Belmont Club

The Fifth Column

Most younger people have probably heard of the phrase Fifth Column only from 1940s movies and cartoons. It refers to what would today be called “sleeper cells”.  The phrase itself was coined by Emilio Mola, who fighting on the side of Franco for Madrid declared that in addition to the four columns marching on the city there existed a “fifth column” of supporters waiting in the city.  The first hunters of the “Fifth Column” were of course the Communists. And to demonstrate the original understanding of the term note that Ernest Hemingway wrote a play of the same title, which was a flop.

The Fifth Column is generally regarded (when it is regarded at all) to be something of an anomaly in the Hemingway canon. The author’s only full-length play, and one which has garnered little critical or commercial attention, it is, as John Raeburn diplomatically puts it, a work “not integral to [Hemingway’s] literary reputation”

In it Hemingway’s hero hunts down fascists.

The play concerns the activities of counter-espionage agent Philip Rawlings, a hard-drinking man’s man and Communist party operative posing as a war correspondent. He works out of the Florida hotel [the ‘Florida’ being the name of the hotel in Spain], tracking down members of the “fifth column,” Fascist sympathizers working from within against Loyalist-defended Madrid. … Philip captures a fifth column member whose confession under torture leads to the discovery of three hundred more fifth columnists.

Hemingway’s play was forgotten for decades, but it was revived in 2008 with a few changes, one being that the characters no longer called each other “comrade” on stage.

But that illustrates the context.  Historically the “sleeper cells” sought out by progressives weren’t terror cells from another culture. The sleepers were people who looked just like them, indistinguishable except in one respect: that you couldn’t call them “comrade”.

And that made all the difference.  Throughout the Second World War the true believers were fighting for a foreign power. Some for Hitler. Some for Stalin. The good guys and bad guys were distinguished not by their nationality but by their world view. God and Country were a pose along with the imposture of being a “war correspondent”  at the Florida hotel.

It was inside baseball all the way.

That goes a long way toward explaining why Western governments support the deportation of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their six children back to Germany. “The Romeike family fled their German homeland in 2008 seeking political asylum in the United States — where they hoped to home school their children. Instead, the Obama administration wants the evangelical Christian family deported.”

At issue is the question of whether they can defy the German law against homeschooling their children. The German Supreme Court has ruled that it wants to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies” — thus preventing the development of a 5th Column.  In pursuit of that policy goal the Romeikes were fined and punished; and so they fled to the US to avoid ‘persecution’. Or so they thought.

But the Obama administration isn’t buying it.

The Obama administration is arguing in federal court that a homeschooling family from Germany should be deported back to their homeland, despite what they say is religious persecution. The German government prevented Uwe and Hannelore Romeike from teaching their five children at home instead of sending them to government-run schools, fining them and threatening to prosecute them if they don’t obey.

Fifth Column

One can’t help but think it is in part because the Romeikes are the wrong sort of ideologues. If they were the right kind they might get a more sympathetic hearing. Recently a Nigerian man was granted asylum in the United States because he was gay and feared persecution in his home country.

In 1994, the Board of Immigration Appeals at U.S. Immigration declared asylum for a gay man from Cuba, essentially including sexual orientation as a new criterion.

“Since then, it’s increasingly become an accepted reason for someone to seek asylum if they fear for their safety or freedom,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality.

Immigration Equality. It’s hard not to think that some are more equal than others. The Romeikes are from one point of view simply the wrong version of the Tsarnaevs. Tamerlan Tsarnaev married and allegedly “brainwashed” a girl from Rhode Island, convinced her to convert to Islam and got her to don the hijab and go the whole nine yards. But in his case nobody wanted to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies”.

One school friend who asked not to be named recalled: ‘I saw her like a few months ago and she was just totally transformed. She was not the same person at all.’

Another agreed: ‘She was just this All-American girl who was brainwashed by her super-religious husband. Nobody understands what happened to her.

‘None of us would have dreamed that she would marry so young or drop out of college and have a baby or convert or be part of any of what’s happened.’

She said, ‘She’s just not the same person at all.’

But nobody will see anything wrong with that. What are we, bigots?  You have to understand that Romeike bad and Tsaerlan good. That is not to say that Muslims shouldn’t have the right to preach their faith and convince others to alter their lifestyles to suit. Perhaps they should.  As Erin Burnett of CNN pointed out, the Tsarnaevs were “stereotypically white Americans”.


Stereotypically White Americans

Yet there is apparently a differential willingness to greenlight Islamic lifestyles over Evangelical ones. Because the ‘moral arc’  of the history beloved by the left has to be taken into account, rooted as it is in the perception of who the enemy is.  The history of the word “Fifth Column” itself amply demonstrates  that to them the enemy is usually on the right and is usually Christian.  That is their ancient foe. Their hated enemy. It’s hard for the comrades to start fighting Islamic terrorism when they still have unfinished business with the Fifth Column.

Some writers who were formerly from the left have tried to perform an Update operation on the Narrative, basically arguing that what was true in 1941 is not necessarily true in 2013.  They’ve used the phrases  “Islamofascism” and the “New War on Women” or have even pointed out the attacks by al-Qaeda on gays as proof that the Leftist canon has somehow fallen behind the times.

This has proven surprisingly difficult. Attempts at an Update are often defeated because the transaction fails due to network latencies, cables dropping out or secret microcode marking the Leftist mind as Read Only.

Thus none of these attempts at updating the image of the enemy have had complete success, though in places like France the effort has advanced far enough to convince the Left that al-Qaeda is at least some kind of minor devil, possibly at par with George Bush though definitely not as bad as Richard Nixon.  But that is probably because the Euro left has beaten down the conservative cause so badly that even the Commies feel sorry for them and are thus willing to look radical Islamism more honestly in the face and banning a hijab or two.

It is possible that with the passage of time, as the Left runs out of 5th Columnists to torture, shame and execute, a la Hemingway, that they’ll notice that people like the Boston duo are actually planting bombs.  “Wow! They’re killing us. Blowing off our limbs? Who knew?” Then they’ll wake up the coffee. Organic and Fair Trade of course. And perhaps they’ll go so far as to let families (if they still exist) similar to the Romeikes teach their children about harmless old myths like God.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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