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Fuck The Wire

The extent to which HBO’s The Wire is a pretentious piece of reactionary racist propaganda is hard to measure. The special wonder child of critics who are generally united in their being White, desperate to assuage their bourgeois guilt at being the privileged beneficiaries of an economic wage-slave caste system and starving to prove that they’re woke to the plight of Black Americans, The Wire, operating as a massive Ghetto Pass for White Americans, and as a cover for the police assault on Civil Liberties, has escaped almost all serious criticism for its titanic flaws.

Set in Baltimore the series is an attempt to portray the drug problem as a systemic issue that transcends the banalities of good versus evil, cops vs dealers, law and order versus a collapsed economy while at the same time portraying The Hood as a foreign country on the border of the rest of the world.

The problem with that or rather problems, stem from the inherent bigotry of the show’s structure and the extent to which it turns Black Americans into a fetish for White Americans. In the entirety of its run we are shown only one significant White drug dealer, The Greek, who essentially supplies the whole of the city with heroin through his control of the port and his arrangement with the Feds who use him as both watchdog and safety-valve. In exchange for keeping out potential terrorists The Greek ships whores and drugs and runs and exploits the drug economy of the city.

The first vomititess issue here is that of course there’s more than one White drug dealer in Baltimore and while the Feds routinely make use of informants, the idea that one White man, in a city of 650,000, is the sole supplier is absurd and of course feeds the racist stereotypes of Black dealers and mysterious foreigners.

And it is The Greek’s foreignness that is the show’s creator, old Baltimore hand David Simon’s double-down on the bigotry of his vision. The Mysterious foreigner is a race baiting shit pile that can be traced back to 19th century England and tall tales of mysterious Asian opium dens. It is standard material in early Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler pulp pieces but there, in the hands of two geniuses, the cliches were transformed into literary art. A trick well beyond the abilities of a hack like Simon.This means Simon has served us a reheated version of The Dragon Lady and Ming The Merciless and wrapped it in the pretense of importance and social-significance when in truth it’s just a regurgitation of racist crap.

The Greek, is based on the owner of a massive company that does essentially run the port of Baltimore but the man who owns it, and is in fact Greek, does not, as shown in The Wire, spend his days in a cafe in Greektown. He spends his time running his billion dollar company, collecting art, cars and trinkets, and almost certainly keeps his eyes and ears open for the authorities. But showing a successful wealthy family man who collects art and is socially involved with bankers and well-heeled lawyers and politicians would require all the things Simon and HBO lack – courage and the special intelligence that comes with wielding an artistic scalpel instead of a hammer. And it would of course also require Simon to violate his privilege – in order for The Wire to be important, The Hood must be isolated, cut off socially, and economically and then manipulated by outsiders, when in truth, it is integrated into the whole of the city. And no, The Ink doesn’t mean there aren’t ghettos; we don’t mean Canton isn’t more affluent than Sandtown. We mean that Simon has created a vision of West Baltimore that suggests the Warsaw Ghetto when in truth, the drug economy is the principal economy of the whole city and the city would collapse without it. Your dealer may live in Sandtown but he may just as easily live in Upper Fells (or he may live in Sandtown but his distributor lives in Bolton Hill or Fells – thus the drug ghetto is not isolated, it is spread across the whole of the city) and he may be Black or he may be White and he may talk like a thug or he may talk like a thug with a Harvard J.D., but The Wire is still a Disneyland vision of the drug world.

And yes, fiction has its license to exaggerate but The Wire thrives on the idea that it is a modern Dickens or Flaubert; that it is giving us a level of verisimilitude found only in the great works of literature and then, when confronted with its failure to match the depth of literature we are told, it’s just television.

