Thursday 28 September 2006 2:37 AM

The world, it seems, has plunged into acute Brethophobia. In a matter of days a relatively small and obscure sect have been singled out as electoral terrorists. (And they probably can't even spell 'Osama'.) These Brethren may be exclusive, but the media exposure has been anything but. Media outlets of all shapes are clambering over eachother for the definitive headline exposé. Are these people guilty of closed meetings ? Secret lives? Not voting? Tyrannical power? Getting rich? Lobbying politicians? Deceptive campaigning? Fracturing families? Destroying lives? Most likely. But it's been happening in our neighbourhoods for decades at least. Almost no one noticed, much less cared.

My political sympathies are left of centre. But this latent moral outrage smacks of insincerity. The real issue is electoral paranoia by some on the left. The Brethren's logic that political lobbying is fine whilst voting isn't, is odd certainly. But some of our best eccentrics are already in power! If these people want to pour money into an electoral process in which they will never participate, whose problem is that?

More worrying is the potential spin-off of harassment of ordinary Exclusive Brethren folk, especially distinctively-dressed women. Wouldn't happen, you say? Remember Cronulla.