“Narcos is a terrific series,” Kevin Whitaker told The New York Times, after being asked to respond to the Netflix Original’s “overt, and implicit, criticism of the way the United States prosecuted the war on drugs during the 1980s and 1990s.” Particularly terrific, he noted, was the show’s depiction of the “dedication and heroism of the Colombian people”—presumably referring to the scene where the Colombian cop tortures a naked guy.
“We’ve recognized our responsibility as the market for much of the drug production, and that is why we are so committed to helping our Colombian partners to address the scourge of drug production and trafficking,” Whitaker continued.
This is actually a revealing reading of Narcos and its politics. The show, which markets itself as a reenactment of the Pablo Escobar story, uses noirish tropes and the jaded voiceover narration of its DEA agent protagonist to disguise what is ultimately a conventional good-and-evil narrative about the drug war. Insofar as it dramatizes the most pernicious myths about U.S. foreign policy, Narcos is not so much historical fiction as revisionist history. Like I wrote back in October, “It’s not propaganda in the strict sense, but Narcos may be more effective for it.”