“Who Watches the Watchmen?”

11 Nov

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                Part of what is striking on The Wire is the amount of surveillance that goes on. This does not just refer to the surveillance of the cops on the members of the drug trade, but also to all other incidental forms. There are multiple shots of the cops that begin on a surveillance screen. Not only does this draw parallels between the police and the criminals, but it also leads to the question of who is watching the police. Moreover, it also brings to mind the question of why the police are being watched. The amount of cameras trained on the police brings up the point that they too are being watched by some institution. This institution is part of the reason why the conditions of the police department continue to be reproduced. Cops like McNulty are constantly watched and controlled, and investigations are often impeded by departmental politics. The inefficiency of the structure of the police department is constantly being reinforced, despite the efforts of the cops involved. Like the members of the drug trade, the cops are also subject to institutional pressures. The surveillance of the police furthers the point that they are under as much scrutiny, as well as attempts of control, as the people on the streets. By demonstrating that the police are under similar pressures, the creators demonstrate how the conditions within the police department are produced through a similar process of structural violence.

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2 Responses to ““Who Watches the Watchmen?””

  1. Allison Elizabeth November 11, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    I think your post draws an interesting parallel between both sides of the law in the Wire. The show presents a complex view of the war on drugs– if it even is a war (wars end). As someone mentioned in class (I apologize for not being able to remember who it was that said it), their are times in the Wire that you don’t like the cops and/or like the drug dealers. There is something human about all of them, the good and bad that it entails.

  2. ambailey9113 November 11, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    I think that the use of surveillance also demonstrates the separation between the institutions presented in the show. On one level this is obvious: the cops’ surveillance of the drug dealers’ is intended to shut down their illicit operation. On another level, this surveillance shows the distance between ostensibly connected institutions. For instance, the FBI’s surveillance of McNulty when he goes to visit Agent Fitzhugh. The use of surveillance in this instance shows how disconnected the federal government’s agenda (pursuing a War on Terror) is from the primary focus of the BPD (pursuing the War on Drugs). The surveillance also suggests how isolated Baltimore is from the rest of the country.

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