This same point was raised in a review of The Sopranos, another absurd piece of Golden Age Television shit masquerading as great art – compared to Flaubert The Soprano’s was lauded as significant art but when subjected to the same precision criticism that Flaubert endures, defenders of the show responded by saying: calm down, it’s just television and holding it to the same standards as literature is – pretentious . And they get away with this because the system of reviews and criticism is wholly dependent on the largess of the advertisers, who are rolling out of one bed with the critics and into another bed with the entertainment empires that own the shows. And while we know there is the willing suspension of disbelief, if you can find a psychopathic mobster who gets into therapy and enjoys it, The Ink will eat a computer. The fact is, the premise is absurd to the point of insulting the viewer’s intelligence – provided they have some to spare.

In the case of  the faux criticism of The Wire, we are reminded of the famous scene in North Dallas Forty where a character says: when we say it’s a game you say it’s a business, and we say it’s a business, you say it’s a game.

This is similar to the cheap defensive con utilized by Jon Stewart in response to critics of The Daily Show. When confronted by critics for failing to act like a journalist, Stewart responds, (truthfully) he’s not a journalist, he’s a clown. A clown who provides bombast and liberal outrage and faux analysis and funny critiques of the landscape but wont assume any responsibility for his product which is satire of news and thus – Fake News that demands to have its seltzer bottle satire and whoopie cushion humor taken seriously.

And what do they all have in common? White producers, White writers, and a predominantly White audience.

Simon, to his credit, stands by The Wire. To his shame, he actually defends it as an accurate portrayal of Baltimore and the drug economy – at least up to a point where his premise falls apart and he throws his audience to the wolves.

And so the critics call it a show like a Russian novel; it’s like Flaubert and the show’s other writers speak of its majestic sweep and realism, and there is the never-ending jaw-shattering blow-job he has received from the critics, who trip over each other in their attempts to lather him with recognition. And even when flaws are cited the critique still manages to stick the landing and offer praise. Consider this (emphasis added):

“But part of what gives The Wire such great power is its creator’s conviction, wrong though it is, that his tragic vision constitutes telling it like it is. While departing from both reality and realism in any number of ways, The Wire is resolutely committed to verisimilitude in a way that almost no other show is. The result is the creation of a world — Simon’s Baltimore — that feels eminently real, but is imbued with all the artifice of Greek tragedy.”

See the whole article here:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2008/01/david-simon-and-the-audacity-of-despair/47692/

Verisimilitude must have a different meaning at The Atlantic and Matthew Yglesias’ point however is almost on target but, like nearly every other critic of Simon and The Wire, he has fallen for the con. While Yglesias argues that Simon’s failure is in his reactionary despair (a valid point – as Simon is the self described 1 percenter who is resigned to what he calls the inevitable destruction of the working class from whose poverty he benefits) he allows the power of Simon’s conviction that because he believes he is right the show is powerful and accurate. Questions about tautological reasoning to one side one is still left with a dilemma that Yglesias makes clear: That is, Simon’s failure is not a lack of honesty or accuracy but a failure of moral conviction and commitment to the possibility of social justice. In other words, how dare Simon be cynical. Where we would say how dare he be a cynic who turns a profit off of an updated Blacksploitation fetish piece masquerading as hardboiled realism.

And Yglesias’ point would be interesting except for everything that is factually wrong with Simon’s depiction of Baltimore – the main character in the series. In other words the very essence of the alleged verisimilitude is in fact, fake. It is a off-the-shelf prefabricated product and a knock-off of reheated fantasies. The show is simply, and directly a White fantasy about Black Americans (and thus a White fantasy about White Americans) in general and specifically about Baltimore, and the drug economy as well as a smoke screen designed to provide cover for the catastrophic corruption of the Baltimore Police Department and their assault on Civil Liberties – specifically the 4th Amendment.

Yglesias goes on to lay the blame for the show’s reputation as a near documentary at the feet of the audience and thus not the responsibility of Simon (while Simon throws his audience under the bus) and the rest of the writers and producers and the machinery of HBO. When the truth is that they have gone on at length about the novelistic sweep of the show, it’s accuracy, honesty, brutality, it’s being like a Russian epic. That the ignorant, guilt-ridden audience desperate for a ghetto pass buy this con is laughable. That David Simon and his crew are selling it and taking the proceeds to the bank, is pathetic. And offensive.

