Weaponized narrative comes at a critical juncture. The speed of upheaval in our lives is unprecedented. It will be filled by something. We are desperate for something to hang on to.
By offering cheap passage through a complex world, weaponized narrative furnishes emotional certainty at the cost of rational understanding. The emotionally satisfying decision to accept a weaponized narrative — to believe, to have faith — inoculates cultures, institutions, and individuals against counterarguments and inconvenient facts.
This departure from rationality opens such ring-fenced belief communities to manipulation and their societies to attack. These communities can be strengthened through media tools and messages that reinforce the narrative — crucially, by demonizing outsiders. Trust is extended only to those who believe, leaving other institutional and social structures to erode.
In the hands of professionals, the powerful emotions of anger and fear can be used to control adversaries, limit their options, and disrupt their functional capabilities. This is a unique form of soft power. In such campaigns, facts are not necessary because – contrary to the old memes of the Enlightenment – truth does not necessarily prevail. It can be overwhelmed with constantly repeated and replenished falsehood. Especially powerful are falsehoods or simplifications that the target cohort has been primed to believe by the underlying narratives with which they are also being supplied.