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Monday, July 20, 2009 

Of Revelation and terror threat levels.

Thanks to my glorious religious upbringing, an upbringing so successful that instead of inculcating the fear of God in me it instead made me a God mocker, I can't approach the "terror threat level-o-meter" without thinking of Revelation. It brings to mind the four horsemen, the seven seals, the pouring of bowls, the moon turning to blood, the whore of Babylon and the 1,000 year reign. There are, of course, dozens of different interpretations of Revelation, as well as those that dismiss it as either the hallucinations of a madman or drug-inspired similar visions. I, belonging to a well-known sect which preach expressly that the end is nigh, was only taught the strictly literal interpretation; indeed, there is an entire book dedicated to "understanding" Revelation, which was relatively recently updated to take account of "changes" to the interpretation. Also connected in is the "King of the North and King of the South", both of which are mentioned in Daniel, and also taken literally. During the Cold War the King of the North was Russia, while the South was the United States, or rather the "Anglo-American" world power; since the Soviet Union's collapse they have hedged their bets and said they don't yet know who the King of the North will be.

Some of the more independently theorising members (something which itself is not often encouraged) believe that the King of the North may yet turn out to be radical Islam. This fits in with the belief that the Wild Beast of Revelation 13:1-18 is the United Nations, and that at some point in the near future the United Nations, probably prompted by war between the South and North, will attempt to eradicate all religion except for the chosen sect, which will then be turned on once all other belief has been stamped out, heralding the beginning of Armageddon proper. That this entire utterly bizarre interpretation gives the United Nations the sort of power which some of its members could only dream of, and that members of the UN keep attempting to get it recognise religious defamation as well as the other varieties makes no difference to the true believers: it's simply going to happen.

Waiting for the apocalypse and for the four horsemen to appear is much like the sort of belief required to think that the brown trousers-o-meter actually means something. In a long predicted move, the level of threat has been lowered from "severe" to "substantial", although why has not been explained. In fact, those making the decision have gone out of their way to say that there'll be no change in actual resources being used to ensure that the level doesn't have to rise, and that rather gives the impression that they're doing it simply because you can't in a democracy where there hasn't been an attack in four years forever keep up the impression that exploding Muslims are just around the corner or over the hill. Even politicians and terrorism "experts" eventually get weary of maintaining that the sky is perpetually dark, and that death, famine, war and conquest will soon be clippity-clopping along the High St.

You can't however not notice that it still is a step change from the last few years, where scaremongering was the order of the day and where there was talk of 30 plots and 2,000 individuals ready to heed their own call of duty. What's happened to those 30 plots and those 2,000 individuals? Few of those plots have been publicly broken up, as we're sure to have heard about them had they been, and while the courts have been relatively busy dealing with those charged with terrorism "offences", the numbers don't come close to the magic round number which was pushed around. It might simply be that like the intelligence which suggested that Pakistani students were ready to go with their own attack, it was wrong; it might be that the security services are telling lies, having enjoyed years of plenty after their own years of famine which were the mid-90s; or a cynical "expert" on the BBC suggests it might be to underline just how fabulously the troops in Afghanistan are doing in protecting us from terrorists here, yet not even the politicians themselves believe their own lie, and Gordon Brown has after all said himself that the crucible of terrorism is Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

Whatever the reason, it's one we should embrace, even if the "threat level", then not publicly declared, was similarly lowered before 7/7 occurred. Now that the threat isn't so severe, any further legislation on terrorism should be even more rigorously opposed, and the target should be set on repealing control orders, bringing the detention limit back to 14 days, lifting the Kafkaesque ban on some "suspects" not being informed of the evidence against them, and campaigning for investigations into our role in rendition and the potential "outsourcing" of torture. Fear, whether it's of the end of the world or of terrorism, is what makes numerous individual worlds go round.

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You mean fear makes numerous individuals who should know better go round the bend.

What do Islamist terrorists in every city, town and village, your local kiddiefiddling paedophile on every street, and the Russian soldiers with snow on their boots reported as having been seen by hundreds of people soon after the outbreak of war in 1914 have in common?

No prizes for the correct answer.

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