Evil by any other name: Why branding ISIS matters

  • Written by Charles C. Haynes

Evil by any other name: Why branding ISIS matters

“ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State — or whatever you want to call it.”
That’s how one NPR reporter referred to the new face of terror this week as the United States prepares for another long, hard struggle against a brutal enemy of humanity.
What’s in name? After all, evil by any other name remains evil.
When it comes to terrorism, however, branding matters. ISIS leaders may read “Islam for Dummies” to fake the world into thinking they know something about Islam (according to news reports), but they are no dummies when it comes to waging a war for the hearts and minds of young Muslims.
After a murderous sweep across Iraq in June, ISIS declared an Islamic “caliphate” — and renamed themselves the “Islamic State.” At first most media outlets stuck with ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) — both acronyms that obscure the “Islamic” part.
But “ISIS” and “ISIL” have been gradually supplanted by “Islamic State” in a growing number of news stories and commentaries about the conflict.
The media drumbeat that our enemy is an “Islamic State” is a significant propaganda victory for ISIS, an extremist group that seeks to recruit young Muslims to help “restore” what ISIS misleadingly describes as an Islamic order that will unite all Muslims.
The power of the term “Islamic State” is clearly not lost on governments organizing to fight ISIS. The Obama administration, for example, uses “ISIL” and avoids uttering the words “Islamic State.”
Not surprisingly, Muslim leaders in the U.S. and around the world are especially disturbed and outraged by the appropriation of “Islamic State” by militant thugs. As Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, explained last week in a column for
“Every time we refer to ISIS as the ‘Islamic State,’ call its members ‘jihadists’ or in any way grant it the religious legitimacy that it so desperately seeks, we simultaneously boost its brand, tarnish the image of Islam and further marginalize the vast majority of Muslims who are disgusted by the group’s un-Islamic actions.”
American media outlets, of course, are free to print the self-description used by militants in Iraq and Syria — even when that description offends and disturbs people of faith. Consider how many Christians are repelled by news accounts of the “Christian Identity” movement, a hate-filled, white supremacy group that is antithetical to the teachings of the Gospels. Or how many Baptists cringe every time they read “Westboro Baptist Church” in the headlines.
But media outlets are also free to make judgment calls about what best serves the public interest. Nine years ago, for example, many newspapers declined to publish the Danish cartoons that denigrated the Muslim faith. And today, a growing number of newspapers are opting to stop using the term “Redskins” when reporting on the Washington, D.C. football team.
Given the high stakes in the fight against ISIS, I can only hope that news organizations will consider following the lead of The New York Times, which has stuck with “ISIS” even as many other news outlets have switched to “Islamic State.”
Call ISIS what you will, there is no “Islamic State.”

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001. Web: Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Just give me ‘O-B’ and Buffone, not the rest of those buffoons

