“Unconfirmed Reports” explicitly links the media bias to the pervasive violence in Baltimore and the connection is so obvious that I have to wonder why it wasn’t made earlier. Bunk and Lester opine that if 300 white people were murdered every year in Baltimore it would considered a national crisis with state and federal police all over it. If 22 white women, 22 ex-cheerleader tourists, had been found in the vacants last year the media would not have been so quick to forget and the city wouldn’t have dared to suspend the investigation. But Baltimore isn’t Aruba and public interest is in no way colour blind.
The staff at The Baltimore Sun acknowledge their complicity in this situation, joking that “mother’s of four” are always having terrible things happen to them. Their news subjects are, by and large, character types that become more or less popular depending on the times, whether they be “innocent bystanders,” “statuesque blondes,” or “black males.” The types are easy shorthand for relating complex situations and while tacitly acknowledge that it’s distorting, it’s also the nature their business. Communicating real life events in a brief and understandable format necessitates playing into people’s expectations.
Scott takes this situation to its next logical step. Unable to find any real people to shoehorn into an established type, he invents his own “crippled boy.” His real experience with the Oriole’s opening day ranges from apathy to hostility. Of course these sentiments aren’t easy to sell and fiction makes for a far better read. Journalistic standards are the check against this sort of fabrication; bias and over-simplification might be the nature of the beast, but it must at least be rooted in fact. Gus knows this story, lacking full names or photos, doesn’t meet these standards and that, even if true, it shouldn’t make the paper. Sadly, he’s overruled in favour of a story that’s sure to sell.
McNulty crafts his own fiction in an effort to turn on the faucet, fabricating a murder from a homeless man’s natural death. The episode’s been building to this scene with its talk of media distortions and reinforcement of what a bad place Jimmy’s in, but I still found it a little hard to swallow. I might believe that McNulty would try fabricating evidence, maybe. But there’s no way I believe that Bunk stands by watching with not more than a repeated “What the hell are you doing!?!” Close as these two are, Bunk still would’ve tackled Jimmy the moment he realized what was going on. I can appreciate McNulty distorting the facts to create a better story, but The Wire shouldn’t distort character in order to do the same.
This episode reminded me of The Dark Knight in the notion that anything’s acceptable so long as it’s according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. Violence has, quite tragically, become expected in West Baltimore and that which is expected simply isn’t newsworthy.
The last scene is one of the rare cracks in this typically flawless series and, given that this is the beginning of the season-arc, in may be indicative of what went wrong with this season.
Bubbles is still the highlight of the season, volunteering for the most punishing work at a soup kitchen, being unwilling to experience the satisfaction of serving food to others.
Marlo again demonstrates the real dangers of lax law enforcement, murdering more people simply because he can.