Daesh In French Discourse And Its Influence On Foreign Policy Decisions Of The Country

OutlineIntroduction 150• Introduction in the lastest attacks of ISIS in france + short explanation of ISIS + short introduction of constructivism• Research question: How is ISIS/ Daesh constructed in French discourse and how does it influence Foreign Policy Decisions of France?Body paragraph 1 250• Explanation of constructivism of terrorism • Methaphor methodBody paragraph 2 250• President’s discourse on terrorism• President’s discourse on ISIS• France 24 discourse on terrorism• France 24 discourse on ISISBody paragraph 3 250• Reactions to terrorism FranceConclusion 100• Summary• Answer research question Draft


Over the past few years there have been many terrorist attacks in France that were claimed by the Islamic State group (or Daesh as it is referred to in France), three of the most extreme attacks were the attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015, the attack on November 13th 2015 in Paris and the attack in Nice in 2016. Daesh is a jihadist militant organization that controls parts of Iraq and Syria and follows and imposes strict Salafi Sunni Islamic rule. As a result of these attacks 88% of the people in France are worried about further attacks by Daesh. This makes Daesh the main concern of France. In order to understand why France categorizes Daesh as its main enemy and how France will respond to these attacks a constructivist’s approach to terrorism should be applied to this particular case; more specifically an analysis of French discourse regarding Daesh and terrorism should be applied. The question this paper will try to answer is: How is Daesh constructed in French discourse and how does it influence Foreign Policy Decisions of France?

Using the constructivist approach terrorism cannot be seen as something objective and outside of context, language and culture. Instead it is more a discursive construction that is full of assumptions, is culturally biased and is charged with the morals of the one defining it. Moreover, terrorism can be seen as a social construct. According to Hülsse and Spencer (2008), this means that instead of the terrorists themselves, the discourse in which terrorism exists should be the primary source for research. In the case of Daesh/ IS the discourse in which it takes place is the Western terrorism discourse. This terrorism discourse is used to create a negative image of the people and groups labeled as terrorists and can justify actions of state actors. These actions by political elite and counter-terrorism policies are based not on the objective knowledge about IS but on the reality that is constituted through this discourse. A way of analyzing this discourse is through metaphor analysis. A metaphor is a target that represents a source and they can be motivated by a perception of a parallel between the two. According to Hülsse and Spencer (2008) metaphors are interesting to look into for constructivists as their logic of operation mirrors the principle of constructivism. Additionally they reflect the fundamental constructions of a discourse on a specific issue. In terrorism discourse the metaphor of crime and military are relevant. In discourse analysis low data, aka public opinions are important to analyze as well as high data.

The speech of then-president Hollande on the 16th of November 2015 in Versailles is a good example to analyse to get insides in the French discourse on terrorism. The speech was made three days after the November 13th terrorist attack that was claimed by Daesh. In this speech he says that France is at ‘war’ and that the terrorist attacks of that day were ‘acts of war’ that were carried out by the ‘jihadist army’. Hollande says Daesh is an organization that has ‘a territorial base’, ‘financial resources’ and ‘military capabilities’ and they need to be ‘destroyed’. Moreover, Hollande argues that “France is a nation that knows how to defend itself, how to mobilize forces and France will defeat the terrorists”. This all seems to fit into the military metaphor on terrorism, however, the president often refers to the terrorists as French people who have become radicalized, which places the threat inside of France. This is more a characteristic of the criminal metaphor according to Hülsse and Spencer (2008). The articles regarding the November 13th attack and the attack on Charlie hebdo on the France24 website, which represent the public opinion, seems more drawn towards the criminal metaphor. As they use statements that links terrorism more to crimes, like people will be brought to court if they violate anti-terrorist laws or the reference to the terrorist attack in Nice as a criminal project. The use of the term suspect to refer to the terrorist is another clue, as is the use of anti-terrorist magistrates to refer to those investigating the terrorist attacks. However, France 24 refrained from mentioning the French citizenship of the suspects related to the Charlie Hebdo attack and the attack on the Kosher supermarket and only focused on their religion and their origin to make them seem foreign, which places the threat outside of France. This is more a characteristic of the military metaphor according to Hülsse and Spencer (2008).

The use of the military metaphor explains the response of Hollande to the 13th of November attacks, namely the ordering of ‘airstrikes’ together with other military actions aimed to destroy Daesh, the request to make an EU pact that would oblige Member States to provide aid if one State is attacked by Daesh, and the declaration of a state of emergency after these attacks together with the closing of the French borders to prevent terrorists from entering France. The criminal metaphor helps to explain the new anti-terrorism laws that were implemented in France in 2017, which gives the police/ security services more power, for example they are allowed to check bags and people with an anti-weapon machine and they are allowed to ask anyone for an internet ID or password, which people are obliged to give and increased the number of policemen/ border police. The law also extends the government’s power as they will be allowed to tap phone calls on French territory until 2020 and they can decide that people who are dangerous can be assigned residency and can be prohibited from leaving the city. Daily police check-ups can be made mandatory to assure the person does not leave the city.


“Metaphors, are particularly important makers of social reality, because they project familiar worlds onto unfamiliar phenomena and thus constitute the new in terms of the old they teach us that one and the same terrorist actor may have very different meanings to different people, depending on place and time”. In the French context Daesh is seen as a military organization, mainly in the eyes of the president, and as a criminal organization, mainly in the eyes of the public. The military metaphor is the main influencer of the French FPD as it regards the terrorist as an enemy outside of France. It influenced Hollande’s decisions to strike back at Daesh’s main territory in Syria with France’s army. The criminal metaphor has more influence on the domestic policies, through the new anti-terrorist laws, as it regards the terrorist as an actor within.

15 April 2020
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