We Laughed At Jade Helm 5 Years Ago. We Shouldn’t Have. | Talking Points Memo

Remember Jade Helm?

After a summer of heated racial justice protests that drove President Donald Trump to dispatch federal law enforcement officers to liberal cities — and prompted a sitting senator to call for the president to “send in the troops” against the American people — it’s quaint to look back on a crackpot conspiracy theory about former President Barack Obama enacting martial law.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://talkingpointsmemo.com/?p=1349483
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I think “liberals”, “the Left”, Democrats, etc, are continually mystified by the belief in these stories and people who purvey them—generally speaking. We look at someone like Lou Dobbs or Hannity, let alone the Alex Jones’ of the world, and we think, “Who would ever believe that craziness, or that idiot?”. yet, time and time again, a goodly portion of our fellow citizens do, indeed, believe it. Some are willing to act upon it.


We Laughed At Jade Helm 5 Years Ago. We Shouldn’t Have.

If Jade Helm was a dry run for Russian disinformation in the 2016 campaign, it also heralded acts of violence conspiracy theorists and anti-government extremists carried out in 2020.

Honest question then: what exactly were “we” supposed to have done instead, that we weren’t doing, to prevent the situation we’re in now? How does one combat rampant CT adherence on the ground level? How were we to know that an institution like Cambridge Analytica would not only be in existence but have the capability of weaponizing disinformation in such a significant and far-reaching way?

I guess I just get a bit miffed when I see headlines here that seem to “tut-tut” the readers for not taking a situation more seriously and becoming more anxious about it, when I distinctly recall from comment threads here and elsewhere that we readers most definitely were taking such things and still do take right-wing delusions and the threats they themselves contain quite seriously. (Maybe I’m misreading the headline?) More than once I’ve come away from reading this site feeling actual shivers of upset at the implications of the death of democracy and sensibility in this country. If anything, I take these threats way more seriously than feels healthy for my life.


Damned right we shouldn’t have. That was a practice run for martial law and confiscation of everyone’s guns.

Since we didn’t learn our lesson then, we’re about to get schooled on it in January when the 101st parachutes onto the Mall and arrests Biden on the podium just before he attempts to get sworn in.


It’s a quandary. I mean, how does one not laugh at something so ridiculously laughable? And yet it was also a disturbing omen, one that became manifest in the cult-like support for Aged Orange along with all of the Qraziness around him.


Federal agents arrested and charged three North Carolina men with conspiracy after they stockpiled weaponry to combat what they thought was an impending military takeover.

It’s time to change how we talk about these things. Like this:

Federal agents arrested and charged three North Carolina men with conspiracy after they stockpiled weaponry to combat what they pretended to believe was an impending military takeover

“pretended to believe”, “used as an excuse”, “rationalized” – all these are more accurate, IMO, and we need to start being upfront about saying so


Well said. Thank you!


Not only that, but the fact they never paid a price. Sure, they said they were dissolving the company soon after the investigations in the UK started. Mostly, that was so they could get rid of or destroy servers and etc.before any warrants were served. CA didn’t really go away, it reemerged under two different names: Emerdata and Auspex International.


Well, sure, if you want us to become just another third-world dictatorship, filtering news through propaganda for censorship and rewording.

Of course the government insisted that there was nothing to see there, after they got caught.

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Oh - I think you are soooooooo wrong. The problem is that they absolutely are NOT pretending. These stupid, gullible bastards believe this crap to their core. THAT is the problem.

And the constant stream of deliberate disinformation is a bigger problem.


Despite Jade Helm, birtherism, and 5 years of Trump dominating our political culture – the American center-left (or what can be more accurately described these days as a loose coalition of non-authoritarians) still lack the imagination to comprehend how much grass roots right-wing support there is for the suspension of habeas corpus. There’s a non-zero chance that Trump will attempt to invoke the Insurrection Act – we know that’s exactly the advice he’s being given now in the Führerbunker. And as a lame duck, recessed congress debates this in the courts, the fate of the Republic would consolidate around the actions of a very small few military and DoJ leaders, whose names most of us don’t even know.


To summarize, what you are saying is that right wing zealots are using Russian-inspired/fomented/hyped conspiracy propaganda as justification for their own extra-legal acts. They view these as justified or even imperative because they believe liberals/lizard people/pedophiles/cannibals/Jews/antifa/BLM are already doing this or worse.


