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The Zeitgeist and The Fifth Column
by Brian S. Wise, Fifth Columnist
30 November 2002 

Asking the question, Are Al Gore's most recent ramblings strategy or something out of his control?


Brian S. Wise Historical Scholar (and Red Headed Goddess) Tina Johnson sent along an electronic mail a few days ago, calling to my attention this quote of mine, taken from the transcript of an impeachment debate, January 1999: “No, my ‘Al Gore in 1998’ campaign wasn’t about the testimony and obstruction of justice. It was about Bill Clinton’s mental illness, whether or not someone that obviously mentally ill should be allowed to hold the presidency, and whether or not there are 25th Amendment concerns.”

You’d have thought I’d just confessed to shooting John Kennedy from the grassy knoll, such was the reaction in the room. Nobody had to that point openly suggested Clinton had that sort of problem; both Republicans and Democrats seemed equally taken aback by the idea of a sitting president basking in his own mental illness. Now it seems reasonably (not conclusively, but reasonably) clear that, even had Clinton been ushered aside, Al Gore had / has his own problems, which are just now coming to light.

"Something will start at the Republican National Committee, inside the building, and it will explode the next day on the right-wing talk show network and on Fox News and in the newspapers that play the game, The Washington Times and the others,” Gore told the New York Observer. “And then they'll create a little echo chamber, and pretty soon they'll start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story they've pushed into the zeitgeist. And then pretty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these R.N.C. talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist." More: “Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks – that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what's objective as stated by the news media as a whole.”

Zeitgeist is defined here as, “the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate in America,” with fifth column being recognized in this dictionary first as a “name applied to rebel sympathizers in Madrid in 1936 when four rebel columns were advancing on the city,” only to be quickly followed with, “a group of secret sympathizers or supporters of an enemy that engage in espionage or sabotage within defense lines or national borders.” One is not illogical in wondering whether or not the former vice-president (a distinction I cannot tire in making) would be going off on these recent tirades had his and Mary’s two books actually been selling. In any event, the book tour continues for at least two and a half more weeks, and for whatever reason Gore will continue to speak, driving Fifth Columnists like myself to wonder just what has gripped him, if not some form of mental illness.

Hopefully someone will get to Al Gore soon and point out that, Yes, the intellectual, moral and cultural climate of this country has changed in general since the end of the Clinton administration, and it had a lot to do with two very large buildings collapsing upon themselves on the East coast. America has bounced back nicely since the Tragedies (to whatever good and / or bad that entails), but there is at least a common fear that, at some point, 3,000 or more innocent lives will again be snuffed out because of religious zealotry, sexual repression and garden variety stupidity. Those fears lead to clear cultural shifts, and Republican majorities, as voters have grown increasingly fond of the “Get them before they have a chance to get us” philosophy, and would like to see it continue.

The fifth column business reminds one of Hillary Clinton’s “vast, Right-wing conspiracy” in that both are desperate attempts to rally the liberal base, and both are wrong. As with the conspiracy, if you mean to include those people who have had Al Gore figured out from the beginning, then sure, there’s a functioning fifth column out there. Otherwise, cursory glances at ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, most local television affiliates across the country, the New York Times (from which the Left takes its philosophical marching orders), USA Today and most local newspapers across the country would let Gore in on a little secret: The media as a wholesale unit hasn’t changed, the people have. Two years from now, the same voters may consider the actions of the Republican majority and their consequences only to change their minds again. That is their option.

This much we know for sure: Al Gore’s acting as though he’s Mrs. Gore’s mental illness poster child isn’t helping to energize his base, it’s embarrassing them and energizing the Right. Gore would be best served to do his stint on Saturday Night Live and keep a low profile for the next six to nine months, until such time as there’s something of actual substance for him to oppose. If not, the differences between merely embarrassing and outright alienating his base could become clearer than he ever thought possible.

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