Nazi Swine

I learned something interesting a few days. There’s an old phrase that anyone who ever watched Bugs Bunny cartoons has probably heard: “Them’s fightin’ words.” It was one of the irascible Yosemite Sam’s lines, if I recall correctly.

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Don’t criticize the quality. That would be fightin’ words.

Over the years, the phrase has been attributed to and used by many a rapscallion, roughneck, and tough guy, usually as an excuse to kick someone’s ass and over time it’s become more and more of a joke.

“I don’t like the beer in this joint.”

“Stranger, them’s fightin’ words.”

Yes, there are people who will get into a fight over beer. There are also people who will get into a fight over almost anything and using the adage “Them’s fightin’ words” gives them a flimsy moral excuse. After all, I just warned you of a fight and gave you a chance to back down gracefully after you told me canned salsa was better than homemade or Alien’s Imperial Stout was better than Marble‘s Imperial Stout. (They’re actually both pretty good.)

What I learned today was “Them’s fightin’ words” is actually a thing from a quasi-legal perspective.

Let’s back up for a moment, though. I can’t speak to the laws of other countries, but in the United States we hold Freedom of Speech as sacrosanct, even if most people don’t completely understand that the 1st Amendment to the Constitution only refers to freedom of speech in terms of what laws Congress can make. In other words, if you get kicked out of a Target for screeching Bible verses at other patrons, it’s not a 1st Amendment issue since Target is a private entity and not Congress. Target has every right to kick you out of the store if you’re being an offensive jackass.

That said, there are still laws on the books that are designed to protect freedom of speech and we in the States tend to take it pretty seriously. There are certainly people out there looking to block people from saying things they don’t like (Evangelicals and hippies come to mind), but most of us hear something we don’t like and, if it’s harmless, just roll our eyes and move on.

As a for instance, this truck is protected speech. Also, ladies, I’m pretty sure this guy is available.

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Class act.

The kicker here is the idea of harmless. A big black truck promising to give you the D later is tacky, but pretty harmless in the global scheme of things. It’s the kind of thing that might make you roll your eyes, but won’t cause any long term damage. It may be offensive, but being offended never killed anyone.

Now, to get to the point and explain the headline. Earlier today a group of people tracked down a guy wearing a swastika armband. Words were exchanged and the Nazi wound up getting knocked out with a single punch. Had the guy just been strutting around with a Nazi armband and leaving everyone alone, I’d be less inclined to agree with decking him, but apparently he’d also been tossing racist epithets, harassing, and threatening people, too.

And that is where “Them’s fightin’ words” comes into play. Wearing a swastika armband is offensive, but ultimately harmless. As soon as threats come into play – immediate ones, not “in the future, maybe” kinds of vague speech – that’s a whole new ballgame and now you’ve gone well beyond protected speech.

And that, friends, means when you get knocked out, you pretty much brought it on yourself.

If you’re wandering around town in a Nazi armband, you’re offending the millions that died at their hands or died trying to wipe Nazi filth off the planet, but you’re not technically breaking any laws. Don’t expect people to love you for it, but you should be safe. If, however, you’re wearing a swastika armband and causing an immediate threat, don’t be surprised when someone busts your ass.

If you’re into Nazis getting knocked out, check out the YouTube video.

Further reading on Fighting Words

Wikipedia

First Amendment Center

Cornell Law School (just a definition)

Neweum

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Spin Cycle

Several years ago, while I was still a young punk learning the dark arts of persuasion and rhetoric, I asked one my professors what propaganda was. He hemmed and hawed a bit, but finally came down to “a type of persuasion that provides a ready-made answer.” Or words to that effect. To be fair, this was a long time ago.

Propaganda, as it’s commonly defined these days, falls into a few major categories:

  • Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
  • The deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

There’s also the Roman Catholic version that pertains to the training and oversight of foreign missions, but that’s not what most people think about when they hear propaganda, and the Catholics are using the traditional Latin meaning of propaganda – to propagate – rather than the political meaning of the word.

There’s an old joke: How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

It’s funny that we expect our politicians will lie to us, yet we are constantly surprised when they do. Of course, most of them will gleefully tell you they didn’t lie, you only misunderstood the totality of the events that lead to what you see as a lie. In the long run, it wasn’t that they lied, they were simply victims of circumstances that went beyond their control. And, besides, those other guys did it first, so it’s totally okay.

