August 5, 2009

My Taki's Column: "The Wire"

In my weekly Taki's Magazine column, I write about the HBO television series "The Wire" and its little-mentioned tendency toward showbiz schmaltz.

Read it there and comment about it here.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

86 comments:

Shawn said...

Told tell me you're turning into a SWPL, Steve. J/K. According to Landers they like the Wire

Sid said...

Best. Review. Ever.

I seriously could not get past the second DVD of the show, for the reasons you described. It presumes every crack dealer is a chess player just waiting to be found under socialism. This isn't fatal for a TV show, normally, but the show is so self-serious and tendentious about this point that I found it indigestible, no matter how much else the show was praised.

AC said...

Yes, the show really does sell that kind of optimistic everyone's the same mentality. And I am not surprised that Obama likes Omar.

ed said...

I think The Wire is great.

And what's so preposterous about the idea that there is a crack dealer who likes chess? I'm sure the smarter people rise to the top in the drug game just like they do other endeavors. And the show wasn't suggesting he was a grandmaster or anything like that, just that he knew the rules.

I didn't see anything on The Wire to suggest that "everyone's the same." Quite the contrary.

I don't agree with any of Simon's politics either. And of course the wire, being a drama, was not an accurate depiction of reality, any more than Dickens or Waugh was. But it was still the best thing I've seen on TV.

Devin Finbarr said...

Excellent review. The Wire is unvarnished and realistic compared to the typical cops show. But it's still far from an accurate depiction.

Steve, I highly recommend you watch at least one or two episodes of the "The Corner". It was an HBO mini-series based on Simon's second book (also named "The Corner"). It is much more realistic than The Wire. It answers your question: "Yet, without Simon’s showbiz schmaltz, would The Wire be unwatchably depressing?" ( the answer is yes)

Udolpho.com said...

The Wire was basically what a Jewish liberal newspaper reporter sees when he looks at a dysfunctional black city: colorful characters, authentic black youth, and white people to blame. Hey dem darkies jus doin what dey got ta do ta suhvive, nahmean?

The last season was when the mask completely fell away and David Simon unleashed that unbearably pompous and self-adoring plot about the newspaper reporter (David Simon's stand-in)...it even embarassed many of the series' adoring liberal fans, it was so outrageously over-the-top.

TGGP said...

I liked the wire. Simon did make the lowlives unrealistic* enough to be interesting, but there was still plenty of just plain rotten & dumb folks among them. The series opener with "Snotboogie" is an example. Prop Joe's nephew as well.

You note that McNulty is a limey. I was surprised you forgot to mention that Stringer Bell is as well. Also, Richard Price's "Clockers" is not about white ethnics.

Others have noted that viewers of the wire tend to impute their own politics into it (even when they know what David Simon's are). Perhaps Steve is just more objective than the average bear?

*One scene I actually didn't find credible was Omar surviving that fall. Turns out, the real-life Omar actually did. He isn't gay though.

Kijkfaas McGee said...

Hilarious. Antisemites think Jews act of malice, but Simon demonstrates so well the more pathetic fact that it is pathological narcissism that motivates them. Whom to blame? Rothman and Licther once answered, 'crazy Jewish mothers.' Perhaps it is a transmutation of their chosen complex? What do you think, Steve? It was a good laugh all the same. What transparent nonsense it all is after a while! I'm just surprised the charm hasn't worn off after all these years. I guess you've got to have 'Hope'.

Peter A said...

Omar is supposedly based on a real person, and he hardly has a heart of gold - he's just found a niche for himself. Obama probably wishes he had that kind of swagger. Steve's review is far too reductionist. The beauty of The Wire is that it can be read in lots of ways. For every Stringer and D'Angelo (white liberals trapped in black drug dealer bodies), there is an Avon, a Bodie or a Marlo. All stone cold killers who seem deeply antisocial. Steve's vision that every black drug dealer is a Marlo sounds nice and cynical, but isn't necessarily true. Yes, having a hot black lesbian cop is wish fulfillment, but I can live with that.

The hooknosed slimy Jewish public defender is straight out of an anti-semitic casting call, I'm amazed HBO can get away with a character like that.

turkey said...

Don't make me choose between Sailer and The Wire, man.

I think if you've completely internalized an antiliberal and probabilistic world view you will interpret The Wire in a way that doesn't propagandize for the enemy. Many events and characters unmentioned in the linked piece will seem to go the other direction, in fact.

I never read Simon interviews or listened to commentaries, though.

Truth said...

I thought seasons 3 and 4 of The Wire are the best seasons of television ever made.

And you know, strangely enough I am black and was raised in Brooklyn and in high school, I played chess, read books and shared my personal philosophy with others. Thanks to your column, I just learned for the first time, after 42 years, that I did not exist.

But then you probably didn't like TJ Hooker because Heather Locklear didn't look like "a real cop."

dearieme said...

To British taste, I'm sorry to have to tell you, virtually all American drama is saturated with showbiz schmaltz. Of course, some people rather enjoy it - they can bathe in the sentimentality and then declare their cultural superiority. Twerps.

meuse said...

Peter A said: "The hooknosed slimy Jewish public defender is straight out of an anti-semitic casting call, I'm amazed HBO can get away with a character like that."

I can't think of any other TV character who has been both noticeably Jewish (Levy used Yiddish slang and was once referred to as "that Jew lawyer") and profoundly immoral (Omar Little referred to Levy as a parasite with a briefcase).

David Simon has said he made the Levy character Jewish because "when I was covering the drug trade for 13 years for the Sun, most of the major drug lawyers were Jewish" and that "Anyone who is anyone in law enforcement in Baltimore knows the three or four guys Maury Levy is patterned on."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Levy_(The_Wire)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't agree with Steve's take at all. IMO the liberalism in The Wire is just window dressing, the ghetto is portrayed as bleak and horrible.

The message, such as it as, of The Wire is not an optimistic. For example, some of the drug dealers in the Barksdale organization may be smart, but they have no interest in going straight. And the cop who becomes a teacher in the third season is not a Jaime Escalante-like figure. He doesn't inspire his students to go to college or install a love of learning in them, he basically just manages to hang onto his job and preserve order in the classroom. When his 12-year old students have group sex in the ladies' room, slash one another with razors, get murdered for "snitching" and become homeless prostitutes he cannot do a thing to stop it, his good intentions count for nothing.