What is missing from this (from The Wire and Yglesias’ critique) is any mention of the rest of the city. There is no look under the rock at the White Ghettos of Armistead Gardens, Essex, Dundalk or Middle River and no examination of the wealthy (White) drug dealers and users in Canton or Federal Hill where Simon lives.  It’s as as if they don’t exist and the only place to score drugs is West Baltimore, or in a few other isolated pockets. And that absence is a telling indictment of Simon and the entire show –  drugs, any drug, are available anywhere in Baltimore all the time, and they are available all the time precisely because the drug economy is fully integrated into the supply chain of the entire city, and it has nothing at all to do with Black or White per se, but has to do with how the drug cash is laundered, and dealers, operating within the structure of the city’s loose apartheid regime have their clients – White Dealers in Essex and Middle River and Dundalk take care of White customers but – and this is crucial – the lines blur – green is the color that matters and there are endless examples of White buyers with Black dealers and visa versa and they all move in and out of the neighborhoods running deals from Canton to Pigtown. And to refine this further what is missing from Simon’s verisimilitude is that the drug business operates with and for the poor, the middle class and the wealthy – it does not care because it is a democratic meritocracy – backed by the ever present potential of extreme violence .

And one must address a crucial issue here. Critics of the show lament the absence of anything like a Middle Class – Black or White, that is not involved in the drug economy. That criticism has its merits but it too falls for the con and allows Simon to pivot and defend the show, and himself by saying his goal was not to be comprehensive but to show a part of the city that has, he says, received too little attention.

But Simon is also smart enough to play both sides. On the one hand he and his cohorts and the critics lavish praise on the show for its accuracy and for its breadth – that is, again, it is we are told like a novel. However, Simon also claims that the audience is smart enough to understand that he is only providing a slice of the city; a look into a corner of the city and the reality of that specific place within the wider, deeper reality of the labyrinth of the whole. It is an argument as clever as it is facile. Consider Simon’s comments on this aspect of the show given in response to a negative point of view (emphasis added):

“Moreover, I hold the audience for our harsher narratives — and indeed for other, warmer storytelling about Baltimore — in much higher regard than Mr. Rowe, apparently.  I think viewers are smart enough to understand that these stories represent certain quadrants of my city, but not all of Baltimore, and even more certainly not the whole of the  metropolitan area. They are stories about one America, long and purposely ignored and isolated, and while set in Baltimore, they are applicable to East St. Louis or South Chicago or North Philadelphia.  Anyone who thinks The Wire is all of Baltimore is as much a fool as anyone who can be shown a crabcake and convinced that the Inner Harbor is all of the city.  Pretending otherwise — from either end — is a mug’s game.

(see the whole article here: https://davidsimon.com/the-wire-and-baltimore/)

On the surface there certainly can be little to argue with here. Simon is correct, anyone who thinks The Wire is about all of the city is a fool. On the other hand though lies the problem – The Hood, that part of the city, that quadrant Simon says is purposely ignored and isolated is in fact completely and utterly woven into the socio-economic structure of the city and David Simon did not, like some latter day European adventurer, discover it. The money does not recognize borders and neither do the people laundering it – in real estate, banks, restaurants, bars, hair salons, or at Camden Yards and despite what The Wire says, despite what David Simon asserts, all drugs are available everywhere at all times. The idea, the fiction, that, for example, Harbor East is not The Hood and that The Hood is not Harbor East is a lie; it is a con designed to reinforce a bigoted narrative. Are you safer in Harbor East at The Whole Foods – yes says the average person and certainly the statistics back that up.* But of course while statistics don’t lie, statisticians do and anyone who has spent any time at all in and around the pristine streets of Harbor East can, if they’re being honest, tell you just who you should talk to for the drug or drugs you want. But, it’s cleaner, the people dress better or at least more expensively and they won’t shoot you in front of a Greek joint facing the boats in the harbor. They’ll do it somewhere else in a part of the city where it’s expected. But that doesn’t mean the hit wasn’t ordered over expensive drinks on the patio. And what Simon wont show is that the bank that loaned the money to develop Harbor East, is the same bank that is laundering the drug money of Sandtown and to such an extent that money for one is in fact money for both. Thus the idea that the drug trade is off the books, and exists in an isolated foreign territory is not only wrong, it is part of the camouflage used to mask the reality of wealth and its privilege. Harbor East is Sandtown and Sandtown is Harbor East and the money is green for everyone.

