Middle School Politics

Obama’s refusal to call the Islamist group ISIS by its name, referring instead to something called ISIL, is the latest iteration of a uniquely American form of political propaganda that is puerile and ridiculous: name-calling reminiscent of junior high school.

8 thoughts on “Middle School Politics

  1. ISIS’s name in Arabic refers to Iraq and Sham. The latter term refers to “Greater Syria” which Europeans and Americans often refer to at the Levant. Both ISIS and ISIL are correct terms though the former is confusing to those who think it refers only to present day Syria. I doubt that ISIS really cares what the English translation of their name is, they know what it means in Arabic.

    • I don’t know, I’m pretty sure that they are very very concerned about their public image. This is been written about by a lot of people, including me early on. But that wasn’t really the point of my cartoon here. What I was trying to say is, the group has a specific name that is widely used by almost every journalist reporting about the region, so why does the White House insist on using the term that no one else uses?

      • Actually, they really want to be called IS, or Islamic State, with the implication that they are the heart of Sunni Islam, this is not accepted by the vast majority of Sunnis. We don’t want to use this term either because it would implicitly mean we accept their version of events.

      • Ted,

        Many of your observations and columns are illuminating. You provide me with ways of thinking about issues that I probably would not have come up with on my own. So it’s a delight to be able to do this for you now.

        Why does the White House use a term no one else does, especially when a term already exists?

        Imagine you’re at a PowerPoint presentation and you, the employee, are giving a brief speech about what the charts mean. In the room are you, your boss, and about 15 other people from the office.

        Let me cut to the middle of your explanation. “… now, the dayta that we collected showed — and by the way the dayta was very impressive dayta. We gathered the dayta from six different …”

        See how you kept saying “dayta”? Great. Hang on. Your boss is asking a question.

        “So, you’re saying this dahta was first rate? I never got a chance to look carefully at the dahta, so your take on the dahta will be very important to me …”

        Now. When you answer your boss, how do you pronounce it: dayta or dahta?

        The White House is choosing a new name for ISIS because of the same dynamic.

        The journalists understand this. Those who start using the White House term will get better access. The ones who don’t? Oh, those aren’t team players. And don’t we all need to be on the same team in these fraught times?

  2. The French now seem to be referring to the movement by the Arabic abbreviation, Daesh, for ISIS, i e, al-Dawla al-Islamiyya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. I can’t help being reminded of that old politician watchword : «I don’t care what you say about me, but spell my name right !»…


  3. Serious question: Why do people get so butthurt about people using “Democrat” instead of “Democratic”?

    I personally think that that complaint diminishes Democratic supporters, making them look weak and silly; especially when there are so many other substantive complaints that can be made about Republicans and their supporters.

    Someone explain it to me. Please.

    • Whimsical,

      You raise a complex question. A little more expansion on your part might help me parse it a little more closely. Do you have a particular example in mind? But, right off, here’s some thoughts.

      The phenomenon Ted is pointing out exists pretty much all the way through the political spectrum. It is, almost invariably, a direct correlation with fear or a sense of helplessness. It’s a way to gain the feeling of authority and control when you don’t have the intelligence or the ability to argue effectively.

      Example: “Ms. Palin. You mentioned that you can see Russia from your backyard. That makes no sense.”
      “Well, you know what makes no sense? Obummer’s jobs plan. Him and Joe LIEberman have nothing to offer. I’m a grizzly mama. I wear lipstick.”

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