To me the message of the Wire is that the ghetto is so screwed up that there is no saving it. I don't think that white people are blamed for the city's problems, either, the city is portrayed as a thoroughly corrupt and dysfunctional place that resists all of the white mayor's efforts at reform.

call me ishmael said...

Simon's nonfiction book Homicide is excellent, including this amazing passage.

But in one rowhouse on Newington Avenue, two dozen human beings have learned to leave food where it falls, to pile soiled clothes and diapers in a corner of the room, to lie strangely still when parasites crawl across the sheets, to empty a bottle of Mad Dog or T-Bird and then piss its contents into a plastic bag at the edge of the bed, to regard a bathroom cleaning product and a plastic bag as an evening's entertainment. Historians note that when the victims of the Nazi holocaust heard that the Allied armies were within a few miles of liberating the camps, some returned to scrub and sweep the barracks and show the world that human beings lived there. But on Newington Avenue the rubicons of human existence have all been crossed. The struggle itself has been mocked, and the unconditional surrender of one generation presses hard upon the next.

Unfortunately his fictional work is not at the same level. I think the First 48 is much better than The Wire because the former features more reporting and less ideology.

Dennis Dale said...

As far as Barry purporting to identify with Omar, the typical response of Clay Davis (who the president has to have at the least begrudging admiration for) comes to mind:
"Shiiiiiii..."

blue anonymous said...

I agree with Turkey. One can read The Wire various ways.

Steve's review is good, yet I can't help but notice he makes fun of the show for being the supposed best show ever - but doesn't "walk the walk" by saying what show he actually thinks was better. Hmmm. Seinfeld? Not.

The show actually had a certain lifelessness to it. But it was beautiful; overall I do think it was actually the second or third best show ever on TV, after "House" and possibly "Simpsons."

Kevin K said...

Montgomery County is pretty big so it does have some bad neighborhoods along some of the richest zip codes in the country. You don't want to walk around the Takoma Park station (where the Metro accident happened recently) after dark.

I loved The Wire perhaps too much. I think the problems you mention aren't as bad as you make them and everyone on TV is smarter and better looking than in real life.

Ben said...

Uh, D'Angelo's chess analogy was appropriately cliched, high school level analogy for high school kids.

Also, in what other show can you find a more viscerally exciting depiction of male political power struggles? The inter-departmental dynamics blow my mind with entertainment. Rawls doesn't make your headspin on your shoulders? That white guy is every hockey coach I ever had growing up and yet I've never seen him on TV.

De gustisbus and so forth, but thud went your review.

RWF said...

It is a brilliant show, even if some of Simon's claims about its wider significance are overblown.

The sheer complexity and patience with which it builds multiple storylines and characters is genuinely brilliant. That level of sophistication for a television show has only been matched a few times.

Also in fairness it should be stated that the writers do occasionally skewer politically correct attitudes- almost all allegations of racism are baseless for example, in fact Carcetti the mayor is forced to keep an incompetent black police chief in place because the only competent suitably qualified alternative is white.

meuse said...

To follow up on what RWF wrote about Rawls, I think The Wire accurately showed how the racial factor of every hiring/promotion decision is analyzed, and how there is a glass ceiling for white males in urban America.

The white Deputy Commissioner Rawls provided Carcetti with information that helped him win the mayoral election, but Carcetti denied Rawls the promotion to Commissioner that he deserved. Instead, Carcetti temporarily retained the incompetent black Commissioner Burrell, while grooming the young black Major Daniels as an eventual replacement.

On several occasions, Carcetti and his staff candidly cited Rawl's whiteness as the reason why he couldn't be appointed Commissioner. A black mayor can fire a black police commissioner and replace him with a white one, but a white mayor can't. “The ministers” just wouldn’t go for it.

Then, in the last 5 minutes of the series, when black City Councilwoman Campbell succeeds Carcetti as mayor, she proceeds to promote the white Deputy Commissioner Valchek to Commissioner. Earlier, Carcetti and his black adviser had joked that Valchek would have been even less well received by the ministers than Rawls. But since Campbell is black, she's able to promote whoever she thinks will be most loyal to her, regardless of their race.

Peter A said...

RWF - good point about Carcetti and the black police chief. In fact one contribution The Wire makes is that "white racism" is never depicted as the cause of black dysfunction, it's shown as just one fact of life and usually irrelevant to black life on a daily basis. Black politicians and church leaders are shown clearly benefiting from the dysfunction in the ghetto. Clay Davis is as honest a depiction of a race hustler as you'll ever see on TV. A guy like "Herc", a white cop who clearly holds some "racist" views, would be depicted on most cop shows as a stereotypical racist redneck, but the show gives him some depth and a sympathetic side, and most importantly does so with Herc ever "learning a valuable lesson". Herc's friendship with his black partner doesn't seem to alter his outlook on ghetto inhabitants the way it would on a network show. Criticize if you must, but we've come a long way from the PC outlook of Hill Street Blues. I think Steve is bending over backwards to criticize the show because once something gets the SWPL stamp of approval Steve feels honor bound to attack it. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of SWPLs like the show because despite its flaws The Wire is more honest about race than any other show on television. But the black cast on The Wire gives cover for SWPLs to face the truth for a few hours before retreating to their comforting beliefs that deep down we're all the same. The Wire is certainly better on race than The Sopranos, where I can remember a few episodes where we were supposed to feel sorry for the black hoodlums (or latinos) being terrorized by mean Italian mobsters.

king obama said...

The show had low ratings because no one wants to see a show about inner-city blacks who deal drugs.

I can't believe that the show ran for as many seasons as it did.

dzot said...

The Wire was an excellent TV show. It succeeded dramatically for two reasons:

1) Simon, Pelecanos, et al. are exceedingly good at dramatizing their story. There was comparatively little overt exposition which is part of why it stood out. Just very well written from that standpoint.

