Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Semiotics and the GWOT

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    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Semiotics and the GWOT

    Photo by Gerald © 2008

    House of Representatives on an amendment offered by Rep. Hoekstra to H.R. 5959 to deny DHS and NCTC the ability to expend any funds in their efforts to discourage use of words like “jihad” in U.S. strategic communication.

    This is a question of Semiotics.

    One of the best texts on the subject is by an old friend :
    Appropriating Images: The Semiotics of Visual Representation
    by Keyan Tomaselli
    Softcover, Smyrna Pr, ISBN 8789825055 (87-89825-05-5)

    While the book examines ethnographic films, it offers great insight to the use of Semiotics concepts.

    He presents a communication-based approach to ethnographic semiotics.

    This is a model for interpreting anthropological film. His explanation of Semiotics, is unusual as it bypasses the confusion generated by technical writing on the semiotics and shifts from "text" to "text-context" . He studies how the meaning occurs in language and film. And explains the conceptual tools of semiotics, signs and codes. How signs are strung together in codes and how these form `necklaces of signification'. And how we draw meaning from three different forms of signs, Iconic, Indexical and Symbolic, and how they can be both denotative and connotative. He also explores methods of encoding and discrepant decoding and the difference between conceived text, production text, produced text, transmitted text and received text. And how perceived text develops into social text and results in a public text. For example a `bulldog' connotes status, power, and so on, but to a Scottish nationalist it may connate subjugation, the English, and disdain for their conquerors. And relates how the same text leads to different interpretations, through context.

    In the instant case, “jihad” has become a cultural icon.
    In current pop culture, “jihad” has come in the West to refer to violent Muslim actions.
    But in a Mosque in traditional Islam it does not refer to Violence.
    But the daily struggle to be a "good" Muslim and one's personal quest for Allah.
    The terrorist have premuated a new conceived text that encompasses violent actions
    in contravention to Allah's word.

    The question becomes discrepant decodings among the worlds populations.
    Most modern Muslims understand this dual meaning, and decode accordingly.

    But some fringe groups and propagandists promote confusion and discrepant decoding and they know difference between conceived text and transmitted text and received text.
    And take advantage of that discrepancy for propaganda.

    In my writting I distinguish between the two meanings with different spellings.
    Jihad vs Jahid.



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