Jade Helm: The conspiracy to make the independent media look like idiots

Bastrop, Texas (TFC) – The much feared Jade Helm began, and something amazing happened: nothing. There were no mass arrests or round ups. There were no executions. There was well… nothing. While there is no fallout for the civilians in Texas from the operation, the same can’t be said for those outlets that fear-mongered and hyped the “Invasion of Texas.”

From the time the map surfaced online, I’ve watched in horror as outlet after outlet promoted visions of columns of tanks and MRAPs sweeping through the Southwestern United States and rounding up Americans to be ushered off to FEMA camps or Wal-Marts. I’ve watched intelligent, rational readers get swept up in the hysteria caused by these outlets.

Why shouldn’t they? Alternative outlets that they had grown to trust told them they needed to worry. Outlets that built a rapport with their readers over the years fed into the schemes of martial law and coup d’etat for the sake of revenue generating hits on their websites. They cashed in on people’s fear. Perhaps a better way to say it is that they sold out, not cashed in.

Those of us in the alternative media like to fashion ourselves as gatekeepers against propagandized, fear-mongered news. We post memes on Facebook mocking how the mainstream sources keep people terrified to keep them glued to their TVs or reading articles. We mock outlets for just reciting what the government tells them to say. At least those outlets had a source. Most of what was passed off as news in the independent media concerning Jade Helm was unsourced, out of context, and apparently the invasion wasn’t worth fact checking at all. Readers will remember this, and they should remember it. All of the work put into building the credibility of these sites is now destroyed for a few hundred dollars in ad revenue.

The map:

The Fifth Column tried to stem the tide of panic with articles explaining what was happening not once, but twice. It’s hard for one outlet to try to stop a tsunami of misinformation when most other outlets are flooding the the internet with theories about death squads and Blue Bell Ice Cream. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to The Anti-Media and Mint Press for allowing their outlets to become voices of reason in the run up to Jade Helm. The journalists that predicted the exercise would just be an exercise weren’t fortune tellers, and they couldn’t see the future. They just simply researched. All of the confusing acronyms on the map explain in detail what the plan is.

In other words, the outlets that have been fear-mongering were either too lazy to Google the acronyms, or they did research them and chose to scare you for the sake of advertising dollars anyway. As a journalist, I don’t know which is worse. I can say that in 2013 and 2014 I was proud to classify myself as “independent media” or “alternative media.” Now it’s embarrassing. If there was a conspiracy behind Jade Helm, it was to make independent media look like a bunch of idiots for passing this off as news. It worked.

The readers respond:

After being driven to a state of frenzy and scared out of their minds by various outlets, readers responded by sending in video clips of troop movements. They were worried and they turned to outlets they trusted. Rather than fact checking, the outlets ran the videos as proof of Jade Helm’s nefarious purposes. A quick call to the railroad  would have revealed which military base the train loaded with armored vehicles was headed to and a quick call to the base would have revealed the vehicles were being repainted and refitted for deployment to Eastern Europe. The convoy in California was headed down to a Marine installation for routine training that occurs every year. Before I could even sit down to type an article explaining what was happening, other outlets had accepted it as fact that these vehicles were on their way to subjugate the American Southwest. It was at this point that I more or less gave up trying to dissuade people from fear, except for instances in which I thought there was a danger of someone being killed.

I was content to let this whole fiasco pass without comment and just quietly unlike and withdraw support from the outlets that pushed this story, until this morning. This morning, a video surfaced claiming to show the body of a Texan executed by military personnel associated with Jade Helm. It took less than two minutes to obtain a screenshot of the photo presented in the video and perform an image search. That search revealed the photo to be an edited version of a photo taken in Iran in 2009. It didn’t matter. Outlets ran the video as truth. This type of behavior isn’t just unprofessional, it’s dangerous. If people believe their lives are in danger, what is there to stop them from firing on police or soldiers? This could have gotten someone killed.

Martial Law... in Egypt Image Source: ARK 88, Flickr, Creative Commons

Martial Law… in Egypt
Image Source: ARK 88, Flickr, Creative Commons

I can already hear people (those who pushed this story) claiming that this article is undermining independent media and that I should strive for unity. If you are going to risk your readers’ lives for a few pennies in advertising revenue, I don’t want to express unity with you. I don’t want to be associated with you. I don’t want to be in the same room with you. This sensationalist behavior is undermining independent media, not me.

As journalists, people have placed their trust in us. To knowingly or recklessly run bad information is a violation of that trust. To fear monger without cause is a violation of that trust. One of the big issues we tackle in the alternative media is police accountability. We want cops to be held responsible for their actions; shouldn’t we hold each other to that same standard? That doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong occasionally. Everybody makes mistakes, but this wasn’t a mistake. This was a concerted effort to keep views up after the massive views that we became accustomed to from Ferguson died out. Because the independent media was honest in its reporting of Ferguson and similar situations for the last couple of years, we gained readership. We grew. Because of this, we’ve lost readers. Outlets that had a respectable reputation have lost it forever.

What’s next?

It’s obvious these outlets aren’t in business to inform you. So what is their next move? They’ll claim victory. They’ll tell you that because they broke the story and covered it so much that the government simply changed its mind about martial law. Alternatively, they’ll tell you that this was just a dry run to lull you into a false sense of confidence. What they will never say is that for months they were telling you that the US Army was going to use 1,800 troops to subdue an area 8 times the size of Iraq. They will never tell you that they didn’t bother to research the map. They will never tell you that they played on your fear and your mistrust to make a few dollars.