Journalism, the Drug War and Democracy: Bill Moyers' Must-See Interview with 'The Wire' Creator David Simon
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Over the last few weeks, I've written columns about the drug war and the demise of journalism, and I cited David Simon, the Baltimore Sun reporter turned creator of HBO's "The Wire." This week, Bill Moyers had Simon on his PBS show to expand on this topic, and it was one of those rare must-watch interviews that you see on television. You can watch it here, and I highly recommend you do.
Simon is firing on all cylinders throughout the interview, but I found this statement on the politics of the drug war particularly poignant:
Listen, if you could be Draconian and reduce drug use by locking people up, you might have an argument. But we are the jailing-est country on the planet right now. Two million people in prison. When I started as a police reporter, 33, 34 percent of the federal inmate population was violent offenders. Now it's like, seven to eight percent. So, we're locking up less violent people. More of them. The drugs are purer. They've not-- they haven't closed down a single drug corner that I know of in Baltimore for any length of time. It's not working. And by the way this is not a Republican/Democrat thing. Because a lot of the most Draconian stuff came out of the Clinton Administration. This guy trying to maneuver to the center, in order not to be perceived as Leftist by a Republican Congress.
Simon is absolutely right - the dynamics of Washington politics have long required Democrats to try to look more "tough on crime" than Republicans, for fear that they will be successfully tarred and feathered as "weak" via derivatives of Willie Horton ads. But I think things might be changing, if ever so slowly.