I’ve got a long and undying love of propaganda posters. The above is a great example of simple propaganda. The ape, with his fangs bared and holding a bloody stick in one hand and a swooning maiden (possibly representing Liberty) in the other tells us a lot about how the artist (Harry Ryle Hopps, c.1917) wanted the viewer to see the Germans. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this one doesn’t have a single kind one to say about the Germans during WWI. Of course, it’s a poster that’s aiming to get people to join the Army and you don’t win a war by humanizing the enemy.

Posters like this fall perfectly into propaganda because they give us a pre-built answer about to expect from Germans; they’re brutish thugs set on crushing skulls and stealing our women. It promotes information and ideas about an entire nation that are not completely accurate. As an aside, because of images like this a lot of German-Americans suffered discrimination and beatings during WWI. Probably WWII, too.

But this is a long-term propaganda project. WWI ran from 1914 to 1918, with the U.S. being involved only in the very last part. Support for the war in United States was meager at best and it took a lot of propaganda to build up stateside interest in a war on the other side of the ocean.

In the information age, things happen very quickly. While there’s still plenty of time to ratchet up a good long-term propaganda campaign, scandals and events happen and are discovered almost instantaneously. Traditional propaganda doesn’t work in instantaneous timelines. Think about Mitt Romney’s comment about 47% of the population not voting for him because they pay no taxes or Hillary Clinton’s remark about baskets full of deplorables. These are immediate scandals and shooting out some posters or long-term propaganda efforts won’t work.

This is where propaganda twirls madly off into our good friend spin. Think of spin as propaganda light; same great taste, but it applies to more immediate concerns. Whereas a propaganda campaign may be a long-running task, spin happens in the here and now.

The Trump campaign’s response to Clinton’s comment about a basket of deplorables with immediate and predictable spin. “She thinks she’s better than you!” “This shows just how much Hillary Clinton hates real Americans.” On and on and on.

And you know what? Clinton made a huge mistake with that line. She’s a career politician and should have seen the response to her comment coming a mile away. Just like Romney should have seen the response to his 47% comment coming a mile away.

Argumentation requires a clash of ideas. I say X. You say X goes to far. I retort that your plan, Y, doesn’t go too far enough. That sort of thing is what discourse is supposed to be made of. Propaganda ignores the clash of ideas because it quashes them entirely. Spin ignores the clash of ideas of by completely ignoring the argument in the first place and spinning off into someplace else entirely. Take, for instance, Clinton’s comment about the basket of deplorables:

“I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think, well, he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

“But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

Hillary Clinton – 2016

The spin came from focusing exclusively on part of her statement and completely ignoring the rest of the argument. Were some of Trump’s supporters sexist, racist, xenophobic jackasses? Sure. Was it half? I don’t know. I work with plenty of Trump supporters and plenty of people who fall into the second basket – the folks who held their noses and voted. They’re all decent people who didn’t think Clinton would do a good job.

The spin – saying Clinton’s comment showed her contempt for everyday Americans – ignored the entire second paragraph. It was the rhetorical version of saying so’s your face. And guess what? It worked.

It worked because we don’t want argumentation. We want immediate, crushing, bumper-sticker logic that we don’t have to think about. We don’t want “Four score and seven years ago”, we want “Hillary for Prison 2016” because that’s easier to digest.

This is primarily a writing blog, so you may be asking yourself exactly what political spin has to do with writing. Hunter S. Thompson could probably tell you why it’s important, but he was a political writer. In the world of fiction, understanding spin gives you a great way for characters to rationalize their behavior, even at the macro level.

Think about this way: if spin works well enough to determine international politics, it should work quite nicely with fictional characters and plots. If you’re writing fiction, you can use spin and propaganda techniques to your advantage.

There are always motivations in story-telling. Why does a character do something? Why does the villain do such heinous things? The cool thing about using propaganda and spin techniques in writing is you don’t have to feel like you need a shower when you’re done. Unlike the real world, using those skills in fiction only impacts made-up characters and places, so your karma will still be free of taint.

For instance: I’m currently working on Greetings From Sunny Aluna. It’s essentially a fantasy novel with drugs, religion, and real-world implications in a place where magic and mythology collide. Gutter fantasy, if you will. Very bad things are happening and the baddies need reasons to do those things and justify their actions to themselves. Even the good guys do less-than-savory things. They use propaganda and spin techniques to sell their actions to themselves and the other characters. Henchmen was basically one big propaganda and spin job with guns and cheeseburgers, but it was a pretty political novel to begin with.

