Saturday, October 22, 2016

Musings on The Wire at Midpoint...

I have been watching David Simon's The Wire (HBO, 2002-2008) for the first time over the last several months. I have been watching it with a friend and we are half way through the third season. Given that it is an election year here in the US, it is hard not to think of the show in the context of that political election.

Nothing is better than The Wire, in my opinion, in showing us how compassionate neoliberalism really operates. Tommy Carcetti, the man who mirrors neoliberals like Clinton male and female, Bloomberg, O'Malley, and Schwarzenegger, will do anything to get elected. Carcetti gives off the appearance of a family man with a family right out of a Norman Rockwell painting but behind his wife's back he carries out at least one extramarital affair. One imagines that he is carrying on more. He practises patented compassionate neoliberal macchiavelianism when he manipulates a close Black politician to run for mayor against the incumbent Black mayor in order to assure that the Black vote splits giving him the election victory.

The dominant reform that compassionate neoliberals seem to offer in The Wire is gentrification through rehabilitating old homes or building new upscale apartments and condos. This may increase monies brought in through taxes but it leads to, to pick a few obvious examples, the displacement of those who really need the government to do something for them, the poor, it leads to a decline in other housing stock, it leads to increased black market activities, it leads to resignation, and it leads to increased corruption.

The real hero of The Wire is the precinct commander Howard "Bunny" Colvin, who creates "hamsterdams", zones where drugs can be sold relatively freely. The sell your drugs here zones have their downsides but they also lead to decreased crime in other parts of Baltimore. To his credit, Carcetti jumps on board this scheme. When he is told that his support of the free drug selling zones will hurt his chances to be elected mayor of Baltimore, however, he follows the tried and true compassionate neoliberal path, he bails.

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