The Wire creator David Simon: My country’s broken and no president can fix it

The writer and journalist behind the hit HBO series about Baltimore's drugs war believes that the United States's legal and penal system is "completely dysfunctional"

David Simon’s new show explores the kind of racial discord that have sparked protests in Baltimore and Ferguson – but The Wire creator believes the problems cannot be fixed by a president, whatever his or her skin colour.


“My country’s broken, and it’s not about electing the right guy to oversee a broken machine, it’s about the broken machine itself,” he says in this week’s Radio Times magazine. “The legislative branch of the American government is completely dysfunctional and there’s just too much money.”

He continues: “Systematically, I think we’ve got a lot of problems that are bigger than any particular president. Two million Americans are in jail, and the draconian drug policies haven’t done anything but damage. Now, if you come in on the zero tolerance, law and order, lock-’em-all-up ticket, you’re going to lose a significant portion of the political centre in way that you would not have done before.”

Simon’s drama Show Me a Hero, set to air on Sky Atlantic on 17th August, is based on a book published in 1999 about real-life events in 80s New York. Yet Simon believes that in certain respects little has changed since then.

“The whole notion of not-in-my-back-yard hasn’t improved,” he says. “In fact, if you go two stops further up that train line, the same fight that was happening in Yonkers is now happening today in Tarrytown [a small commuter suburb].

“There’s a demagogue up there who’s trying to argue against the notion that there is a single and shared America. The same fights over integration are happening in the same county, as if they haven’t learnt a goddamn thing.”

Read the full interview with David Simon in this week’s Radio Times, available in shops from Tuesday 11th August and from Apple Newsstand