My ugly city, and Christie Blatchford’s contribution to it

I was still reeling from the way the media handled the recent TTC strike when I was subjected to a truly inane article by Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail. Comparing the Toronto 18, who I’ve written about before, to the gangsters in the Wire (which I haven’t written about though I did spend 60 hours over the past month or so watching it like the addiction that it is, and I suppose mentioned it during a talk I gave last month), Blatchford showed a spectacular ability to miss the point on both sides of the comparison.


I was still reeling from the way the media handled the recent TTC strike when I was subjected to a truly inane article by Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail. Comparing the Toronto 18, who I’ve written about before, to the gangsters in the Wire (which I haven’t written about though I did spend 60 hours over the past month or so watching it like the addiction that it is, and I suppose mentioned it during a talk I gave last month), Blatchford showed a spectacular ability to miss the point on both sides of the comparison.

David Simon and Ed Burns created a masterpiece in ‘The Wire’. Simon’s interviews on the topic show how much respect he has for the subjects on both sides of the street – the young people trapped in criminal organizations and facing limited options, the police trying to do a job in a faceless and numbers-driven bureaucracy themselves, the school system, the media. Simon said in an interview that the show wasn’t about cops and criminals but about how we live in cities, and the betrayal of the American working class. There are two other very intentional things that Simon did with the show – one was to portray the humanity of every single character, and the other was to show the beauty and the poetry of the language – of the street, and of ordinary cops, journalists, port workers.

Every bit of that was lost on Blatchford, apparently. She sees all these layers of complexity that Simon observed painstakingly and pulled from his life as a reporter on the streets of Baltimore and describes it: “They held their weapons in that stupid yo-yo-yo manner, hands cocked as if giving a gang sign; they all had nicknames; they had never been out of their tiny corner of west Baltimore and had educations best described as preposterously rudimentary.”

Just in case the irony of Blatchford describing the characters in the wire as “stupid yo yo”s and their understanding as “preposterously rudimentary” is missed, I would like to make sure to point it out here. She’s even wrong about Snoop, who she says Simon portrays as “purely evil” (even as Blatchford celebrates her own ignorance in declaring that she catches only one word in 10 that Snoop “utters” – and we can leave aside the question of whether it’s only people with black english who “utter” words in Blatchford’s universe as opposed to just “saying” them). Actually Snoop’s death in the fifth season is one of the most tragic and moving in the whole show. There are some pretty unambiguously evil characters though, including Rawls, Davis, Cheese, and Marlo, who Simon later described as being motivated solely by a desire for “totalitarian power” (that’s also Burns’s analysis of the motivation of gangsters expressed in a paper he wrote on the topic).

Blatchford takes her “stupid yo yo” analysis of the Wire and applies it to a very serious situation, that of the toronto 18, the young people who were seized, villified in the media (including Blatchford’s own paper), held for years now, some of whom in solitary confinement,, the cases against whom have since largely fallen apart, but several of whom still face important bail hearings. Blatchford shows as casual a contempt for these people as she does the characters Simon worked so hard to humanize. She also provides a bit of a caricature of the media missing the point that Simon tried to show in Season 5 (something that also seems to have passed her by as she watched the Wire). The substance of her article is – well, there is none. In the end, her article comes down to the fact that she was in court listening to evidence that she can’t disclose due to a publication ban. A ban which doesn’t stop her from making serious accusations and expressing her ignorance and contempt for people using an inane comparison to a show that she didn’t understand. Of course, if these people hadn’t been in jail already for so long and hadn’t already been subjected to so much abuse from the media (before and despite the publication ban), Blatchford, and perhaps her class and profession, might be dismissed with the same contempt she shows for the young Black people portrayed in the Wire and the young Muslims she saw in court. But the stakes are higher than that, and it is hard to imagine how Blatchford or the Globe and Mail expect to be taken seriously when they treat their work with such vulgarity.

(Blatchford’s article is called “It all comes down to ‘The Wire’ in terror case”, it’s from Wednesday April 23/08 Globe and Mail, in case you have the stomach to read it. If you want to then write to the Globe or to Blatchford herself the emails are letters@globeandmail.com and cblatchford@globeandmail.com.).

Author: Justin Podur

Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

2 thoughts on “My ugly city, and Christie Blatchford’s contribution to it”

  1. excellent commentary both on
    excellent commentary both on the TTC strike and the Blatchford column — which, as a huge Wire fan I also found utterly stupid and dishonest…but insidious all the same in the way Blatchford and others like her (eg Rosie Di Manno) tend to be.

    raghu

  2. My Ugly City
    Thank you for this piece. You nailed it. Christie Blatchford’s column made me wonder what kind of journalistic integrity is left at the Globe and Mail, since we allready know that Blatchford has none left. The entire article was summed up by her saying that she can’t give details, ie: evidence but that they must be guilty.

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