21 responses to “Some People are More Equal than Others, David Simon

    • may be more a matter of differing formats than IQ and I appreciate his bluntness and for general audiences not too shabby I think, plus who else has so clearly illustrated so many aspects of jukin’ the stats?
      that said will check out your article soon thanks for sharing it.

  1. i’ve been poking away at ‘homicide’ for at least a couple years now. getting a lot of interference from what i know of the tv show, it makes it hard to simply read what’s in front of me.

    • I loved that show but haven’t tried the book, I was fortunate to read Clockers before seeing the movie not that it was bad just less in the ways that movies usually are, time limits and all…

      • if you like price (or his work on ‘the wire’), i think you will be pleased with his (cancelled) effort at a wire-esque network tv procedural about community policing, ‘nyc-22’. it’s all on netflix instant. i like how green the city looks, how low the shots are.

      • I do like Price but didn’t really care for NYC22 it felt more cartoonish than his other shows, but thanks for the suggestion so little on TV worth watching that isn’t coming from the BBC, did you catch the Bridge on FX (I think) it had its moments, tho really they should have just ended it with the season. Also I liked AMC’s the Killing and Sundances’ Top of the Lake.

      • there’s a comic element to nyc22 that comes from its trainee focus, plus it’s a mainstay of law enforcement shows. (if there were more cops-taking-calls / cops-patrolling material on ‘the wire’, it could well have shown up there too, but the shift in the principals and their functions meant that it became cops appearing comically to themselves, or sometimes the same with the dealers.)

        if you mean the canadian pro-union corruption-hunting cop show, then yeah it was bonkers but engaging, and weird to see such strident unionism on tv. over the top with the lead as an irresistible don juan who none of his conquests mind sharing, but fun. (but i hear there was another ‘bridge’? i haven’t seen that. a border-crossing thing?)

        i will watch pretty much any cop or detective show, but i just started the american ‘killing’ and i’m not sure i can bear it. the lead really rubs me the wrong way. weird.

      • yes i meant the border-crossing show but now i’m intrigued by the other you mentioned, the american killing has its limits but so much grittier than I’m used to and in a realistic sort of petty/everyday way and not overthetop like The Shield and all.

        on the other note/topic i loved the way that the tactics and resistances/limits moved across settings/disciplines on the wire, talk about your great chains (chutes&ladders?) of being…

  2. That’s a densely thoughtful and thought-provoking article, Eric, if you’re still around. I wanted to respond to the framing context in which you interpret the series:

    “”Notably missing from The Wire’s presentation is any sort of overt portrayal of what is perhaps the primary institution of the neoliberal era: business. But this is not an oversight. Instead, business is represented by the drug gangs.”

    While watching in 2008 I ascribed the same representational meaning to the show as you did: organized crime = organized business. At times I also imposed an orthogonal representation: organized crime = organized underground political resistance, with the drug gangs using the master’s tools against him. Subsequently I’ve wondered if I was watching with rose-colored glasses. Have you had any second thoughts since your article’s publication? To wit, maybe The Wire really is what it presents itself to be on the surface: a police procedural. This rereading is perhaps highlighted by Snowden’s revelations of what we already knew: that the wire is everywhere now, even embedded in the devices people use to circumvent it.

    You highlight the “stratic relations between cops and criminals”: “they constantly borrow forms and other materials from each other, the actions of one rebounding on the other.” Absolutely, and the ongoing chess match (between black and white?) is what makes the show hum. But, as you cogently observe, both sides are playing the same game. It is “the capitalist appropriation of law as axiomatic… In The Wire, there are the lawman and the outlaw, but neither cops nor criminals can escape the law.” Right.

    In the piece you see Omar Little operating from “his space in the middle,” off the chessboard, playing for neither side, playing both sides against each other. “The middle permits the most room to create and experiment. And that, in the contemporary conjecture, is a good start.” In exploring the space in the middle you reference “the thousands of individuals that collaborate to dig tunnels under borders” as offering a strategy of “pragmatic organization” to the precariat. I agree. But I’m also reminded of Eyal Weizman’s The Hollow Land, in which the Israeli Army studies D&G as a strategy manual for occupying Palestine via deterritorialization, rhizomes, and schizzes and flows. The Israeli army too tunnels through walls and floors — it’s the master using the tools of the dispossessed and the marginalized against them, but with superior economic and military force outdoing the enemy at its own game.

    All that said, I thought that The Wire was an excellent TV program, available for appropriation into a variety of contexts, regardless of what the showrunner and the network might or might not have intended.

