The recent ISIS-inspired attacks in Paris, which the naïve may have hoped would awaken the left to the seriousness of the global Islamic threat, have, predictably, had exactly the opposite effect. The West’s mainstream political establishments, faced with yet another stark reminder that many Muslims are eager to engage in a war to the death for Allah, have joined hands in the fight — not to defeat Islamic fanaticism, but to improve the rhetorical efforts to bury any connection between the world’s hordes of jihadists and the faith in whose name they are acting.
Thus today, when the need to name, expose, and combat Islamic radicalism seems more urgent than ever, John Kerry, François Hollande, and our other progressive betters are attempting to banish the word “Islamic” from future public discussion of the threat of radical Is… um, radical stuff. They have determined that we should henceforth refer to the artists formerly known as Islamic State by the name “Daesh.”
This rebranding, in traditional propaganda style, has been issued with its own press releases from the Ministry of Truth (i.e., the mainstream media). One version is delivered to us under the headline:
If You Hear President Obama and John Kerry call ISIS “Daesh,” Here’s Why.
In the accompanying article, our dutiful messenger, Jon Levine, assures us that the sudden shift away from “ISIS” and into “Daesh” is not what it appears to be — a pathetic attempt to avoid using the word “Islamic” in connection with terrorism — but rather a brilliant rhetorical stab at the Islamic… er, I mean the bad guys. “Daesh,” you see, is an acronym derived (though not quite acronymically) from the transliteration of the terrorist group’s Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. And when pronounced a certain way (though not the way any of our leftist geniuses are pronouncing it) “Daesh” sounds a little like a couple of Arabic expressions that might seem slightly derogatory. Thus, we are told that hearing this acronym really ticks the bad guys off, so we should use it just to show them we are not afraid of their Daesh-ic radicalism. Levine even concludes his fawning delivery of the official message with this benighted injunction: “Daesh. Use it — annoy a terrorist.”
Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.
As another mouthpiece from the Ministry tells us, “With Obama, Hollande and other leaders using this verbal jab while holding the world’s attention [in the past week], Daesh just might be the new ISIS.” In other words, certain leading progressives have, in the wake of the Paris attacks, instigated a strategy to replace Islamic State — a name which clearly identifies the radical group by motive and aspiration — with a meaningless bureaucratic catchword that “annoys” them.
Here then, stated without the cheerleading, is the actual story: A small number of prominent politicians, mainly socialists who empathize with the anti-Western aspect of the Islamist cause, and who are struggling to defend the mass importation of unvetted Muslims into their own respective countries, are engaged in a concerted effort to detach Islamic radicalism from Islam itself in the public consciousness, by phasing the group’s descriptively accurate name out of the discussion. This is a classic instance of political correctness in its proper sense — the calculated distortion of language aimed at suppressing non-progressive thought.
We sometimes speak of political correctness these days as though it were merely a superficial, relatively unimportant outgrowth of progressive ideology. The word “political,” which ought to highlight the seriousness of the problem, tends to be obscured by “correctness,” a word which evokes thoughts of prissy etiquette mavens and other fuss-budgets. We therefore mistakenly dismiss the directives of political correctness as we might dismiss those of a prudish grade-school teacher, as though being “politically incorrect” were simply a matter of being crassly provocative in the manner of a blowhard like Bill Maher, e.g., of cursing in front of that prudish grade-school teacher.
But political correctness has nothing to do with prudishness or excessive politeness. It is an assault on the proper and accurate use of language, undertaken with specific political aims. Change a society’s language, and you change the range of possible meaning. Limit meanings, and you alter thought. Alter thought, and you can fundamentally transform the society, simply by circumscribing what people can meaningfully discuss — not what they wish to discuss, but literally what can be expressed — with the shared vocabulary available to them.
In other words, politically correct speech, which in every case results directly from a politically motivated, deliberately imposed alteration of the existing lexicon, is nothing less than a species of propaganda. In our modern progressive-democratic world, it has become the single most common and insidious form of propaganda.
I distinctly remember the day John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats emerged from a Senate hearing on the issue we all knew as “global warming,” but were suddenly speaking to the reporters on hand about a peculiar new idea, “climate change.” In a classic Soviet-style propaganda shift, the theory’s original name, which was beginning to provoke skepticism and even mockery, was abruptly and unilaterally dumped in favor of a deliberately non-specific phrase. Unlike “anthropogenic global warming” — a clear name that defined its theory in such a way that the issue would explode if evidence of warming dried up or came into question — “climate change” was brilliantly unfalsifiable: climate will inevitably change, so the new name provided cover for a theory that had always been as much political ploy as scientific investigation.
Today, uncountable thousands of Muslims are pursuing an open strategy of violent assault against the civilized world. They call their actions “jihad,” an Islamic term denoting a crusade in Allah’s name. They seek to recruit young people from around the world, including non-Muslims willing to convert to Islam, to join them in committing violence against civilized populations. They and their brethren use beheadings and mass slaughter to flaunt their lack of any restraint, or any respect for human dignity, in the fight to achieve a global caliphate. They advocate levels of subjugation for women that extend to mass genital mutilation, and license for male family members to murder a female relation for perceived slights against a notion of “family honor” straight out of Kafka — to be accused is to be guilty. They destroy historical monuments with joyous abandon, indicating that they are a doomsday cult — a faction devoid of concern for any human achievement before their jihad, because they perceive no future for this world, only death.
