Baltimore on Thames (The Sequel)

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When last we checked with Swampland London correspondent Glen Levy, he told us the Brits were in a swivet over an American TV Show that is no longer on the air. His latest dispatch makes us wonder whether the show in question might actually be Punk’d.:

When you left us at the end of the previous episode, a rather intriguing plot point had been established pitting British politicians against each other as opposition pol Chris Grayling suggested that elements of HBO’s The Wire had infiltrated our society. But now comes a twist of such majestic proportions that Wire creator David Simon would surely be proud…

Yesterday, it transpired that Baltimore had, quite frankly, had enough of we Brits having the temerity to offer a link between the fictional TV show and the problems blighting our society. And a passionate, rugged defence of Charm City came from apparently none other than Mayor Sheila Dixon. In her mayoral statement on crime, which was published online, Dixon wrote the following…

Fellow citizens

This week I was alerted to a speech made by a Member of the British Parliament, a Mr Chris Grayling, who suggested his country should fear becoming like our city of Baltimore as portrayed in the HBO series, The Wire. We all watched The Wire and while it was sometimes a heart-breaking reflection of reality, it was in the main, merely entertaining fiction.

The television show failed to reflect the best we have in this city, our sense of community, our hospitality and our proud history and culture. To present a television show as the real Baltimore is to perpetuate a fiction that dishonours our city. It is as pointless as boasting that Baltimore has a per capita homicide rate a fraction of that in the popular UK television show Midsomer Murders .

The Baltimore Police Department is working hard to protect the people of this city and it should be remembered that The Wire was just a television show. As this video shows, there is so much more to Baltimore than The Wire.

Mayor Sheila Dixon
City of Baltimore

But does anything appear awry here? For starters (and this doesn’t take the detective skills required in The Wire or real life), the press release contains the British spelling for “dishonours.” What’s more, Dixon refers to a U.K. TV show called Midsomer Murders. Let me assure any U.S. TV fans now wondering if they’ve been missing out on a vital bit of British culture that you’ve not. And Midsomer Murders certainly shouldn’t be on the radar of any mayor, British or American. Hell, it’s probably not on the radar of the people who actually made it.

And yet, this fascinating tale kept continuing to unfurl in the manner of the beautifully scripted show that got everyone’s attention in the first place. The mainstream media in the U.K., as well as the Labour party (presumably hankering after any chance to settle the score with their rival Conservatives), lapped up Dixon’s comments. But then the Baltimore Sun of all newspapers (lest we forget, a former workplace of David Simon’s and one of the key locations for the final season of his show) fell for this press release hook, link and sinker making the eventual truth all the sweeter. Because, sure enough, it was a hoax perpetrated by British political blogger Alex Hilton (aka Recess Monkey). Indeed, a cursory look at his website tells you that’s he on vacation in Maryland, no doubt basking in the glow of setting up that fake site, which (admittedly) does look pretty close to the real deal.

Never have the opening lyrics to The Wire — “When you walk through the garden/You gotta watch your back” — seemed so relevant. Someone should pitch this entire farce to HBO: they’ve got a proud track record when it comes to comedy.