Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
And in that, timing is everything.
The answer, apparently, to the question; “if senior politicians and the security services knew about this plot for days, weeks or months in advance, why was the ‘threat level’ only raised yesterday?” is; “because to raise the threat level before the plotters were arrested then the plotters would have been tipped off.” Obviously.
But this raises a further question; “just what are the threat levels for?” If the threat level can only be raised after a plot has been foiled, just what are threat levels meant to warn us about? If they cannot be raised, or lowered, on the basis of specific evidence, lest this advantage the subjects of that evidence, then threat levels can only be determined by the impressionistic judgement of politicians. In that, they can be little more than this
So, let us say that this was a real plot. This was not Forest Gate. This was not Jean Charles de Menezes. And let us say that there actually was some evidence. This was not the [no] ricin plot. And let us say that this was not a security services operation from start to finish, with government provocateurs inciting alienated young men to carry out terrorist attacks and then arranging for them to be supplied with explosives. Britain is not like Canada or Florida, after all. This still leaves the question; “why are these men arrested at this moment?” This has, after all the effect of pushing the actually existing atrocities in Lebanon off the front pages and validating the recent, and frankly childish, ‘Islamic fascist’ speeches of Bush, Blair and Reid. “And why the imposition of draconian security procedures on the 10th of August, specifically, we are told, to deal with a threat that was in existence, if at any time, before the 10th of August?” This was a threat that was known about, and, if the security services can be trusted to have arrested the right men, then on the 10th of August the threat was reduced dramatically. This will, after all, have the effect of ramming the threat of Islamic fascism home to thousands of ordinary people, ensuring that, in John Reid’s words, they ‘get it’. “And why was the non-specific threat level raised and the possibility of an attack described as imminent as a result of developments that can only have decreased the threat level?” This, after all… oh, you get it.
In the exploitation of terrorism for political ends, timing is everything.
P.s. what on Earth has happened to the language of our politicians? ‘Islamic fascists’ is a singularly stupid phrase, one that has spread from hate sites like Little Green Footballs to those sites that help foster hate in more polite company such as Harry’s Place. It was only a few weeks ago that Gene of Harry’s Place attempted to cast Hezbollah as a fascist organisation on the basis that they have a militaristic mythology and that they give the Roman salute. Nothing more, no analysis, just a diagnosis by stylistic epiphenomena. And saying that people ‘don’t get it’ has for some time been the rhetorical refuge of the internet warmonger. What we do not get is that Muslims are going to Eurabise us, impose Sharia Law, and that they plan to conquer the Earth. And that, having got this, we need to cast aside our qualms and start fighting them right now. Islamic fascists? I do not know about that. What I do know is that the people who expound their views using the kind of language our political leaders have been using recently are fascists. People like Melanie Phillips and Douglas Murray are syndeological heirs to those who identified a dangerously decadent tolerance in European civilisation, the backwardness of other societies, the need to use force to order society at home and re-order societies abroad, and the threats from within and without posed by a particular ethno-religious grouping.
They would be frightening clowns, offensive comedians, if they did not seem to have their timing lockstep with the sophisticated comics that hold political power.