When The Wire first aired on HBO in June 2002, I took a quick look and decided not to bother with a foul-mouthed TV series about cynical cops chasing violent drug dealers in the depressed black neighborhoods of West Baltimore. For one thing, I knew enough about commercialized rap music that I did not wish to join the vast pale-faced audience for a new brand of minstrelsy more exploitative than the old. And I was doubtless influenced by the fact that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had pushed inner-city poverty, social dysfunction, and misdirected policing off the national agenda.

The blight affecting the ghetto poor stayed off the agenda for a decade, as Americans fought two agonizing wars in the Middle East, got whacked by the financial crisis, and became enraged by political paralysis in Washington. It might still be off the agenda if the invention of the smartphone camera had not forced it back on. Unfortunately, being on the national agenda is now a liability, as cable “news” and “social” media whip every disagreement into a screaming match, if not an armed confrontation. The Russian operatives stoking the disinformation flames must be proud. But the fact is, we don’t need their help burning down our own house while accusing one another of arson.

The Wire was not a hit back in 2002, but it attracted a

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