Thursday, January 14, 2016

Net Stupidity – The Isis Coke Edition

The internet is a double-edged sword. With just a few keystrokes or mouse clicks, you have a world of information and experiences available to you. And photos of cats. So many cats.

At the same time, the net can be a portal to a world of stupidity that you would otherwise never know existed. Okay, of course, we all know stupidity exists, often in the form of someone running for political office. But without the internet you might never realize the truly breathtaking extent of all the stupidity.

I ran across one prime example of this a while back. Someone had posted an image of a bottle of Coca-Cola with the word “Isis” printed on it, setting off a small viral firestorm. I saw where some people on Facebook in the States had even immediately started pledging to boycott Coke, for what I guess they saw as the soft drink company's insidious endorsement of a terrorist group of unspeakable cruelty.

Jesus, is that really what these people thought was going on here?

There were a few different building blocks leading to this nitwit internet outrage.

»       A couple of years ago Coke instituted a marketing campaign, “Share a Coke”, whereby the name “Coke” on bottles of the soft drink was replaced with some 250 personal names common in a given market, such as “John” or “Alice”. By all accounts, this kind of mass personalization of a consumer product was a big hit and was implemented in various countries.

»       The name “Isis” is an actual girl’s name in some nations – and presumably not only in Egypt, where it originated as the name of the ancient goddess of health, marriage and wisdom (all good things). For this reason, the name Isis has appeared on some bottles of Coke in those countries. Hence the photo that shot around the internet.

»       Meanwhile, the ultra-violent militant Islamist group that has arisen to now occupying swaths of Iraq and Syria has named itself something in Arabic (“ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fīl-ʿIrāq wash-Shām”, according to Wikipedia), which translates in English to “the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. I'm guessing they don’t call themselves ISIS. Only the English-speaking world does that.

»       And it’s not even all of the English-speaking world. The US government resolutely refers to the group by the acronym “ISIL”, which is a little harder to pronounce, but is more a correct rendering of “the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. 

»       On the other hand, the western media, which is where most American Coke drinkers get their news, prefers “ISIS”, derived from the alternative name for the group “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”. (There is an argument for, rather than using any English acronym, referring instead to the group as "Da'eesh", the apparent Arabic abbreviation for its name. It seems that, for some reason, they hate that, which is all the more reason for doing it.)

»       Many Americans, perhaps not being so familiar with "foreign" names, would not normally recognize “Isis” as possibly being a person's name, leading some of them to jump to the conclusion that Coke was somehow promoting the brand of a terrorist group. Being hyper-jittery about Da’eesh also no doubt helped them make this leap of logic.

So in summary: Because the Arabic name of the world’s scariest terrorist group at the moment happens to translate into an English name that happens to often be referred to by a four-letter acronym that also happens to be such an ordinary name in some parts of the world that it happens to be printed on a soft-drink bottle as part of an international marketing campaign – because of all that, a series of "happens to" coincidences – some people reading the internet were outraged and, as a form of protest, ready at the drop of a hat to forswear ever again drinking their favorite soda. Ever. 

That is truly stupid. Internet stupid. 

(Post script: I’m also aware that the producers of the otherwise very intelligent and highly acclaimed British TV series “Downton Abbey” might have killed off the show’s canine character “Isis” because the lovable yellow Labrador’s name was unfortunately too closely associated with Da’eesh. If true, that was also stupid, in my mind.)

1 comment:

  1. Hell...the spy company in the popular American TV cartoon "Archer" is called Isis. Not sure what they did about that.