Why President Obama’s correct usage of “ISIL” vs “ISIS” drives ignorant people crazy

As President Obama delivered a factual and measured address to the nation last night about the ongoing terrorist threat, some thoughtful Americans took his speech to heart, while others couldn’t seem to get past the fact that he was at times saying “ISIL” instead of “ISIS.” In fact his primary detractor Donald Trump criticized him for it via Twitter, suggesting that Obama was referring to the group incorrectly. As per usual, Trump was standing up on the side of ignorance – and the incident was endemic of why the more ignorant of Americans just can’t seem to stand their current President.

For those wondering, ISIS is a terrorist movement which exists within Iraq and Syria. That’s easy to remember because the final “IS” in “ISIS” stands for those two nations. ISIL refers to the same terrorist movement, but to its various cells spread across the Middle East region at large; the “L” stands for “Levant,” an outdated name for the region. Saying “ISIS” when referring to the entirety of ISIL would be like saying “South Dakota” when referring to both Dakotas combined. You get the point, but it’s still not correct.

Is it important that you and I know the difference, or that we call it by the correct name? Perhaps not. We simply want the movement crushed before it can do more damage. But it is important that the President, who is commanding the military effort against the group, knows the difference. If a President mistakenly thought that these terrorists were limited to just Iraq and Syria, he would have a hard time leading the fight to eradicate it. So Obama makes a point of using the geographically correct terminology as a reminder that this isn’t a two-nation problem. And that’s where he gets into trouble with those who don’t like knowledge.

The reasonable conclusion would be this: because President Obama knows the finer points of the terrorist group he’s been blowing to smithereens, it means the rest of us don’t have to study up on the details. But the most ignorant of Americans see it differently. They’re bothered that the President is using a term they don’t know; they worry that he’s smarter than they are; it makes them feel insecure. They liked it better under the last President, a dummy, because it made them feel smart in comparisons. They can’t be bothered to do ten seconds of googling to find out whether Obama has gotten it right, because they’d rather just assume he’s wrong. That way they can pretend he’s even more ignorant than they are.

And then an enabler like Donald Trump comes along and tells them that their ignorance on the matter is a virtue and that Obama is stupid because he refuses to dumb it down and call a group by the wrong name. So they reward Trump by voting for him. They don’t care that Trump would have no plan for dealing with ISIL or ISIS at all; they simply care that he made them feel good about their ignorance. If you enjoy Daily News Bin, consider making a contribution:

Bill Palmer
Contributed by Daily News Bin staff


  1. gangreneday on December 11, 2015 at 9:21 am

    But the Levant is much larger than ISIS’ territory… So how is Obama being accurate? Google the levant and you’ll see that the levant is comprised of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel.

    Please tell me how this doesn’t completely negate your entire article.

    • cyberguerilla on December 13, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Grade 1 class on Reading Comprehension:

      I am sure you read the statement:
      “but to its various cells spread across the Middle East region at large”

      Proper politicians do think about the choice of their words. The choice of ISIL over ISIS clearly reflects Obama’s view that the terrorist organization has a footprint not just in Iraq and Syria where it controls actual territory but in other covert operations in other countries in the region.

      So how is Obama wrong here?

  2. Dan on December 12, 2015 at 10:31 am

    ISIL includes Israel. Simple as that, no long winded blowhard explanation necessary

  3. Frank on December 12, 2015 at 11:29 am

    You’re reaching, Mr. Palmer. You’re not fooling anyone, except those that wish to be fooled.

  4. Kristine Rowland on December 12, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    “They liked it better under the last President, a dummy, because it made them feel smart in comparisons. ”

    By comparison. “it made them feel smarter by comparison.”

    I love irony as much as the next girl, but can we not call others dummies while making grammatical errors like this?

  5. Claudia on December 13, 2015 at 9:42 am

    I questioned the usage of ISIL and ISIS but didn’t have the 10 seconds to look it up on Google until today. However, it took longer than 10 seconds because I also had to look up “Levant” as I had not been exposed to it either. Now that I have an informed understanding of these two acronyms, my question is, “What acronym or term should be used for those cells or associates in our own and other countries beyond ISIL?” Those cells/associates need to be addressed too, as they are effecting said countries’ homelands’ security. These are bipartisan/mulipartisan issues for all to be concerned with and collaborate on preventions and resolutions regardless of political affiliations.

