2010s >> 2016 >> no-1338-february-2016

Letter: Words and Propaganda

Dear Editors

I read ‘What is the Islamic State’ (Socialist Standard, December). I’d also got the Nation at the same time and read ‘No Cause for War’ by Juan Cole. The Paris attacks have filled newspaper pages and the airwaves since 13 November and last week.

The article cites Juan Cole’s blog site as a source. Because words have sensuous power, words matter. Cole for his part uses the term ‘Islamic State’ the first time and then introduces the term ‘Daesh’ that is commonly used for the group in the Arabic press. It is Daesh that Cole uses from then on.

Propaganda works. We tend to categorise new information according to a generalisation of the prototype that heads each of our mental categories. Using the label ‘state’ tends to reify a gang of Mafioso or a drugs cartel into a conceptually real state. This is ideological thinking and we should avoid doing it and spreading it.

Look what the USSR did to the perception of socialism through the power of a misapplied word. Cole introduces the commonly accepted term, defines it away and uses the new signifier in its place which I think is perhaps a proper practice to achieve greater clarity.


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