And as a result Simon’s central argument that The Hood is a part of the city that has received too little or no attention falls apart precisely because the truth is it is always The Hood and the Black dealers who are the subject and the cause and effect. What hasn’t received attention are the banks*(2) and the real estate developers and the philanthropists, the universities and their alumni, who are all laundering drug money and turning a profit from their drug trade. One might very well ask Simon just how many people working for the production of The Wire were taking and dealing drugs? Anyone watching the grips and the rest of the crew move cameras and lights and all the rest of the paraphernalia that forms the background for the making of a television show might ask: Who has the weed? Who has the pills? Who has the hook up to the guy with the shit and the blow? Because that’s Baltimore and so you have a largely White crew run by soon to be wealthy White men, talking about The Hood and its drug problem while the crew gets high. So why not talk about that? Because that would require honesty. It would require turning the camera on the other hood. It would require complexity and courage. It would require someone other than David Simon.

And taking a walk around that wealthy other Hood what does one find? Only a steady stream of White coke-addled prescription med abusing, weed smoking, stock-brokers, lawyers, and trophy wives or young women in search of their Mrs. Degrees as well as Sheikhs and their wives and attendants coming and going from the nicer hotels but…we don’t follow their money. Their money that bankrolls the drug trade and the war on drugs, and is as attached to the “isolated” quadrant as it is attached to a bank in Zurich. And who used to do business in Harbor East? Who used to buy drinks for The Ink at The Four Seasons? Who was in tight with the local Greek real estate brokers? One of The Greek’s daughters. But why show that and disrupt the racist fantasy? If the drug lords’ family are driving nice cars and getting drinks at the Four Seasons and having conversations about art shows and existential crises you would have an entirely different show – you would in fact have the stuff of a novel and not something a mile wide and an inch deep making pretentious claims to being an epic.

David Simon is entitled to tell his story about the Baltimore he knows? Well, so is The Ink. So excuse The Ink while we laugh at the accuracy of The Wire and David Simon’s liberal leftism and his fetish.

But let’s face it, Omar is better for television ratings. And if you want Middle Eastern intrigue there’s always Homeland.

And so Simon eats his cake and keeps it too – I am, he says, only showing a small corner of the city, but that small corner should be seen as a reflection of the whole, but the whole is not our purview and anyone who wants to blame us for being too narrow misses the point. Now give me an award and a contract to do another show.

Nicely played David. Like the old SNL skit – It’s a floor wax! No, it’s a dessert topping!

Exactly what would have happened if The Wire had shown the Preppies, Hipsters or Trustafarians in Canton or in Harbor East who buy and sell coke and heroin and prescription meds but don’t live in West Baltimore, but all know a guy who knows a guy who does live in West Baltimore? Where are the wealthy kids from Boys Latin who shoot H but get programs instead of time, and do business with dealers from the West and East sides of the city? (while their fathers work for companies doing government contracts in DC?) Under the heading of Irony one might ask just what Simon thinks is going on around The Cross Street Market on a Friday or Saturday night in his home base of Fed Hill – does he think all of those White County punks are high on life? The White Hopkins frat boys and rich punks using mommy and daddy’s credit cards are buying drugs and they deal there as well but they’re not Black so why put it on television? (sorry – it’s not Television…it’s HBO).

