Political Technology and the Erosion of the Rule of Law

Political Technology and the Erosion of the Rule of Law

Normalizing the State of Exception

Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series

Günter Frankenberg

This timely volume by distinguished scholar Günter Frankenberg offers a sophisticated analysis and sharp critique of the reactions of nations such as the US, Great Britain and Germany to perceived terrorist threats, organized crime actions and other political emergencies that have occurred in recent years.

Chapter 6: Normalizing the state of exception: Counter-terrorism and 'whatever it takes'

Günter Frankenberg

Subjects: law - academic, constitutional and administrative law, legal philosophy, legal theory, public international law, terrorism and security law, politics and public policy, terrorism and security


Those who commit acts of terror intend to occupy the mind. They focus on the shock effect. That aside, emerging damage and victims usually are of no particular interest to them. From their perspective, terror differs from a common crime by reducing violence to its symbolic value. Every attack conveys a message presented with barbaric arrogance, often reinforced by a declaration of war in a letter or video claiming responsibility. At the symbolic level, terror is communication, yet it is a one-way message interested in the ëprofit of attentioní but not in mutual understanding. Those who pull the wire behind terror and those executing it stress their supposedly altruist motivation as well as the political or religious underpinning of their action to distance themselves from egoist crime and to force public attention: those not directly affected ought not to behave like a more or less interested audience, and the security services ought not to make use of the full scope of their discretion ñ i.e. to prevent terror and identify the perpetrators or to refrain from such action. On the one hand, terrorist acts are meant to force the political class, the media, even whole societies and ultimately the global public, as far as it is created in moments of terror, to permanently engage with the presumed aims of its protagonists and, hence, also with the anxieties evoked by acts of terror.

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