The Americans Are Coming, The Americans Are Coming: on Jade Helm, Greg Abbott, Alex Jones and the politics of paranoia

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Good morning Austin:

Operation Jade Helm 15?

What were the folks at Special Ops thinking?

Label Texas “hostile territory” and send a bunch of Green Berets, Navy SEALS and the like in the heat of summer to (pretend to) pacify the local population, and expect that to go well?

And call it Jade Helm 15? Oh man. What a giveaway

As Allnewspipeline.com, among other sites, revealed:

Jade Helm Deciphered: ‘Joint Assistant for Development and Execution along with Homeland Eradication of Local Militants’ – It Doesn’t Get Any Clearer Than This!

Only, according to Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, the Special Operations spokesman who has the thankless task of explaining Jade Helm to an aroused citizenry, Jade Helm is not an acronym for anything.

It is just a name.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” said Lastoria.

And the 15?

Well, he said, that’s what year this is: 2015.

OK, then, if that’s the case, and Jade Helm has no real meaning, they might have done better to name it Operation Jesse Helms, in honor of a great patriot and patron of the American military, and a name that might have conjured up for those now most exercised by Jade Helm, a far more pleasing image of an expeditionary force bent only on pacifying remnant bands of dissident liberals still loose in the countryside, while passing out Hershey bars to the children and, if not also cigarets, perhaps planting some North Carolina tobacco along the way.

therussiansarecoming

 

I don’t know how this will all end, but for now I am enjoying the prospect of a summer season in which Texas becomes the backdrop for a modern, perhaps slightly darker but still comic remake of the 1966 classic, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming.

 

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Enter, yesterday, Gov. Greg Abbott.

 

 

From Rob Milford at Breitbart:

Governor Greg Abbott has called out the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. Army’s Operation Jade Helm 15. The massive, multi-state special warfare exercise is set to start in July and run through September.

In a letter sent on Tuesday (included in its entirety below), Abbott tasked Major General Jake Betty, Commander of the Texas State Guard, with monitoring the operation and reporting back to the Governor for the duration of the exercise. Citing Texas’ “long history of supporting military forces,” Gov. Abbott said he is taking this action to ensure “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

This follows sustained controversy on the internet, where some critics fear Jade Helm 15 is an training exercise for such ominous purposes as:

– Declaring martial law in some southwestern states.
– Using the military to confiscate firearms.
– Bringing in United Nations troops or Islamic soldiers to effect firearms confiscation, and put resisters into FEMA internment camps.

Austin based radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been sending out warnings for weeks regarding the exercise, saying it is the U.S. military positioning itself to take over the states and declare martial law.

Here is the headline on Rob Dew’s report at Alex Jones’ INFOWARS.com:

BREAKING! Texas Gov. To Send State Guard To Monitor Jade Helm Exercise
Is Gov. Abbott truly concerned about the Army’s mission?

Ah, that question mark. And a good question mark it is.

If you watch it through, the video yields to a promotion for Jones’ fitness regimen, which includes his super male vitality serum, on sale at his site, along with an array of other offerings, including emergency survival foods, and seeds for planting your post-apocalyptic garden.

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But, back to Rob Dew’s report questioning Abbott’s action.

Is this statement meant to have citizens let their guard down, or is Gov. Abbott truly concerned about the Army’s mission?

Here is some of the mix of on-line reaction to Dew’s story at Infowars.com:

Stryker CV • 32 minutes ago
Abbott is playing the political 2-step. I recently wrote a letter concerning Jade Helm to the Governor’s office and within a couple of days received a brief form letter reinforcing the Military’s laundry list of what won’t happen. I never once mentioned Martial Law, merely that I thought the troops should not conduct covert operations as described, mixed in with the population. Safety was my concern…yet the Martial Law comment was inserted in the letter to divert the argument.
It appeared as though the Governor had already given the go ahead to the military. Now that public reaction is mounting, Abbott is making a political calculation. He jabs a stick in the federal eye and deflects criticism that he didn’t intervene in some way.
Abbott approves Jade Helm 15 and decisions were made moons ago.
Don’t kid yourself fellow Texans, if Abbott was truly doing something about this Jade Helm business, it would have been much ballzier to “disallow” any military from conducting the operation in Texas. Period.

