November 3rd, 2016

As a writer I’ve long been aware of The Master’s understanding and use of The MacGuffin in film. I confess that I missed this connection in the dumpster fire that is our national election this year.

Neal Gabler, writing in Alfred Hitchcock Explains James Comey, the Media and 2016’s ‘MacGuffin’ for Moyers & Company, makes the case:

In effect, then, the Clinton emails have always been what the great film director Alfred Hitchcock called a “MacGuffin,” which Hitchcock described as the “device, the gimmick, if you will, that sets the plot in motion.” And he continued: “It doesn’t matter what it is. And the logicians are wrong in trying to figure out the truth of a MacGuffin, since it’s beside the point. The only thing that really matters is that in the picture, the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.”

It takes Alfred Hitchcock to reveal the secret of the emails as well as the basic operating principle of our political media. To the media, the emails are the primary plot device. In reality, they mean nothing. And I should add this: Should Donald Trump win this election, and he very well might now, historians 50 years from now will be scratching their heads over how something so inconsequential as a private email server could possibly have swayed the election. Emails! Really! How do we explain a MacGuffin overtaking our politics?

Gabler’s connecting of the dots, however, is not the nut of his story. This is:

The thing is that while the media have been obsessing over the MacGuffin, they have missed entirely the real story—the story that historians will examine and ponder. Oddly enough, it was arguably one of the world’s worst newspapers, England’s right-wing Daily Mail tabloid, which is about ten notches below our own New York Post, which is ten notches below any real newspaper, that broke the deeper story.

The Daily Mail reported that FBI agents were incensed over Comey’s decision not to prosecute Clinton (so, says the paper, was Comey’s wife) and many submitted resignations in protest. [Emphasis mine, JH] Even when real newspapers finally caught up with this angle, they soft-peddled the significance of the nation’s primary investigative agency being an in-house right-wing force that was determined to veer the election toward Trump. The later dump of Bill Clinton documents only underscores the determination of the FBI to turn the election.

That is real and really disturbing news—colossally big news, giant headline news. With his sudden announcement, Comey may or may not have been trying to pacify the GOP, which would have been bad enough. It does appear he was trying to raise morale among the gestapo at his own agency by aiding Trump. And let’s be clear: He knew he was aiding Trump.

So, who else is reporting this story?

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