Fred Halliday, who died aged 64 in April 2010, wrote widely on many subjects related to the Middle East as well as the Muslim community in the UK, but Shocked and Awed is quite different to his other books. In fact, it’s not really a book but a political dictionary of words, turns of phrases and made up terminology which the general public were exposed to in the aftermath of 9/11 and the subsequent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Arranged into twelve chapters, the book studies words that have entered our vocabulary, their meaning, their origins but also- and this is the important bit- they way they influence the way we think and subsequently act. As Halliday reminds us “those who seek to control events, people and their minds also seek to control language.”
The one thing that surprised me about this book was that although the chapters were simply a collection of words which were examined in depth, it was still a really engaging read. As the chapters are short you don’t need to read every entry and you are given a lot more freedom as a reader to dip in and out of the book without losing your thread. Even more surprising was although the chapters didn’t have conclusions, after reading a collection of entries you are left with a clear impression of what words must have enabled (usually war and terror) and how words are so skilfully manipulated by politicians.
See full book review at the Friends of Al Aqsa website.