2) Simon's idea of institutions as Greek deities -- arbitraily smiting or rewarding mortals on some basis that mortals can't understand. Very rare on TV that somebody portrays characters as mere toys of fate rather than individual choice and action driving events.

Steve nails the downsides. It became painful in the final season when Simon ground his axe about his former profession and gave all sort of interviews rife with socio-political crackpottery.

Plus, it gets downgraded by association since any mention of the series uniformly sends progressives into spasms of admiration and declaration that it is the Great Thing Ever.

(For the record, Best Series Ever: Deadwood)

TGGP said...

Udolpho, I'm not sure if you mistyped or not, but the REPORTER Scott Templeton is clearly not a standin for Simon. The reporter (along with the bosses going on about "Dickensian" and Puliters) is a standin for the people Simon hates from his old paper. It's the desk-editor Gus Haynes that is clearly portrayed the most sympathetically and serves as Simon's Mary Sue. It struck me when I was watching that Haynes was possibly the single character who did not seem written cynically.

rob said...

Herc not only has a black partner, he has a black girlfriend. Both despite reasonably stereotyping black people.

Herc and whathisname, the guy who played Clayton Hughes on Oz, are a good example of Sailer's situations in which whites and blacks get along well. Neither is an intellectual. Their friendship comes from shared struggle, not constantly working out their feelings about race and racism.

I did not get the liberal message from the Wire at all. Themes I saw: people in slums work hard at living so badly. If there's any Hope of Change, it has to come from blacks. There is nothing at all whites, even well-meaning whites can do. They don't seem able to adopt white culture, and are hostile when our mores are imposed on them.

Anonymous said...

You are obviously watching a different version of The Wire than I am.

bjdouble said...

I visited Baltimore recently and was struck by the number of black-white couples among the poor Balmer residents . . . Not something you would see in DC, for instance, where the black and white populations don't mix at all. That may explain the low white IQ in the Baltimore schools . . . the white kids are really mixed race.

Anonymous said...

God in Heaven, it's depressing to see what some of you consider to be "good" [or even "great"] television.

And this is supposed to be a Paleo site?

Ugh.

This discussion might be even worse than that recent thread wherein people were genuflecting to Sunstein & Tribe [and boy oh boy do I hope that those posters were professional astroturfers in the employ of the Psychological Warfare Team].

PS: Hey, a little off topic, but has anyone seen T99 around here lately?

He didn't live in Pennsylvania, did he? [I thought he was a SoCal guy.]

This was one of the more fascinating reads that I've encountered in quite some time:

George Sodini's Blog: Full Text By Alleged Gym Shooter
Online Diary Apparently Kept by Alleged Pittsburgh-Area Health Club Killer
abcnews.go.com

Seems to reflect many of the pathologies chronicled by the likes of T99 and Roissy, only from the point of view of the poor guy who just can't for the life of himself seem to figure out how to master the art of "Game".

Gee whiz I sure do hate the modern world and its obsession with nihilism.

Anonymous said...

David Mills, aka "Undercoverblackman," wrote a couple of scripts for the show and he seems to acknowledge HBD. Mills by the way had a spat with Lawrence Auster and forced David Horowitz to fire Auster.

agnostic said...

Internet Movie Database users, a fine measure of Geek Guy opinion, is a stratospheric 9.7 out of 10

It's no different for females: they rate it 9.5, males 9.7. Everyone but 45+ women rates it over 9 on average.

Montgomery County kids are pretending to be from Balmer now, eh? We always used to just say DC or "DC area" -- there's no way you could say Baltimore with a straight face (even if you wanted to). Buncha dopes.

Allison said...

I haven't the faintest idea how anyone watching the Wire could think it was optimistic.

The show ends where it began. The cycle repeats; all of the roles are filled again and no one gets out. nothing can ever change for the better.

In between, nearly every other young black man is dead. The ones trying to stay out of the drug trade are destroyed as surely as the rest. The cops aren't any better off, and neither is the city. There's absolutely no hope in the story. And despite Simon's claims, the show makes a pitch perfect case that drug legalization would be even worse.

I don't know what's so silly about a rich drug dealer learning from an economics class. Surely the cartels in Mexico, Colombia, and Russia understand basic economics better than most liberals do. There's no reason to think that in the drug trade's free markets, the cream doesn't rise to the top.


Even more, I think it shows something else about intelligence.It shows quite clearly that the more intelligent rise to the top and stay alive longer. The dumber you are, the faster you're dead. How is that unrealistic?

The show nicely portarys how nearly anyone can out think the cops because the system the cops work in is a public choice nightmare, with all of the wrong incentives in place.

The show was difficult to watch because there were no single episode side stories in addition to the main story arc, which was too tight to pick it up in the middle. Additionally, the slang and accents in the first two seasons were so thick that it was nearly impossible to understand what was going on without pausing every 30 seconds.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks to your column, I just learned for the first time, after 42 years, that I did not exist."

You'll get over it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve-O, you been having a good run of late, but why diss Mary Robinson? You´re as much of a SWPL as she is. It´s because the one subject your normally solid insight and intellect fail you is Ireland and the Irish. You should write about why sometime. Like a whole book as to why.

Anonymous said...

Where did Mary Robinson surface in all of this?

I think Steve has some Irish family connection.

Ned said...

I don't disagree with Steve's criticism, but I like The Wire a lot. I'm currently rewatching the first season, and eventually I'll make it through the entire run.

I was born and raised in baltimore (the city, not the suburbs), and I attended Baltimore city public schools. I don't live there now.

I think the series accurately depicts life in Baltimore as it exists today - the hopelessness of life in the ghetto (most of the city), the corrupt police department and political establishment, and the constant prevalence of the drug culture. I thought The Wire might be criticized for racial stereotyping - the fact thhat almost all of the drug people are black, the characture "Jew lawyer" Levy, etc.

Nevertheless, I really enjoy watching it, if only to identify old neighborhoods. And it seems pretty realistic to me. By the way, the locals who occassionally appear in the series can be instantly identified by their accents.

Chief Seattle said...

I haven't read the review yet. But I watched the Wire up to Season 4, and thought it was good entertainment, with an interesting depiction of power struggles in the police department and gangland. I don't know if it was realistic or not, but it felt real to me, and certainly wasn't over the top PC.