    • Andre on December 14, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      My understanding is that the terrorist group now refers to itself just as “IS” or just “Islamic State”. This covers wherever in the world they are operating.

    • jow march on December 15, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      THEY call themselves ISIS , THEY call themselves Islamic Muslims. OBUMMER is trying to redefine them. Obama IS a Muslim who hates Christianity and promotes Islam and denegrates Catholics Christians

      • S b r on December 15, 2015 at 5:31 pm

        You are so right.

      • Timmy on December 16, 2015 at 7:49 am

        I don’t like Obama much either but that’s a blatant lie

      • fReddy on December 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm

        Your comment IS an obvious indication you are an IL-literate! Therefore you are ISIL! Silly but true!

      • Lisa on December 19, 2015 at 8:45 pm

        Your a dumbass. You crazy mo fo. Quit humping your sister

  6. Anthony on December 13, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I am Canadian but I lived in the States for a short time, 4 years or so. I dont understand why the south of America hates Obama so much , too the point that they will believe any negative thing said about him regardless of common sense. For the most part presidents dont write their own speeches, so if he calls ISIS ISIL there is probably a good reason and the reason is not likely that he got it wrong.
    The next thing that I am perplexed about is that before Trump was running for president and spouting his brand of racist hate, he was not well liked in that part of America. He was a Buffoon etc. now every word that falls from his lips regardless of how silly is like manna from heaven to these people.
    Like I said earlier I once lived in America and I know that there are smart and good people there and these people must feel that Trump is bringing the reputation of the land of the free down to a new low. The rest of the world sees this and if by some twisted act of fate Trump was elected into office, America would findout in short order that no one can survive alone no matter how big you may think you are you need friends and America is presently alienating all of them. Just an observation.

    • Theresa Lynn Miller on December 14, 2015 at 12:05 pm


      • Laura Clark on December 15, 2015 at 10:42 am

        Truer words have never been spoken. Sadly, the KKK is recruiting in my small town. Mr. President, I think you have gone a good job considering all the obstacles that have been thrown at you since inauguration.

        • Kate jones on December 16, 2015 at 4:45 pm

          And yo are proud of that…?That’s a terrorist group, anyone that preview violence is. Terrorist.

          • Kate jones on December 16, 2015 at 4:46 pm

            Sorry Laura, I misread your comment…My apologies.

      • Susan on December 17, 2015 at 1:50 am

        You should probably take a grammar course.
        That said, the man is a buffoon and so are you.
        Stupidity doesn’t know color.

    • bill murray on December 14, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      The South is an ethnically tightly knit place; mostly being Anglo-Saxon and Celtic. I belong to this community. We lost a civil war, a war against civil rights, we’re losing the immigration war, and we’re also losing the social war. We’ve been on the wrong side of history since 1820. Dartmouth College came up with a phrase that describes our more modern ‘soft bigotry’; it’s called ‘Confirmation Bias’. Of course Obama is black, the one drop rule demands it. Being black he can’t legitimately be the president. He must be a Muslim, an illegal, and an inferior. Anyone, I mean anyone who asserts these beliefs is listened to. The Republican Party has embraced these notions, but they do it while they wrap it around ‘trickle down’ economics. Other emotional issues, like abortion, gun rights, immigration policy, freedom of religion, womens’ rights are also wrapped around this failed economic policy. It stops being a rational issue, and become something akin to a religious belief.

    • Alec Pierre on December 19, 2015 at 7:52 am

      Dear Anthony,
      You are obviously very intelligent and perceptive and what you’ve said about Trump bringing about the “demise” of that great nation is highly likely to happen. After all there is precedence for that. Rome and Nazi Germany immediately spring to mind. Find out if you can the state of the US economy as well as its Foreign policy and military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan when President Obama came to office and compare that with where the US is today. To be sure there are still serious problems to be dealt with overseas but the genesis of those problems are not with Obama. On the domestic front what Obama has achieved is something just short of miraculous.
      The short but true answer to your main question is that President Obama is black. Sad but true!

      • george jones on December 19, 2015 at 8:10 pm

        Obama is black? He’s just another president to me, regardless of race, religion, and personal problems. ISIL and ISIS are just a spineless way of saying Radical Islamic Terrorists…

  7. Terry on December 14, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Sometimes it’s not that people are uneducated or ignorant, they have just never heard of the term, the article does say outdated.