To put it another way, The Wire is to the truth, as a Hipster dive bar is to the working class. It is a fetish manufactured for and driven by the money of a predatory gang of colonizers – man-bun plaid wearing users, with faux 19th century artisanal beards grown to pretend they inhabit some pre-modernist guilt-free Arcadia of small batch morality on the one hand, and on the other, HBO subscribers and HBO executives. And writers. Two sides of the same coin. And in this sense, The Wire is Hipster – it is an indulgence, a caprice aimed at a mostly White, mostly affluent, privileged audience that gets off on what it believes is a walk on the wild side and tells itself that it understands, it is woke, it is down. The Wire is an overpriced domestic beer that fools pay for because they tell themselves and each other it’s worth the extra money because…the experience is authentic.

But beyond this central hypocrisy,  this circular firing squad of ignorance, and its use of what Ishmael Reed described as nothing more than banal racist cliches about Black drug dealers – and about Black Americans –

http://archive.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/09/30/no_it_relies_on_clichs_about_blacks_and_drugs/

is how it avoids any mention of the White power structure behind the drug trade. For example there is nothing about Ground Rent and its connection to drug trafficking:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/bal-housing-part1-htmlstory.html

And no history of Baltimore and Ground Rent would be complete without a look at the city’s history of slumlords and the laundering of the money they extorted and the extent to which Ground Rent and real estate are essential to the drug trade.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Goldseker

add in Harry Weinberg:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Weinberg

and the story of Baltimore suddenly becomes far more complicated than a racist fantasy about Black dealers and crafty foreigners who manipulate them, and instead becomes an epic story about all of that and a reporter who has made a fortune talking as if he’s morally offended by post-industrial America, and how it feels as if everyone is trapped in the existential hell of a Springsteen song – the jobs are going boys and they aint coming back. Which, of course, is true – we are trapped in the existential hell of desiccated post-industrial fin de siecle Imperial America but where Springsteen is singing the Epic of America, Simon is selling a fetish.

Of course Simon talks the talk – liberal, democratic, pro union, anti gentrification, and so on and sheepishly admits to being part of the 1% and lives comfortably in the (mostly) White ghetto of Federal Hill – safely away from West Baltimore or Cherry Hill or Dundalk.

But it’s a con. And this matters precisely because of the integration of the drug economy and the depths to which its territories are managed by the police, and the gangs and the economic structure of the city, which itself is locked in place by the one party rule of the corrupt city democrats, their partners in crime the state republicans, their collusion with the real estate mafia, including billionaire philanthropists, and Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland, and of course the Federal Government which funnels money in and out of the state to support the wealthy suburbs while choking the city, and pours still more money into the utterly corrupt and catastrophically inept War on Drugs and all of that is all conveniently left out of the show. Yes we get a critique of the War but in a way that is more like John Wayne winning WW 2 than the truth. Yes we get a look at the local corrupt politics yet everything that matters is left out. There is a claim to a vast context but the truth is it is a con that avoids context like the plague. This is not Flaubert, this is not Dickens or Tolstoy, or Steinbeck or Faulkner. This is not Hammett or Chandler. This is slick bullshit packaged as art.

The Wire takes its name from the tap on phones that the Baltimore Police used to bring down a major drug dealer. The show does not, of course, go into anything that has to do with just how corrupt the BPD is in that we don’t get to see the illegal uses the taps were and are put to. While it occurs prior to the advent of Stingray, there can be no serious doubt that the ground was already fertile so that when we read this:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-stingray-fcc-complaint-20160816-story.html

and this:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/05/maryland-stingray-ruling-baltimore-convictions-privacy

and this:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/04/baltimore-cases-overturned-police-secret-stingray-surveillance

then if you have any sense you have to ask how, in spite of around the clock surveillance and the suspension of the 4th Amendment, the city remains an open air drug bazaar where any drug is available 24/7?

