November 13, 2016

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR:

As much as Simon was devoted to the romance and art of journalism and, more important, to nonfiction, even he had to concede that fiction film and TV were the primary communication media of his era. “To get a best-selling novel on the New York Times Best Sellers list, you need to sell a hundred thousand copies. A poorly watched HBO show is going to draw three or four million a week. That’s ten times as many people acquiring your narrative.” And that mattered because, to Simon and his partner, Ed Burns, The Wire was explicitly a piece of social activism. Among its targets, large and small, were the War on Drugs, the educational policy No Child Left Behind, and the outsize influence of money in America’s political system, of statistics in its police departments, and of Pulitzer Prizes at its newspapers. The big fish, though, was nothing less than a capitalist system that Burns and Simon had begun to see as fundamentally doomed. (If Simon was a dyed-in-the-wool lefty, Burns practically qualified as Zapatista; by ex-cop standards, he might as well have been Trotsky himself.)

—From author Brett Martin’s profile of David Simon, the showrunner of HBO’s The Wire, in Martin’s 2012 book, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

Chaser:

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—Simon yesterday.

As Andrew Klavan has written, “here’s what bugs me. The Wire (which is, to some extent, based on the year Simon spent with the Baltimore Homicide Squad while researching Homicide) takes place in a city without conservatives, even without Republicans. There has not been a Republican mayor of Baltimore since 1967. And much of the show’s genius lies in its depiction of the brutalized life of black people in the city’s ghetto. So we have a writer who has seen for himself, and who has shown us, the effects of Democrat governance on a city, the dehumanization of the poor that is the direct result of leftism and the corruption that inevitably springs from it. And yet Simon blames conservatives!”

And if your goal really is to take down “a capitalist system” you’ve “begun to see as fundamentally doomed,” and replace it with a form of nationalized socialism, you’re really not in much of a position to (a) shout about the horrors of national socialism, or (b) compare small government Republicans to any form of it. Besides, isn’t the entire nation socialist now? Newsweek wouldn’t lie to me, would it?

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