Yesterday morning Radio 4's Today programme ended with a fascinating little discussion about what terms the Gordon Brown government might now use for Jihadist ideology or violence, following both Hillary Benn's declaration that he won't say 'war on terror' anymore and the conspicuous absence of the term 'Islam' from government statements after the weekend's incidents in London and Glasgow. But anyone can map these rhetorical shifts; the issue is what is driving them - what is generating them? (And can they be shifted again?) Intriguingly, the BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson said, "I’m told this stems from 18 months of work by the civil service about which language gets the results that they want in trying to woo, particularly, moderate Muslims to support the police and support the authorities."
Does anybody have a copy of this civil service study? For students of political communication this is surely gold dust! Who was sampled? Was it only Muslims in Britain? Who did the asking? Does the civil service do investigations of effective rhetoric in other policy fields? Is this a civil service or party political matter? Are the civil service now evaluating how effective this new lexicon is, and according to what criteria? If government will change its terms for moderate Muslims, would it change them further in an attempt to convince more 'extreme' Muslims? Are they testing the effect of the new lexicon on non-Muslims?
And from a more theoretical standpoint, what assumptions underlie the notion of "language getting the results that they want"? What has Sir Humphrey been reading?