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.
It's worth noting that Brazos Valley, Texas radio station WFAW actually posted the U.S. Army's slideshow presentation back in February when county commissioners approved the military's request to conduct the training exercise. The document posted by WFAW varies slightly in content and length from the slideshow cited by conspiracy websites.
The training exercise is scheduled to last from July 15 to Sept. 15 in Texas and six other states, according to a release from the U.S. Army.
"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.
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