HISTORY OFTHE “WORLD THREAT LEVELS ANNOUNCEMENT” INTERNET HUMOUR
The “Terrorist Threat Alert” circular, like the “Revocation of Independence” circular, was NOT written by John Cleese. It began as a “French Threat level” joke in 2003 and has been resurrected, updated and expanded to reflect changing current events. Back in 2005, the English were a bit miffed at “the London bombings.” By 2015, the English were a bit miffed “at recent events in Syria." Along the way, several additional national stereotypes have been added.
As far as I can make out, the original joke began in July 2003 as “The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender,” (alternatively the levels are given as: “Run”, “Hide”, “Cower”, and “Act Snooty”) and often accompanied a number of jokes about the French Military e.g. “Soldier of Surrender” magazine and a “French Army Knife” that included a white flag. I remember these well because I worked for a defence company at the time so these arrived in my email inbox and on military-oriented Usenet newsgroups. From that modest start, the French Threat Levels seems to have circulated on Usenet and social media and evolved into the much longer announcement mis-attributed to Cleese.
THE 2003 VERSION
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from RUN to HIDE. The only two higher levels in France are COLLABORATE and SURRENDER.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from RUN to HIDE. The only two higher levels in France are COWER and ACT SNOOTY.
This piece of humour appeared 2 years later on Fifty shades of Dave and other blogs in July 2005.
|Londoners 'Peeved' By Continued Bombings, Australians All Out For 190
As London is hit by the second wave of bombings in two weeks, the Government has raised the terror warning level from 'miffed' to 'peeved'. Whilst many people commented with respect at the stoical attitude of Londoners to the first wave of attacks, Londoners are losing their traditional reserve and may soon require the terror level warning to be raised to 'irritated' or even 'a bit cross'.
A government spokesmen commented upon the seriousness of the situation. "London has not been a bit cross since the height of the Blitz in 1940 when supplies of tea ran out for almost three weeks", said a representative of the Security Services. "It is as a mark of the seriousness with which Londoners are taking the situation that we have recently been forced to recategorise suicide bombers from 'tiresome' to 'a bloody nuisance', and the last time we had a 'bloody nuisance' warning level was during the great fire of 1666."
On the streets, Londoners reacted with uncharacteristic anger to news of the latest attacks, with some members of the public reacting with harsh language to the news that they might be delayed on their homeward trips by up to twenty minutes.
"It really is the absolute limit," said Reginald Boggis, 42, of East Ham. "These terrorists. Not content with blowing things up, they then have to spoil the day for everyone. That's just irritating, that is. If they wanted to get things changed, they should write an angry letter to Points of View. That's what my wife and I always do."
Tony Blair is expected to make political capital out of the situation as soon as his focus groups report on the mood of the nation.
In other news, Britain reeled today at the news Australia were all out for 190 runs in the first test. "Good heavens!", said cricket fan Stan Higginbottom. "We showed the Aussies, what for, eh? What's that? More terrorists? Well, that's bloody typical, isn't it?"
Sometime since July 2005, the “French Threat Level “ joke and the longer “Londoner Peeved” blog post synergised into something longer, incorporating as many national stereotypes as possible. Notice that it has American, not British, spellings ie.g. "neighbor" and "defense." Nov 2005 Version is the earliest version I could find that married the two jokes together into a single "security alert". This circulated virtually unchanged throughout 2006 and into 2007:
|P>The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon though, security
levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.
Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "shout loudly and excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "ineffective combat operations" and "change sides". The Germans also increased their alert state from "disdainful arrogance" to "dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They also have two higher levels: "invade a neighbor" and "lose". Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they worry about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
A July 2007 version contained a few short-lived changes and additions:
This October 2007 used the earlier wording, but added:
By 2008/9 (on usenet) this had become the "long" version that was recirculated in 2013 and 2015 with minor variations contributed by usenet posters. The Sept 2009 example (and many of those circulating in 2010) contained:
Examples found in March 2010 had dropped the Canadian section and the last line of the New Zealand section. It also changed the "The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666" to "The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada." This better explained the Spanish glass-bottomed submarine joke later on. A USA-centric footnote in December 2010 added "TSA have lowered their profiling standards. They are now only profiling humans between the ages of 1 and 112 who are wearing clothes and pass through airports."
In January 2011, the "long" version (now with 1588) was erroneously attributed to John Cleese, possibly because he's the only English funny man easily recognised by US Americans. It has remained fairly stable in content since then. Below is a version from 2013. “Recent terrorist threats” can be replaced by any topical current threat, so in 2015, it was re-circulated (still with an incorrect attribution to Cleese) as “recent events in Syria.”
World Threat Levels Announcement
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."
Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."
The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Americans meanwhile and as usual are carrying out pre-emptive strikes, on all of their allies, just in case.
And in the southern hemisphere...
New Zealand has also raised its security levels - from "baaa" to "BAAAA!". Due to continuing defense cutbacks (the airforce being a squadron of spotty teenagers flying paper aeroplanes and the navy some toy boats in the Prime Minister's bath), New Zealand only has one more level of escalation, which is "I hope Australia will come and rescue us".
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be right, mate". Three more escalation levels remain: "Crikey!', "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend" and "The barbie is cancelled". So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.
MEANWHILE IN THE REAL WORLD ….
In May 2011, the US’s Dept of Homeland Security abandoned the colour-coded threat level in favour of two alert levels: “Imminent Threat Alert. Warns of a credible, specific, and impending threat against the United States” and “Elevated Threat Alert. Warns of a credible threat against the United States”. These were more meaningful to the public than red, orange and yellow.
Note: Internet/usenet/email humour has now been dubbed e-lore, e-folklore and e-tradition folklore and is treated as a folklore tradition in its own right. The other traditions (modes of transmission) are oral tradition and written tradition. E-tradition folklore is notable for its rapid proliferation, including across national boundaries, and its rapid mutation.