Anonymous said...

So the reason white people like The Wire is cause it has Simon's Jewish liberal outlook?

Uhm. Use Occam's razor bro. As you pointed out, it's well written. You don't have to be an istever to know that it's actually still a TV show.

Another thing white people like - Coffee. I'm dying to hear the SWPL conspiracy behind that. Naive fool that I am I thought I liked it because it tastes good and the caffeine boost is a good treat for workdays.

As another Jewish conspirator said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

testing99 said...

Anon -- head over to Roissy's ... big discussion on it. I post over there as Whiskey.

Pretty much what I expected. Though as I point out in Roissy's place, the problem is NOT lone nutcases who's social impact is generally marginal. It's all those unconnected guys to society who just don't give a damn, and don't form the backbone of voluntary organizations, like Little League or Shriners or what have you. These guys are not invested in society and younger versions can back any leader who promises a social over-turning.

Which pretty much describes China in the Taipeng Rebellion. A death toll of 20 million with muzzle loading muskets. China in particular is even worse than the US in that regard. Lots of big men with concubines (some as many as 140) while the selective sex abortion gender imbalance, more men than girls, threatens chaotic revolution. There's a reason why the Chinese crack down on nutty cults -- the Taipeng Rebellion was led by a guy who claimed to be Jesus younger brother. No one believed that -- they just wanted women.

I don't think the US is there yet. But it's clearly trending that way. All those single mothers imply single men. It's the flipside to polygamy's equation of a man with four wives meaning three men without.
------------
Didn't the Wire already get made? Under the name "Homicide: Life on the Streets." Just asking.

Subcomandante Dave said...

"And this is supposed to be a Paleo site?"

He's married, their wives make them watch bad teevee. Seems a good tradeoff between that and going Rodini, though.

Never seen The Wire, haven't watched the teevee for two years. I did try watching an episode of Mad Men because they were talking about it over at SWPL, I suspect my review for The Wire would be pretty similar to the one I gave Mad Men:


Nevertheless, the reviews of this show intrigue me – you know how we PWP feel about pre-1964 days – so I downloaded some episodes last night and shall give them a watch today.
...
OK, I watched 90 seconds of the first episode, that was enough.

It depicts 1960 America as a racist and sexist sh!thole where white suits trick black people into smoking, among other things.

F*ck. It’s like they try to jam maximum political correctness into every nanosecond of anything coming out of Hollywood. A perfect example of why young people hate old people – based on the movies and music they access they think that people who lived back then were unenlightened bigots, bar none.

Blood libel. Hollywood’s depiction of white America pre-1964 constitutes a blood libel against the white man, every movie and video packed with more hatred than anything Der Sturmer ever managed."

Thrasymachus said...

David Simon obviously intended people to take a liberal message from "The Wire." I didn't- I'm a raving fascist and I enjoyed it a great deal. Best show ever? That's pushing it, but I can see why plenty of people think that. TV is about writing more than anything and "The Wire" had the best writers in the business.

Matt G. said...

Steve,

I usually agree with almost all your posts, but not this one. I think this is the best dramatic series ever made. In your review you make it sound like an after school special. I have to wonder if you aren't letting your personal feelings get in the way since you mention people like jacob weisberg at length in the review. I'm not really sure why the SWPL crowd loves the show so much. The inner city blacks depicted in the show are shown as thuggish, violent, and animalistic, and that includes the sympathetic characters.
The DeAngelo/Chess scene is an excellent one, and I don't think its saying that a great chess champion is waiting to be released from a wayward corner boy.
Stringer Bell is the exception not the rule. We see him taking college economics classes and this highlights how unusual it is since most of the ghetto characters disdain education. Take note of the fact that he took the classes at community college, not Johns Hopkins.
Omar is somewhat of a fantastic character, but he also makes critical mistakes throughout the series, so I think the robin hood aspect tends to get overblown.
Simon is a drug legalization advocate, and states this clearly in interviews. Nevertheless I think he does a good job of showing the potential downfalls of drug legalization as well as the potential benefits.
Simon is a liberal, but I think he is the rare breed of liberal who thinks critically about issues and is worth listening to it. His books "Homicide" and "The Corner" are excellent and worth the read.

Billare said...

A preposterous thesis.

Anonymous said...

Three or four years ago I came across an episode of The Wire while flipping through the various HBO channels. I remember a scene in which a group of all-black top-level drug dealers were having some sort of summit meeting in what appeared to be a hotel conference room. It was like a scene out of the Godfather. That was all I needed to see to realize what this show was all about. I'll just re-watch Dennis Hopper's Colors or re-read Peter Blauner's Slow Motion Riot or as another poster suggested re-read Simon's original non-fiction Homicide. Truly honest depictions of real life can be both entertaining and depressing.

Johan said...

Steve, the entire 4th season is basically an ode to tracking and excoriating the politically correct idiocy of school administrators.

Stringer's foray into community college and his aspirations of competing in a business world where he isn't allowed to assassinate rivals are exposed as foolish, Clay Davis takes him to the cleaners because he "saw your ghetto ass comin a mile away."

The film deals quite explicitly with the racial horse-trading that goes on in American city politics- the corruption of the liquor board, Clay Davis using a smooth talking attorney to fool a black jury into acquitting him, all the drug money flowing into the coffers of the Democratic political machine.

Omar is not a Robin Hood figure, he doesn't give away money, he gives away free drugs so that the addicts will allow him to hide in their neighborhoods. He is also constantly dragging young men into incredibly dangerous situations they aren't prepared to handle because they appeal to him sexually, and it results in the deaths of several people close to him.

I know you would never be satisfied with any attempt to explain the situation of black people in this country that doesn't talk about IQ scores, but you have to at least give the show credit for portraying how self-destructive inner-city black culture is and not placing the blame on white oppression.

Everyone in this thread who took away the message that legalizing drugs would make things worse is a moron.

Anonymous said...

