This post originally appeared in VICE UK
Unbelievably, despite all the attention and award-winning documentaries, some people are still really confused about what ISIS is. Like: Is it an extreme terror movement represented by the ghoul-like "Jihadi John," causing havoc in the Middle East? Or is it an innocuous-looking alternative therapy shop in Stockport? Because they are both called Isis, and the concept of two distinctly separate things sharing the same name is, to some, a mind-alteringly confusing one. Sandy vistas spattered with blood? ISIS. One of them diffuser things that blows steam that smells of lavender? Isis. But which one is the bad one? Which one?
ISIS--or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or the Islamic State, or most simply IS--is not just a knot of extremists operating in the Middle East behind a spate of kidnappings and beheadings in the area this year. It's also the name of the dog from Downton Abbey. And a Thai-Irish fusion restaurant in Manchester. And a newsagent up the road from me. And the Egyptian* goddess of nature, motherhood, and magic.
So if, like me, you're the kind of mouth-breathing idiot who firebombs pediatricians' houses after misreading the Yellow Pages as some sort of oversized primary-colored sex offenders' register, then maybe you too could do with this primer--a guide I like to call, "Which one is the Bad ISIS, again?"
THE DOG OFF OF DOWNTON ABBEY: NOT THE BAD ISIS
It's been a confusing time for TV-watching non-beheaded white people in recent weeks. Like: the dog in Downton Abbey? That is called Isis. But now Isis the dog is being omitted from the Downton Christmas special, because apparently ITV think their viewers are so dumb that they will confuse a fictional Labrador for some sort of terrorist sleeper cell and send in letters of complaint. Yo, fuck that dog! That totally old-ass period drama dog is the worst! Boo! Boo to you, dog! Fuck that terror dog!
THE SPY AGENCY FROM ARCHER: NOT THE BAD ISIS
This isn't even the first time a TV show has had to shelve a fictional element of itself that was named, ostensibly, after the Greek goddess of love, light, and magic. Adam Reed--creator of the extremely excellent FX show Archer--confirmed the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) would not be making an appearance in January's season six, partly because of the storyline, and partly because it's called ISIS, and people will confuse it with Bad ISIS, because people are largely morons. "We have a lot of ISIS merchandise," he said. "So I guess that's all going to a landfill somewhere."
THE DEFUNCT HARDCORE/METAL BAND: NOT THE BAD ISIS
As Noisey has already pointed out, there is a difference between the terror organization ISIS and the now defunct hardcore/metal band Isis. The key difference being: terror. But that hasn't stopped the now defunct hardcore/metal band Isis having to change their still funct Facebook page and moderate angry comments from the kind of people who didn't learn the art of shoelace-tying until about halfway through puberty. "It is an unfortunate situation," a label representative said. "A few less-than-enlightened people are not seeing the distinction between an inactive band of musicians and a band of terrorists involved in current world affairs."
A THAI-IRISH FUSION CAFÉ IN LEVENSHULME: NOT THE BAD ISIS
Isis Café in Manchester was one of the first name-related Isis victims, with the police warning the café owners in early October that they might want to consider changing their name to put distance between them and Bad ISIS. So they did. They changed it to Thairish. Thairish. "I have been explaining to people the name Thairish comes from the Thai in me and the Irish from [late husband Mike Lyons]," café owner Sa-Nguan said. But Thairish, though. Call it anything else. Call it "Terrorists Eat Free." Call it the "Osama bin Laden's Butty Bistro." Call it anything else. Call it anything that isn't "ISIS" or "Thairish." That's all you need to do.
THAT BIT OF RIVER THAMES RUNNING THROUGH OXFORD: NOT THE BAD ISIS
The bit of the River Thames that wends its way through Oxford is historically referred to as "Isis," because--historians reckon--the River Isis is what starts at the source in Dorchester before meeting the River Thame tributary in Aylesbury, where the two converge and become the River Thames. But that's fallen out of favor, and now the only people who call the River Thames "Isis" are Oxford University rowers, a sport for posh lads who want to pop their collars and shout but don't want to have to play rugby to do it.
EVERY SINGLE WOMAN OR GIRL NAMED ISIS: NOT THE BAD ISIS
Obviously, because Isis is a goddess, there are thousands of girls worldwide whose parents beheld them as a baby and went, "Yeah, she's giving off a goddess vibe. Like: I was thinking 'Julie' was a good name, but looking at her now I'm thinking something more goddess-y. I literally think my child is so special that she should be named after a goddess." And all those Isis goddess babies are now all grown up and mad. Name campaigner Isis Martinez has been trying to get the media to stop calling Isis "Isis" because she is also called Isis, saying: "Imagine someone calling Isis out on an airplane? Our name is becoming synonymous with 'bomb.'" Yeah it's… it's not, really. But 37,000 signed her petition, so don't confuse any of them with a faceless terror organization.
AN ALTERNATIVE THERAPY SHOP IN STOCKPORT: NOT THE BAD ISIS
Actual quote from Derek Morgan, 52-year-old proprietor of Stockport-based candle-and-dangling-bell-shaped-crap-you-hang-from-your-ceiling shop, Isis: "At first it was just one or two people but now it is a steady trickle of people asking if we are connected to the group. Some are even accusing us of being terrorists." What kind of person accuses a joss stick purveyor of supporting terror?
What bothers me is the words "steady trickle of people." As if more than one person has wondered aloud, in a shop full of those clacking bead curtains I always get caught in at a party, whether the whole thing is a very cleverly disguised terrorist front. Have they looked at the selection of tiny little cymbals and the deodorant crystals and gone, "Hey, hold up. You're not a terrorist, are you? This chart about tongue color isn't a terrorist thing, is it? What about that candle shaped like a water lily?"
The ongoing ISIS confusion that peaked with the Downton Abbey dog proves this: there are so many thousands of idiot humans among us it's a wonder the planet isn't just constantly on fire. Because who is truly making it an issue that a café in Manchester has to change its name to "Thairish"? ISIS, with their beheadings? The media, with their misquotes? The police, with their warnings? Or just stupid idiots?
UPDATE 11/5: An earlier version of this article referred to Isis as a Greek goddess. She's actually Egyptian.
For an alternative education on ISIS, watch the VICE News documentary, The Islamic State.
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