Besides, if you want to see how propaganda and spin can be used effectively in story, just ask this guy.

Write Your Own Conspiracy Theory

When I was working on my Master’s Degree, everyone in the MA (yes, I got a Master of Arts in Speech Communication – go figure) program had to go through grad-level statistics. Ostensibly, this was to teach us how to have valid experimental work and give us a better understanding in general of how statistics works. It was actually a good class and I’m glad I took it, even if the only real stats work I did was running a chi square test and some basic validity and reliability tests on my thesis. What I actually took away from the class was how easy it is to manipulate people with numbers. 60% of the time it works 90% of the time. 79% of people know that.

Since my degree – even though it was in Speech Comm – focused on rhetoric and persuasion, I’ve had a sick fascination with the ways people can be manipulated. Naturally, this last election cycle was like being on a several month long bender of lies and distortions. U.S. Presidential elections are usually like that, though. They’re like that crazy chick you know you should stay away from, but you still find yourself waking up in her bedroom and wondering what happened to your clothes and where you got the crazy idea to pierce various places.

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Shocked owl is shocked.

Just to get this out of the way, the election is over and this post isn’t directly about the election, anyway. What this is about, is all the paranoid ramblings that come up every election cycle. Since I’m a writer, I thought it would be fun to write a conspiracy theory and step y’all through the process of manipulating people for fun and profit.

Conspiracy theories are inherently interesting to us as humans. It’s easier to believe aliens built the pyramids than it is to understand a whole lot of people can accomplish something amazing when they set their minds to it. Just like with fake news stories (which are a form of conspiracy theories in that they exploit our base predilections) the trick with any good conspiracy theory is to take advantage the small truth and expand it in all kinds of exciting ways. We’re going to start with two small (probable) truths:

  • Self-driving cars will be a reality in about ten years
  • Insurance companies will offer higher rates for people who insist on driving themselves

I don’t have any concrete evidence for this, but the beauty of a good conspiracy theory is it doesn’t require much evidence. Actually, less evidence is better because it’s hard to refute nothingness. All you really need to do is work with something people already “know”.

kitt
Meet your new car. The high-end ’82 Firebird turned a jaw-dropping 165 bhp from a V8 engine.

Now we’re going to throw some techno-babble at it to make it all sound scientific. Self-driving cars rely on GPS navigation and advanced near-AI computers. Don’t go overboard with the tech stuff or people will ignore it. Add a major corporation and a touch of heath care and you’ve got the makings of a great conspiracy theory.

To finalize the conspiracy theory all you need to do is add a bit of paranoid ramblings that sound truthy. Truthiness is important. A conspiracy theory plays on people’s inherent pre-judgements about the world around them. Again, take something everyone already “knows” is true. This is what separates a conspiracy theory from propaganda. Propaganda seeks to create the “truth”, conspiracy theories exploit that “truth”.  For our conspiracy theory we’re going to play on Americans’ inherent mistrust of government and large corporations. That’s actually one of the things that brings us together as a country: distrusting the people that run the joint and pay the bills.

truthinessdef
Knows a little too much about truthiness, if you know what I mean.

Put it all together and you get something like:

Self-driving cars are almost a reality. Google’s almost got one ready to deploy and you or your kids will probably be able to buy it. Guess what! You’ll also get a discount on your car insurance if you let the car drive itself because that’s how good Google is at this kind of thing and they’ve cut a deal with automotive insurance companies. Google’s actually creating an artificial intelligence to make it all work!

Think that’s a great idea? Think again.

Google is the same company that helped design the Great Firewall of China that blocked Chinese citizens from learning what their government is up to. And they did it at the behest of the State Department! It doesn’t take a genius to think they can do the same thing here in the United States. They’re also masters at working with GPS. Ever looked up your house on Google Maps? They’ve got pictures of your front door. They know where your phone is, too! Now, at the behest of the United States government, Google is going to be able to track your car and see everywhere you go! If you decide you’re going to McDonald’s, Google will know and they’ll tell the government. Since the government runs healthcare now, your health insurance rates will go up because you wanted a Big Mac and someone decided that’s unhealthy!

We’re through the looking glass here, folks. The future is now and it’s just like Orwell predicted: a boot on your throat forever. When self-driving cars debut, do yourself a favor and DON’T BUY ONE!