Phillip Exeterblue • 34 minutes ago
Oh great. Add more “police”……brilliant.

knight2 • 39 minutes ago
Could be legit…but on the other hand maybe just getting all their ducks in a row without much fanfare. Same way they invade any country, you gotta get everything in place first and what better way to do it then to lie about it. Of course the US government would never lie to the citizens they work for….I would be ready for a bait and switch.

Judgement Day knight2 • 38 minutes ago
It’s like a game of chess.


knight2 Judgement Day • 36 minutes ago
Seems that way. And “we: have to be one step ahead of them. Question everything, as anything is never as it seems at first.

And here’s some general Twitter reaction to Jade Helm.

Here’s Abbott’s letter, directing the State Guard to keep an eye on Jade Helm.

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Abbott’s directive followed by a day a remarkable hearing in Bastrop (which I see as the opening scene in, The Americans are Coming, The Americans are Coming.).

A woman who did not want her name published holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AME

A woman who did not want her name published holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AME

From the American-Statesman’s Sean Collins Walsh:

BASTROP, Texas — In a map released by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command to show the fictitious battlefield of the Jade Helm 15 training exercise, Texas was labeled as “hostile” territory.

On Monday, Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria found out why.

Lastoria answered questions for two hours from a crowd of more than 150 people at a special meeting of the Bastrop County Commissioners, hoping to allay locals’ concerns that the training operation is a way for the federal government to take over Texas and much of the Southwest. Instead, Lastoria was told that he couldn’t be trusted and was asked whether Jade Helm 15 will involve bringing foreign fighters from the Islamic State to Texas, whether U.S. troops will confiscate Texans’ guns and whether the Army intends to implement martial law through the exercise. (The answer for all three was no.)

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany. You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” said Bob Wells, a Bastrop resident, after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”

Bob Welch, of Bastrop, holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bob Welch, of Bastrop, holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here’s the video of the wild scene in Bastrop.

From my story on Abbott’s order:

The governor’s office said the directive to the state guard — which, like the separate Texas National Guard, is under the command of the Texas Military Forces — is really in keeping with its usual responsibilities to act as the liaison when federal military units are deployed for any reason in the state, and will not cost any additional money.

The governor’s announcement didn’t explicitly address the more extreme fears about what might be the hidden agenda of Jade Helm 15.

But Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said the governor’s action seemed to be “lending credence to something that is a very fringe concern. I don’t know how you can conclude otherwise.”

Even in a state with as much anti-Washington feeling as Texas, Henson said he found the politics of the governor’s action puzzling.

“I don’t think there are many people in Texas — even in Texas — who think that the military maneuvers by the United States military are really anything to worry about,” Henson said. “You can’t read that statement and say he’s gone all in with Alex Jones, but is that a game you even want to be in?”

As Henson pointed out, as much as the Texans who identify with the tea party really loathe the federal government, they also really love the military.

Look at the results below from the February 2015 UT/Texas Tribune poll.

 

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In Bastrop, Lastoria said one of the reasons they were coming to Texas was because it traditionally provides such a warm welcome.

Did it all turn sour because Obama is now commander-in-chief? (From Breitbart last week: Huckabee to Christians: Wait to Join The Military After Obama Leaves Office)

Lastoria: “You may have issues with the administration. So be it. But this institution right here has been with you for over 200 years. I’ve worn this uniform across five different administrations for 27 years.”

Where is Chris Kyle when they need him?

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Here’s the updated press release on Jade Helm released by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, April 20, 2015) – Members of U.S. Army Special Operations Command will train with other U.S Armed Forces units July 15 through Sept. 15 in a multi-state exercise called Jade Helm 15.

USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.

While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states; Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.

The training exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities. In essence, all exercise activity will be taking place on pre-coordinated public and private lands.

The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise. There will also be economic gain: an increase in the local economy, in fuel and food purchases and hotel lodging.

This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for ARSOF since they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

During this eight-week period, ARSOF soldiers will use this opportunity to further develop tactics, techniques and procedures for emerging concepts in Special Operations warfare.

USASOC intends to conduct the exercise safely and courteously while providing the best possible training available for the nation’s Army Special Operations Forces. State and local officials are being informed of the scope of Jade Helm and will continue to be updated as the exercise progresses.

So why all the suspicion?

