The Curiously Libertarian Good Wife

The most recent episode of The Good Wife posits an NSA that is entirely willing to decide that a lawyer who defends someone who they have decided is a “terrorist sympathizer” is worthy of not just wiretapping, but wiretapping all of the people she talks to, and all of the people they talk to — and that they would then use the information they receive to attack politicians and break attorney-client privilege in unrelated cases.  But that a dirty politician could get them off his back by calling in favors in Washington.

All of which sounds likely to be true to me.

Indeed, when I watch The Good Wife, I often find myself nodding along.  It’s a show that likes to rip headlines from the papers, and, very oddly for mainstream television, it seems like it presents a basically libertarian viewpoint on the world.  The show has in the past tackled:

  • Bitcoin, from the perspective of at least some sympathy towards its users and creators.
  • (In the same episode as the NSA stuff) the practice of district attorneys of pressuring defendents by putting them into situations where they will be beaten up in jail.
  • Police corruption — shooting someone and dropping a gun near the body, lying about it, and claiming it was self defense.
  • Political corruption, just constantly.
  • The Illinois two-party consent law being used by the police to prevent someone from recording a traffic stop, in a scene that was very clearly a fictionalized version of the real case of Terrance Huff, reported by libertarian journalist Radley Balko.
  • A fairly long storyline involving an undocumented immigrant, and portraying her and her father as victims of a ridiculous, out-of-control bureaucracy.
  • Constant prosecutorial misconduct.
  • A surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of a Tea-Party, gun-enthusiast ballistics expert.

It’s hard to overstate the extent to which the government comes off looking like thugs and fools in equal measure in The Good Wife.  That’s partly just the aesthetic of the show: this is not a show that has anyone who comes off looking innocent or pure.  And perhaps it’s just a fundamental feature of shows which have defense lawyers as the protagonists (the quickly canceled The Defenders had some similarities).  But it’s notable — I can’t recall the last time I saw a TV show and found myself nodding along to the politics of it.  I guess The Wire, to a large extent.


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