See how easy that was? Unfortunately, a lot of news these days follows the same kinds of formula. Find something interesting that are already twitchy about, extract it to a logical-sounding conclusion. Next time you read something that sounds too good to be true (Obama founded ISIS!), do yourself a favor and do some digging, especially if it smells conspiratorial. Just like with statistics, it’s possible to “prove” almost anything. Unlike statistics, a conspiracy theory or a fake news story doesn’t require much in the way of truth, it just has to sound true.

Remember, perception is reality.

Obligatory Election Year Blog Post

Ever stop to wonder exactly how the media can shape an election, intentionally or unintentionally? It’s remarkably simple: the best politicians know how to use the media to their own ends.

In January of 2004, I was in a hotel room in Bend, Oregon watching the Iowa Democratic caucuses on the TV and eating Mongolian stir-fry. Anyone familiar with the 2004 Iowa Democratic Caucus will immediately realize I was about to see an interesting sideline to US political history take place live and in color.

Remember this guy?

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YAAARRRGH!

His name is Howard Dean and, at the time, he was considered one of the big movers and shakers in the upcoming Presidential election. I watched his speech at the caucus, primarily because I was curious about the guy people were calling a Rockefeller Republican (socially liberal, but fiscally conservative – it is actually a thing) and a guy who was so adamantly opposed to the ongoing war in Iraq.

So, he gets up and delivers his speech and God damn was that guy excited. Most candidates act like they’re excited, but Dean really was into it. He was having the time of his life and you could tell he actually believed in what he was saying.

And then, while I was munching on something unidentifiable, but fairly tasty, he threw out that scream that everyone has made fun of for over twelve years now. At the time, I remember thinking, “Damn. He’s genuinely excited.” He had some good ideas and I was leaning toward issuing my relatively worthless vote for him in the New Mexico primary. NOTE: NM votes really late in the primaries. Usually, by the time we get to vote, the primaries are pretty much decided.

So, I was feeling kind of proud of myself and generally happy that the Democrats might field someone who could take on Bush. I watched the rest, including the lackluster speeches from Kerry and Edwards, and even watched some of the final media interviews. And when Dean got a chance to talk to the media, my heart sank. One of the first things I remember him saying was something to the effect of “You guys in the media have been pretty mean.”

Right then and there, I knew his campaign was over. You never let the media smell blood in the water. No matter they say, you rise above it or ignore it. You can scream and yell about what jerks they are when you’re in private, but when you’re actually being interviewed, you never let them know they’ve gotten to you.

My guess was right; Howard Dean did not get the 2004 Democratic nomination. That went to this guy:

frankenstein

Whoops, wrong pic.

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(Sorry, Mr. Kerry, you’re supposedly a great guy, I just couldn’t resist tossing a little joke in here.)

Howard Dean’s failed performance in the primaries was largely chalked up to that famous scream. It was the talk of the media for months. Someone even made a Howard Dean sound board so you could sit at your computer and listen to Howard Dean scream. Dean himself admitted it wasn’t the classiest move he could have made. But I have a different theory about why he got pummeled in the media and that was because he let them know they got to him.

Well, that and the Democrats wanted someone statesmanlike to take on the young, folksy twang of George W. Bush. Personally, I don’t think the DNC was ever behind Dean; he was too different from them. I don’t think they were behind Edwards, either, though. Kerry, while not the most exciting person to listen to, was experienced and brought an older, wiser feeling to the election and that’s what the DNC figured would win.

Until John Kerry got Swiftboated and Waffle-Housed and his whole campaign sank like the freaking Titanic because he couldn’t control the onslaught.

Flash forward twelve years and we some similar themes, albeit with different results. This time around, instead of Kerry vs. Bush, we’ve got Clinton vs. Trump and, damn, has this one gotten crazy. As of right now, one of the first things I look for when I read the news every morning is “what batshit insane thing did Trump say today?”

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More power? Thumbs up from me!
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I can kill a puppy on live TV and my people will still love me.

Ah, there we go. Second Amendment folks can take care of the Hillary problem. That’s better than any cup of coffee for waking you up in the morning.

Nutty as this election cycle has been, it’s interesting to see some parallels with different results from the ’04 election. Dean went after the media early on and folded like a bad poker player when they went after him. Trump, on the other hand, went on the offensive. The extremely offensive, some (including Megyn Kelly) would say.

