November 16th, 2015

More On The Name

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Memo to supporters of the term "radical Islam": YOU ARE DUMB.

So, after the Paris attacks, the right in America and most of its presidential candidates have continued insisting that terms like "violent extremists" aren't good enough, and that we have to call it "radical Islamism" or, more commonly, "radical Islam". We saw the same thing after Benghazi, where the distinction between calling it an "act of terror' and "terrorism" fueled wingnuts for years.

Why is this attitude so pervasive that in addition to Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Trump called out the nomenclature specifically, and every other candidate made sure to drop the phrase "clash of civilizations' or "radical Islam" into their responses? Well, it's all in what the phrase "radical Islam" means to different people.

You see, it's a phrase that SOUNDS like it's separating out the millions of peaceful, happy Muslims in the world from the few crazy angry ones who think their holy book says they have to kill us. Which is why they can get away with saying it to the media, who, being the media, look at the phrase uncritically, assume it means what the two individual words in it indicate it means,

But unless asked directly, in which case they will hedge or outright lie, the phrase "radical Islam" is, to the people that use it, synonymous with "Islam". All Islam is radical, because, well, it's not Christianity. Even a passing acquaintance with right-wing rhetoric over the past decade-and-a-half is enough to reveal that truth.

Obama and Clinton know that, which is why they refuse to adopt the terminology. But they never come out and say why, which allows the xenophobes to hit them for not using it and the media to play along and enable it.

The reason, of course, is that "radical Christianity" wants to kill Muslims just as much as "radical Islam" wants to kill Christians. It's just that our radicals don't want to get their hands dirty. They want to kill by proxy, with the shield of foreign policy keeping their hands and hearts clean.

Not that Obama's above playing the nomenclature game. Let's not forget that his administration defined "militants" as any men between certain ages killed in a drone strike. But there's a subtle difference between practical semantics to get away with blowing up innocent brown people and ideological semantics meant to encourage the idea that no brown people are innocent. Which is what the whole "radical Islam" fight is really about.

There are those who say that ISIL's strategy is specifically to provoke this reaction, to create the "clash of civilizations", because it plays right into their hands. But that doesn't need to be the case for us to not want to do it. We should not want to do it because it's a shitty fucking way to be.