9: Moral Economies of Exclusion: Politics of Fear through Antagonistic Anonymity

This chapter examines the discourse-technical means through which illiberal political logics are legitimised in constructions of xenophobic populism by a ‘prominent’ Norwegian extreme-right organisation, Human Rights Service (HRS). I argue that recent HRS publications featuring six secretly shot photos of Muslims in the Norwegian public sphere engender a moral economy of exclusion in which Muslims consistently are produced as an anonymous yet ubiquitously present threat to liberal democratic and human rights values. Within this framework, micro-humiliating performances against the ‘Muslim other’ are constituted and encouraged as a necessary, morally justified defence of democratic virtues to ensure the existence of a vulnerable majority self. I claim that the HRS circulation of constructions of faceless, yet easily recognisable, categories of designated ‘enemy others’ as a threat to the liberal democratic ethos can ultimately be understood as a hegemonic intervention to push anti-Muslim illiberalism from the fringes towards the dominant cultural outlook.

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

(Nietzsche, 1989[1886]: 157)

Key messages

  • Circulation of HRS fear appeals serves to push anti-Muslim illiberalism from the fringes towards the dominant cultural outlook

  • Publication of secretly shot photos of Norwegian Muslims engender a moral economy of exclusion

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