Texas residents were up in arms this week over a planned U.S. military training exercise that's been portrayed in right-wing conspiracy theory circles as everything from a ploy to confiscate Americans' guns to an excuse to abduct political dissidents.
The speculation reached such a fever pitch that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday asked the State Guard to monitor the exercise so that "that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed."
Residents' fears can be traced back to a "leaked" slideshow presentation that outlined the operation's goals and logistics and made the rounds on the fringe of the conservative blogosphere. The document was posted by the conspiracy theory website All News Pipeline to the document sharing site Scribd in March under the headline "Jade Helm Martial Law WW3 Prep Document 1." As of Thursday, it had been viewed more than 2.1 million times.
The document contained a map that labelled certain states, including Texas and Utah, as "hostile." So it comes as no surprise that rumors about a possible military takeover would run rampant among anti-federalists and conspiracy theorists.
"The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas," the release read. "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."
The military's official statements on "Jade Helm 15" have done little to quiet anti-government fear-mongering, though. Here are the wildest rumors about the training exercise that are floating around the fringes of the Internet.
- The operation is a cover for the implementation of martial law
- Department of Justice and UN plan to seize Americans' guns
- The military plans to eliminate citizens on "the red list"
- The military has occupied shuttered Wal-Mart stores
- The operation will coincide with a false-flag economic collapse
At least one Texas Republican thinks this is all a bit much and has said so publicly.
A former Republican state lawmaker wrote a scathing letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Thursday that slammed him for "pandering to idiots" who believe that a planned U.S. military exercise is cover for a forcible takeover of the state.
In a letter obtained by the Dallas Morning News, Todd Smith, who served in the state legislature for 16 years, wrote that he was "livid" about Abbott's request for the State Guard to monitor the military's upcoming training exercise, dubbed "Jade Helm 15."
"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," Smith wrote.
"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," he added. "Is there ANYBODY who is going to stand up to this radical nonsense that is cancer on our State and Party?"