As to the content of your review... good reading as always but depressingly predictable in the number of imagined ghosts. You seem to always see just precisely what you want to see. Your characters are already boring caricatures who bear small resemblance to the more complex world that (in your non-Taki hours) you too know exists. Again, good reading but please investigate this thing called nuance (hint: hanging around the boorish exclamation-mark excuse of a human known as "Taki" aint gonna help your more thoughtful aspects manifest themselves - hey, at least Mr. Gaudy pays).

The truth of the matter of course is that SWPL people love the Wire and similar works of fiction because they know racial realities all too well and enjoy the rare moments they're allowed to revel in these racial facts without fear of engaging in Crimethink. If something is produced by HBO it has the kosher stamp of approval and thus allows them to enjoy the experience of acknowledging racial realities without endless tsk-tsking. Portland People (aka SWPL) are the best sort of folk out there - absent a couple of racial neuroses of course.

Yah -

Anyhow, I actually signed on here to share with the gang an interesting experience I had the other day that I personally found intriguing and which I believe your SWPL audience (aka High-IQ and curious sans certain specific racial neuroses) will enjoy as well.

As you, Steve, know (but your audience does not on account of your having chosen to censor the piece - probably because I included a couple of racial epithets in the telling) I was jumped by a gang of Bloods about a week ago. I was in a bad neighborhood at midnight walking along with my headphones in place and my smartphone out (reading Rousseau's Confessions - how SWPL I am!) when a gang of (leave out racial epithet here) got a running head start on me and surprise attacked me with a couple of right hooks from behind.

Yadda yadda yadda, the rest is pretty standard and not what I signed in here to share.

What I found really interesting though is how a few days later I was speaking with a few white strangers from Boston (who were visiting NY - two guys and a girl all in their 20s) and happen to have recounted the event. When they asked if I called the police I said that I hadn't but that I do hope the cops eventually get the bastards (I happen to have gotten away from them Bloods btw, phone and face intact). These white preppy-looking kids (at least one of whom was Jewish) were aghast at the fact that I would even consider "snitching" to the cops and themselves threatened bodily harm against me for "being one of those".

This absolutely fascinated me.

Now, these weren't just white kids shooting their mouth off in false bravado. They were damn serious. They literally regarded as shocking the idea the suggestion that in similar circumstances they might have involved the police.

Naturally I'm not the kind of guy who enjoys being threatened so I didn't leave and just continued to pester them with my astonishment as to the existence of their particular species - white kids from Boston who lived by some sort of ghetto morality! I stuck around as long as I could so as to ascertain if they were for real and, by God, they were.

What do you make of that? I mean there a hundred and one possible explanations for the thing but do any of you actually have a history of being like these guys or do you have close friends who are like them??

The only similar example I can come up with is of a friend's kid who spent time in prison for a host of infractions (the army eventually got him of course) and so came to accept the morality of the institution. Other than him I don't know of any other white people who would react similarly to the suggestion that their mortal enemies (whom they would admittedly kill in a heartbeat) not be turned over to the police and that anybody who does such a thing should be killed.

The experience left me richer in my understanding of my fellow human beings, even if somewhat more confused.

Anonymous said...

Anon - You're an idiot for not paying attention while walking down the street of a major city at night, and I don't believe your story about the white kids from Boston. No one on here would fault you for involving the police, either.

Anonymous said...

Anon the lesser, I'm indeed an idiot for walking around Bushwick patently unaware and painted like a target, you however are a paranoiac who assumes that people lie simply because... well, because you're a messed up paranoiac.

Anonymous said...

It's quite clear that Steve owes an apology to his readers for this entry.

Anonymous said...

Great and timely, my wife is a big fan of the Wire and we have had a few arguments about it. I think much of the appeal for her (high IQ, Ivy law degree) is the quality of the writing and the characterizations. I think she knows it is a false at the bottom but just wants to be entertained or distracted. Which would describe the attitude of most Americans on a wide range of topics.

Anonymous said...

You can apply the same analysis to Mad Men, and its producers and writers. Another interesting, well produced piece of propaganda with the incessant message that, at the peak of it's power, white America was corrupt underneath.

I pointed this out to my wife and she said that it was just entertainment. However, it will shape perceptions of the 50's and 60's for literally millions of people who are not sophisticated enough to question who is putting the show on and why. The message - all Americans, especially white, gentile Americans, have ever cared about was selling and buying.

I consider myself a cynic and able to see what the intent is behind things like Law and Order. They make it very explicit, actually, by calling it "Special Victims Unit". Yet I still had to watch something like "O Brother, where are art thou" by the Coens twice to figure out the joke at the end with the three dancing rabbis and the politician shouting "But you're my constituency!"

The joke was definitely not on the rabbis.

Kevin K said...

t99 - "Didn't the Wire already get made? Under the name "Homicide: Life on the Streets." Just asking."

"Homicide:Life on the Streets" was my favorite show on television for a long time, but "The Wire" is a lot better because when you are trying to depict gangsters it helps that you can actually use swear words and depict acts of sex and violence. You couldn't show a bunch of gangster getting head from a crack addict on network TV. In addition, it expands the picture throughout the city (the Ports, the political system) and develops plot lines over years.

A difference testing99 might be particular interested in is between the attitude towards female cops in "Homicide : Life on the Streets" and "The Wire". "Homicide" had several overly good looking heterosexual female police officers and "The Wire" has one lesbian and is pretty explicit as to why.

Anonymous said...

Sailer hasn't seen the entire series, he didn't watch carefully, or he's just trying to be a dissenting voice.

Besides the examples of shoddy thinking already mentioned, there's a black police lieutenant who only got his job on quota. He spends his time setting up pointless stings and wasting everyone's time. Bird is probably retarded. Wee-Bey is a dim, vile serial killer. Dennis is good-natured but clueless. Poot can't crack the code on how to avoid gonorrhea. Kenard spends his free time setting cats on fire. The fifth season starts with cops convincing a street thug that the xerox machine is a lie detector. One youth can't see that Herc is kidding when Herc asks him whether a hat turned sideways is a special kind of hat. The kid responds seriously that it's a regular hat turned. The phone code used in season 1 is highlighted by the cops as being simple enough for even the street toughs to understand.

Examples of thug stupidity and pointless sadism are constant throughout the series.

Finally, the second season is one long dissertation on how vile, criminal and rent-seeking unions are. That's not the standard liberal line.

Anonymous said...

Many of the posts here miss the point of why the Wire gives off a creepy vibe.

It is well done and entertaining, and does seem to avoid easy categorization.

It does seem to take a realistic view of race. This corresponds with every person who has friends of other races and treats them as people, not as a caricature.

It does seem not to blame whites for all problems. This corresponds with common sense.

It does seem to portray black culture in a harsh light.

But it is all a seeming - what happens in effect is different. What happens in effect is that it does indeed reaffirm all the liberal race baiting memes we have been exposed to for years. Just like Mad Men, for all the empathy you may feel for the characters, implicitly condemns Gentile, white, Christian America prior to the 1960.

The producers of this stuff must think that Gentiles cannot adapt and learn - or at least that they will always stay one step ahead of us. Maybe they believe that if they change their last names we will not figure it out.

Anonymous said...

an anti-semitic casting call

If that isn't an oxymoron, it's riiiight on the edge.

~Svigor

Reactionary said...

And you know, strangely enough I am black and was raised in Brooklyn and in high school, I played chess, read books and shared my personal philosophy with others. Thanks to your column, I just learned for the first time, after 42 years, that I did not exist.

This is the same response as your white counterpart, the Canadian stunned whore: "Ya, I know this black guy? He went to Yale? So you can't generalize?"

You do exist, just not in nearly the same quantities as Anglo-Celt, Jewish, Korean, Punjabi, etc., chess players with English literacy. That is the only thing HBD advocates are pointing out.

Go to any large, professional service firm in the country and create a pie chart of ethnicities for the professional staff, then do the same thing for the support staff. The pattern is endlessly repeated, as are the intellectual backflips performed to reach every conclusion but the obvious one.

Anonymous said...

Some HYP-educated uber liberal friends raved about The Wire. When I asked them why it was so good they were uncharacteristically aphastic on the details but continued to rave on.

It was a hard slog trying to watch the first episode. No redeemable characters, situations or clearly no point. It was 180 proof predictable urban nihilism.

It was even more soul deadening than the abyss that is iSteve. At least iSteve offers enlightenment and even solutions to accomodate the unpleasant realities he exposes. The Wire makes iSteve seem like Little Orphan Annie belting out The Sun'll Come Out".

From these comments I gather that The Wire more universal SWPL guilty pleasure. It's a well-written bracing dose of reality that liberals rarely get to see explaining my friends moth-like attraction. The question is how did it get past the thought police?

Conversely, for me as a realist, I'm not sure I would enjoy it anymore now. The Wire sounds more confirming of the familiar and depressing ugliness of life that I don't need more expsoure to.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon's Boston Wiggers

Ya gotta be a SWPL Moby with that fish story and censored racists’ terms.

No white nationalist writes limp-wristed diarrheic prose like you. Most can't even spell or obey simple grammar rules much less partake in border-line pretentious navel gazing.

You sound like the anon that previously posted that Steve should be ashamed and deserved better readers out to propagandize that point.

Anonymous said...

I'm always fascianted by conservatives who watch liberal TV shows and then assert the shows are 'really' conservative because if you look at from this angle blah blah...

Look its HBO - with liberal Jewish writers and producers. They always stuff these shows with liberal propaganda and if YOU can get past that and see some weird defense of conservative values - you're 1 person in a 100.

TV has always been the chief propaganda arm for the Liberals. Its affect on the USA has been devastating.

Anonymous said...

I'm a cop and I loved The Wire. Really good show. Pretty damn acurate with what's going on out there. They shoulda kept it going.

greenrivervalleyman said...

Wow! I guess long excerptation (bordering on plagiarism- just kidding ;-) is the sincerest form of flattery. Only fair, though, since I typically quote or link to like half a dozen Steve articles whenever I'm putting together an essay (your article on inner-city middlemen retailers is particularly excellent).

I started Jeopardy Green Room as a blog for 1- not myself, but for a very close Jewish Manhattanite friend of mine who was feeling down in the dumps because of all the unquestioned, reflexive liberalism around him. He's still somewhat of a recovering neo-con, but given that the The Bell Curve has played the same role in his life as Moby Dick has for most English lit majors, I think there's hope for him yet.

Anyway, once I take care of this season's mole infestation I hope to write something useful again.

DYork said...

The Wire's War on the Drug War

Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2008

By ED BURNS, DENNIS LEHANE, GEORGE PELECANOS, RICHARD PRICE, DAVID SIMON

...."What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we've been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose."....

OneSTDV said...

Here's an interview with SImon:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04172009/transcript1.html

"Right. And, you know, listen, I've been called that same thing [socialist]. You know, you start talking about a social compact between the people at the bottom of the pyramid and the people at the top, and that's how you ground a society, and people look at you and say, "Are you talking about sharing wealth?" You know? "Yeah." I want to-- Listen, capitalism is the only engine credible enough to generate mass wealth. I think it's imperfect, but we're stuck with it. And thank God we have that in the toolbox. But if you don't manage it in some way that you incorporate all of society, maybe not to the same degree, but if everybody's not benefiting on some level and if you don't have a sense of shared purpose, national purpose, then all it is a pyramid scheme. All it is, is-- who's standing on top of whose throat?"

Also, on race:

"The people most affected by the drug war are black and brown and poor. It's the abandoned inner cores of our urban areas. And we don't, as we said before, economically, we don't need those people. The American economy doesn't need them. So, as long as they stay in their ghettos, and they only kill each other, we're willing to pay a police presence to keep them out of our America."

The last quote, I imagine he sees it as a bad thing.

David said...

"Antisemites think Jews act [out] of malice, but Simon demonstrates so well the more pathetic fact that it is pathological narcissism that motivates them."

Huh?

Lost in a semantic fog! Even if your slur were true, you're merely saying half a dozen and six are not the same.

(Some differences between malice and pathological narcissism may exist, but they would be pretty petty in practice. Best coverage HERE.)

greenrivervalleyman said...

Also, for what it's worth, why I think West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin should be put in a Maoist reeducation camp.

Anonymous said...

