Monday, March 10, 2008
whuchu know bout baltimore:
The final WireTAP is here. Pour out a little liquor. But now... it's remix time. Here's something that was Too Hot For WireTAP! Written on Saturday:

Before the last-ever episode of The Wire airs, I wanted to say something about the worst thing to happen to The Wire during season five. I'm talking about David Plotz and Jeffrey Goldberg.

Like Clay Davis in Royce's office in season four, if I have to put up with them any more, I'm going to lose my damn mind. Their Slate dialogue has yielded many an inadvertently hilarious moment -- see Plotz's simpering apology to David Simon, reminiscent of the guy in the vacant at the beginning of season four who begged Chris for mercy, after Simon called his ignorant ass out -- but the most revealing has been their jihad against the Sun plotline. For instance, Goldberg last week: "[D]id you notice that the newspaper subplot has become even more ridiculous, as if that's possible?" Plotz: "I knew this week's Sun scenes would be a red flag in front of the Goldberg horns." (God, just ask him out already!)

Why do they hate the Sun plotline so? Yeah, yeah, I know -- it's heavy-handed, beneath the delicate subtlety of The Wire, unfamiliar to their experiences, etc. But I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest an alternative explanation: it's just too close to home for them. David Plotz and Jeffrey Goldberg are the sort of journalists that David Simon does not respect. But he writes their favorite show. It hurts!

Plotz is pretty inoffensive. But he works for Slate, which -- with the exceptions of Fred Kaplan, Dahlia Lithwick and Phil Carter -- is the pasture for New Republic-style writers who get older and not wiser. The criterion for what gets published there (again, I'm not talking about Kaplan, Lithwick or Carter) is what's clever, not what's, you know, true. Plotz probably watched the scene at the bar in episode one where Gus toasts Alma and thought: Yeah, how did she get Fat-Face Rick to talk to her? Simon probably finds him cute.

But it's Goldberg who's the bigger malefactor, and, not unrelatedly, the one who hates the Sun plotline with telling intensity. He spends so much time discussing how Gus missteps in catching the fabricator Templeton that one wonders if he isn't, um, projecting. See, in 2002, Goldberg wrote an interminable piece for The New Yorker about Saddam Hussein's Iraq that was riddled with breathless warmongering untruths about Iraq's nonexistent links to al-Qaeda. Saddam had "underwent something of a battlefield conversion to a fundamentalist brand of Islam." The Kurds peddled him a story that he dutifully transcribed about a prisoner who was a supposed agent of both al-Qaeda and Saddam. ("I asked him if he was an employee of Saddam's intelligence service. 'I prefer not to talk about that,' he replied.") He followed up this egregious piece by letting Doug Feith nibble his earlobe, twice. Not only has he not retracted his obviously erroneous reporting, he petulantly told a curious New York magazine reporter last year, "Is that part of the interview? Okay, fine, if you really want to go into it, the specific allegations I raised have never been definitively addressed by the 9/11 Commission." I can't help but think of Goldberg watching Slim Charles tell Avon, "If it's a lie, we fight on that lie," and exclaiming: Yeah, fuggin' right on!

Am I calling Goldberg a fabricator? Actually, I'm calling him something worse: a reporter who does not care about whether what he writes is true or false, no matter what the consequences to peoples' lives are, and who has no problem evading responsibility for his actions. Templeton is guilty of misdemeanors by comparison. If I were Goldberg, I'd whine about the show too. David Simon has his goddamn number.

For James Bennett and the rest of the Atlantic staff: The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and in no way reflect the sentiments of Matthew Yglesias.
--Spencer Ackerman