Whether on US soils or abroad, military exercises have been taking place for years. For whatever reason or combination of reasons, Jade Helm 15, a massive multi-state military exercise, has attracted the attention of the public. For some people it has raised concern about the federal government’s motives and intentions as it relates to them and their family’s personal freedom and future well-being. Public reaction to these concerns is varied from outright rejection and mockery, to cautious consideration there might be something undisclosed that is worthy of concern, to rising hysteria about the federal government targeting specific groups of citizens. While conspiracy theories and end of the world theories have circulated in the past and continue to draw the attention of people from all walks of life, it may be helpful to look at some of the factors that may be contributing to concern about personal security concerns. So whether or not Jade Helm 15 is a routine military exercise, what is happening in America and the world at large to birth and nurture concern about the federal government’s threat to safety and security? Does the federal government, or any government, deserve the blind trust of its citizens? What can people learn from history about the trustworthiness of government and its leaders?
Before writing off fears some people have about Jade Helm as unjustified, hysteria, crazy, or paranoia consider some of the following very real intrusions into personal privacy and its relationship to one’s sense of security now and future. There are many contributors and only a few will be touched on in this article. At the end of the day, personal freedom and power lay in the ability of each person utilizing critical thinking skills to sort fact from fiction and to view choices made in terms of a bigger picture. Those choices involve more than doing one’s own personal research on political candidates who will, if elected, make laws and policies that will affect current and future generations.
In November 2014 comments about the stupidity of the American people were attributed to Jonathan Gruber who helped design the Affordable Care Act (CBS News, 2014). People reacted. After all, who wants to be called out as stupid? Yet the ignorance of the American people has been a newsworthy topic long before Mr. Gruber’s acknowledgement. In 2011 Andrew Romano reported dismal results regarding the outcome of a Newsweek survey of 1000 Americans regarding basic questions about American government and American history. The same article reported Americans as uninformed about current world events and went on to provide factors believed contributory to American ignorance about their government. In 2013 an Associated Press article ran in the New York Post reported US adults fare worse than average compared with other human beings throughout the world. Rick Shenkman (2008) wrote about the tendency of Americans to point out stupidity and mistakes of government leaders while failing to explore, admit, and take responsibility for their contribution to the problem. After Mr. Gruber’s remarks went viral, indignation surfaced along with blogs and interviews refuting Mr. Gruber’s remarks. Maybe the strong reaction of the American populace is an indication of a truth Americans do not want to admit. After all is said and done, few conclusions remain when Americans do not take the time to inform themselves about their government and fall victim to the ridiculous campaign claims of politicians running for office. The American people are the only ones who can take responsibility for the problem of being uninvolved with the legislative process and the only ones with the ability to reverse the trend. Responsibly managing society depends on people not giving up their power to be informed and to act responsibly. It begins with each individual becoming aware, interested, and invested on the local level. So, kudos to those Texans who were concerned enough to speak up and draw attention to their concerns about war games playing out in their backyards.
Much as people did not appreciate Mr. Gruber’s remarks at the time, it is great that people were angry about his remarks. But anger is not enough. While honest remarks can be difficult to receive and accept, they are also opportunities for growth. It is also admirable that people are concerned Jade Helm is more than a military exercise. Think about times in history when governments, militaries, or groups of people use their power and resources to carry out an agenda – Hitler, recent activity in the Ukraine, the Khmer Rouge, Bosnia, and Rwanda. If the sheep do not bleat when the wolf enters the fold, chances are the wolf will enjoy a good dinner and be back for more. Americans cannot afford to behave like sheep. Nor do Americans need to behave like wolves. Instead, Americans need to utilize critical thinking skills to develop a reasonable and wise perspective of the issues affecting them.
Critical thinking skills can help deter paranoia and suspicion. They can help alleviate mass confusion and ignorance that sometimes arise and are perpetuated when people believe what they read or are told without examining the source of the information, whether the results of studies were obtained reliably, and what affiliation or benefit the individual or group may stand to gain from the outcome of the research. The government is not the only faction of America that knows this. Big Business knows it too and stands to benefit from Americans who succumb to suggestive advertising claims and are then too busy, too ignorant, or too apathetic to evaluate critically the claims. How many people accept at face value results of magazine polls without thinking through whether the survey was designed to render an accurate representation of the issue in question? Do readers stop to question what benefit the researcher or sponsor received from reporting or sponsoring the survey? What were the demographics of the people surveyed and will they provide a realistic picture of the issue being researched? Do they stand to gain financially in any way from the survey outcome? These are important questions to consider when accepting information as factual. It’s okay to ask questions. It is okay to be curious about what is not being disclosed. It takes a lot of work to challenge and verify information before deeming it as reasonably reliable. Perhaps if there were more people asking questions and there was more transparency between the government and the people, there would be less fodder for suspicion and conspiracy theories.
The relationship between mistrust of the government and conspiracy theories is easy to understand. When there is lack of congruence between what officials report to the public and what actually occurred, credibility is lost. When social institutions change faster than large portions of the population can or will accommodate, mistrust occurs. Tremendous advances in technology and science are challenging existing ethical codes and guidelines and contributing to a sense of insecurity about the power of technology in the hands of a few and whether it is wise to do something just because it is possible to do it. Add to the mix concern about the ethics and morals of those who have access to technological advances and the use of psychological warfare by our military services. A cursory review of history via the Internet returns historical recognition of religious and political ideologies that have misused power and position for good and for harm resulting in resentment, fear, and anxiety.
Considering the current state of affairs in American and abroad, it is not surprising concern has erupted about Jade Helm 15. Much of the information stirring anxiety is being disseminated via social media and draws from several events occurring time wise in proximity to the Jade Helm 15 exercises - recent closures of Walmart Stores, US-Mexican border concerns, distrust of the current administration for multiple controversial decisions, and global unrest along with social and economic instability. Additionally, technology has contributed its share towards maintenance of conspiracy theories as has Hollywood, television, corporate news agencies, science fiction, and imagination. So, is it really unreasonable to question what else is going on with Jade Helm and its possible correlation with Walmart store closures given past involvement of federal agencies in projects like MKUltra, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the Iran Contra Scandal, government eavesdropping on American citizens, Watergate, Hillary Clinton Email scandal, and the Benghazi cover up just to name a few? Double standards and lack of transparency make it possible for the average American to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe there is something more underway, with Jade Helm supplying the distraction. After all, are Americans naïve enough to think they would not be the target of psychological warfare?
US adults are dumber than the average human. (Oct 8, 2013). Retrieved from http://nypost.com/2013/10/08/us-adults-are-dumber-than-the-average-human/
CBS News. (Nov 13, 2014). The stupidity of the America voter. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/affordable-care-act-architect-on-camera-bashing-american-voters/
Romano, A. (Mar 20, 2011). How ignorant are Americans? Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/how-ignorant-are-americans-66053
Shenkman, R. (2008). Just how stupid are we? Facing the truth about the American voter. Basic Books. New York.