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The term “weaponize” refers to the strategic manipulation or transformation of information, institutions, or social issues into tools for gaining political advantage.

This could involve exploiting existing laws, harnessing social media algorithms for disinformation campaigns, or turning otherwise neutral or benign elements of governance into divisive issues for the purpose of delegitimizing opponents or rallying a base.

The act of weaponizing in politics often entails ethical considerations, as it can distort democratic processes and contribute to social polarization.


More on “Weaponize”

An increasingly popular word that connotes turning something—in politics, anything from campaign contributions to fact-check columns to politicians themselves—into a powerful means of gaining advantage.

Given how political campaigns increasingly have been compared to military endeavors, it’s hardly surprisingly that weaponize has joined other national-security words such as “blowback” and “false flag” in entering civilian discourse. The word first came into use during the cold war and surged in popularity during the 1990s, according to Google’s Ngram Viewer.

GOP strategist Mike Murphy, an adviser to Jeb Bush, told donors in June 2015 that the former Florida governor’s campaign was aggressively trying to boost its fundraising total for the first half of 2015, thus demonstrating its strength in an increasingly crowded field. “We want to weaponize our [fundraising] number,” Murphy said, according to the New York Times. “The press has set a very high expectation for us, much higher than we would have set for ourselves.”

An American Press Institute report, meanwhile, found that media truth-squad websites such as also are getting turned into tactical tools. “Political actors regularly ‘weaponize’ fact checks,” it said. “Candidates, staff and supporters, including party organizations and independent expenditure groups, cite fact checks in TV ads and debates to refute attacks and undermine opponents’ credibility.”

Conservative pundit Guy Benson, promoting his 2015 book End of Discussion: How the Left’s Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun), also used the word to decry what he and coauthor Mary Katharine Ham regard as the pervasiveness of political correctness.

“What we’re seeing now, especially in an age of social media, is that a lot of this craziness is being born on campus but then it’s being weaponized in the media, weaponized in Washington, D.C., and it’s proliferating across the country and it’s sort of seeping into all elements of American life,” Benson complained on MSNBC. He cited the backlash after two gay businessmen hosted a fireside chat with Texas senator Ted Cruz, whose tea party-backed positions are anathema to many gay Democrats.

From Doubletalk © 2016 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “Weaponize” in a sentence

  • Critics argue that the senator weaponized the filibuster rule to obstruct any legislative progress, effectively holding the government hostage to a partisan agenda.
  • As the election drew closer, both parties sought to weaponize social media, curating content that would galvanize their respective bases and casting the opposition in the most negative light possible.
  • The administration’s decision to weaponize census data for redistricting has been met with legal challenges, as opponents claim it undermines the democratic process.