There are two aspects of this debate, one about the term, "Islamic State," and the other about the its application. So, until about a month ago the entity calling itself " al-Dawla al Islamiyya fi al-Iraq wa al Sham(s)," was claiming to be the most important Muslim political entity in the world, the center of its "Caliphate" which claimed to be the only legitimate and supreme ruler and polltical state for the entire Islamic/Muslim world. As of this moment it remains unclear what the status of the self-proclaimed al-Khalifa, Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi. Rumors have had him dead while others say he remains alive and in charge of the remnants of his group.
Regarding its real world actual existence, well, I am posting this because about a month ago this group lost control of the last good sized town that it controlled, Abu Kamal, reported by the seriously ignorant western media as "Bukamel," about 40,000 in population, a town on the Euphrates River just over the border from Iraq on the Syrian side. Apparently it now controls no town or city of any size, although supposedly it continues to operate in rural desert areas along the Syria/Iraq border. But as an entity that rules any sort of meaningful government as a "state," well, it has ceased to exist as that as of the takeover of Abu Kamal by Syrian state forces backed by both Russia and Iran as well as the US to a lesser degree, and has returned to its earlier roots as a guerrilla rebel movement, not a status as a "state," according to any serious definition of that term.
The second part of this involves mainstream western media. Somehow somebody in control of these things decided and enforced that what al-Dawla al Islamiyya fi al-Iraq wa al Sham(s) would be known as "officially" in western mainstream media (to be specific the "papers of record," the New York Times and the Washington Post), would be the seriously misleading and ideologically/theocratically inaccurate term, "the Islamic State."
The term "Islamic State" in the eyes of many observers implies that indeed the entity follows the views of a variety of observers or dissidents oppressed, It is the defining form of a state devoted to Islam; that its claim to represent a universal ruling caliphate of greater Islamic legitimacy in the entire world is correct. No one knows which media maven decided that this was the term that should be used over all others, including ones used by the western population among themeelves. When even government officials spoke referring this group as the far more popularly used "ISIS," stories in the Washington Post and other such outlets relentlessly corrected such people by adding after their preferred term, "another term used to describe the Islamic State." These official guardians of official truth knew better than the masses, although some who defend their continuing usage even in the face of the collapse of any real rule over a state may have insisted on using this IS formulation over ISIS (or ISIL) because it is shorter and easier to read and understand.
Of course, "ISIS" has long been the most widely popularly used named for this outfit in at least the US, and it is not a bad translation of the Arabic acronym for "al-Dawla al Islamiyya fi al-Iraq wa al Sham(s)" as "the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria." Calling it just "the Islamic State(IS)" cuts off everything in that name after "Islamiyya" and grants them implicitly their claim to be the one and only true Islamic state in the world, the real caliphate rejevanated since the end of the Ottoman Empire, whose long ruling Sultan claimed the title of Caliph, or "al Khalifa," the true successor of the Prophet Muhammed as the political-religious ruler and leader of the world Umma, the global Islamic community, implicitly even a family given that "Umm" is the word for "mother" in Arabic.
So even now with the end of any remote pretense that this group actually rules anything that can be called a "state" since the fall of Abu Kamal they continue with this incredibly misleading formulation that no identifiable party decided they should use when some official calls them "ISIS," that they are the "Islamic State," with "ISIS another name used to describe the Islamic State." I have seen this ridiculous and inaccurate formulation so many times I have lost my capacity to vomit.
Of course we have the minor but more accurate term, "ISIL" based on how to translate "al Sham(s)," which can mean "Syria" or "Greater Syria" or "the Levant," which is essentially Greater Syria, although with fuzzy borders but including certainly Lebanon as well as portions of Turkey, Jordan, and even Israel, "the Levant" being a western term from the French referring to the rising of the sun in the East, or "Near East" at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, an old term used by the English and French dating back a few centuries. The Obama administration decided to use this "ISIL" as advised from some tiresome academics, although far better informed than the idiot journalists who for no good reason became propagandists for this nauseating entity by insisting that it was and remains "the Islamic State" or "IS."
Needless to say in most of the Arab world and among such well informed parties as Juan Cole, the preferred way to refer to this horrible entity was to Anglicize its Arabic acronym as Da'esh, or just "Daesh." This how virtually all Arab spokespersons outside of the entity itself referred to it, wininng from the moronic western media the corrective when they did so, "Daesh, another name for the Islamic State," with this indeed having political significance as the Arabic acronym came to be rejected by the entity itself to the point that they killed anybody using it in territories under their control, despite its complete accuracy from the official name. But these barbaric monsters wanted to be known as the official ruling global Islamic caliphate, and the western media abetted this absurd and nonsensical and despicable claim on their part against the all-but universal claim among Arabs of the more accurate label, "Daesh."
Official western media may persist in this nonsense now that as even an unrecognized "state" that rules over any unwilling populace of any concentrated population in a city or even good sized town has ceased to exist. But it is high time they ceased propagandizing for these horrendous criminals and joined Arabs and well informed western observers by calling them "Daesh," or at a minimum stopped correcting those who continue to use the more popularly know term "ISIS" or its slightly more esoteric variation "ISIL" with this now utter nonsense. There is no longer an organized government ruling any real territory that deserves being called a "state," much less "the Islamic State." That entity, despite its own demands to be called that, has ceased to exist in any meaningful form and has returned to being a purely guerrilla movement, even as many other groups inspired by it continue to kill people in places such as Nigeria and Yemen in its name.
The "Islamic State" is khalas, over, done, dead, and I do not wish that it Rest in Peace.