Information operations · Information Warfare

Arizona State University: Weaponized Narrative Initiative

What isWeaponized Narrative?

Weaponized narrative is an attack that seeks to undermine an opponent’s civilization, identity, and will. By generating confusion, complexity, and political and social schisms, it confounds response on the part of the defender.

How Does Weaponized Narrative Work?

A fast-moving information deluge is the ideal battleground for this kind of warfare – for guerrillas and terrorists as well as adversary states. A firehose of narrative attacks gives the targeted populace little time to process and evaluate. It is cognitively disorienting and confusing – especially if the opponents barely realize what’s hitting them. Opportunities abound for emotional manipulation undermining the opponent’s will to resist.

How Do You Recognize Weaponized Narratives?

Efforts by Russia to meddle in the elections of Western democracies – including France and Germany as well as the United States – are in the news. The Islamic State’s weaponized narrative has been highly effective. Even political movements have caught on, as one can see in the rise of the alt-right in the United States and Europe. In short, many different types of adversaries have found weaponized narratives advantageous in this battlespace. Additional recent targets have included Ukraine, Brexit, NATO, the Baltics, and even the Pope.

How Can You Help?

This Weaponized Narrative Initiative site serves as a place to:

  • Submit your own writings and videos about weaponized narrative.
  • Converse with others interested in weaponized narrative.
  • Submit your own examples of possible weaponized narrative attacks.
  • Check out our PublicationsLibrary and Blog areas to find the latest information.

icon - get involved in the weaponized narrative initiative

Join our Operations Directorate, and contribute examples and ideas that advance our understanding of how weaponized narrative can be defended against, and how it can be utilized.

icon - get involved in the weaponized narrative initiative

Join our Research Directorate, and contribute examples and ideas that advance our understanding of weaponized narrative.

The Weaponized Narrative Initiative is a project of the non-partisan Center on the Future of War, a partnership between Arizona State University and the independent Washington, D.C., think tank New America.


The Weaponized Narrative Initiative is the beginning of an important dialogue for the United States, and for all those countries that believe in the value of rationality, responsibility, and some form of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

We do not pretend to yet have a coherent integrated perspective on weaponized narrative. What we can say is what the headlines remind us of every day: weaponized narrative is real, and it is a very effective form of asymmetric warfare when directed against the West. It presents challenges not just to military and security organizations, but to civil society, and to democratic principles and institutions.

It is a long-standing axiom of military strategy that the adversary always gets a vote, and adversaries of the United States, and the modern West, have voted for weaponized narrative. We cannot control that. But we can control how we respond, how we defend and – more important – how we build a future validating that which all those who have gone before us have poured into building this country.

Here we stand. We can do no other.



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