Anti-Gentrification: Destroying The Neighborhood To Save It

Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal

If “the revolution devours its own,” as the saying has it, then anti-gentrification activists in Boyle Heights, a heavily Latino district just east of downtown Los Angeles, have been feasting. They have greeted liberal artists and hipsters with racial taunts, vandalism, boycotts, and mask-wearing demonstrators. In several cases, they have succeeded in forcing events and establishments to move their activities elsewhere. But their victory is pyrrhic, hindering the vitalization of a long-struggling neighborhood and its ambitious new entrepreneurs.

​The most recent Boyle Heights skirmish neatly illustrates the conflict between the bien pensant interlopers and the longer-term residents who resent them. Chris Kraus, a well-connected and celebrated writer, had been scheduled to speak at a local arts center and performance space. Kraus is best known for her cheekily titled cult novel I Love Dick, which was turned into a popular 2016 Amazon series. The show’s creator, Jill Soloway, was also the producer and creator of the gender-bending and Emmy-award winning series Transparent.   

​Kraus’s latest book, and the subject of her planned talk in Boyle Heights, is a biography of Kathy Acker, a “scholar, stripper, victim, and media-whore” who gained a degree of notoriety and fame in the eighties as an avant-garde novelist. An excerpt of the book had already appeared in The New Yorker, a publication that has profiled Kraus in the past. Kraus was also lucky to have ultra-hip Semiotext(e) as her publisher. The company’s website describes it as a “punk rock” publisher “best known for its introduction of French theory to American readers.” Kraus had previously co-edited a volume for Semiotext(e) titled Hatred of Capitalism: A Semiotext(e) Reader

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