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Bill Moyers Talks Drugs, Crime, Journalism and Democracy with Creator of 'The Wire'

HBO's critically-acclaimed "The Wire" creator David Simon talks about inner-city crime and politics, storytelling and the future of journalism.

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BILL MOYERS: Are you, as someone said recently, "the angriest man in television"?

DAVID SIMON: Yes, I saw that. It doesn't really mean much. The second angriest guy is, you know, by a kidney shaped pool in L.A. screaming into his cell phone, because his DVD points aren't enough. I mean, what is the second angriest man in television, American television? But I don't mind being called that. I just don't think it means anything. How can you not have lived through the last ten years in American culture? In everything from-- how can you not look at what happened on Wall Street and that's still happening? At this gamesmanship that was the mortgage bubble, you know? That was just selling-- again, selling crap and calling it gold.

How can you not look at that? Or watch a city school system suffer for 20, 25-- how can you-- isn't anger the appropriate response? What is the appropriate response? Ennui? You know? Alienation? You know, buying into the notion that the "Great Man" theory of history? That if we only elect the right guy? This stuff is systemic. This is how an empire is eaten from within.

BILL MOYERS: But I don't think these good individuals you talk about, the individual who stands up and says, "I'm not going to lie anymore." I don't think individuals know how to crack that system. How to change that system. Because by you-- as you say, the system it self-perpetuating.

DAVID SIMON: And moneyed. And beautifully moneyed. I mean, you know-- and I don't think we can. And so, I don't think it's going to get better. Listen, I don't like talking this way. I would be happy to find out that THE WIRE was hyperbolic and ridiculous. And that the American Century is still to come. I don't believe it, but I'd love to believe it, because I live in Baltimore and I'm an American. You know? And I want to sit in my house and see the game on Saturday along with everybody else. But I just don't see a lot of evidence of it.

BILL MOYERS: Do you really believe, as you said to those students at Loyola, that we're not going to make it?

DAVID SIMON: We're not going to make it as a first rate empire. And I'm not sure that that's a bad thing in the end. I mean, you know, empires end. And that doesn't mean cultures end completely and it doesn't mean that even nation states... You know, I mean, if you looked at Britain in 1952 and what was being presided over by Anthony Eden and those guys. You'd have said, "Man, you know, what's going to be left?" But, you know, Britain's still there. And they've come to terms with what they can and can't do.

Americans are still sort of in an age of delusion, I think. And a lot of our foreign policy represents that. And a lot of our-- you know, this notion that the markets were always going to go up. And that once we had invested stocks to death, we could create some new equity, out of magic. Out of nothing. Out of-

BILL MOYERS: Derivatives and all-

DAVID SIMON: Out of bad mortgages. No, look, it's a new stock. Bring more money. I mean, the insanity of that is-- it was fun being compared to Gibbon, I'll take that. But-

BILL MOYERS: I must say you are a reporter, not a prophet. But sometimes-

DAVID SIMON: Exactly.