be the whistler

Posted: August 7, 2021 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , ,

The relentless avalanche of details surrounding the most recent ex-president’s last two months in office brings to mind the radio crime dramas of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Sirius XM broadcasts many of these old programs like The Whistler, Boston Blackie, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. They also rerun comedies, variety shows, and straight dramas from the golden age of radio, but it is the mysteries which are particularly entertaining and nowadays, surprisingly instructive.

These shows did not deal in subtlety. A crime was discovered. The hero arrived at the scene, sussed out the whos and whats and wheres, and quickly settled upon a primary suspect. The rest of the program he (always a “he”) interrogated ancillary characters, all possible suspects with varying degrees of motive – the jealous business partner, the down-on-her-luck ex-girlfriend, the hapless petty thief. Although their alibis seemed a bit flimsy, they were never the real focus of his investigation. Instead, he honed in on the charming doctor, despite assurances from others that he could not be guilty. Yes, the murder happened at the Caucasian Country Club and Doc was a member. Yes, the murder weapon was a golf club and Doc was a golfer. Yes, a 5 iron was used to kill the victim and Doc owned a set of identical golf clubs from which the 5 iron was mysteriously missing. The declarations of his innocence rapidly sounded as ridiculous and devoid of common sense as a sideshow barker’s claims that a freak with three heads could be viewed for a quarter.

Nonetheless, as a listener in 2021 you cannot believe the culprit could be that obvious. Your mind goes to the other suspects. One of them must have framed the good doctor. You are absolutely certain – despite the preponderance of evidence – that you missed a key clue, one which will circle back to snare the real killer. The truth must be more nuanced. But you are not the Whistler. You are looking beyond the fat glove smacking your face in a futile attempt to find logic in an illogical fog.

The show continued until with jarring certainty you realized it was that simple. The Whistler did not chase wild theories. He stuck to facts. He confronted the doctor with the undeniable evidence he uncovered in the first five minutes. The arrest was done with such authority that you feel foolish for thinking him innocent. Your brain went to a multi-layered puff pastry when all along it was just a stupid water cracker.

We like to think we live in a sophisticated age. We can also let this belief blind us. There are universal aphorisms about humans. Among them: if something seems too straightforward to be believed, unseen forces are obfuscating our view. Another more common one: when something is glaringly obvious, it is true. At times this involves a bloody 5 iron used to commit murder. Other times it is involves an overwhelming magnitude of eyewitness accounts, accounts which point to a small, desperate man trying to shred the institutions he swore to uphold. If the Whistler can cut through the bullshit, the rest of us can too.

  1. rangewriter says:

    Oh how I’ve missed you on WordPress. So glad to find you back in my feed. And I’ve GOT to figure out which Sirius channels play those oldies but goodies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Esther Erman says:

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So true.

    Liked by 1 person

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