Stephen – I agree entirely that Simon doesn’t see The Wire the way I do. I’m just not sure I care. (Ross Douthat brought up this point a while back. To which I responded, “The Wire is Chomskyite! Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care!”). What’s interesting to me is that this is a good example of how conservative and Marxist — as opposed to liberal – critiques of contempory society can overlap. If you read sophisticated Marxists like the younger Eugene Genovese, you can see why the older Eugene Genovese became a conservative. Meanwhile, it should be no surprise that some of the Crunchy Con stuff shares insights with some Marxists. Some strains of agrarian conservatism (and southern nostalgia) do not much like what markets do to tradition and character. And there’s a whole lot of libertarian-Marxist synergy in the historiography of corporatism (I relied on some of it for my book).
A lot of conservatives today are too quick to think that because liberals have some affinity for Marxist sentiments that they are actual Marxists. Liberals often make the same mistakes as Marxists, but they’re not Marxists. In the 1960s, the distinctions between Marxists and liberals was much more apparent and it’s worth remembering that the radicals often hated the liberals more than they hated the conservatives.
Anyway, I think The Wire could actually be a great catalyst for a classroom discussion about such things (though I’m not sure a whole course is worth it). My problem is that I suspect it won’t be used that way. Rather, it looks more like it will be used as a means for earnest liberals to testify about how bad they feel about urban poverty and lament how “conservatives” prevent the system from fixing these problems.