  8. George Richardson on December 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Having been identified by Billy Palmer, “author” of this wordy piece of pap, as ignorant, fearful and insecure, I feel compelled to remind this genius that his brilliant President Obama – as opposed to that “dummy” we had before – is the reason we have an ISIS problem to start with. The big DUMMY tried to warn Obama that the consequences of an “early and announced withdrawal” would create a vacuum in the region which would be quickly filled by the terrorists. Well, he’s right in saying we, the ignorant and fearful, are worried. That, thanks to the brilliant Mr Obama. Dumbass.

    • Melodi on December 17, 2015 at 1:20 am

      George…..You are ignoring what really happened, just for the desire to shift the blame as usual. President Bush started gradually withdrawing troops from Iraq in December 2007. In 2008 Bush signed U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. Bush agreed to withdraw the combat troops out of the Iraqi cities by June 2009 and all of the rest of the American troops out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. More than 25% of the soldiers were withdrawn by the time Obama took over and per Bush’s previous agreement, Obama only had 5 months to pull the rest of the combat troops out of all of Iraq’s cities. Obama got Iraq to agree to another ten months and after that we were supposed to have withdrawn 70 to 80% of the American troops out of Iraq. The remaining troops were staying to train Iraqi soldiers, protect our embassy, prevent terrorist attacks, etc, but per the Bush agreement, they had to be gone by the end of 2011. Earlier in 2011, Obama tried to renegotiate to leave some American soldiers there past 2011, but Iraq would not agree to remaining troops being granted immunity from Iraqi law. That means they could be arrested and tried by Iraq for their actions, military or private. That was a deal breaker, as it would have been in any country. Without immunity from a foreign country’s laws, our soldiers are at too great a risk of being held “hostage” and we would have no legal recourse. Again, it was Bush that made the agreement to leave and set the time table. Obama extended it once, but Iraq would not agree to it a second time. Even Wikipedia has this information, but it appears that none of the Republicans know that Iraq was Bush’s screw up from beginning to end.

      • Rick on December 18, 2015 at 4:50 pm


  9. Bud on December 14, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    One question: is Israel included in The Levant?

    • RL on December 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm


      • Dr_RWM on December 15, 2015 at 6:25 am

        So this means that when Obama refers to ISIL, he is legitimizing the Islamic State’s belief that they have a right to the land where Israel exists. Obama is a traitor to this country. His fake “bombing” raids are designed to not inflict any damage upon the Islamic State’s ability to sell oil from their oil fields. His ban on using social media to vett potential immigrants is designed to allow Muslim terrorists to enter the United States. His so-called “treaty” with Iran obligates the United States to go to war on Iran’s side if Iran is attacked by any other country, including Israel. How anyone can say Obama is a good president can only hate America and be a Muslim sympathizer like he is. He should be tried for treason against this country.

  10. Jimmy on December 14, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Well it’s clear the author is a cheer leader for Obama.

  11. Michael on December 15, 2015 at 6:26 am

    I was feeling ignorant so I Googled ISIS vs ISIL to educate myself as to the difference. Imagine my irritation upon opening the first article in the Google list and finding myself referred to, over and over again, as an ignoramous. Sticks and stones…
    If one is going to write an educational, article stick to education and leave the arrogant name calling out of it.

    I Cor. 15:1-4

    • Seriously on December 15, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      The fact that you looked it up pretty clearly excludes you from the point the author was making. Perhaps you should read more carefully?

  12. John K on December 15, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Why we object to the term “Levant” is the inclusion of Israel in the Islamic State.

    Can you show me evidence of the Islamic State’s activities in Israel?

    • Butcher on December 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Using the term ISIL implies that Israel is not a sovereign nation. That is the problem. The author conveniently left that out of the article. Thanks google, for making this the first link when googling the difference between ISIL and ISIS.

  13. El on December 15, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    For heavens’ sake people. Can’t you just learn from this distinction and let it be? Stop dragging this topic into the dirt.

  14. Ryan star on December 15, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    ISIL is the incorrect term, it is just IS now. The president was wrong and so is this article.

  15. Eric on December 15, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Why are we even arguing about how to properly title these killers? They are evil terrorists. Let’s just call them that. They don’t deserve a name. Saying “their” name only gives them more power and popularity.