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January 18, 2019

Jonah Goldberg Plagiarizes My Political MacGuffin Insight Without Attribution

Here's Jonah Goldberg, plagiarizing me, stating that The Wall has become the MacGuffin of Trump's life-movie:

The border wall is now a MacGuffin, and thatís the problem.

A MacGuffin is a term of art in screenwriting. It's the thing the hero wants but the bad guys are trying to get, and therefore it drives the action of the story. In John Huston's The Maltese Falcon, the Maltese Falcon is the MacGuffin. In Raiders of the Lost Ark it's the Ark. In Dude, Whereís My Car? it's the car.


The term -- though not the idea -- was reportedly coined by Angus McPhail, a screenwriter who worked with Alfred Hitchcock. But it was Hitchcock who popularized the term more than anyone else, even though his definition differed slightly from the conventional one.

"The main thing Iíve learned over the years is that the MacGuffin is nothing," Hitchcock explained in a 1962 interview with French director Francois Truffault. "I'm convinced of this, but I find it very difficult to prove it to others."

What Hitchcock meant is that the audience doesnít need to care about the MacGuffin. All the MacGuffin needs to do is justify the effort of the hero, and all the audience needs to do is care about the hero.

The border wall isnít nothing, but in the context of the partisan fight over the shutdown, it might as well be. For those who see Donald Trump as the hero of the story, what really matters is that he triumphs. For those who see him as the villain, what really matters is that he be defeated.

This is what I wrote in 2013, in a piece which has been referenced many times in conservative media, including, I'm pretty sure, by people at NRO, making the case that the media only cared about Obamacare as the McGuffin of Obama's movie:

In a movie or book, "The MacGuffin" is the thing the hero wants.

Usually the villain wants it too, and their conflict over who will end up with The MacGuffin forms the basic spine of the story.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the MacGuffin is, of course, the Lost Ark. Indy wants it; the Nazis have it. This basic conflict over simple possession animates a two hour long movie.

Alfred Hitchcock noted -- counterintuitively, when you first hear this -- that the specifics of the MacGuffin don't really matter at all to a movie. He pointed out that the audience doesn't care at all about the MacGuffin. The hero in the movie itself cares, but the audience doesn't.

In one Hitchcock film, the MacGuffin was some smuggled uranium hidden in vintage wine bottles. But Hitchcock noted it didn't matter if it was uranium in wine bottles, or a fragment of a diplomatic dispatch from the Nazi high command, or a hidden murder weapon, or photographs proving a Senator's affair.

The Lost Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark could have easily been replaced with some missing Shankara Stones from a Thuggee temple, or the Holy Grail. In fact, that's exactly what they changed the MacGuffin to in the sequels.

No audience member really cared if the Nazis wound up with the Ark of the Covenant....

But an important sounding MacGuffin is just another way to increase the audience's emotional attachment to the Hero, not to the idea of possessing the MacGuffin.

And that, of course, explains all you need to know about the abnormal political situation we find ourselves in, and the Cult of Barack Obama.

For Obama's fanbois, this is not politics. This isn't even America, not really, not anymore.

This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions -- and Obama's myriad failures as an executive -- are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.

Does "Jonah's" article seem to be making the same point I did, which, by the way, was original when I made it? (But not when he made it.)

Does he seem to be using the same language?

Even the same examples?

Yeah, because he didn't write this piece. He merely remembered it.

This is plagiarism, and yeah, Jonah Goldberg read my article. Do I have to do a twitter search to find him referencing it?

I'd like an acknowledgement from NRO.

Update: Looks like someone at NRO is willing to link the article Jonah stole from the "show notes" from his podcast, but Goldberg himself refuses to link it the article he writes.

Is he going to claim it's only partial plagiarism because sources were acknowledged elsewhere?

Pro-Tip, Jonah: "But I don't like him anymore" is not, in fact, a license to plagiarize people. "I don' wanna acknowledge him, he criticizes me!" is not a free pass to steal ideas and wording from someone and deny the most basic attribution.

But tell me about #MuhPrinciples, Jonah.

Given that I'm the real author of this NRO piece, I think I'm going to have to demand the standard NR freelance article rate as payment, as well as a prominent "Adapted from an original piece by Ace of Spades" credit.

And I'm not kidding. This is plagiarism, straight-up. Pay me.

I'm not serving as an unacknowledged, uncompensated ghostwriter for cucks.

Someone Ran That Search... and found this:

QUOTE: About three years ago, the eponymous "Ace" from the legendary Ace of Spades HQ blog wrote a brilliant little essay on "The MacGuffinization of American politics."

Jonah Goldberg on NRO, May 6, 2016

A three-year old acknowledgement doesn't count as far as acknowledging the new borrowing of the idea, Jonah. It's not a perpetual license.

I'm pretty sure NR's legal department can verify this. I'm sure your syndicator, the Tribune Group, has a legal department that can verify this as well.

By the Way: Jonah stole the MacGuffin idea on Special Report this week, too. Was it yesterday? The day before?

So he cribbed it on FoxNews, too.

I didn't say anything about it publicly because I granted him the Extemporaneous Speech latitude. You can't cite every source in extemporaneous speech. (Actually, I try to, and I even cite sources when chatting with friends, not wanting to take a lick of credit that isn't my original insight, but I'll grant that not everyone is as much of a stickler about it as I am.)

But this is written. This is an article he's apparently selling/syndicating through the Tribune group. He had time to edit this, reflect on this. Think about whether he'd properly sourced all ideas or quotes he'd... borrowed from others.

And he decided to not even note the idea that the central idea of his whole article -- which he's getting paid for a lot more than I got paid for my original post -- came from someone else.

Extemporaneous speech, I give you a pass.

A written article that you edited and then went through over another editor's desk?

No. There is no free pass for deliberate, well-reflected plagiarism.


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posted by Ace of Spades at 07:40 PM

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