And that’s what’s really interesting. Trump – who has zero political experience, almost no filters, no real grasp of international politics, and is willing to go on the warpath over the slightest thing – is an absolute master of the media. They love to hate him and they love to repeat whatever insane thing he recently said. He could walk on stage and fart for 45 minutes and there would be an endless series of articles about “Trump’s Fart: What Did It Mean?”

And, amazingly, his followers would inhale that fart and claim it was the last breath of Freedom or some damned thing.

It’s easy to forget that Howard Dean had followers before the media destroyed him. He was, in some ways, an Internet sensation. Sure, he wasn’t in Trump’s league when it came to minions, but he was hardly unknown and unloved. The main difference, other than the fact that Dean had policies that didn’t involve building a wall around Mexico and filling it with water, was that Dean couldn’t manipulate the media like Trump can so a lot of people never figured out what Dean was really up to.

On the other hand, everyone knows exactly what Trump wants to do and they’re still in love with him. Which just goes to show there’s really no such thing as bad publicity. He can keep whining about the election being rigged (it’s not) or the way the Republican party is mistreating him (they are, but for very good reasons) and the media will dutifully report on how atrocious a person he is, his minions will continue to lick it up, and it won’t make a damned bit of difference come November.

What I find interesting about the media and Trump is how they’re doing his bidding without even realizing it. Every time they print a piece about Trump’s craziness and how terrible it is, he wins whatever sick little game he’s playing. And he’s doing it by just being himself.

Hillary Clinton, in her own way, is using the media to her advantage, too. All she has to do is shut up and let Trump talk. He’s already got his followers and is unlikely to gain or lose more over the next few months, but Hillary is busily picking off the disgusted Republicans and her lead will continue to grow.

And that’s how the media is influencing this election. Dean capitulated when the media spanked him. Trump is busily spanking the media back and giving them enough fodder to keep his name at the top of the headlines. Hillary, on the other hand, is doing her best to ignore the worst the media can throw at her. Three different ways of manipulating the message and the media.

Learning to the use the media is the first thing every politician needs to master. Trump gets it, even if his messages aren’t always (or ever) positive. Hillary knows when to keep her head down and when to rise up. Dean completely misunderstood how to deal with the media.

In the end, we’ll find out on the second Tuesday in November who did the best job of using the media.

Check out Howard Dean’s scream here

Rhetoric and Kim Davis

In case you’ve been living on Mars, in a cave, with your fingers in your ears, you’ve likely heard of Kim Davis.  She’s the Rowan County Clerk who has invited national (and possibly international) attention by refusing to issue marriage certificates to homosexual couples – and has apparently forbidden the rest of the clerks in her office from issuing them well.  Kim has ignored United States law by refusing to issue marriage certificates and today found herself locked up for contempt of court for ignoring multiple orders for her to issue marriage certificates.

In other words, to do her job.

Now, that’s not really what this post is about.  Her past has been beaten to death in the media over the past couple weeks and she’s got ardent supporters and people who want to see her dead.  All that’s been bandied about by everyone and their dog recently.

What interests me is a tiny little thought that pinged through my head this evening that makes me wonder if Kim hasn’t backed herself into a corner unwittingly.  Her original argument for not issuing – or allowing her office to issue – marriage certificates to homosexual couples sprung her religious conviction that marriage was supposed to be between a man and a woman.  She’s dug her heels in on this one and is refusing to budge.  I know from experience that it’s impossible to debate religion.  By it’s very nature of proclaiming to know everything, religion cannot budge on any issue lest it be seen as less than perfect.

Had Kim simply stood up and said, “I cannot, in good conscience, issue marriage certificates to homosexual couples because it violates my faith.  I am therefore stepping down from my position,” I would have felt sorry for her but also applauded her courage to her convictions.  After all, no one said living a Godly life would be easy and sometimes you have to walk away from things that you just can’t do.  I wouldn’t have agreed with her, but I would have appreciated her conviction.  Conviction is a rare thing these days.

Some people would probably ask how I can question her conviction when she’s in jail for refusing to do something she disagrees with.  To those people I would remind them that Kim Davis stopped issuing all marriage certificates because “she didn’t want to appear biased.”  That statement undermines everything in one fell swoop.  If she was truly convinced she was correct, she would have refused to issue marriage certificates only to homosexual couples on religious grounds and not cared a whit whether people saw her as biased.  After all, God supposedly has her back on this one, so all the courts and all the public opinion shouldn’t matter a bit.

