Sunday, September 25, 2005

Some more aimless ramblings on the 'glorification of terror'

A lot of people have pointed out that the definition of 'terrorism' in the Terrorism Act is so broad that it encompasses way too much. In particular the definition could easily be applied to the global 'good guys' and their actions in the war against terror. In fact, the term 'war against terror' is probably the perfect example of what 'terrorism' means in the Act, as it is clearly advocating political violence.

However, all prosecutions made under Charles Clarke's bill will be at the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions, part of the CPS, which is the governmental judicial arm. Chris Lightfoot impeccably shows the logic of the bill:
So that's alright then: make everything illegal, and only prosecute the people you don't like. Top work.
(My one problem with this statement is the notion that 'everything is illegal'. Whilst I agree everything is potentially illegal, unless a norm is enforced we can hardly call that which it 'condemns' illegal, a law is only a law insofar as it is actualised in particular material situations).

This is then fogged up by the government claiming, very sensibly that people already know what terrorism means. But this is simply untrue. What is actually being created is a system whereby the state can pick and choose its enemies, before throwing them in the slammer. The brilliance of the scheme lies in its simulataneously broad and particular nature. Due to the language of the staute most people who take an interest in politics, and particularly international politics could be criminalised (inasmuch as politics is always potentially 'violent') but discretion is vested in the state, hence each prosecution will be even more particular than normal.

This means that the law resembles a series of discrete decrees rather than a law with particular enemies of the state being carted off as and when necessary. This is the sort of law that is completely opposed to bourgeois notions of the 'rule of law', since it is so wide it is virtually impossible to 'plan your life' by it.

In fact I'd say this is the sort of law that show late capitalism begins to erode the legal form, in that it is very diffucult to see how this is a 'general law' binding on legal, formally equal subjects and not a discretionary piece of 'adminstration' or the pure particularistic command on the part of the 'sovereign'.

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