Making Enemies pp 114-127 | Cite as

Demonisation: the Frenzy of Enmity



One way in which killing and expulsion are justified and explained by their perpetrators is through the demonisation of the victims. Kristen Monroe reports her interview with a Dutch Nazi who ‘could not see the humanity in those she persecuted’.3 In this way a language is employed which disguises what is being done by renaming it and justifies it to the oppressor by redefining it. Killing other people is murder, so by redescribing the other as not like oneself or one’s own group, but as uncivilised, subhuman, alien, beyond the pale of normal humanity, murder is redefined as cleansing, or a solution, or a holy purification, or a necessary defence against evil. Yet as with all forms of rhetoric, narrative and justification, the relation between the narrative and other aspects of political action is never wholly predictable or consistent. Murder can be carried out with gentle words or bureaucratic euphemisms, and murderous language used without murderous consequences. The consideration of the most extreme form of the language of contention, demonisation, must therefore be carried out with caution, hoping at best to discover some possible patterns, but not expecting to be able to pronounce laws or predictions.


Modern State White Whale Murderous Consequence Civil Order Present Oneself 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Rodney Barker 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The London School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

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