They pursue this path of terror and de-civilization, heeding what they believe to be Muhammad’s call, because they think they are the true and pure representatives of Islam. And their connection to their religion is not merely rhetorical. Their cause has long been promoted in mosques around the world, proclaimed and defended by Islamic clergymen. The term “radicalization,” used in reference to Muslims who veer onto this path, describes a fundamentally religious process, the evolution of a practicing or non-practicing Muslim into a fanatical jihadist willing to kill (and die) to achieve world domination for Islam.
The first Ministry of Truth article mentioned above justifies dropping the name Islamic State down the memory hole with this ridiculous argument:
The Islamic State, of course, is not actually a state, but rather of [sic] collection of terrorists operating from seized territory in Mesopotamia. No “Islamic State” in that territory has ever been recognized by any government as representing any actual country.
In Britain, Conservative Muslim MP Rehman Chishti spelled out this argument officially last June, as well as revealing the real purpose behind the name change. In a letter to the BBC, Chishti (once an aide to Benazir Bhutto) “requested” that the public broadcaster use Daesh rather than ISIS, noting that the French government has already urged its own press to do the same:
The use of the titles Islamic State, ISIL and ISIS gives legitimacy to a terrorist organization that is not Islamic nor has it been recognized as a state and which a vast majority of Muslims around the world [evidence for that “majority”?] finds despicable and insulting to their peaceful religion.
But, to state the obvious, Islamic State is not a name designed to fool unsuspecting governments into thinking the organization represents a “recognized” nation-state. It is a name proclaiming the group’s purpose, much like Islamic Jihad, Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah — in English “Islamic Resistance Movement,” aka Hamas — Hezbollah (“Party of Allah”), and so on. Their aim is to achieve a universal Islamic state, i.e., a global caliphate. Hence the name.
And what of the British MP’s claim, standard among Islamic denialists, that ISIS “is not Islamic”? The identification of such organizations with Islam is uncomfortable for peaceful Muslims to be sure. And it should be, because the identification is real in the sense of having substantial support, ranging from very active to disturbingly passive, within Islam’s worldwide religious hierarchy. To pretend the actions, threats, and goals of Islamic radicals “do not represent Islam” is to tell oneself (and the world) a dangerous lie. Muslims, faced with the doomsday cult element within their faith, have to make some very painful choices, and take some potentially dangerous stands, in the manner of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. To avoid this reality is, in the long run, to cede all Islam to a fanatical current that grows in strength and reach each day.
Meanwhile, modern civilization itself faces a similar set of choices. We have, for generations, been under siege by progressive authoritarians, a faction that openly rejects the notions of liberty and self-determination that were once the great promise and hope of modernity. Their numbers grow, their boldness deepens, as generation after generation of “normal, decent people” tell themselves the tyrannical spirit doesn’t represent who we really are. Yes, unfortunately, it does. We have ceded our identity to a political philosophy that despises liberty, abhors self-determination, and sees the individual human being and his aspirations as at best tools to be manipulated for the benefit of the ruling class, at worst disposable obstacles to the dream of a unified caste-like social hierarchy. We have stood by passively (or worse), as our fanatics have effectively ended the institution of private property in the name of justice, entrenched greed and mutual disrespect under the guise of a social safety net, and used the levers of legislative compulsion to ensconce themselves and their fellow travelers as a systemically protected ruling elite in the name of equality.
So far, late modern humanity has handled its displacement by this tyrannical coup about as maturely as those Western Muslims whose instinctive reaction to events like the Paris attacks is to demand an end to “Islamophobia.”
Now the West’s leadership is seeking to undermine the last hold-outs for freedom and civilization by importing substantial numbers of ill-documented people from a part of the world increasingly dominated by radical Islam. Knowing that at this critical moment, terrorist attacks on Western soil — committed by people associated with that same refugee population — might jeopardize their plans to further weaken the tattered fiber of modernity, the progressives have turned to their favorite weapon, propaganda, to obscure the connection between their schemes and the spread of Islamic radicalism. They are once again hoping to change the optics by changing the language, in this case by replacing the clear name Islamic State with the deliberately nondescript name Daesh.
What’s in a name? Meaning, and hence thought. Our ability to communicate directly about our current predicament is weakened every time we accept the left’s propagandizing lexical shifts. When abortion becomes “reproductive choice,” an issue of life or death is shifted into a question of women’s rights. When child-rearing becomes “socialization,” we tacitly accept the state’s usurpation of the private family’s authority in education and moral development. When jihad against the foundations of Western society becomes “senseless violence” or generic “extremism” — when Islamic State becomes “Daesh” — the first step in defeating a threat, namely identifying it correctly, is sacrificed. In each of these cases, like so many others in our progressively deconstructed political vocabulary, the loss of clarity is both intentional and socially transformative. That is the essence of political correctness.
Turn off the transmissions from your Ministry of Truth, if that is still permitted. Reject the systematic gutting of politically meaningful speech.
Islamic State. Use it — annoy a socialist.
This article originally appeared at American Thinker.