Writing in January in the liberal quarterly journal, Democracy, Nathan Pippenger, a PhD student in political theory at the University of California at Berkeley, contemplated what he called, The Conservative Paranoia Machine:

Speaking in Iowa yesterday, Rick Perry warned an audience of conservatives not to believe the recent good jobs news, claiming that the unemployment rate has “been massaged, it’s been doctored.” As far as I can tell, this is a conspiracy theory of relatively recent vintage: It goes back to the weeks before the 2012 election, when former GE CEO Jack Welch declared that a modest, unexpected drop in the unemployment rate was “unbelievable” and could be explained only by “Chicago guys” cooking the books to re-elect President Obama. As former Labor Department officials politely pointed out, this was a loony, completely uninformed assertion—since any conspiracy to manipulate the official jobs statistics would involve huge numbers of people and be nearly impossible to pull off.

It would be easy to see Welch’s claim, and its eager reception in conservative circles, as the sort of campaign noise which quickly subsides after the election has ended. (Rick Perry’s silly invocation of the conspiracy theory in Iowa supports this interpretation.) But it’s actually part of a much more serious, widespread effort to undermine institutions and figures whose authority depends precisely on their credibility—and who are among the few agreed-upon sources of appeal left in political debate. Launching spurious accusations against respected, disinterested organizations is one of the most worrying games the right plays.

To be clear, the risk here is not that we owe some blanket deference to expert or governmental authority, and that conservative attacks will undermine that proper deference. Experts can be wrong; governments lie. But there are standards that separate skepticism from paranoia and accusations from wild speculation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (unlike, for example, the CIA) has no record of misleading the public; its statistics (unlike, for example, Chinese economic statistics) enjoy credibility among scholars, foreign governments, and businesspeople; and nobody familiar with its data collection methods thinks manipulation would really be possible. In other words: It’s a terrible candidate for a conspiracy theory.

But none of that matters, because smearing the BLS was never the result of a well-intentioned skepticism that simply happened to go overboard or miss its target. The aim, all along, has been to tarnish authoritative sources of empirical knowledge, wherever they conflict with the conservative agenda. It’s no accident that the right delights in convenient attacks on the BLS, climate scientists, the “liberal media,” or major universities. Official government agencies, scientists and other scholars, and journalists are crucial sources of public knowledge, and whatever authority they have comes from their reputation for professionalism and integrity.

I talked to Pippenger yesterday to get his take on Abbott’s directive. Here is what he had to say:

There are two ways, I suppose, to read the statement. The charitable way is he is trying to tamp down paranoia by assuring people that this is not actually the first stage of a military coup or martial law. The uncharitable interpretation is that he’s lending credence to these theories by pretending as though monitoring is needed, and that, if it weren’t for the state keeping an eye on things, the civil liberties of Texans really would be at risk.

I have to think that these things only happen in a context and a press release from the governor’s office saying, “Don’t worry, we’re going to keep an eye on things during Operation Jade Helm 15, is very clearly taking place in a context of heightened paranoia that probably don’t deserve to be dignified by an official.

If the intent of the governor’s office were to truly tamp down suspicions they could have just as easily released a statement saying that there are rumors that there is a risk of military invasion or martial law and we want to clarify that those rumors are entirely unfounded, that we have been in dialogue with federal authorities and military personnel throughout this process, that its a normal, routine military exercise and we have nothing to worry about. But the language in the press release is far less direct than that, far less unequivocal than it could be.

I do worry about what happens when state officials, or national officials as well, give unfounded reason for skepticism. Obviously no one wants to be so naive to say, you should never be skeptical of government, because government agencies are just as liable to incompetence or dishonesty as anybody else and in some cases things are heightened. But the question is, is there an actual reason to believe that something nasty is afoot here, other than just general paranoia and suspicion.

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It becomes very difficult to have any political argument whatsoever when people exist in alternate reality and can’t help but talk past each other. I think we need we need to be very careful when we’re spreading undue paranoia or undue suspicion and it’s probably a missed opportunity. I don’t think Greg Abbott necessarily cares very much if people are skeptical of climate scientists or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He’s probably quite alright with that. But I do think from the standpoint of public responsibility, if that’s not too quaint a notion, there is probably a missed opportunity here to tamp down a little bit, to push back  against some of the paranoia in this case.

Abbott’s statement yesterday, and his letter to Betty, was ingenious in its way, and very Abbott.

“It’s a very artfully worded statement,” Pippenger said.

Delphic, in its way.

He reaffirms his patriotism and confidence in the military. So, if you think that the concerns about Jade Helm are loony, he’s with you.

But, the headline remains that he is assigning the State Guard to monitor Jade Helm.

