When you hear a progressive use the word “weaponize,” you know you are over the target.
The word “weaponize” came into the English lexicon in 1957, when Werner von Braun spoke of arming missiles with nuclear warheads. We’ve come a long way since 1957, but dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster have not yet moved beyond defining the word in terms of physical weaponry.
Many conservatives used the word “weaponize” during the Obama years to complain about government agencies being used to unfairly target conservatives or to unlawfully push an ideological agenda outside of Constitutional and legal restrictions. So, for example, this from Forbes in 2014:
The weaponization of government is happening and it’s time Americans took notice. . . .
Last week a senior United States Senator gave a speech stating that the IRS should be used to target and punish groups that disagree with the Democratic Party’s political agenda. Sen. Chuck Schumer stated, “…there are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies — we must redouble those efforts immediately.” Schumer was also one of a number of Democrat Senators who signed a 2012 letter to the IRS demanding they be more aggressive against conservative organizations. Sure, it was a story in primarily conservative media for a couple of days but no coordinated action between Republican elected officials and the conservative grassroots against Chuck Schumer is being contemplated. The Senate should be censuring him for suggesting that the IRS be used as a political weapon against conservative organizations. Americans, however, should be calling for his head.
Last year, Lois Lerner, the IRS’ former director of Tax Exempt Organizations, publicly acknowledged the political, predatory and punitive actions of the agency that led to the harassment and intimidation of conservative groups. Anyone who thinks that these IRS bureaucrats were acting solely in response to the Senators’ letter or of their own volition is kidding themselves. . . .
This is obviously bad. The facts show the progressives as aggressors and conservatives as innocent victims of unlawful misuse of government power. That turns the neo-marxist victimology of our progressives on its head.
Time to redefine the word. So in the best traditions of Newspeak, we now see example after examples of the progressive left using the charge of “weaponize” to paint themselves as victims of conservatives on the topic du jour. Let me give two recent notable examples.
In the recent Supreme Court opinion in Janus, the majority held that, in consideration of the First Amendment, public employees may not be forced to pay union dues. Justice Kagan wrote a 25 page dissent (which really has to be read to be believed), wherein she does not contest the First Amendment implications that the public employees sought to vindicate, but rather that she preferred existing judge made law that allowed states, based on their “managerial interests,” to override the employees’ First Amendment rights. At the end of her screed, she says:
The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law— and in its economic life—for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, . . .
My, who ever heard of Constitutional rights overriding government actions? As I said above, you really need to read her dissent to believe it.
What Kagan is really complaining about is the overturning of Supreme Court made Constitutional law put in place by activist progressive judges in years gone by to support progressive causes. She can see the handwriting on the wall. Overturning these precedents because they have no basis in the four corners of the Constitution will be a body blow to the progressive cause. Thus do we get her complaint not that the decision is wrong on the First Amendment, but that overturning precedent on the basis of what the Constitution actually means is “weaponizing” the First Amendment. She is making victims of everyone who dislikes the decision, irrespective of what the Constitution says.
An even more recent example comes from Aja Romano and her defense of Sarah Jeong at Vox, The controversy over journalist Sarah Jeong joining the New York Times, explained. In standing by its decision to hire the well-known tech journalist, the Times shut down a major bullying tactic of the alt-right. Aren’t we lucky to have Romano around to explain how Jeong’s virulently racist and misandrist tweets are being unfairly used to “attack” Jeong.
The New York Times announced this week that tech journalist Sarah Jeong will join its editorial board — and the ensuing outcry from right-wing Twitter was both swift and familiar.
Jeong is a venerated tech culture journalist with a broad range of expertise, known for everything from authoring a book on systemic online harassment to reporting on major internet case law. (She’s currently a senior writer at Vox’s sister site The Verge, which she’ll be departing for the Times.)
She’s also an outspoken progressive and feminist, making her an obvious target for the right-wing internet mobs that have been especially active of late, launching organized smear campaigns against left-leaning celebrities by weaponizing their old jokes and tweets.
And just like that, Jeong is no longer responsible for her actions, but now the victim of unfair attacks for anyone who “weaponizes” her actions. Neat trick that. It is in many ways related to another neat trick of the progressive left, redefining racism and all other “-ism’s” so that only white males can be guilty of the “-ism.” This is hardly a new tactic. Orwell, who invented Newspeak in his dystopian novel, 1984, showed us how such tendentious redefinition works. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” This most recent tendentious redefinition is more subtle, but certainly within the same spirit.
Both Kagan and Romano have unmoored the term weaponize from it’s original meaning, as to weaponry, and its subsequent use in terms of illegal government actions. They have redefined “weaponize” to mean any argument made by conservatives on facts that proggies really want you to ignore. The First Amendment says freedom of speech? Bah, just another weaponized attack on government power. Jeong stated that she hoped all white men die. How dare you weaponize that argument by bringing up those facts.
Bottom line, when you hear a progressive use the term “weaponize,” it should be music to your ears. You are over the target. To use the eliminationist rhetoric that the progressives disdained — but only until 2017 — that means it is time to go in for the kill.