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“The Quiet, Uneventful End Of ‘Jade Helm 15′”: Conservative Hysteria Sounded Ridiculous Because It Was Ridiculous

Congratulations, America, you managed to avoid a military takeover of the United States and the dictatorial imposition of martial law.

The military exercise Jade Helm 15 generated enough conspiracy theories this year that it garnered mockery on late-night television, commentary from presidential candidates and reaction from the Texas governor. The basic thrust of the concerns: The military was laying the groundwork for martial law – if not now, then sometime in the future.

The exercise will end quietly Tuesday, however. Carried out in parts of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, it will conclude after two months of operations, said Suzanne Nagl, a spokeswoman for Army Special Operations Command, which oversaw it.

The Washington Post’s report added that Nagl does not yet have details on the lessons of the training exercise, but she added that officials at the Army Special Operations Command “believe the exercise overall was a success.”

Remarkably, “success” in this case did not mean the confiscation of Americans’ guns, as part of some kind of military takeover.

If you were away over the summer, you may not know what I’m talking about, so let’s recap. From July 15 to today, the military organized some training exercises for about 1,200 people in areas spanning from Texas to California. Somehow, right-wing activists got it in their heads that the exercises, labeled “Jade Helm 15,” were part of an elaborate conspiracy theory involving the Obama administration, the U.S. military, Walmart, and some “secret underground tunnels.”

It sounded ridiculous because it was ridiculous.

Nevertheless, as far-right hysteria grew louder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) felt the need to order the Texas Guard to “monitor” the military exercises – just in case. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stoked the same fires, and even Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) arranged a meeting with Pentagon officials and a three-star Air Force general, just to make sure American officials weren’t planning a takeover of America, or something.

As recently as mid-May – just four months ago – Public Policy Polling found that one-third of Republicans believed the conspiracy theory that “the government is trying to take over Texas.”

I suppose technically, the Jade Helm 15 exercises won’t end until later today, so far-right activists still have a few more hours to worry about the end of American freedom as we know it, but I’m reasonably optimistic that their hysteria was misplaced.

Postscript: As we talked about in July, it’s tempting to think the conspiracy theorists are going to look pretty foolish now that Jade Helm is wrapping up without incident, but right-wing politics usually doesn’t work this way. On the contrary, we’re likely to hear that Obama administration would have hatched its dastardly scheme, but conservatives prevented the crisis by raising a fuss.

 

By: Steve Benen, The maddow Blog, September 15, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Jade Helm 15, U. S. Military | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Men Of The People”: Multiple GOP Presidential Candidates Now Investigating Nutball Conspiracy Theory

As we discussed last week, conspiracy theorists in Texas are convinced that a multi-state training exercise the military is soon to conduct called Jade Helm is actually preparation for the declaration of martial law across the Southwest, with all manner of ungodly consequences to follow, including the confiscation of people’s guns and perhaps forced internment in re-education camps where patriotic Americans are forced to watch episodes of “Girls” with their eyes pried open “Clockwork Orange”-style and fed a diet of borscht and stale bread. Governor Greg Abbott, perhaps after noting continued healthy sales of tinfoil hats throughout the Lone Star State, announced that he had instructed the National Guard to “monitor” the exercise, just to make sure there’s no funny stuff going on. Last week Rand Paul told a radio host he’d look into it, and on Saturday, Ted Cruz made clear that he’s on the case:

“My office has reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise,” Cruz, a Texas senator, told Bloomberg at the South Carolina Republican Party’s annual convention. “We are assured it is a military training exercise. I have no reason to doubt those assurances, but I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.”

If the question you’re asking is, “Why would people believe something so preposterous?”, then what Cruz is saying almost makes sense. His argument is essentially that ordinary folks would never have contemplated such a thing a few years ago, but after Barack Obama went on his socialist rampage, trying to get people health coverage and imposing restrictions on Wall Street’s ability to obliterate the American economy again, it’s only natural that people would become so alarmed that it seems perfectly plausible to them that Obama would have sent the army to take over Texas.

But there’s a big difference between saying “Here’s an explanation for why some people might be taken with this insane idea” and saying “I too am taken with this insane idea.” Cruz is planting himself somewhere in the middle — he’s not endorsing it, but he’s not dismissing it either, which is why he instructed his staff to communicate with the Pentagon and inquire whether they are in fact about to launch some kind of coup.

Not only does Cruz not come out and say the conspiracy theory is absurd (he only goes so far as to say that “I have no reason to doubt” that martial law is not in the works), he seems to imply that it’s perfectly reasonable, based on the Obama administration’s record, for people to assume that something like that would actually be happening.

But it isn’t. You can have a thousand objections to actions this president has undertaken, but if you genuinely think that an army training exercise is actually a cover for a military coup, you’re a loon and there is not a single reasonable thing about what you believe. Like Greg Abbott and Rand Paul, Ted Cruz knows perfectly well how crazy this is. But he’s a man of the people, so he’ll just pass on what the people are telling him.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, May 4, 2015

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Indulging The Lunatics On The Right”: What So Many Republicans Do With The Crazies On Their Side

Ask a Republican about the elaborate conspiracy theories that are so popular with many on the far right, and she’s likely to respond that, sure, those people are there, but liberals have their wackos, too. But there is a difference, in not just how far to the center of Republican power the wackos get (consider how many Republican members of Congress still aren’t sure that Barack Obama was born in the United States), but in the way the wackos are treated by the rest of the party. Which brings us to Texas:

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Guard to monitor federal military exercises in Texas after some citizens have lit up the Internet saying the maneuvers are actually the prelude to martial law.

The operation causing rampant suspicions is a new kind of exercise involving elite teams such as the SEALs and Green Berets from four military branches training over several states from July 15 to Sept. 15

Called Jade Helm 15, the exercise is one of the largest training operations done by the military in response to what it calls the evolving nature of warfare. About 1,200 special operations personnel will be involved and move covertly among the public. They will use military equipment to travel between seven Southwestern states from Texas to California.

On Monday, command spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria attended a Bastrop County Commissioners Court meeting to answer community questions and was met with hostile fire. Lastoria, in response to some of the questions from the 150 who attended, sought to dispel fears that foreign fighters from the Islamic State were being brought in or that Texans’ guns would be confiscated, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.

So in response to the fact that some of Texas’s dumbest citizens emerged from their doomsday prepper shelters long enough to harangue a colonel about their belief that martial law is coming to their state, Governor Abbott issued an order to the National Guard to monitor the movements of the U.S. military just to make sure they aren’t herding citizens into re-education camps or dropping Islamic State infiltrators into Galveston. I guess we’re safe from that, for the moment anyway.

Every politician encounters nutballs from time to time, and it isn’t always easy to figure out how to respond to them. But what’s remarkable about this is that we aren’t talking about an offhand remark Abbott made, or an occasion in which a constituent went on a rant to him and he nodded along to be friendly instead of saying, “You, sir, are out of your mind.” This is an official action the governor is taking. He’s mobilizing state resources, at taxpayer expense, because of a bizarre conspiracy theory that has some of Texas’s more colorful citizens in its grip.

It’s really hard to keep people from believing outlandish things. But you don’t have to indulge them. And that’s what so many Republicans do with the crazies on their side: They indulge them. Doing so doesn’t reassure them or calm them down, it only convinces them that they were right all along and encourages them to believe the next crazy thing they hear.

So please, Republicans, next time you’re tempted to say that extremism and fantastical thinking are just as prevalent and meaningful on the left as on the right, remember this.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 30, 2015

May 3, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, U. S. Military | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Jollying The Wingnuts”: Governor Abbot Mobilizing State Resources, At Taxpayer Expense, Because Of A Bizarre Conspiracy Theory

I got a little ahead of the game by posting yesterday about the bizarre situation of right-wing folk in Texas convincing themselves that Army exercises in the area were the beginning of a military coup aimed at their own selves, or at least their shooting irons. But I didn’t emphasize the fact that the Governor of Texas had formally asked the Guard to “monitor” the exercises to ensure no hostile action against the Citizenry by the supposed agents of the secular-socialists in Washington.

Paul Waldman had an apt comment about that little detail of the saga:

[I]n response to the fact that some of Texas’s dumbest citizens emerged from their doomsday prepper shelters long enough to harangue a colonel about their belief that martial law is coming to their state, Governor Abbott issued an order to the National Guard to monitor the movements of the U.S. military just to make sure they aren’t herding citizens into re-education camps or dropping Islamic State infiltrators into Galveston. I guess we’re safe from that, for the moment anyway.

Every politician encounters nutballs from time to time, and it isn’t always easy to figure out how to respond to them. But what’s remarkable about this is that we aren’t talking about an offhand remark Abbott made, or an occasion in which a constituent went on a rant to him and he nodded along to be friendly instead of saying, “You, sir, are out of your mind.” This is an official action the governor is taking. He’s mobilizing state resources, at taxpayer expense, because of a bizarre conspiracy theory that has some of Texas’s more colorful citizens in its grip.

