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Walmart, Pentagon try to knock down conspiracy theory

Reality-based officials are doing their best, pushing back against those paranoid about "Jade Helm 15."
Wal-Mart shopping carts sit outside of a store. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Wal-Mart shopping carts sit outside of a store.
If proponents of the "Jade Helm 15" conspiracy theory hoped to generate more attention for their bizarre cause, they've succeeded -- it's become a national story. But as was obvious on "The Daily Show" last night, the attention isn't exactly positive for the fringe activists and their fringe paranoia.
As we discussed last week, right-wing conspiracy theorists fear the Obama administration is planning some kind of invasion of Southwestern states, and as the Houston Chronicle noted, the activists also believe "Walmart is in on it."
It's tough to understand as a coherent thought, but those who fear Obama-imposed martial law apparently suspect Walmart stores in Texas will be used to detain prisoners and/or serve as staging areas. "Secret underground tunnels" are also somehow expected to be involved.
It's all quite silly, but enough people have come to believe the nonsense that the retail behemoth actually issued a statement responding to the conspiracy theory. TPM reported yesterday:

Wal-Mart issued a statement Monday to TPM dismissing "rumors" that tunnels were being built by the U.S. military beneath closed stores in an attempt to launch a takeover of Texas. "There's no truth to the rumors," Wal-Mart spokesperson Lorenzo Lopez told TPM via email.

Of course, there's an inherent falsification problem in a situation like this: those who are inclined to believe the crackpot ideas are equally inclined to reject official denials. "That's just what they want us to think," they say.
But reality-based officials are nevertheless doing their best. In addition to Walmart, a Pentagon spokesperson added yesterday that the uncontroversial training exercise "poses no threat to any American's civil liberties" and that the "wild speculation" is unfounded.
This, alas, will have no effect whatsoever on the "debate," such as it is, since the fringe conspiracy theorists assume the Defense Department is helping orchestrate the scheme.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), responding to paranoid constituents, last week ordered the Texas Guard to monitor the federal military exercises, which made the fringe right happy, but led to criticisms, including one former GOP Texas lawmaker who said the Republican governor is "pandering to idiots."
The Texas Tribune reported yesterday that the governor stands by his decision.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday defended his decision to have the Texas State Guard monitor a military training exercise that has riled conspiracy theorists, denying he has lent credence to their suspicions. Instead, Abbott said his office is simply looking to serve as a "communication facilitator" between the military and concerned citizens.... "We are playing a pivotal role of government and that is to provide information to people who have questions," Abbott told reporters Monday following a prayer breakfast in North Austin. "It's clear that people in Bastrop had questions."

Those questions, of course, have been answered, though conspiracy theorists don't seem to care.