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Of MacGuffins and Men

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by Jim McCarthy

How much of the classic noir move The Maltese Falcon can you recall?  Hitchcock acknowledged that the fabled statuette functioned as a MacGuffin, a deflection from the tale of three murders and another sub-plot involving several shady characters pursuing the priceless bird from Crusader history.   As defined in The Urban Dictionary, a crowd-sourced, reference, a MacGuffin is:

“…a device that motivates the characters and advances the story, particularly one whose importance is  accepted completely by the story’s characters, yet from the audience’s perspective it might be  minimally explained or may test their suspension of disbelief if it is scrutinized. …  It is important that the audience never actually sees the MacGuffin.”

While the falcon in the film actually appears, however briefly and mostly wrapped in newspaper, the most intriguing MacGuffins are, like the definition, never actually seen by the audience.  Nonetheless, the audience’s belief in the crucialness and actuality of the MacGuffin defies the evidence.

The Trump/Russian investigation has produced its own fantasies of “deep state” machinations designed to prove “collusion or obstruction” or some other illicit behavior by Trump’s campaign associates or the President personally.  More recently, the deep state plot has received even greater notoriety by way of a reported [mostly by Faux News], memorandum which we shall label the Nunes Parable.  This document alleges a “secret society” within the FBI dedicated to clearing Hillary Clinton and indicting Donald Trump.

At present, no radical right wing travel agencies have advertised tours to the deep state nor hailed its attractions as an inviting location.  However, the Nunes Parable may change that mystery and shed light on the reasons the deep state is preferable to lunar or Martian colonies.  But just as a MacGuffin may never be seen, neither may the deep state or the Nunes memorandum especially since the DOJ has warned its authors and proponents that release of the contents of the parable might impact intelligence assets and be “reckless.”   Thus, while many radical righties ascribe nefarious activity to a deep state and a secret society, it appears that, in fact, they themselves have created a deep state.

Devon Nunes and allies publicizing the document refuse to allow it to be seen thereby increasing its “MacGuffin” allure.  It’s also noteworthy that the loudest proponents are males [hence our title], and the usual suspects are not shy, such as Senator Ron Johnson [R-WI], Rep. Jim Jordan [R-OH], Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs along with other assorted Fauxians.  It may be that the infection of MacGuffins and men is not a treatable condition.

In the film Kasper Gutman memorably played by Sydney Greenstreet offers some cogent advice to Sam Spade [Humphrey Bogart] from which President Trump might benefit:

“I distrust a close-mouthed man.  He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously, unless you keep in practice.”

The falcon’s presence in San Francisco was not by accident as Gutman reveals to Spade.

It’s the Russians’ hand, there’s no doubt about it.

Just remember that you have not seen the Nunes Parable, nor the deep state, but you can obtain a copy of The Maltese Falcon to watch and appreciate the mostly unseen statuette and its impact upon the players.