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Bobs Column - The B SideI love football—Chicago Bears and Notre Dame football.
I’ll occasionally watch another college or pro game if it seems interesting, but Fighting Irish and Bears football are the only required games each weekend.
I don’t have the NFL Ticket package or multiple TVs in the family room so I can watch more than one game at a time, and I don’t understand anyone who does.
I have a very simple routine on football Sundays: turn the TV on as close to kickoff as possible in the hope of missing all pregame gibberish. I then watch the game and listen to the post game radio show hosted by former Bears Doug Buffone and Ed O’Bradovich.
There are post-game shows on numerous Chicago radio stations, but Buffone and O’Bradovich are hands down the best. They are both former Bears from a bygone era and their passion for the team and game is unmistakable.
If the Bears win, they are as excited as any fan. If the team loses, they won’t pull any punches. They call out coaches and players alike and routinely rip ownership for its missteps. You can find them on WSCR (AM 670) and should give them a listen if you’ve never experienced their show.
When their show concludes, so too does my football weekend. I don’t watch Sunday Night Football nor do I waste time on the Monday Night edition. Ditto for football on Thursdays.
(A side note: the Chicago Blackhawks begin play in 22 days. I will try not to miss a game.)
I don’t wager on football, and for the past few years I have not been involved in fantasy football. From time to time I’ll find out that I missed a really great nationally televised game, but I can’t get that excited about a contest between two teams in which I have no rooting interest.
Back to the Bears and local sports radio.
The Bears post-games shows are just the start of the incessant analysis conducted by these stations. It goes on all week. The early part of the week is dedicated to the previous Sunday’s game, while the later part of the week is reserved for a look at the upcoming opponent.
I recently heard a program host tell his listeners he’d post more game analysis on his blog on Monday after he watched the game again.
Again? A second time? Who does that? I understand the folks in the sports radio industry have to keep a keen eye on football and other pro and college sports. It’s how they make a living.
Somehow, though, I think a guy watching a Bears game a second time, hitting the pause button on the remote to see if Peanut Tillman got burned in coverage, furiously taking notes as he watches, wishes he were a coach.
Listen to these guys sometime. They love to work into their commentary the jargon used by coaches. And listeners must enjoy it because a fair number of them call these shows talking in the same language.
But their commentary is only part of the non-stop Bears coverage. Each sports radio station seems to have a former Bears player who makes a weekly appearance to talk about the team. There are daily reports from Bears practice, and head coach Marc Trestman’s press conferences are carried live.
Why does anyone want to hear the head coach of a team answer reporters’ questions? I can understand a 30-second sound bite or coverage of a serious issue that extends beyond the scope of the game—Ray Rice and domestic abuse being one example.
But sports radio stations promote “breaking away to carry the Trestman press conference” as though President Obama was addressing the nation about ISIS.
There are three all-sports radio stations in town, plus six hours of weekend talk on WGN. That doesn’t include pre- and post-game shows dedicated to the pro and college teams in town.
Some shows are better than others. I enjoy some hosts and find others unlistenable. The thing is, these stations have time to fill—lots of time to fill. So, in a year when our baseball teams are long ago out of contention, the topic is Bears and more Bears.
I remember when WSCR “The Score” became the first sports radio station in town. I was excited. New York City had a similar station, WFAN, and now Chicago would have its own sports talker. At first, the station broadcast only during daylight hours—in retrospect, maybe that was enough.
A few years later, WMVP (AM 1000) came along as competition, and earlier this year, “The Game” (87.7 FM) hit the dial. There stations talk Chicago sports almost exclusively, which is why I tire of them. I’m a sports fan. I really am interested in other teams—pro and college—as well as discussion of larger issues: NHL expansion, college recruiting, the baseball playoff chase—it beats all Bears all the time.
But these stations are convinced that sports fans want wall-to-wall Chicago sports talk, 24/7.
Where have you gone, Chet Coppock?

Inside the First Amendment

  • Written by Gene Policinski

Executing journalists a savage and futile act

When will these ISIS terrorist thugs realize that the phrase “U.S. journalist” concerns geography, not political science?

Killing journalists from this county does get you headlines, but history tells us that it’s an ignorant, tragic and foolish belief to think that the government of the United States will change geo-political directions because journalists die.
Clearly, those who Tuesday killed journalist Steven Sotloff — and who killed photojournalist James Foley on August 19 — are as ignorant or deliberately dismissive of how a free press functions as they are brutal in their methods of gaining the world’s attention.
Journalists from a nation with a free press do not control the news. They do not make the news. And they do not collaborate with, nor are they controlled by, those who do. Here’s a headline from the real world: There is no direct line between the Pentagon, White House and any news organization in America where policy is set or strategy is determined.
For more often, the press in America — whether reporting domestically or from other nations — is seen as a counterweight to official statements by U.S. government officials, and a watchdog on whether the nation’s leaders are doing what they say they are doing.
Yes, at times, the U.S. press wrongly has taken government at its word: The failure to fully pursue what turned out to be unsupported claims of “weapons of mass destruction” still echoes today. But more often, journalists operating under the shield of the First Amendment have been seen as critics or even opponents of what the nation’s political leaders recommend or the course being pursued.
Famously, a U.S. press reporting freely from Vietnam is blamed by some as a reason “America lost the war.” Reports from journalists on the scene called into question information from U.S. military briefings and enemy body counts. The famed “credibility gap” that plagued several administrations was rooted in the difference between what high White House officials said about the progress of that war and what the nation on a daily basis read in newspapers and saw on TV.
It’s difficult to think of an important public issue on which there is not some American journalist asking the difficult questions or challenging official accounts, which makes the fate of Foley and of Sotloff — who disappeared while reporting from Syria in 2013 — as senseless as it is tragic.
If ISIS was serious about changing American public opinion, it would not do so with tactics that will simply harden public support for U.S. military strikes against it. We need look no further than the most serious terrorist strike against America, on Sept. 11, 2001. American policies in the Middle East hardened amidst a surge in patriotism and increased public sentiment for a military response against those who carried out the attack.
A sad irony also follows both deaths. Neither Foley nor Sotloff’s work focused on the political or military aspects of whatever ISIS wants from the Obama administration. Each was focused — and perhaps more vulnerable to the abduction that put them in ultimate harm’s way — by reporting directly on the “people” angles of the Syrian civil war and other conflict in the region.

A loathe of bread

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Bobs Column - The B SideQuinn’s camp rips on Rauner’s riches

When I was a boy, my dad cut our lawn with a push mower.
Governor Quinn also uses a push mower to cut his grass. Don’t believe me? It’s the focus of his latest TV campaign commercial. Quinn, donning a blue polo shirt and khakis, cuts the grass while talking about cutting state spending, closing state properties and suspending legislators’ pay along with his own.
The governor, you see, is a regular guy. He’s just like you and me. At least that’s what he wants you to believe. Or, it’s what the people managing his campaign are hoping you believe.
It’s important for Quinn to portray this image because he wants to position himself as the polar opposite of Bruce Rauner, his opponent in the November election.
Rauner is a millionaire many times over. And a rich guy like Rauner couldn’t possibly understand the problems facing the state or have any chance at solving them. At least that’s what Quinn wants you to believe.
Rauner is out of touch with the problems encountered by the average Joe, who works a second job to make ends meet and maybe scrapes together a few extra bucks to buy a Bears ticket.
I doubt Rauner cuts his lawn—not even with a riding mower. Instead, he sips wine with other members of an exclusive club who pay big bucks to “collaborate with the winemaking team on every detail of your wine, from blending to barrel toast,” according to a story in the Washington Post.
Rauner’s membership in the club cost $100,000. When the wine club story broke, it was accompanied by a 2010 photo of Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel outside the Paradise Valley Grill in Montana. Emanuel is holding a bottle of Napa Valley Reserve, a wine produced by the invitation-only club.
Rauner’s relationship with Emanuel is the larger story here, one that voters should carefully consider before making a decision between the two gubernatorial candidates. But the media preferred to focus on Emanuel with a bottle of pricy wine in his hand.
Quinn, meanwhile, recently told reporters that he had eaten graham crackers for dinner in a quest to live on the minimum wage for one week. He also attempted to spend just $79 in one week — the cost he calculated is leftover each week for minimum wage workers after taking out housing, transportation and taxes. 
Quinn can eat crackers, mac and cheese or ramen noodles all he wants but it won’t do anything to change the plight of people forced to live on the minimum wage. It’s a stunt designed to portray Quinn as the everyman—an advocate for the poor and struggling.

Some pain and humor surviving domestic violence

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorDomestic violence?
At Vacation Bible School?
Yes and no.
It’s complicated.
Okay, so three years ago, I asked my husband, Don, to complete one simple task.
I told him, while he was nodding without blinking: “When you drop Donae (our then-four, now seven-year old daughter) off at VBS, don’t forget to give her the Bible on the front passenger seat.”
Sometime I think if I’m animated he’ll actually pay attention when I’m talking.
To my complete and utter dismay, when I returned to pick Donae up, I discovered he’d given her more than just the Bible. Earlier that morning I attended my weekly moms group. This particular day there was a guest speaker on the topic of domestic violence.
She gave us several pamphlets of which I left on the front seat of the car.
Don unknowingly sent our child into VBS with a pamphlet that had a teary-eyed, little girl with the caption saying, “Sad is How You Feel When Mom is Being Beat.’’
I gasped and thought, “Great! Now the church folk think I’m being abused!”
I hurriedly shoved the pamphlet back into the Bible and immediately began to worry what that perception would do to Don’s reputation. When I got home, I shared my concerns with him. He stared at me for a long period followed by a burst of laughter. “That’s a good one!” He said. His reaction made me feel silly and then I let out a little chuckle too.
I can make light of it today because it’s not my reality.
But, there was a time when it was. From my late teenage years through my early twenties, I was abused. The psychological effects of this abuse lingered for years. Even while being in a healthy marriage, achieving academic success and having a respectable career, I struggled with my self-worth for a long time as a consequence of that relationship.
But the good news story is, I survived. Today, I live with confidence and I’m no longer in fear for my life. My only regret is that I didn’t get out sooner.
While some may find it uncomfortable sharing their painful history, I’m actually liberated in doing so.
Survivors can help to de-stigmatize victims by speaking out, especially now that human trafficking is running rampant. Just last year, our President signed an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a measure intended to promote state and local efforts to combat rape and domestic assault.
Over the next five years, there will be increased funding for programs that provide legal assistance, transitional housing, counseling and support hotlines to victims of rape and domestic abuse. VAWA credits its greatest success to be its emphasis on the coordinated community response to domestic violence, sex dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking; courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, and the private bar currently work together in a coordinated effort that had not heretofore existed on the state and local levels.
The Illinois Department of Human Services has domestic violence agencies listed by city on their website if yours isn’t listed, please contact the state of Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line at 877-863-6338 for an agency closest to you.
You can live triumphantly after abuse. I’m a testament to that.
Don’t wait, get help now!