    • bell encounters business when he’s trying to get his buildings built, and when he gets conned by clay davis. i suppose frank sobotka is shown as undone by his efforts to keep the port economically viable in a way that still benefits the old unions, too, which is another indirect interface with business. in both cases local and state politics are essential to the way things work / don’t work.

      • from above: i loved the way that the tactics and resistances/limits moved across settings/disciplines on the wire, talk about your great chains (chutes&ladders?) of being…
        afraid I’m too old to easily track/maneuver around these kinds of comment-threads so I apologize if anything gets lost in the mix

      • Right, J: Bell and Sobotka, working at cross-purposes with big business, begin adopting capitalist strategies that can prove useful in their own guerrilla insurgencies. But their operations are ultimately undermined and overwhelmed by the government enablers of big “legit” business. I.e., the refs of the game are already bought.

        Don’t you wish one of these high-profile TV procedurals would focus on the adventures of how legit businesses achieve their corrupt ends in ways that are enabled not by crooked cops and lawyers and politicians but through strictly legal means? E.g., I have a friend who got a high-paying consulting gig with a big cable company. His project: to explore the logistics and profit potential of dedicated cable TV credit services in inner-city pawn shops and grocery stores. Customers who didn’t qualify for regular credit cards would set up an account, the cable meter would get turned on, extra-high daily fees would be levied, and extra-high interest rates would be applied to the unpaid balances. It’s legit loan-sharking, so you can keep up with The Wire even if you can’t afford it. And of course even ordinary cable fees are exorbitant, the costs of setup and operation recouped a hundredfold because it’s sold as an individual consumer good rather the price being negotiated collectively as a public utility.

      • I’ve always had–and certainly did when I wrote the article–a Marxian allergy to talking about corruption, which often seems to hold out the possibility that capitalism could be more acceptable and equal if certain people didn’t have certain advantages, etc. Or maybe it’s a revulsion at a sort of Proudhonian idea that capital is built on illegality and theft. But those sorts of Marxist principles are ahistorical in their own way: corruption has always followed capitalism, certainly its births and refoundings. Any history of British and American capitalisms shows this, as do current events in China.

      • Eric, I take your point but also think its too facile to limit the various pressures (including tyranny of the means as I like to say) and temptations that come within organizations/hierarchies (and there have to be hierarchies in organizations if decisions are to be made and effective projects carried out over time) to capitalist organizations, one of the keys to my remembered version of the Wire is how our very attempts to measure/assure quality can become self-defeating, even tyrannical.

    • Ktismatics, I’m glad you found something useful in the article. I reread it recently, and yes, I’ve had quite a few second thoughts. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of a police procedural, but I’d say there’s something there. And I do think the equation of drug gangs with business is too simplified.

      Which leads to my biggest error and point I wish I’d emphasized, and one in which you get at with the Weizman comment: viewing things through the lens of subjectivity instead of–I don’t really have the best word–the composition of forces, or even subjectivation. I think I motioned toward th at, but in the end relied too much on subjects and not enough on flows and techniques. So, I still like conceiving of Omar as being in the middle, but didn’t emphasize enough that it is a place of experimentation for state/policing/economic forces as well as for marginal subjects. I warned about and tried to avoid making the middle a place of autonomy or exemption, but the dangers I emphasized were mostly having to do with Omar’s decisions rather than how “outside” forces could use it. I wish I’d been clearer on that. (I did actually have some notes for that at the time, though for whatever reason didn’t include that stuff.)

      All this is making me want to rewatch the show.

      • I hope that, even with the second thoughts, you’re still well pleased with the essay. I see your point about the “lens of subjectivity,” but it’s still a valid question about where the subject — either the lone gun or the posse — can operate in a world crisscrossed by impersonal vectors and strata.

        Yesterday I put up a comment on your post about your article, but since it’s still awaiting moderation I’ll copy and paste it:

        It’s an excellent article, which I read from your link at Synthetic Zero. I wrote some thoughts there about your interpretation that the gangstas represent business — just thought I’d alert you here if you’ve not stopped back over there. I wrote a blog post about The Wire, in ’08 I believe, interpreting it in light of Jonathan Beller’s Cinematic Mode of Production and Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera. Not as thorough or far-reaching as your interpretation, but certainly compatible.

        “Police procedural” is hyperbolic: I agree that the show does more than that. The Beller and Vertov references emphasize the “procedural” part of the show, going behind the glossy fetishistic images of cops-and-criminals to show in detail the hard human work that goes into making the product.

      • ktis, this “to show in detail the hard human work that goes into making the product” is one of the main themes that I hope that our blog here is making/presenting cases for more of,
        championing all perspicuous-presentations of thick/vivid descriptions of who is doing what to whom and in/through what conditions/environs.

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