Journalist and TV producer David Simon spoke in London last week, calling America's “War on Drugs” a “holocaust in slow motion.” Simon was the creator of the critically acclaimed 2002-2008 crime series The Wire, and wrote the book that served as the basis for the 1993-1999 series Homicide: Life on the Street.
At a debate hosted by British newspaper The Observer, Simon spoke about recent efforts to legalize marijuana, stating such measures would help middle class whites while leaving urban blacks targeted for minor drug offenses.
“I’m against it,” Simon said “The last thing I want to do is rationalize the easiest, the most benign end of this. The whole concept needs to be changed, the debate re-framed.
“I want [the drug war] to fall as one complete edifice. If they manage to let a few white middle-class people off the hook, that’s very dangerous. If they can find a way for white kids in middle-class suburbia to get high without them going to jail, and getting them to think that what they do is a million miles away from black kids taking crack, that is what politicians would do.”
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If marijuana is legalized by itself, leaving other recreational drugs illegal, “it’d be another 10 or 40 years of assigning people of color to this dystopia.”
Simon characterized the War on Drugs as being about the disposal of “excess Americans,” who are no longer useful to the labor force.
The 52-year-old author agreed that “drugs are bad," but insisted the War on Drugs “always proceeded along racial lines...,” “not against dangerous substances but against the poor, the excess Americans.”
Simon said he had “no faith in our political leadership to ever address the problem. There is no incentive to walk away from law and order as a political currency.” He called on jurors to refuse to send minor drug offenders to jail, comparing the end of drug prohibition to the end of alcohol prohibition.
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Simon worked for the Baltimore Sun City Desk for twelve years. He wrote the books Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, and co-wrote The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood with Ed Burns. The former book was the basis for the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street, on which Simon served as a writer and producer. Simon adapted the latter book into the HBO mini-series The Corner.
He was executive producer, head writer, and show runner for The Wire; adapted the non-fiction book Generation Kill into an HBO mini-series; and co-created the current HBO series Treme. Simon was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2010.