David Shields, an American author, has recently released his latest book: War Is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict. The book criticizes The New York Times, which, according to Shields, was complicit in protracting the Iraq War by presenting front-page photographs of the war in aesthetically attractive ways, blinding readers and making them insensitive to the real violence that happens in war.
The current crisis in Syria differs from other conflicts. It exists in a power vacuum in the space between two fractured national boundaries. To the West, Bashar al-Assad, with the support of Iran and Russia, makes use of barrel bombs and brutality to pound back opposition forces. To the East, the Islamic State continues to resist the Iraqi army and free Kurdish forces attempting to take back territory.
One thing that I noticed when I first heard media coverage of an Islamist group rising to power in Syria was that it was continually referred to as “the group calling itself ISIS” or “the group known as ISIL”. If it had been one media outlet or one program, it might have slipped by. But it wasn’t: it was a standardized fixture of official coverage of the group.
In recent months, particularly since the deadly Paris attacks that claimed the lives of 129, there has been a seemingly strategic shift to the word “Daesh” to describe the organization. Why does this matter? And what impact does it hold for the future of Western relations to the Middle East?