NPR reporter Wade Goodwyn has been talking to people in Texas and, tongue firmly in cheek, gives us the lowdown on how president Obama is using the Jade Helm 15 military exercise in Texas to set in motion his plans to declare martial law and seize control of the country starting with Texas, something that I wrote about a few days ago.
According to what Goodwyn hears, Obama has planed this out carefully, down to getting Walmart to agree to use stores that have been closed for ‘renovation’ (that’s the official story) as guerilla warfare staging grounds and FEMA camps to house political prisoners who will be transported there in trains that have already been equipped with shackles, all part of a plan by Obama that includes giving Texas back to Mexico.
If only Obama had exercised this same level of detailed and meticulous planning when rolling out the Obamacare health exchange website.
While we may laugh at the sheer insanity on display in these paranoid fantasies, we have to realize that they do not come out of nowhere and that the groundwork for them to flourish has to have been laid. In this case, one element of the foundation are the messages that have been repeatedly pounded out by conservative media that president Obama is ‘not like us’ and ‘does not share our values’, all of which are code for the idea that he is a Marxist Kenyan Muslim who seeks to undermine and even overthrow the United States in pursuit of his ambition of becoming a dictator.
While that is a total fantasy, it also gains support from some real developments, as Jesse Walker points out.
But even when conspiracy theories are flatly wrong, they don’t come out of nowhere. When a story catches on, it can tell us something true about the anxieties of the people who believe and repeat it. Sometimes those anxieties are ugly. (It’s not hard to imagine the xenophobic sentiments lurking behind that Mexico rumor.) But sometimes the anxieties are rooted in reality.
One Bastrop man opposed to Jade Helm told the Austin American-Statesman he was worried that people would get used to “the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police.” He went on to offer some more dubious arguments, but that first comment contained a valid point.
We live at a time when the Pentagon distributes surplus military equipment to small-town police forces; when cops present themselves to the public as soldiers fighting a war; when officials respond to unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore with curfews and other illiberal, heavy-handed tactics. It’s not crazy to complain about militarization. The conspiratorial version of the complaint literalizes it: A genuine shift in how people are policed becomes a plot to impose martial rule.
If people are worried that a military takeover is imminent in the US, the government would do well to recognize that it is some of their own actions that give these fears credence.