I've seen that Atlantic article about Islamic State passed hither and yon this week like samizdat, always accompanied by hushed, conspiratorial asides - yo, this Islamic State thing is, like, very religious and Islamic dawg, and how come David Cameron and Barry Obama don't just come out and be all, fuck a bunch of this Islamofascisticism?
Well, let's consider how a President or a Prime Minister thinks. Is a person who's run for high office likely to be aware of concepts such as public relations? I'd say so. And are they likely to be aware of the nature and practice of propaganda? You know, I think they just might be.
Theological debates are all well and good for folk with time to kick up
their heels and bump their gums, but I suspect that Dave and Barry have
other priorities. So let's quit poking at the chicken entrails of Islamic jurisprudence in the Rashidun Caliphate for just a short while and ask - what is it that e.g. David Cameron wants to achieve, when he speaks publicly about this latest raucous and super-violent Sunni uprising?
Forget the squabble about what some gun-toting, glowering beard in a Toyota pickup thinks about this verse or that Hadith. Cameron's twin aims, I imagine, are to kill all the head-chopping nutcases and to discourage others from taking their place.
Now, knowing what we know about the type of people who want to join IS, would we say that announcing that the Islamic State is really, really Islamic is a) a good idea or b) a bad idea?
Before you answer that, I'll clue you in on how this "propaganda" thing works. There are a few basic dos and don'ts, but right at the head of the Don't list is the following piece of wisdom. Ready?
Do not declare that the central plank of the enemy's justification for fighting is essentially correct.
I'll say this for Cameron and Obama - they at least have the savvy to spot that a militia full of murderers that attracts members by claiming to represent real Islam would probably be delighted if the US and UK to declared that yes, IS is properly Islamic and shit.
Some people, being people, are up on their hind legs yapping and yowling about e.g. how Dave saying IS ain't real Muslims is, like, intellectual cowardice and so on, and how we should call a spade a spade and blah blah blah.
You do have to chuckle at some folk's daftness, sometimes. The PM standing up and roaring "IS is Muslim as fuck, man" is akin to Churchill taking to the Commons in 1940 to announce that yes, Britain is part of a Judeo-Bolshevik-Capitalist plot to persecute Germany and that we would've got away with our encirclement plan too, if it hadn't been for them darned, pesky interfering Nazis.