Selbstgerechtigkeit – Selbstermächtigte Status-Degradierungszeremonien von Online-Petitionen bis zum Lynchen 2.0

  • Wolf-Andreas Liebert


An increasing lack of commitment and brutalization was observed due to the erosion of traditional communities in late modernism (cf. Duerr 1993; Sennet 1998). In Social Media, this is shown as an aggressive style (flaming) or as "hate speech" (cf. Butler 2013), increasingly in organized forms of ensembles of actors of aggression directed specifically against individuals. This libel and these hate acts underlie a complex practice which can be described with Harold Garfinkel's concept as "status degradation ceremony". Garfinkel's terms refer to court cases, i. e. an institutionalized form of aggression exercising – according to Sigmund Freud's terms one of the main benefits of every culture in order to prevent violent squalor and brutality. At the same time, however, Freud also expressed unease ("Unbehagen") that this aggression could more or less break with institutional failure. Today, such processes can be increasingly observed in a bandwidth ranging from simple online petitions to radical forms of vigilantism. In order to understand why individuals take the law into their own hands and – often associated with a more or less large swarm formation – why they are trying to define law, to judge, and even to execute their own "judgments" outside of the democratically constituted legal system, a second concept is introduced, the concept of "Selbstermächtigung" which refers to practices of autonomy. This concept of "Selbstermächtigung" is understood as a time diagnostic term to describe a number of communicative practices which could jeopardize democracy in one of its institutional foundations in question: its legal constitution. "Selbstermächtigung" describes a contemporary mentality which contains a strong, emotionally charged tension between the individual and the institution namely in all sorts of social institutions, such as in health, science, but also democracy – which only just enables these criticism of institutions. From the two analytical concepts of "Selbstermächtigung" and the status degradation ceremony, we can develop the concept of a "self-authorized status degradation ceremony". With this concept, we can examine both simple online petitions and extreme forms of vigilante justice, which are similar to lynching. This is done plausible on the basis of exemplary analyzes. Finally, the danger is clear that the anti institutionally polarized mentality of "Selbstermächtigung" exactly threatens the institution that enables them.
Liebert, W.-A. (2015). Selbstgerechtigkeit – Selbstermächtigte Status-Degradierungszeremonien von Online-Petitionen bis zum Lynchen 2.0. Linguistik Online, 73(4).