And the answer is because the State of Maryland is run by a coalition of real estate mafia, banks who launder drug money, drug dealers, and bigots who thrive on the phat calf of the war on drugs and David Simon is their useful idiot.

But The Wire won’t show you real estate barons, or CEO’s of banks, or the Governor’s mansion because those are the people who are invested in…HBO…which owns The Wire. And he won’t show you those people buying drugs or selling them. Or cleaning the money of other people who buy and sell drugs. Sure you get a West Side murderer vilify a shyster in open court, by stating that the shotgun and the briefcase are different sides of the same system, but what you don’t get is that same argument with the critical lens pulled back far and wide enough to show the shyster’s law school, and its connection to the nonprofits and philanthropists who are laundering the drug money. That crew, that gang, the true face of The Greek and his Cindy Sherman collection, and his home on a golf course, are safely tucked away and we’re not shown that story. It’s as if you got to the end of The Lord of the Rings only to be told Frodo had been holding a copy of The Ring not the genuine article. Tolstoy would show the whole picture, and so would Flaubert and Faulkner and countless other writers who were committed to the truth.

Instead we get treated to racist pablum about The Hood and how Johns Hopkins is safe and a good place for a worn out, world-weary detective to get some after retirement side work. What you aren’t shown is the number of Hopkins students who stroll down from Homewood campus to Remington to score their drugs or to sell them, or walk East over to Waverly to do the same. What you don’t see are the Hopkins students who rent out bars in Fells and spend the night snorting, or the Hopkins kids who hang at the Otto Bar and slum it for a night while scoring any drug you can imagine.

And why? Because color has its privilege and because they’re White and Brown and not Black and they have money from the United Banks of Mommy and Daddy and those people own lawyers, who come when they’re called, and because they own stock in entertainment empires that own…HBO.

So instead we get Omar and Black dealers and crafty foreigners with a handful of White underlings to provide, diversity, and we get stories about The Hood but not a word about the truth.

Which brings us to David Simon’s take down of Edward Snowden.

In his blog, The Audacity of Despair, Simon wrote soon after the Snowden story broke, that the hysteria surrounding the revelations of mass surveillance were completely overblown. Why? Because, Simon told us, someone would have to show that actual abuse and damage had been done and in the absence of such evidence it was really all just a lot of hot air.

This from a veteran reporter on the crime beat in one of the most violent corrupt and racist cities in America. A man who of course knows that the state claims the right to invoke the privilege of state secrets and that its laws, its lawyers, its judges, in its courts, control the ball, the clock, and the refs.

So, show me the evidence is really Simon’s version of – damn straight you got raped – why the fuck were you dressed that way.

In other words, with so many friends on or formerly on the BPD force, it should come as no surprise that David Simon sounds like a shill writing postcards for a Potemkin Village, while donning the disguise of an outraged morally committed liberal. In other words we have the White liberal as patriarch – it’s you’re fault unless I put it on a television show and wrap myself in the mantle of my outrage on your behalf. And that control of the narrative, essentially, White control of the story of everyone else, including other White Americans who aren’t going to get fat deals from production companies, is such a cliche of racism, patriarchy, and bullshit, it almost qualifies as its own special brand of the banality of evil.

Or as we say when speaking honestly about Simon and people like him – a collaborator with and apologist for the regime.

Because of course this is the truth of the Baltimore police:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/sun-investigates/bs-md-sun-investigates-jail-20150711-story.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32400497

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/04/baltimore-cases-overturned-police-secret-stingray-surveillance

But even all of that is still not enough.

A few years ago a former major drug dealer in Baltimore died from cancer. He was rumored to have been one of the inspirations for a character or two on The Wire. In writing a sort of obituary about him Simon recounted how he had been contacted by friends who let him know the retired gangster was offended by his portrayal in a television show.

