.

I don't believe the post-Katrina gentrification of downtown or assaults on New Orleans tradition and culture are mystical, inevitable or the result of natural forces-- no moreso than the destruction of public housing or the privatization of public education have been. These changes to the city are driven by a relatively few key people at the local level, not by artists, or punx, or "hipsters," or Mark and Mindy renovating a double shotgun into a single. The people driving change are people with real money, big money... and in the case of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, money apparently originating with the Koch Brothers.

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