by Alan Simpson
Back in the good old days of Agatha Christie the audiences were served a good helping of Red Herrings in the "Who Dunnits", the very popular Murder Mystery Plays of the period.
Red Herrings were threads in the plot structure that were irrelevant and distracted the audience from the true villains. The good policeman of course never had the "Wool pulled over his eyes" with the string of cliches.
Today the American public loves Red Herrings, believes in them and doesn't consider them totally a waste of time and effort to distract from the real action unfolding in front of their eyes.
In the Bush 1 Presidency a well known Red Herring was the Burning of the Flag issue. A Constitutional Amendment was called for to make burning of the flag a serious offence, with some calling for the Electric Chair. It was dropped when Bill Clinton said "It's the economy stupid!" and the electorate saw that it was. Few people burned flags, millions needed jobs.
Fast forward to today and you see that Karl Rove has a full Fish Market in the White House, shoveling red herrings out like you know what.
One wonders if he has thoughts of producing an Agatha Christie Mystery Play.
Learning from the current run up to the 2004 Presidential election here is how it would go:
He would make the audience forget the dead house guest, the Butler with the bloody kitchen knife, and question the medals on the policeman's uniform.
"You could not have won that medal" shouts the Butler to the policeman, as he steps over the body and throws the bloody knife behind the desk, "Because I know you were never there."
The entire cast and the audience then would engage each other in a debate over where the policeman was when he claimed he won the medal. Actors from other productions would run on and off the stage giving their input, even though they were never there. Paid highly by the play's supporters they needed the money.
The Cook would then rush in clasping crumpled piece of paper, "The Butler never went to Buttling School and this job was fixed for him by a friend of his father. These copies, of copies, of copies prove it!"
"Yes," shouts the policeman, "he is a drunken layabout that doesn't know how to fly a plane!"
Wow this is great Murder Mystery guessing what the two characters did thirty years ago! Let's give one of them the award for best Actor.
Spell bound the audience decide that they believe the Butler, because they have seen him around and know his comic routine, and they hardly know the policeman. They therefore vote for the Butler, even though they know in their hearts that he did lie, and got them into debt up to their eyelids.
Later after all the pomp and circumstance of the award ceremonies had died down some critic asks about the body on the stage. Wasn't the original play about a body.
"A body, what body?" exclaimed the people who had participated.
The media driven by the public's desire to know the facts search everywhere for the actor who played the body, to get his views on the play.
Unfortunately he had lost his job through outsourcing and joined the National Guard to help pay off his medical bills. They shipped him off to Iraq and he was blown up by a roadside bomb. His widow hadn't time to talk to the media because she was working three jobs to make ends meet.
But not to worry the ever vigilant media have dug up witness who had a dream that it was a terrorist mouse, trained by Bin Laden, with deadly toxins on his fur, that had crept out of the Grandfather Clock and bitten the houseguest, causing immediate death.
More on News at Eleven! Back to your regular programming. Tonight it's a encore presentation of I Love Lucy.