Updated September 21: On his personal website, David Simon has accused Reason TV of producing a "shanked" interview with him. For links to his criticism, our response, and full audio of our hour-and-20-minute-long conversation with him that formed the basis of this video, go here now.
"At some point during the run of The Wire, I became a fellow traveler of the libertarians," says the acclaimed writer and television producer David Simon. "And then a great disappointment to them."
A self-proclaimed "lefty," Simon is the creator of the The Wire, which ran on HBO from 2002 to 2008 and depicted with tragic realism the impact of the drug war on inner-city Baltimore. Over five seasons, The Wire told a series of complex, interwoven stories built around major themes of the modern American city, including the decline of the working waterfront, failing schools, faltering newspapers, the unseemly side of local politics, and, more generally, how bureaucratic institutions thwart reform-minded individuals.
In writing The Wire, Simon drew on his 13-years as a reporter at The Baltimore Sun and his 1991 book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, which is derived from Simon's stint as an embed with the Baltimore Police Department's homicide division. Producer Barry Levinson later turned the book into an Emmy-award-winning series that ran on NBC from 1993 to 1998.
Simon co-wrote (with David Mills) The Corner (2000), an HBO miniseries that depicts inner-city Baltimore ravaged by the drug trade, and he co-wrote HBO's Generation Kill, a miniseries based on a book by Evan Wright about a Marine Corps unit during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Simon's blistering indictment of the drug war frames Eugene Jarecki's new documentary on the subject, The House I Live In, and he's an outspoken critic of the state of the newspaper industry. In 2009, Simon testified before the Senate Commerce Committee that shrinking newsrooms imperil our democracy.
HBO's Treme is Simon's latest project, which offers a multi-faceted look at post-Katrina New Orleans and the music scene that makes the city so unique. Treme's third season starts this Sunday on HBO.
Simon was last interviewed in Reason in 2004, and retired Baltimore homicide and narcotics detective Ed Burns, who was Simon's collaborator on The Wire and other projects, was interviewed in Reason in 2008.
Reason.com Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie sat down with Simon last week to discuss Treme, the state of New Orleans, the drug war, President Obama, school choice, private prisons, the newspaper industry, and Simon's antipathy towards libertarians.
An edited version of that discussion appears below.
About 21 minutes.
Produced by Jim Epstein; shot by Epstein and Meredith Bragg.
Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV’s YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material is live.
reason: Let’s talk about Treme. Watching the first three seasons of the show, I kept thinking of the Faulkner line, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Your show seems very much focused on people who are trying to maintain New Orleans culture, but then there’s also a recognition that things have to change.
David Simon: That’s right. There’s always a tension between tradition and the past and organic creativity. And I think that’s probably true in any city but it’s particularly dynamic in New Orleans. And the amazing thing about New Orleans is they’re not willing to let anything go.