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Parlor Talk: Jade Helm Paranoia

Posted by Kyle Baranko on July 29, 2015 at 1:00 PM

A faction of Conservatives all over the country are on the alert in the wake of the massive and unconventional military training exercises known as Jade Helm 15. The training operation was set to begin on July 23rd and led by the United States Special Operations Command. It was scheduled to take place in arid areas and small towns throughout the American West, including many densely conservative areas. After the official announcement this spring, Texas Governor Greg Abbott raised suspicions and ordered the state guard to monitor the exercises from its base in Austin. Many locals have taken precautions and self-defense measures in order to counter the perceived threat of a federal government takeover. Conspiracy theorists throughout the U.S. have done their research and connected dots that supposedly point to an effort by the Obama administration to control political opposition in these right-leaning states. Are these worries justified?

The scale of this operation is unprecedented and the purpose of Jade Helm 15 is to practice unconventional warfare. When considering these two factors, it is reasonable to argue that this specific training exercise is unusual. The Army planners needed arid and rural regions with low population densities, which also just happen to be conservative areas. On a related note, many of the residents living in these regions have an inherent distrust of the federal government, sentiment only magnified during Obama’s up-and-down presidency. However, as Abbott’s reaction proves, local conservatives are not the only people suspicious of the military activity. Republican politicians and conservative journalists have also raised the alarm, with libertarian activist Alex Jones even creating an entire investigative report dedicated to solving the mystery. In the report, Jones argues that the entire operation is intended to master the art of “Mastering the Human Domain,” which is part of the new field of geospatial intelligence. This field focuses on human domain analytics, which is intended to map out the political thought of any nation or state in order to maximize military authority and control hostile populations. The report emphasizes how conservative states, especially Texas, have officially been deemed “hostile territory.” Infowars seems to imply that this exercise is not an exercise at all, but rather a full-fledged operation to control political opposition in deeply red states. Rural conservatives have taken this message to heart, stocking up on ammunition and food supplies in preparation for a worst-case scenario of government vs. citizen violence.

Much of the paranoia can be traced to the anti-Obama rhetoric that has been burgeoning since he took office. His legitimacy was even initially questioned with a conspiracy theory involving Obama’s birth certificate. The vehement criticism of the administration is widespread among standard republicans. Those on the extreme right, however, go as far as to argue that Obama will soon declare martial law in his quest for power. Having the federal government invade, subdue, and disarm the region of primary opposition would be the first logical step in these grand aspirations for dictator-like control of the United States. Yet the vast majority of conservatives do not believe in this conspiracy theory and many of the Texans making preparations are probably just exercising their rights by gun toting and raising suspicion.

But these events have a different feel than other typical American conspiracy theories, perhaps because these people are actually convinced enough to act. A United States Governor is actually suspicious enough of a current President’s intentions to not only publicly raise the alarm, but actually put the state militia on alert. Did Abbott do this because he was genuinely concerned or because he wanted to increase his popularity with radical right-wing voters? Either way, what does this say about our country? Our politicians are either addicted to the spotlight and need a constant stream of publicity stunts, or are so politically divided that they openly distrust the federal government and will prepare for violent conflict.

On the other hand, what is the purpose of state militias if not to protect its people? The founding fathers were legitimately concerned about having a standing army because it could easily become the tool of a power hungry politician. In order to discourage this possibility, our constitution is geared towards having the right to bear arms and exercising the right to maintain local militias in case of a federal military takeover. We act as if the suspicious conservatives are completely insane, yet Abbott’s reaction probably would have been perfectly reasonable if the same situation occurred during an earlier stage in our nation’s history. From this perspective, their uneasiness is completely justified.

The paranoia does not concern me because of an overall distrust in government. The reaction concerns me because it is simply an extreme continuation of anti-Obama rhetoric. American history has had its share of obscure and often hilarious conspiracy theories. From U.F.O. cover-ups to the “Bush did 9/11” rumors, conspiracy theories bring us entertainment and fresh perspective. But in general, these rumors are just meaningless words and no one actually takes action. But actions speak louder than words, and the paranoid Texans are taking action. They are arming themselves and actually getting ready for the possibility of a confrontation with their own government. This is not a silly conspiracy theory that will blow away in a couple of years; this episode symbolizes the overall distrust in the federal government and highlights the schism between rural conservatives and a liberal central government.

Categories: Culture: Anthropology

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