For a guy who gets great entertainment from reading the wild and wacky conspiracy theories that sprout like mushrooms online, I was surprised that I missed the rapid growth of the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy. I only noticed it as a surface ripple until this past weekend, when I realized it had blossomed into a full-blown madness.
Jade Helm 15 goes beyond the usual tinfoil-hat conspiracies: it’s full tinfoil body armour stuff. And it’s been raised to the level of a hundred voices in an audience all screaming ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre – that being, of course, the internet. But there’s no fire. Not even smoke: it’s all in their imagination.
From the outside, it’s as zany and illogical as chemtrails and creationism, but it plays to a very specific American mindset.* That mindset – a heady mix of isolationism, xenophobia, racism, fundamentalist Christianity, paranoia, suspicion and guns – has been around, brewing up conspiracies since at least the Civil War days. It is the same mentality that created the Red Scare – not once, but twice in US history. It’s the mindset behind the armed Grant’s Pass insurrectionists in Oregon right now. It’s the fuel for the New World Order conspiracies.
Not surprisingly, the adherents of these conspiracies all seem to be white Republicans. I’m sure Democrats believe in some wacky things too – medicare, livable wages, a clean environment, taxing the rich, that sort of thing – but they don’t get the social media play that the Republican conspiracies garner. Maybe there are more paranoid Republicans than Democrats. Or maybe there are simply more paranoid Republicans on Facebook.
As a recent NatPost story tells us, the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy has reached full-blown craziness that scares outsiders:
It’s a window into a worldview where malevolent forces are supposedly preparing to seize control of the United States — and its adherents are extremely grateful to Texas politicians for promoting their cause.
Texas governor Greg Abbott – a fringe presidential hopeful obviously playing to his already suspicious, gun-toting audience – waded into the discussion:
Pointing to briefing documents the military had provided the public to explain the exercise, a group of conspiracy theorists began arguing that it wasn’t an exercise at all, but an excuse for the military to deploy troops in order to take over Texas, seize guns, arrest political opponents and impose martial law. The conspiracy theories gained more traction after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. military’s movements. And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for president, was criticized for further stoking the fire after he asked the Pentagon to clarify their intentions and said the concern was justified because no one trusts the administration.
Some 32 percent of Texans apparently believe this exercise is the prelude to a military takeover of their state, according to recent polls. Abbott stoked their paranoia with his opportunistic statements. Apparently, though, he failed in his bid to win their favour by catering to their paranoid fantasies. Hysteria is not the leadership one expects from a governor.
But 32 percent: 8.6 million – that’s a lot of wingnuts. Armed wingnuts too!
Perhaps the best response to Abbott’s fear mongering came from lawyer Todd Smith, a 16-year veteran of the state legislature, who accused Abbott of ‘pandering to idiots’ and wrote:
“I am 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. I’m not sure which is worse… I am appalled that you would give credence to the nonsense mouthed by those who instead make decisions based on Internet or radio shock jock driven hysteria”
Still,m other conservative elected officials weighed in with their concerns, smelling of the same mix of fear, suspicion and electioneering. (Here’s a satirical response on the HuffPost to Sen. Ted Cruz, another right-wingnut presidential wannabe…)
Jade Helm 15 actually exists, and is described by the US military as a “…summer-long military exercise across several states, announced by the U.S. government.” No secrecy: it was presented to states and municipalities in the southwest as a “realistic military training ” (RMT) exercise. No big deal; we’ve had them in Canada, even locally. But this one has sparked fears about a communist takeover.
Yes, you read that right: a communist invasion.
Let’s digress a second and look at communism post-Soviet Union collapse. There are five countries left in the world officially labelled Communist: China, North Korea, Cuba, Laos and Viet Nam. You can rule out the last three because, no matter how well-trained and motivated their armies may be, they are too small to take over anything as large as a state, let alone a whole country. Besides, how would they even get here?
North Korea is a dictatorship ruled by someone nuts enough to try anything stupid, and he has a big army. But he lacks the transport to get them to our shores. Besides, North Korea is so poor people still starve to death there. They land here and they’re not going start shooting: they’re headed to the food court in the local mall. And then they’re going to round up everyone, take their money and go on a wild shopping spree and getting trendy non-Kim hair cuts. Then they’ll ask for asylum and jobs.
The US could conquer North Korea in a weekend by dropping Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target stores into their cities. Overnight if they dropped discount coupons, too. In an afternoon if they threw in free pizzas and beer…
China, however, is an ideological fortress: it has everything it needs to start a serious war: it’s got a big, well-trained and well-armed military force using all the technology it stole from the U.S. And by gosh, it’s seriously, totally communist (which, curiously, hasn’t stopped American capitalists from sending all their orders, jobs and manufacturing over to them…).