So, if you think something nefarious is afoot, Greg Abbott’s your guy, standing up to the feds and foiling their sinister plotting.

And, if you think the Republican Party’s conspiratorial fringe is nutty but are best dealt with not head-on but with a consoling head pat and a tummy rub, well, Abbott’s your man.

Whether it’s Ted Nugent, or now Alex Jones, Abbott knows that there are figures well outside the respectable mainstream who have reach and draw that a politician can only envy, and who it is far better to be friends with than enemies.

From an April report in Media Matters for America, a liberal group that styles itself as a watchdog of conservative media, on How Alex Jones Helped Launch Rand Paul’s Career: Paul Told 9/11 Truth “Founding Father” Alex Jones He Couldn’t Win Senate Race Without Him:

A fringe right-wing radio host who believes the government was behind 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and several other catastrophes, has been a key figure in the political rise of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who will reportedly announce a run for president on April 7.

Paul has credited Alex Jones, who heads conspiracy website Infowars.com and an eponymous radio program, for being a vital part of his 2010 Senate campaign. Jones endorsed Paul, turned out followers to his events, and partnered with Paul for fundraising, at one point crashing his website. Since Paul’s election to the Senate, Jones has continued to serve as a key Paul booster, including endorsing him for 2016. 

The fringe nature of Jones’ program is apparent during the introduction of one of Jones’ YouTube videos featuring Paul. The video begins with images of Nazi soldiers goose-stepping next to a Nazi flag-draped White House, and a poster claiming the government covered up 9/11. Such material is regular fodder for Jones, who is “one of the earliest and most influential 9/11 conspiracy theorists.”

Paul has been a longtime guest on The Alex Jones Show, originating from Jones’ friendship with Rand’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Jones said last year he first interviewed Rand in 1996 and was “probably one of the first people to ever interview” him.

And, from a March 2010 Nate Blakeslee profile of Alex Jones in Texas Monthly, under the headline, Alex Jones Is About To Explode: The Austin radio host’s wild conspiracy theories—The swine flu vaccine will lead to martial law! 9/11 was an inside job! An evil global network is preparing to institute a New World Order!—have already earned him dedicated fans across the country. But as the tea parties and Obama hatred go mainstream, he may be ready to give Glenn Beck a run for his money.

 What really sets Jones apart is not the message itself but how good he is at delivering it. The 36-year-old Jones has a charismatic, commanding presence that belies his relative youthfulness and a booming voice that was tailor-made for radio. He is also a relentless and creative entrepreneur who has deftly managed to spread his brand across a variety of platforms. The Alex Jones Show is syndicated by more than sixty stations and heard weekly by 2 million listeners. Jones’s two main Web sites, Infowars.com and PrisonPlanet.tv, draw 4 million unique users, more than Rush Limbaugh’s site. Unlike Limbaugh or other talk radio stars, Jones appeals to a young demographic; he’s a cult favorite on college campuses, and his rants are all over YouTube. His documentary films, which he produces at the rate of nearly two a year, have been viewed millions of times online. After Jones announced a contest to see who could distribute the most copies of the infamous poster of Barack Obama done up as the Joker, the image became ubiquitous, appearing not only at tea party rallies but on T-shirts and street corners around the world.

At a time when the national conversation has expanded to include talk of government “death panels” and the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate, The Alex Jones Show seems to have captured the national zeitgeist. The biggest hero of the tea party constituency is Ron Paul, the maverick Texas congressman who has long argued, as Jones does, that both the left and the right are corrupt. Suddenly Paul’s name is all over the mainstream media. But Jones has been singing Paul’s praises and interviewing him on the show for years, and that gives Jones grassroots credibility—though even Paul considers many of Jones’s views beyond the pale.

Conspiracy thinking is by no means the exclusive province of the right-wing. But, at this moment in history, that strand of the politics of paranoia looms larger on the right than the left, particularly here in Texas, where the Republican Party has become that “shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top.”

All the world’ll fly in a flurry
When I take you out in the surrey,
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!

When we hit that road, hell fer leather,
Cats and dogs’ll dance in the heather,
Birds and frogs’ll sing all together and the toads will hop!
The wind’ll whistle as we rattle along,
The cows’ll moo in the clover,
The river will ripple out a whispered song,
And whisper it over and over:
Don’t you wisht y’d go on forever?
Don’t you wisht y’d go on forever?
Don’t you wisht y’d go on forever and y’d never stop
In that shiny, little surrey with the fringe on the top!

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