Simon agreed to meet the former dealer and went with his writing partner, Former Baltimore Detective Ed Burns.

With all the sophistication of Damon Runyon nursing a low i.q. Simon relates the faux hardboiled faux underbelly cliche of the hilarious Baltimore underworld and wraps it in a patina of White liberal dog shit that says, gosh Baltimore you old whore you sure have some tall tales to tell.

But lost amid the nostalgia and the polished turds, Simon drops a deuce that makes Dundalk smell like a bottle of fine French perfume.

They met at a restaurant in Little Italy and, as Simon describes it, the shock was not at the gangster being offended, or anything to do with his past, it was about how Burns recognized the dealer’s driver as a former informant, and how Burns was concerned that the snitch had been working for the dealer the whole time he had also been working for the cops.

He tells us this and then covers his ass by not revealing the driver’s name.

As if anyone who knows the famous soon-to-be-dead former drug kingpin (who was a celebrity in Baltimore) wouldn’t know who his fucking driver is…and wouldn’t then wonder about a man who was a snitch for the cops.

But, no word from Simon on what happened to the driver.

No doubt he was fine.

Why would anyone want to hurt him? A man who was a snitch for the cops and maybe also for a drug dealer and…who knows who else?

And with that Simon’s work was done; turds for sale to HBO and anyone else who’s buying.

And so it goes.

In an age of shit for sale the shit salesman gives the establishment what it wants, and is awarded money and fame and credibility and the fussy old ladies of both sexes can pat their fetish on its head, and tell each other they know, they are woke to The Hood and all those poor victims of the drug scene…more tea my dear?

The Ink recalls pointing this out to a successful real estate dowager who lived in Fells and went to Pimlico every year. She was offended at The Ink’s criticism. The Wire, she said, in a regal huff, was a story that had to be told.

Oh the beauty of unintended irony. Yes, indeed, it was a story that had to be told so the establishment could print up Ghetto Passes for David Simon and everyone who gets HBO. And then, they can all say, hey I’m down, I’m woke, I understand.

Another crabcake, my dear?

 

*The irony here being that one of Simon’s major complaints has been his accusation that former Baltimore mayor, Martin O’Malley, deliberately manipulated police statistics in order to make it appear as if crime rates had been lowered in Baltimore. No doubt the statistics were manipulated but not just in Sandtown or Pigtown but in Canton as well. And of course the off the book deal that gets a license for a development project in Canton is not a “crime” it’s an arrangement and the fact that the money for it came through a coke sale in Annapolis or Bolton Hill isn’t sexy enough for HBO. Consider, for example, the extent to which the majority White owned bars and restaurants in Fells are constantly behind in their payments to their alcohol distributor who is also a coke head. Even a cursory examination of the system there reveals drugs, money laundering, extortion, blackmail and violence. But White people in a White ghetto, buying using and distributing drugs to pay for their “legitimate” businesses would undermine the White fetish and control of the narrative that has Black Americans as both perpetrators and victims. And lastly, of note is that the Broadway Pier and Square area in Lower Fells is full of bogus construction permits paid for with bribes and kickbacks through a network of local Greeks who do not run drug empires from Greektown but run corrupt construction empires right out in the open – where you can see city notices to stop construction go up on a Monday and see them come down on a Wednesday right after the fine/bribe has been paid. But, that’s not going to win critical raves and Black gangsters are sexier on television so why bother.

*2. Since the 1920’s the one genre that has consistently looked into the corruption of the banks and the uses of money to finance the drugs trade (and gambling prostitution and their corollary crimes) has been the Hardboiled Detective Novel. From Hammett to Chandler and on to Ross MacDonald and Robert B. Parker and dozens of others no other group of Artists has been so consistent in their commitment to telling the truth and to telling the story that needs to be told. The idea that Simon and The Wire are in that tradition is (to borrow a phrase) like following a fine Bordeaux with a Ding Dong. You could but why would anyone with any sense, or taste, do it.

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