Jade Helm was insane. I looked it up the other day and the crazy thing is they had held it every years since 2000. Jade Helm 15, they had done this 14 times before.


Yes. there’s nothing the rest of us could have done to prevent this nutty perception of a legitimate and harmless military exercise. The ground in places like TX was fertile and ready to sprout nutty fantasies of martial law and gun seizures. There’s no dissuading people with this kind of mindset. About 4 times now I’ve mentioned how – under Reagan, never mind Obama – I heard Texans say that the govn’t was sending troops for their guns any day now. It was scary to hear the sincerity of this belief. So this nuttiness was festering long before Jade Helm.


First, belief is not binary such that you either completely believe or completely reject a proposition. People exhibit degrees of credulity and intensity regarding any given statement, to the extent that seemingly logically incompatible beliefs can coexist. Not everyone who discusses Jade Helm etc. takes up arms.

Second, framing the matter of “crazy” utterances and actions in terms of belief fits our cultural common sense, which has been shaped by a Protestant emphasis on sincerely held belief (“faith”) as the unchallengeable essence of individual worldview and morality. But people’s actual beliefs are not the same as the statements they make publicly, and both are distinct from the patterns in their behavior. We might be able to infer belief from where statements and actions overlap. But with instances like Jade Helm we have a whole lot of people hearing, repeating, and elaborating truth claims - - “Obama is using a military exercise to hide take away our guns” - - for a variety of reasons, only one of which was to publicize their beliefs. As our host, Mr. Marshall, recently pointed out, this sort of thing is performative, acting out identity, groupness, affiliation. Statements of belief (or, more accurately, truth claims) function as activism. Most of the people who make them lend the claims varying degrees of credulity, but they damn sure intend the claims to do something.


Do people think that Alex Jones or Hannity believe the crap they spew? They don’t. They make mega bucks saying it though so it’s not going to stop.

America has been prepping itself for this for half a century or more. It’s here and there’s no fixing it. Our adversaries will employ this sorry state of affairs against us and there’s not jack shit that can be done about it. You have to see America from foreign eyes like I do to see that this is what was always going to be.


And usually the least strenuous kind of activism, hence their popularity.


Depressingly, most of us – including moi – see it only in hindsight. It’s always 20-20.

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I have 3 comments. The first two in agreement and the third not so much with article.

My first comment is in regard to:

"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ® first catapulted Jade Helm into national news when he directed a state-run militia to “monitor” the exercise, writing, “It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

My first comment is, and as I said at the time to many veterans I know most of whom were Birthers, that I would love to see the Texas national guard take on the US Army and show them a thing or two. I mean that tough Texas guard with their 400 pounders going up against the young mostly under 200 pound professional US military could really show those young soldier how to fight (or not).

My second comment is that I wish someone would tell Rachel Maddow and other hosts at both CNN and MSNBC that: "There are consequences when a conspiracy theory jumps from fringe blogs to the nightly news, according to a 2017 Data & Society Research Institute report: “Even if the mainstream news was reporting on it in shock or disgust, it still led millions of viewers and readers to be exposed to these ideas.”

That is I get so pissed when fringe junk gets liberal media coverage. Much like what Al Franken wrote about in his book many years ago, " Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them - A fair and Balance look at the Right". That is Franken detailed how through Right Wing fringe sites how Republicans get the craziest stories into the news like war hero John Kerry being a deserter and deserter George Bush being a war hero. The only problem now is that the left is doing it for the right.

My 3rd comment is from Paul Simon’s song the Boxer, “a man believes what he wants to believe and disregards the rest” and is in response to the article’s comment, “Right-wing anger and susceptibility to conspiracy theories predates the Trump era, as Jade Helm illustrates, but it’s those elements of the GOP voter base that Trump dialed up from the White House. And those beliefs will remain after he leaves office.”

That is Trump merely told the GOP base what it wanted to hear. Trump himself has done very little but to follow the so called “wingnuts” and manipulate them for his personal gain. When Trump is gone they will remain awaiting another politician to tell them what they want to hear. The question that needs to be addressed is not how to deal with Trump but rather how to deal with a significant portion of your population that above all else hates other Americans more than they love America.


But with the connectedness of social media and the pervasiveness of broadcast/print, surprisingly effective given the limited effort.