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“So Many Choices”: Obama Picks His Favorite Conspiracy Theory

The right has come up with more than its share of conspiracy theories related to President Obama. In fact, some of the more nonsensical ideas – he wasn’t born in the United States; he’s secretly non-Christian – began before he was even elected.

Obama sat down with Bill Simmons recently for an interview published by GQ, and Simmons asked a question I’ve wondered about myself.

SIMMONS: What’s the most entertaining conspiracy theory you ever read about yourself?

OBAMA: That military exercises we were doing in Texas were designed to begin martial law so that I could usurp the Constitution and stay in power longer. Anybody who thinks I could get away with telling Michelle I’m going to be president any longer than eight years does not know my wife.

The president didn’t literally use the words “Jade Helm 15,” but I think it’s safe to say that’s what he was referring to.

In case anyone’s forgotten about this one, let’s recap. Earlier this year, the military organized some training exercises for about 1,200 people in areas spanning from Texas to California, which started in mid-July. 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 all seemed terribly silly – because it was – but several Republican officials, including senators, governors, and House members, at least pretended to take it seriously for a short while. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) even felt the need to order the Texas Guard to “monitor” the military exercises – just in case.

The training exercises wrapped up in September without incident.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 20, 2015

November 22, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, Jade Helm 15 | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“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

“The Strategic Hamlet Of Bastrop, Texas”: Why Did Texas Politicians Cave In To Delusional Paranoia?

The real news isn’t that many Texans seemingly subscribe to an apocalyptic, delusional worldview, one that has them convinced that a U.S Army training exercise called “Jade Helm 15” is the opening wedge of an Obama-led coup d’etat — seizing guns, importing thousands of ISIS fighters to subdue local patriots, and throwing dissenters into FEMA concentration camps.

Because where else would you start a military takeover but the strategic hamlet of Bastrop, Texas, commanding the crucial highway junction between Elgin and LaGrange? Never mind that Fort Hood, the largest U.S. military installation in the world, is maybe 75 miles up the road. Bastrop is the linchpin.

No, the real news is that name-brand Texas politicians such as Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz think it’s smart to lend plausibility to what is essentially a mass psychiatric delusion. Did you know that even Walmart’s involved? Rumor says recently closed stores are being refitted as barracks for foreign soldiers.

After a raucous hearing in Bastrop, during which a regular Army colonel who pointed out that he’d served five presidents over 27 years got accused of lying and shouted down, Gov. Abbott ordered the Texas Guard to monitor U.S. Army war games this summer.

This so that “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

Probably because there’s lithium in the water, stuff like this rarely happens out in El Paso — home of Fort Bliss, the 1,700-square mile HQ of the First Armored Division. But just across the border in Chihuahua, according to the Family Research Council, there’s a secret ISIS base with thousands of terrorists poised to strike. Hundreds of miles of underground tunnels have been dug to facilitate the invasion.

Also lending support to the nutball faction was Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who expressed support for Abbott’s leadership.

“I understand the concern that’s been raised by a lot of citizens about Jade Helm,” Cruz said. “…I think part of the reason is, we have seen for six years a federal government disrespecting the liberty of the citizens and that produces fear. When you see a federal government that is attacking our free speech rights, our religious liberty rights, our Second Amendment rights,,, That produces distrust as to government.”

Hey Ted, Republicans lost two presidential elections. Grow up. Arkansas’ own Mike Huckabee plays to similar fears with gratuitous twaddle about “criminalizing Christianity.” All this really amounts to, as Paul Krugman puts it, is fear that Obama will “seize control of [Texas] and force its citizens to accept universal health care at gunpoint.”

Look, it’s not just Texas. Mad conspiracy theories are nothing new in American politics. Historian Rick Perlstein’s book Before the Storm describes a similar paranoid outbreak in 1963. A California GOP senator complained about an avalanche of “’fright mail,’ mostly centering on two astonishingly widespread rumors: that Chinese commandos were training in Mexico for an invasion of the United States through San Diego; and that 100,000 UN troops — 16,000 of them ‘African Negro troops, who are cannibals’ [sic] — were secretly rehearsing in the Georgia swamps under the command of a Russian colonel for a UN martial-law takeover of the United States.”

Back then it was President John F. Kennedy, an Irish-Catholic Democrat, who afflicted the John Birch Society with fear of The Other. Today, it’s President Obama scaring an Austin-based talk radio and Internet conspiracy theorist called Alex Jones.

Richard Hofstadter’s classic 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” explains: “I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

Left-wing paranoia is not unknown. However, in America paranoid mass movements are almost entirely a right-wing phenomenon, partly because they fit so well with the melodramatic themes of Protestant fundamentalism.

“The paranoid spokesman,” Hofstadter added, “sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization… he does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.”

Is that not totally Ted Cruz?

But you know what? Ted Cruz ain’t Texas.

Early indications are that Cruz and Abbott are widely perceived to have made fools of themselves. Coverage in the statewide press has been derisive. A retired GOP legislator, Todd Smith of Euless, wondered if he should be more “horrified that I have to choose between the possibility that my governor actually believes this stuff and the possibility that my governor doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to those who do.”

Good question.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, May 7, 2015

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Greg Abbott, Texas | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“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

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