She could have stood up, held her head up high, and pointed to whatever part of the Bible people use to prove these things.  By refusing to issue all marriage certificates Kim Davis has undermined her own soap box.

The fact that she’s refusing to issue any marriage certificates at all smacks of desperate desire to bury the evidence, to pretend she’s not really a bad person.  This leaves me with a couple possible suppositions based on her behavior.

  • She’s didn’t seriously expect this to be a big deal and now she’s stuck
  • She’s just trying to get attention

Neither of those are really good reasons to do what she’s doing.

Personally, I wish she (and everyone else) would just get over it and start treating everyone equally.  Failing that, she should step down and find a job that doesn’t challenge her beliefs so much.

I guess the plus side is the rest of the clerks in the office decided to go ahead and issue certificates starting tomorrow.

A Day to Remember

GoodNewsEveryone

A happy shout-out to everyone who can now legally get married.  Today is a great day!

Just as an aside, my marriage to my wife seems to be holding steady, despite all the rhetoric surrounding Gay Marriage undermining traditional marriage.

Now, go throw a party or something.  You’ve earned it!

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Jade Helm 15 and How Perceived Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Of course it would be Texas.

If you’ve been living in America, especially the Southwestern states, you’ve probably heard of Jade Helm 15.  If you haven’t, Jade Helm is apparently the U.S. Government’s plan to bring Texas into the United States and do some other stuff, too.  It’s a tale full of sound and fury, told by madmen (and women) symbolizing the country’s further descent into madness and paranoia.

In reality, Jade Helm is a training exercise for the U.S. Military.  The modern world is a different kind of battle ground and requires a different kind of tactic to win; the Jade Helm exercises seem to be nothing more than the military trying some new tactics to see how they work.  Frankly, in-country military training exercises are nothing now; they’ve been going on for decades.  However, since the U.S. government is run by Democrat, certain people have decided that the whole exercise is nothing more than a smokescreen for the evil Obama to take over the country (that he’s already President of) and silence his political enemies (who, apparently, are nuts).

It all started with a leaked map and PowerPoint presentation detailing an internal military training operation called Jade Helm 15 and the conspiracy theorists have spun it so completely out of control to the point that it now involves the United States government, Wal-Mart, the Chinese, ISIS, and a desperate attempt to conquer Texas.  Jade Helm has roped in such luminaries as Greg Abbot (the governor of Texas), Rick Perry (former governor of Texas and failed Presidential candidate who is blaming Obama for the whole debacle), and Ted Cruz (Tea Party favorite who has questioned the Pentagon about “what’s really going on with Jade Helm”).  Abbot has gone so far as to warn the Texas National Guard to “monitor the mission.”

Note how Texas is labelled.
Note how Texas is labelled.

So, what’s the story here?

It would appear there are quite a few empty WalMart stores in Texas.  This isn’t entirely unusual; there’s at least one in Albuquerque I can think of.  Wal-Mart has a history of opening stores and simply closing them when they become unprofitable or more of a pain than they’re worth.  The huge shells are usually repurposed into indoor flea markets, other stores, or extremely large meth dens.  Kind of a cycle of life thing.

The scuttlebutt surrounding the closings (at least in the saner circles) is that employees at the stores were trying to unionize and rather than deal with the hassle of working with a union WalMart simply shut the stores down and told the employees to piss off.  WalMart doesn’t care much for unions.

Now, to really understand the rest of this post, you kind of have to understand the political climate in America.  The Democrats hate the Republicans and the Republicans hate the Democrats.  I’m not kidding on this point.  A Democratic Senator could say something like “we all need air to breathe” and his or her Republican counterpart would argue that point tooth and nail, claiming our need for air was just another example of out-of-control government expansion and that we really don’t need air anyway.  A Republican Senator could claim that Capitalism is a pretty good thing and his or her Democratic counterpart would scream to the skies about how Capitalism is nothing but greedy, rich white guys trying to get richer.

Some voters get behind this and will find any and every reason to hate those guys, whoever those guys might be.

anatomy_republican democratbrain

To hear them speak, no one on the other side has ever had a good idea, is actively trying to destroy the country, is a horrible terrible rotten no-good person who is probably either a Nazi or a Communist depending on who’s doing the arguing.  Those other guys want to take away freedoms and implement a theocracy.  They’re all awful people and if we could just get our guys into the White House all our problems will immediately go away and everything will be fine.