I responded to the malice vs. narcissism comment but Steve hasn't passed it through yet - but, I would amend that comment to the effect that malice is definitely a good description of the motivation of many of the types illuminated by MacDonald.

Freud? Uhm, yeah, I think it's safe to call that malice.

Cuddihy's Ordeal of Civility seems to dance all around malice without being explicit, too.

No, it's not a rubber hose or a taser, but one uses the weapons to hand.

I pointed this out to my wife and she said that it was just entertainment.

Translation: "baa-aaa."

"Homicide" had several overly good looking heterosexual female police officers and "The Wire" has one lesbian and is pretty explicit as to why.

Male cops are open about the fact that many/most female cops walk "on the dark side."

~Svigor

Truth said...

""I actually signed on here to share with the gang an interesting experience I had the other day that I personally found intriguing and which I believe your SWPL audience (aka High-IQ and curious sans certain specific racial neuroses) will enjoy as well...I was jumped by a gang of Bloods about a week ago...(I happen to have gotten away from them Bloods btw, phone and face intact)...These white preppy-looking kids (at least one of whom was Jewish) were aghast at the fact that I would even consider "snitching" to the cops and themselves threatened bodily harm against me for "being one of those"."

So LoneWolf McQuade here, walking down the street reading philosophy, fights of an unnumbered group of imposing gangsters (Bloods...without weapons) who got the drop on him and, but were unable to inflict a a scratch or take his belongings. He then was verbally and almost physically accosted by a similarly angry group of white kids, not for "snitching", but for "thinking about snitching".

And Steve thinks The Wire is "Hollywood Schmaltzy?"

"You do exist, just not in nearly the same quantities as Anglo-Celt, Jewish, Korean, Punjabi, etc."

But that's not the point now is it? Steve said that The Wire was unrealistic because it featured one (ONE!) black character who read and one (ONE!) black character who played chess. In other words, he feels that it is unrealistic that if you were to to intern and interview every black male in the Baltimore city drug trade, you would not find two that read or played chess; just a group of mindless automatons running around killing each other.

That seems ridiculous, call me crazy.

Truth said...

"and how there is a glass ceiling for white males in urban America..."

This one needs a response from me about as much as the Sistine Chapel needs a loft, or the Mona Lisa 42DD's.

Just reread and enjoy.

Andrea Nyx Hemera said...

I haven't seen a single episode of The Wire as I don't have Cable but it sounds like the same old tripe... like Do the Right Thing or Hoop Dreams. Yes, it's what white liberals like. On the one hand, white liberals are genuinely scared of urban black reality. On the other, they are supposed to be ideological and soulful buddies of blacks.

In most cases, whites fantasize either about clean-cut black guys like Obama/Will Smith or totally badass mofos like 50 cents or Mike Tyson. But, they know there is a dark social reality--as opposed to mere cultural fantasy fun and games--that must be grappled with. What is to be done? Stuff like The Wire offers 'have the cake and eat it too'. Its supposedly hard-nosed realism brings the liberal face-to-face with the ugly reality that must be confronted(if only through the LCD screen). Ugly and troubling reality indeed. BUT, the liberal cannot go all the way and admit the problems may be partially racial or biological. So, he is grateful for The Wire's conclusion that the problem is ultimately The System.

Simon may be right that there is some connection between capitalism and crime. But, funny that Jewish capitalist crime tends to be on the Madoff scale while black capitalist crime is more on the Badass level. Hmm, wonder why that is.

Funny that The Wire should mention Chess. Jews are experts at Chess, and I suppose they trying to say black rhythm and Jewish wit are flip sides of the same coin. Same tripe was peddled in Searching for Bobby Fischer.

Anonymous said...

Pravda boy, to be clear, I fought no one off. I shouted back at them as a stalling technique while regaining my bearings from the sucker punch in the hope that I'd be able to either draw the attention of passerbys who might rally to my defense or alternatively, be able to make a better decision as to whether to run, fight or hand them my phone.

I thank the Glendale-living (seemingly) second-generation Puerto Ricans for stopping their car long enough for me to hop in.

Side note - what in God's name is wrong with people here that their first reaction to the telling of any actual human-interest event is to assume that the author is lying?

Side note II - There was no morality play inherent in my telling of the story. I simply noted a phenomenon that was interesting to me (the white kids one, the gangstas is unfortunately a rather prosaic phenomenon which is why it played second fiddle to what I really wanted to talk about). I'm not calling the white kids (or the black kids for that matter) "bad" or learning any sort of grand lesson from the thing. I simply - in a moment of sharing with whom I assumed to be similarly-minded folk - let people know about the curious case of White Bostoners who thought that "snitching" on their corporeal enemies was a morally reprehensible thing to do and wondered whether anyone could shed any actual light (rather than conjecture) on the phenomenon. How sad that the only two commentors who thought they had something to share on the subject had nothing more to say than to accuse me of (for reasons I can't for the life of me guess at) making these events up. Again, what the heck is wrong with you people?

Truth said...

"Again, what the heck is wrong with you people?"

My friend, if I offended you, I apologize

Anonymous said...

What's so weird about street thugs playing chess? Chess is a pretty thuggish activity, especially blitz which is mostly what thugs play if they play at all. Sure the really good players are smart whites and asians, but anyone who thinks chess is some sort of calm cerebral intellectual competition is a patzer.

Anonymous said...

One walks away with the impression that living in Southern California, surrounded by people who work in the entertainment business, Sailer believes he knows what makes quality entertainment. Given that he likes "American Idol" - a commercial-heavy, unremarkable talent show, and "House", where all you need to do is watch the last 10 minutes to find out what the big missing clue was - Sailer may not be that qualified to know what makes good television. Then again, seeing as how UPI chose not to keep him around as their film critic, his value in film criticism was rather low as well.

- KXB

Anonymous said...

Andrea Nyx Hemera - I think you are onto the truth of it there.

It is ultimately a liberal message but with enough seemingly gritty reality that could fool non-progressives.

Its purpose is to make liberals feel like the tough guys learning the tough lessons. Not like those effeminate conservatives...

Luther Christopher said...