Except that in doing so, China would destroy its own economy because the US is the largest source of its income, and those US allies who weren’t attacked would immediately halt trade with it. Factories would close, millions would be out of work. Talk about killing the golden goose. Not to mention America’s nuclear response that would turn more than a few Chinese cities into glowing rubble before the armies reached land.
So I don’t think the Chinese plan an invasion any time soon – they appear to be able to hack their way into our governments, defence agencies and banks with ease, so why take such a messy route to control us? They already have our jobs and our money and a lot of our land… how many Canadian- or America-made items does Wal-Mart sell? That”s how they will conquer us without ever firing a shot.
What this really underscores is not the communist menace – itself as imaginary a beast as an invisible pink unicorn since the USSR collapsed – but rather the hold that mythology still has on a large part of the American psyche. The Red Scare continues to hide in the psychological closets of this group to frighten them and their children at night.**
Please believe me: Red Dawn was a movie. Fiction. Not a documentary. And it was a bad movie, at that, both the original and the lame remake. It was really just NRA propaganda: see what happens when we make you register your firearms and not let you take them into schools and malls! Communists invade!
But let’s get back to Jade Helm 15, which some of the conservative wingnuts have called a “trojan horse” for a federal invasion of their state. Why the feds would want to invade Texas, since it’s already part of the US, is never quite explained. Others claim it’s to impose martial law so Obama can stay in office. Really. They say that.
Videos of the exercise have been posted online and the fringe have taken them to ‘prove’ it’s a hostile takeover by the military or maybe even by the United Nations (of which the cons seem remarkably scared):
…conspiracy theories have suggested that shuttered Wal-Marts in other parts of the country are to be used as bases for military personnel during the impending takeover… one theorist speculated that the program’s true purpose was hidden in its name: “Jade Helm. Jade is blue. Helm is German for helmet. Blue Helmet. UN blue helmets?”
Such claptrap. And it’s not hard to read the racist, xenophobic content between the lines. As in when B-flick actor turned conservative mouthpiece Chuck Norris chimed in, as if there is some credence in the suspicions of actors:
If the government insists on running expanded military ops across seven Southwest states, why doesn’t it move all that “military training” south and protect our borders at the same time?
Protect your borders from what, Chuck? The ‘invasion’ of Mexicans trying to come north to get jobs, safety and security, and get away from the drug cartels who make their money selling drugs to Americans?
The paranoid right wing trolls have denounced this exercise as a prelude to military takeover, martial law and even a coup. For example, on the inappropriately named truth and action site (there isn’t a lick of truth in any of its pieces), there are dire warnings about the “sinister” plans for military “domination” of the host states. Sigh. It would all be so comical if these folks weren’t serious.
One wacky libertarian site (aren’t they all?) commented:
Perhaps, the military won’t tell us who the threat is because We the People are the threat. Jade Helm’s motto is “Master the Human Domain.” The Human Domain is a relatively new term coined by the U.S. military in the last decade. In a nutshell, it means collecting Human Intelligence, HUMINT, on population centers. Everything and anything is collected, learned and dissected about citizens in a given locale.
The idea of the U.S. Army collecting intelligence on American citizens is not only unconstitutional, but deeply disturbing.
Why is the U.S. military trying to master the human domain of the American Southwest?
The most widely held suspicion is that Jade Helm is really a federal martial law takeover of libertarian Texas and other areas in the Southwest. Once martial law is established, some say, the military and the UN will attempt to confiscate guns from law-abiding citizens.
Which you have to admit, is pretty contradictory. All these gun-loving, open-carry folks who claim to be supportive of their troops don’t want the US military to have the intelligence and practice necessary to do their job effectively. Not very supportive, to my mind.
You can put the same amount of faith in these predictions and pronouncements as you did in the Millennial Bug and the Mayan Apocalypse. Or in any of the televangelist end-of-the-world warnings. Don’t drink the wingnut Kool-Aid! Damn, too late…
The biggest threat to American security, freedom and democracy isn’t from the U.S. army or the US government: it’s from the armed, paranoid, religiously-motivated, racist, fringe element. Creating fear about Jade Helm is simply their excuse for arming themselves even more and justifying their actions. They’ve been called the American Taliban and American ISIS for good reason.
Worry about them, America, not your own troops. And worry a lot.
* Let me be clear: this is a madness of a small, fringe element, not the majority. It would probably not even get notice were it not for social media and the internet, which these wingnuts have used to great success in turning their bizarre fantasies into grist for the pop culture and media mills. Which, of course, infects some of that majority as it spreads. Like the metaphorical snowball rolling down the hill, they have agglomerated to their madness many others of equal gullibility and simplicity and low critical thinking skills.
** Rather unsurprisingly, that harridan of the paranoid and treasonous uber-right, Ann Coulter, considers Senator Joe McCarthy her hero, and continues to whip up the Red Scare threat among her gullible followers. I apologize if calling her followers gullible is redundant.