Some people live in an elaborate fantasy world.

Now, I should point out that not all Republicans or Democrats think like that, most are pretty middle of the road.  Unfortunately, you don’t hear from the sane people, they’re too busy trying to get about the business of actually running the country; you hear from the loudmouthed idiots who love to spin yarns like Jade Helm and how it’s an elaborate plot to do something nerfarious.

Get ready, folks, we’re about to go through the looking glass…

I’ve already mentioned the abandoned WalMarts in Texas.  If you’ve never seen one, they’re monstrous stores.  Some of the bigger ones can hold small countries inside of them.  After you kick out the meth heads, you’ve got a perfect place to stage an invasion from.  Each store could easily be repurposed into a place to feed and house an army and hold political dissidents.  According to a segment of the population, this is exactly what’s happening to a handful of stores that were shut down.

shocked
That’s RIGHT!

The invasion will come from special forces troops under the command the evil Barrack Obama.  The United States government is, right now, digging tunnels under those closed Wal Marts to link them together.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Chinese are apparently in on it, too (even though the US and China don’t really get along).  As if that bad wasn’t bad enough, ISIS is taking part in the whole thing, too; they’ll be providing the false-flag attack that will let the US invade Texas.

Read through those articles and if they don’t chill your blood, well, try something that’s actually scary.

I work with a bunch of ex-military men and women at my job and I asked one of the guys (a former Marine) what he thought about the whole thing and he pointed out two interesting facts:

Those two facts taken together should have been sufficient to kibosh the whole thing, but some people are loathe to let pesky facts interrupt what is becoming an exciting new conspiracy theory.  Among one of the newer conspiracies I read earlier today related to a recent decision by the Obama administration to stop selling military hardware to local law enforcent.  At the time, it made sense: what city actually needs its police to have a tank?  The darker side, though, was recently brought to light when someone figured out that the government stopped supplying the police with military hardware JUST IN TIME FOR JADE HELM.  It was nothing more than a clever ploy to defang the police so they’d be powerless when the government troops (who are already stationed in Texas) rolled in.  As if by ceasing the sales of military hardware to local law enforcement somehow meant all the nifty toys the police already had (assault rifles, body armor, drones, etc) somehow vanished.  Now you’ve got a police force that’s incapable of protecting the citizens from the military.

THAT'S RIGHT!
THAT’S RIGHT!

Bear in mind, this is the United States military we’re talking about here.  They take out countries for breakfast.  A handful of cops with body armor and the odd armored car would be nothing more than late morning Triscuit.

Now, lest you think I’m painting all Republicans as total whack jobs, bear in mind there are plenty of sane Republicans out there.  John McCain has expressed disbelief that the whole thing has gotten so blown out of proportion.  Most people think the whole thing is nonsense.  But it’s those few people out there who honestly believe Jade Helm is nothing more than a cover so that Obama can come take them away in the dead of night to a FEMA reeducation camp who simply can’t stop talking about it that keep the story alive.  American media loves the fringe – and this is about as fringe as it gets.  It’s become an echo chamber and each new reverberation adds to the madness.

So, what does this have to do with what’s ostensibly a writing blog?  It’s the perfect plot for a political thriller.  It’s got all the elements of a great story, it just needs some fleshing out to make it personal.  In a year or two, no one will remember Jade Helm 15, and that would be the perfect time for the book to come out.  Only in the book, the exercise really is a smoke screen and some terrible things happen.  If it weren’t for the concerted efforts of a few good people, all would have been lost.

The whole of the Jade Helm conspiracy also goes to show just how crazy a plot can be and still be believable.  I really fretted about the plot to Henchmen: that it wasn’t believable, that it didn’t make sense, that no one would believe it.  It turns out I needn’t have worried.  The stories people are telling themselves about Jade Helm are far crazier.  One “Texas Ranger” is claiming to have seen trains equipped with shackles for political dissidents.  And here I thought the political prisoners were to be stored in WalMarts and secreted away in the elaborate tunnels.

Still, if you’re interested, Jade Helm will be running from July 18, 2015 through September 15, 2015.  I guess we’ll discuss it again on September 16th.  Maybe I’ll make up shirts that say “I survived Jade Helm.”

Maybe.  If we’re all still free enough to do that.