U.S. Finally Decides that Words Matter

by Steven R. Corman

After years of being told over and over again that they should stop calling the Bad Guys “jihadis” the U.S. Government has finally decided that this would be a good idea. I feel sure it was two posts on COMOPS Journal, here and here, that finally did the trick.

AP reports on a for-official-use-only memo that is circulating in the government entitled “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication.” Besides deprecating the use of “jihadi” news reports say the memo has lots of other advice that makes me think that the authors at the National Counter Terrorism Center have been reading our white papers, like “it’s not what you say but what they hear,” and “don’t compromise our credibility“. Hooray!

The sad thing is that the NCTC and its predecessor the TTIC have been around for five years now, and for each of those five years the U.S. has been routinely doing all the stuff the memo now (rightly) says is a bad idea. Better late than never, I suppose, but a lot of the damage has already been done. This once again illustrates another important asymmetry in our efforts against the terrorists: They’re agile and we’re not.

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  1. [...] week I noted that the U.S. had decided to stop calling the Bad Guys “jihadis.”  Well as Jeffrey Imm [...]

  2. [...] The latest entry in the war of language comes from Jim Guirard of the TrueSpeak Institute writing today at Small Wars Journal Blog. Guirard is one of the earliest and most persistent arguers against using the word “jihadi” to describe the Bad Guys, a position we here at COMOPS have also defended again, and again, and again, and again. [...]

  3. [...] attempt to amend H.R. 5959 to deny DHS and NCTC the ability to expend any funds in their efforts to discourage use of words like “jihad” in U.S. strategic communication. The amendment [...]