It’s really hard to keep people from believing outlandish things. But you don’t have to indulge them. And that’s what so many Republicans do with the crazies on their side: They indulge them. Doing so doesn’t reassure them or calm them down, it only convinces them that they were right all along and encourages them to believe the next crazy thing they hear.

That’s true, though you would like to hear a “You, Sir, are out of your mind” comment now and then. Or perhaps something a bit more indirect, like Woody Allen’s response to a confession of thoughts about driving into oncoming traffic by the Christopher Walken character in Annie Hall: “Excuse me, Duane, I have an appointment back on Planet Earth.”

 

By: Ed Likgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 30, 2015

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, Texas | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Texas Guv Surrenders To Conspiracy Nuts”: Pandering To Paranoid, Secessionist Fools

Texas’s governor moved this week to protect his state from an Obama-led military takeover.

Governor Greg Abbott, who decisively beat Wendy Davis in the 2014 to take Rick Perry’s job, announced on Tuesday that he’s going to sic the Texas Rangers on the U.S. military.

Not really. But it sure sounds that way.

What’s actually going on is U.S. troops are doing training exercises—called Jade Helm 15—in several states throughout the Southwest, including Texas.

The mission will involve Special Operations forces moving through the Southwest and training for covert missions. A declassified map posted online in March (whose legitimacy The Washington Post confirmed) identified several of those states as “hostile” and “leaning hostile.” That isn’t particularly unusual, as Dan Lamothe explained at The Washington Post, but it has a small number of Texans—including, apparently, the governor—totally freaking out and (arguably) overreacting.

Conspiracy theories about the training exercise have spread through cyberspace with all due speed, as such theories are wont to do.

And, naturally, Alex Jones, of conspiracy theory-touting Infowars fame, is involved.

The Drudge Report aggregated a number of stories about the exercises, directing readers to Infowars—including a March 24 story that said the trainings in Utah and Texas led observers “to fears that traditionally conservative areas may be a simulated target for future domestic operations.”

Yipes!

That story also said “military scholars” have started hypothesizing that such troops “would be used to target political groups such as the Tea Party.”

On March 26, Drudge linked to another InfoWars story suggesting the operations could be preparing for the implementation of martial law, which would certainly be big news indeed.

Those stories and others drew traffic and stoked fears.

On April 27, Raw Story reported that an Army spokesman appeared before a packed crowd at a Bastrop County Commission meeting in Texas to try to quell the citizens’ anxieties.

“The Army spokesman assured participants that the United Nations was not involved in the operations, but the crowd jeered when he told them he was not familiar with Agenda 21,” wrote Travis Gettys on the site.

That little meet ’n’ greet didn’t have its desired effect.

The next day, Abbott announced that he had directed Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard, to monitor Jade Helm 15.

In a letter to Betty, he said he made the move “[t]o address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe.”

The Texas military has three branches, as its website details, including the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard, as well as the Texas State Guard. The governor, in this case, is its commander-in-chief.

And per The Houston Chronicle, it hasn’t completely ironed out all the specific details of how exactly it will monitor the U.S. Army.

Abbott’s decision to err on the side of Alex Jones has drawn a bit of joshing from the left.

“Abbott’s c would be comical if it wasn’t so costly and frightening,” said Glenn Smith, the director of the Progress Texas PAC. “Abbott has the state military confronting the U.S. military because some nutcases fear, what, armed U.S. takeover of Texas? Seriously? What next? Will Abbott call out the troops to protect us from alien abduction, abominable snowmen and Bigfoot, or should I say an invasion of Bigfeet?”

Jason Stanford, a longtime Democratic Texas consultant and member of the Truman National Security Project, said Abbott’s move is great news for conspiracy-mongers everywhere.

“A lot of people think he’s more sensible than this, but he has yet to stop campaigning for a Republican primary that he won virtually unopposed,” he said. “Most Texans aren’t like this.”

That said, Abbott isn’t without defenders. Republican State Representative Jonathan Stickland defended the move enthusiastically and said Texans’ distrust of the Obama administration probably informed his decision. He said that the exercises have caused “justified concern.”

“I don’t want to instill panic,” he added. “I’ll tell you what’s scary is if we get to a place where it’s not normal to question our government or their motives. We should always be questioning government.”

And Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican consultant, said he would be surprised if Jade Helm 15 was a subversive plot to occupy Texas. But he added that he understands Texans’ concerns.

“It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s false,” he said. “Is every single conspiracy theory wrong? No. Most of them probably are.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, April 30, 2015

May 1, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, Texas, U. S. Military | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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