Dear Al Qaeda: Better Affiliate Names, Please!

January 5, 2010

Well, honestly, I should start by saying, “Dear Al Qaeda, stop killing people,” but I know that won’t get me anywhere, what with you guys hating our freedom and all of that. But maybe you will listen to me on this affiliate naming thing. Reading the news lately, I learn that the guy who tried to blow up a plane over Detroit trained with an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen called Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. I have also heard of your Iraq chapter, called Al Qaeda in Iraq. And then there’s your Saudia Arabian chapter, which I understand is called (wait for it) Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.

Now, I cannot fault you on accuracy or name recognition. When I hear about a group called “Al Qaeda in [insert location here],” I know immediately what it is that group does. And if you were a non-profit organization trying to expand into a new service area and raise its national profile, that would be a great naming strategy. BUT YOU ARE TERRORISTS! You’re not opening storefronts in Aleppo and hoping people will recognize the name (“I’ve heard you do great work in Afghanistan!”), come in, and take brochures. You’re in caves and lawless areas, doing calisthenics in desert camps with your faces covered, BLOWING SHIT UP. You guys are outlaws (albeit outlaws with religious orthodoxy that prohibits most of the sort of libertinism that I find most attractive about the outlaw lifestyle, but still). You need to own that.

And it’s not as if there’s no precedent for this. Quite the contrary: Lots of terrorist groups have interesting names. Just a quick glance over President Bush’s Executive Order of 9/23/01 shows some creativity, including “Abu Hafs the Mauritanian,” “Salafist Group for Call and Combat” (not sexy but at least intriguing – Call? What kind of call? Is it a call to combat? Tell me more!), and “Al-Itihaad Al Islamiya” (which sounds boring till you notice the abbreviation is AIAI). And that’s just the first little list, with fewer than 100 names! These days, you’re competing in the terrorist groups marketplace with the likes of Bosnian Ideal Future, Barakat Refreshment Company, Forefront of the Idea, and Citizens Association for Support and Prevention of Lies.

So seriously, guys, can you get on the ball? There is a reason that we give our laws names like “the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act,” and it’s not that we love acronyms (although we do). It’s because we realize that hearts and minds are won with style and linguistic panache, not stultifying, bureaucratic uniformity. So try to spice things up. Otherwise everyone will think you hate freedom.

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2 Responses to “Dear Al Qaeda: Better Affiliate Names, Please!”

  1. Chris said

    Al B. Sure-Qaeda.

    Smooth jams that make the virgins melt.

    I think Tamil Tigers is one of the better names out there, but they should have kept their original name from 1974-1976: the Tamil New Tigers– with the positively ass-kicking acronym, TNT! They could have adopted The AC/DC song as their theme music, then everyone would hear the strains of “T-N-T! Oi! Oi! Oi!” long before they see the red tiger banners as they marched on any sleepy Sri Lankan burg. They’d be all like, “Give us independence for Tamil Eelam, y’all” and the government would be all “Why should we?” and they’d be all, “‘Cause we’re TNT muthafucka!!” and the government would have been all, “Well, shit! That’s bad as hell! We can’t possibly top that for sheer, unbridled awesome! Here’s your independent state, TNT, our bad… so we cool?” And this way, three decades of bloodshed would have been avoided. I should be a Diplomat. Or maybe just drive one.

    http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/04/20/f-tamil-tigers.html

  2. Lumpen P said

    Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service (TOSIS).

    This (finally) explains a restaurant of the same name (TOSIS, not Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service) that is in Portland, OR. clearly a fund-raising front for the Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service.

    Who knew?

    Thanks, Chris

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