Weaponization and control of the language is in no way a new phenomenon, but the age of the internet and social media gives the effort a new meaning, and reach.
At the same time, the term, like the language itself, is very versatile and malleable; so much so that many people might not realize that “language neutering” is also a form of “language weaponization.”
“Weaponization” here is not about any particular kind of language – it’s about building a narrative that evokes strong emotions and imagery, and is then promoted as the only acceptable one.
And so over in South Carolina, the Mauldin City Council is putting taxpayers’ money where it hopes its officials’ mouths will eventually be: a place where voicing any criticism of protests fueled by race issues (such as saying they are “getting out of hand)” or choosing to “defend” the Confederate flag on social networks will become unacceptable.
An AP report cited by media outlets said the decision to spend $50,000 to usher in sensitivity and diversity training came after a council member, Dale Black, was found at fault precisely on those issues – involving the Confederate flag, and his opinions on the BLM-driven protests.
Regarding the flag, Black’s posts on social media came in response to those calling it racist; the councilor implied that if that was true, then the Democratic party, and some black and hispanic activist organizations were in their different ways guilty of the same.
As for the campaign to tear down statutes of historical figures accused of racism, Black suggested that the thing was “getting out of hand.”
Black didn’t even author these posts; instead he went the route of sharing those other people had published. And eventually, like many before him, he even censored himself by removing his own Facebook page.
While in one way that was “not enough,” in another it was all it took for the city to pass a resolution and set aside money from the budget to train other councilors to engage in what’s described as a healthier public dialogue.
The author of the proposal to spend money on sensitivity training, Councilor Michael Reynolds, said his intent was “to listen to people (…) especially when dealing with race issues.”
Not a courtesy, however, he seems willing to extend to the likes of Black.