Sailer wrote: "Simon pens show-offy speeches to illustrate that inside most every black teenage drug dealer beats the heart of a 115 IQ Wire fanboy. "


Actually no, he doesn't. The Wire shows young black men of every kind. Some are smart enough to have become relatively productive, some are dumb as posts.

Bodie wasn't penned as a high IQ kid. Neither were Poot, Cheese or Micheal. Marlo was smart enough, but mostly anti-social and sociopathic. His assasin Chris was a middling guy, no genius but not a dummy..

Cuddy wasn't shown as a budding neurosurgeon, but rather an honest working man (yes, they do exist in the black community, despite Sailer and his ilks contention that eveyr black man is just smart enough to be aware of his need for sex and food all the while being a seething murderous cannibal) who simply screwed up his life.

It isn't a liberal or a conservative show. It is an honest show. There was approximately 55 hours of storytelling and probably 45 or so reasonably fleshed out characters. I highly doubt Sailer watched every episode even once let alone the second viewing necessary to pick out all the different stuff going on.

Many people, from cops to teachers, liberal to conservative will tell you they knew real people who were just like the characters in that show.

And if Ed Burns tells me this is Baltimore, after 25 years of workin its streets, I will take his word for it.
I tend to not mind Sailer, sure he is a bigot, but an honest one. I give him the respect to listen. On The Wire, I will tune him out.

steve burton said...

Omar Little is, by far, the most compelling character in *The Wire*

And he's about as believable as Baron von Munchhausen.

It just staggers me that there are still people out there who continue to mistake this extended exercise in lefty romanticism for gritty realism.

*The Wire* is great fun, of course - but if you take it for anything more than that, you're only making a fool of yourself.

SWPL sorts are just so painfully desperate to believe that they've managed to experience genuine empathy for an authentic ghetto black. So they fall all over each other, wetting themselves in the process, in expressing their love for...Omar Little.

Too funny.

Anonymous said...

"In other words, he feels that it is unrealistic that if you were to to intern and interview every black male in the Baltimore city drug trade, you would not find two that read or played chess; just a group of mindless automatons running around killing each other."

Yes:

http://www.abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=8180264
A gunman burst into a backyard cookout held in the memory of two men who'd been shot to death a year earlier, wounding 12 people in a shooting police say was sparked by a gang feud, Baltimore police said Monday.

In all, 16 people were shot in a period of about three hours on Sunday night and early Monday morning, police said. A pregnant 23-year-old and a 2-year-old girl were wounded at the cookout, but they were expected to recover.

Two men were killed in one of the later shootings, but it was apparently unrelated to the cookout attack.

The number of people shot in such a short period was unprecedented in the city's history, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said.

"It stacks up pretty high," Bealefeld said. "To have 12 people shot in one incident and (others) scattered around east Baltimore, it's just absolutely ridiculous."

Udolpho.com said...

Udolpho, I'm not sure if you mistyped or not, but the REPORTER Scott Templeton is clearly not a standin for Simon.

Obviously Gus Haynes is the newspaper reporter I'm referring to, you can't miss that he is Simon's Mary Sue.

Not a cynical portait? I'll say. Haynes is a nauseatingly idealized version of Simon, and unlike the rest of the series where Simon at least makes an attempt at showing the good and bad all around, Haynes is portrayed as a noble, ink-stained wretch fighting a losing battle against gratuitously pompous bosses and a sniveling, cringing white version of Jayson Blair/Janet Cook. (Mencken, who is evoked several times in that season, would have vomited or laughed or both--he knew the score.)

In fact at least some of the newsroom characterizations were borderline libelous (it's obvious Simon was taking shots at his old bosses). This is one of many things that made the fifth season a revolting letdown from the decent quality of the previous seasons.

While The Wire was never as slack as The Sopranos often was, it also never came very close to the latter's dramatic heights. ANYONE can juice pathos out of dumb ghetto scum caught in a self-destructive cycle. In The Wire there isn't a single character worth caring about, only a situation to agonize over, hence it's appeal to liberals.

Anonymous said...

"In The Wire there isn't a single character worth caring about, only a situation to agonize over, hence it's appeal to liberals."

Exactly wrong.

TGGP said...

Regarding black guys and chess, Sailer himself has noticed many of them playing. The Wire didn't portray the character as being a whiz at chess, just being able to explain the role of the different pieces.

Udolpho, I was never much a fan of your blog but what you said about Haynes is dead on. It's such a glaring contrast for Simon to be relentlessly cynical about every institution and the people stuck in them, save up his greatest hatred for the Baltimore Sun and then have that flawless character fighting against the things Simon regularly complains about in interviews. He should have named the character "Marion Sussemann".

I think there were some characters worth caring about. The one poor kid whose mom was a crackhead and ended up working for the junk-collector. Bubbles expressed the most awareness of the problems with his behavior and contrition for his actions, and was allowed some hope at the end.

Thinking over Sailer's piece again, I think in the main its off, but it brings up an underemphasized aspect of the show and so I'm glad its out there to correct everyone else's praise.

Tom V said...

And you know, strangely enough I am black and was raised in Brooklyn and in high school, I played chess, read books and shared my personal philosophy with others. Thanks to your column, I just learned for the first time, after 42 years, that I did not exist.

Not as a drug dealer, I hope.

Truth said...

I've made my living in nine different industries, grasshopper.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Then again, seeing as how UPI chose not to keep him around as their film critic, his value in film criticism was rather low as well."

Cheap shot. You don't think that Steve's heterodox opinions on race and society may not have had a little to do with UPI's decision? I tend to think that had everything to do with it.

I have never seen the wire (don't get any premium cable channels), and so have nothing to say about it. I will offer this to some of the younger readers here: If you want to get a cinematic view of gritty urban reality, check out some old movies from the 70s, like "The French Connection", or even better "Serpico".

Anonymous said...

Steve, you need to start watching First 48. It's a documentary show like Cops that focuses exclusively on homicide investigations. It's by far the most un-PC thing to ever air on television.

Anonymous said...

Luther Christopher - I tend to not mind Sailer, sure he is a bigot.

Well that's real square of you pal, to decend from the liberal Mt. Olympus and bestow on us your blessings. We are not worthy.

Anonymous said...

The Wire is better then the Soprano's.