Peter Lunenfeld on Wed, 25 Nov 1998 21:23:39 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Mike Davis Hoax Expose 1/2

Some time back I responded to Geert Lovink's interview with Mike Davis
during documenta X's 100 Speakers/100 Days extravaganza. What I questioned
then was the way that Davis's dystopian take on Los Angeles seemed to
galvanize the rest of the world's intelligentsia, and whether _City of
Quartz_ needed to be treated less as the "truth" about LA and more as a
vision of the city, refracted through a particular set of ideologies and
preconceptions. I continued in this vein in a review in _Telepolis_
<> of Norman Klein's _The History of Forgetting: Los
Angeles and the Erasure of Memory_. I was, then, somewhat predisposed to
disliking _Ecology of Fear_, Davis's latest book and the subject of Brady
Westwater's lengthy posting. But it turns out that I loved _Ecology of
Fear_, thought that it had to be read as a pure distillation of Davis's
conflation of political discourse with first urban geography and then
urban ecology. It is a polemical tract, and a very good one at that, and
has been so reviewed all over the place. 

The backlash has begun. Nothing inspires envy and anger like a MacArthur
"genius" grant, especially when it follows on the heels of a Getty
Residency (the Getty being LA's own Oz for intellectuals). Last week _The
Los Angeles New Times_<>, a local free paper that cloaks
its rightward bent in tough talking pseudo-populism, published a piece
called "Peddling Fear" by one of their most virulent hacks, a woman named
Jill Stewart. Stewart quoted extensively from Westwater's as then
unpublished work, and now his disquisition ends up on <nettime>. I'm not
going to delve into the interpretations of evidence so much as I am going
to express my outrage about the ludicrous idea -- floated by both
Westwater and Stewart -- that Mike Davis is a "liar" and that _Ecology of
Fear_ is a "hoax." These two people have no idea how to proceed in a
critique, no understanding of the way in which evidence opens itself up to
levels of interpretation, and not one bit of respect for the remarkable
edifice that Mike Davis labored for decades to construct. I look forward
to an analysis of Davis's work that engages with the evidence he marshals,
that radically differs from his interpretations, or whole thrust, but what
I want is a critique that functions on the same level of seriousness as
his Davis' work. Westwater's "Hoax Expose" is most assuredly not what I'm
looking for. 

One last thing that sticks in my craw: Davis has done more than almost
anyone to explore the idea that Los Angeles is a place whose boundaries
are and have never been clear, and he is now being accused of not being a
native son because he was born in Fontana? Twenty years of living,
studying, and writing about LA is thus fraudulent? Who are these people? 

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