Jade Helm 15 Military Exercise Heralds Conspiracy Meltdown As Texas 'Invasion' Begins

NEW YORK -- On the command of Barack Obama, the US Army invaded Texas on Wednesday, one of several Republican southern states now subjugated under martial law. American service personnel, covertly aided by soldiers from the People's Liberation Army of China and fighters from the Islamic State, moved quickly to rest control of the local populace.

Food distribution centres were establish in Walmart stores across the state, with a curfew in place restricting the movement of non-military personnel to between 9am and 9pm. A statement from the White House is scheduled for Thursday, with Obama expected to declare a state of emergency and the suspension of all local and national elections pending confiscation of civilian firearms...

Eric Johnston, the Texas organiser for the counter Jade Helm 15 exercise, talks on the phone, Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Bastrop, Texas

The above paragraphs would have been my introduction had the Jade Helm 15 exercise been revealed as a military campaign to subdue much of the Southwestern United States.

There’s nothing new about American conspiracism; an unpleasant coda to every mass shooting is the tedious reflex claiming an “inside job” or a "false flag," usually with the aim of tighter gun control. However, Jade Helm has gone far beyond the usual conspiratorial bent, gaining such a large following that national politicians have been unwilling to dismiss its tenets for fear of alienating the electorate.

Here are the basics: Jade Helm 15 is a realistic military training exercise in which US forces are faced with a fictitious counterinsurgency in the Southwestern states -- from California to Texas. The exercise is to last from July 15 to September 15.

Conspiracy theorists contend it is not an exercise, but a real mission to place Texas under martial law. Specific details vary: some say the Chinese are complicit; others say soldiers will go door-to-door to disarm citizens. Some predict Vladimir Putin will arm a Texas rebellion. But why has this nonsense gained such traction?

The initial paranoia was whipped up by radio talk show host Alex Jones, who started trumpeting a military takeover in March after a member of his staff obtained a map detailing the exercise with Utah, southern California and Texas listed as "hostile." Soon thereafter, Jones was warning his listenership of the impending "invasion.”

The frenzy escalated in April when Texas Governor Greg Abbott was confronted by a concerned mob. Rather than dismiss their anxiety, he instead penned a letter to the Texas State Guard requesting that they “monitor the proceedings.” In May, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, plotting a presidential bid, also refused to dampened fears, preferring to ask the Pentagon for reassurances, while using the opportunity to bash the Obama administration.

Both directly lent the paranoia legitimacy, while highlighting how the American system creates politicians that have to reflect their constituents, rather than lead them.

And there's Chuck Norris, the martial artist turned actor who penned an opinion piece for the WorldNetDaily website, suggesting there was more to the training exercise than officials disclosures. "It’s neither over-reactionary nor conspiratorial to call into question or ask for transparency about Jade Helm 15 or any other government activity,” he wrote.

The psychosis reached such a pitch that by late April the US military dispatched an official to Texas to speak to residents of Bastrop Country, southeast of Austin. In a packed meeting room, Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria tried to reason with the crowd, assuring them that Jade Helm was not an intelligence gathering exercise, nor would it lead to confiscation of property.

The soldier even had to assure attendees that the United Nations was not involved, and was jeered when he said he didn’t know about “Agenda 21” (the UN’s sustainability planning programme that conspiracy theorists claims is a forerunner to a one-world government).

As laughable as this might appear, some of the underlying reason for the distrust are not. Speaking to the Washington Post, Bastrop’s former mayor Terry Orr gave what he perceived as the root cause: “The truth is, this stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president.” He added that local residents think Obama is only concerned with African-Americans and “illegal aliens” and that the government "is just not on the side of the white guy.”

Though race is woven into the fabric of American political culture, other factors are also at play, including a long-standing distrust towards the federal government, a national trait that would persist regardless of the colour of the President.

More pertinently, America is a changing nation -- demographically, socially, economically and politically. Declining religious affiliation, healthcare reform, changing attitudes towards LGBT rights, fear of another recession and America’s perceived waning as a global power all feed a anxiety. In the 2014 paper “Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of American Politics,” researchers Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood argue that people often turn to conspiracies to cope with the difficult emotions uncertainty begets.

Interestingly the researchers found that conspiratorial thinking cuts across the political divide (conspiracism isn’t the preserve of the right wing), nor is it an affliction of the perennially paranoid. Yet one of the real drivers could be religion, with conspiracy theorists likely to also hold supernatural or paranormal beliefs. That's not in short supply in Texas or beyond.

Whatever the reasons, the Lone Star state is not (at the time of publication) under martial law, a fact likely to be spun by Jones et al as a victory for an alert, well informed citizenry that has thwarted Obama's tyranny (for now). In the absence of an armed takeover, the Internet stepped in, reminding us what it would be like had the Texas fallen to Obama's ISIS-Chinese hordes. Here are some more: