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November 30, 2022 59 mins

If Donald Trump is still allegedly the president, does that also mean he’s in charge of the military? According to MAGA rally goers, yes. Jordan Klepper dives deeper into conspiracy theories surrounding the military with Paul Szoldra, the editor of The Ruck, a weekly newsletter focused on defense and national security. They discuss theories like Jade Helm, how servicemembers react to conspiracy theories, and how high-ranking officials like General Michael Flynn abuse their credibility to spread them. They are joined by Dr. Amy Cooter of Middlebury College who breaks down her research on militia groups like the Oath Keepers, the overlap between members and veterans, and how militias approach “defending” their country. 


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
It's been two years since Donald Trump lost election, and
although a stubbornly high number of Republicans still don't believe
he lost, they are at least coming around to the
reality that he is no longer the president who is
running the government right now, President Trump, well most of
them are. For some the truth is just too much
to bear. I found this out firsthand when I was

told that amagare ally that Trump is still in charge
of the military. He's running the government and the military,
and he's running the military, so we should blame him
for what happened in Afghanistan. Thank you for talking to
George enjoycing President current President Trump. It makes me think
of that famous courtroom quote from a few good men,
you can't handle the truth. Although if you think about it,

that's a quote from Colonel Nathan or Jessup, who as
a member of the military of logic follows still reports
to Donald Trump. Damn it, checkmate it again. This Jordan
Clapper figures the conspiracy and today we're talking about out
the military. The Trump is still in charge of the military.
Conspiracy theory. It's just one of many military related conspiracy theories.

And we have two people here with us today who
know a lot about them and the people who believe them,
both outside and inside military ranks. They are Paul Zoldra,
a veteran who covers military issues and as the editor
of the weekly newsletter of The Rock that focuses on
national security and defense. We're also joined by Dr Amy
Cootter of Middlebury College, who has studied and spent time

with militia groups like the oath Keepers. Guys, Welcome aboard,
Nice to be here, Thank you for having me. Good
to have you guys. All right, Paul, I want to
start here, help us understand the logic behind the theory
that Donald Trump is still in charge of the military.
I mean, even with Ivanka bailing on the campaign, I'm
not even convinced he's in charge of his family anymore.

Walk us through this. How is he in charge of
the military? Well, Jordan, he's the commander in chief. Still,
he didn't lose the elect ship. I mean didn't you
didn't you read That's how if you believe it, you
can't achieve it and or convince a bunch of other
people you have achieved it. It seems wild. So why
do people actually think this? Um? It really boils down

to his A lot of his supporters believe that he
he did not lose the election. Um, and you know
that's kind of coming into uh an interesting, interesting part
where he's running for re election now, um, even though
he didn't lose the last election, but even still, um, Yeah,

he's the commander in chief and so if he's if
he's still the president of the United States, then he's
still the commander in chief and he's still has pole
in the military and um and and oh by the way, um,
a whole bunch of the military is is supportive Trump,
and we'll you know, go with every his every word.
I hope the sarcasm is coming through, by the way,

I under I can hear some of the sarcasm in there.
I guess what help me walk through a little bit
of this sounds it sounds ridiculous, but it's not the
only time I've heard this out and about. I know
people are denying the idea that Donald Trump lost the election,
but there are people who still believe, Okay, he lost
and Biden is in charge, but that there is something

going on that we cannot see where Donald Trump is
in charge of the military apparatus. Can you speak to
that mindset. I know it's it's not true, but but
speak to the mindset. Where does something like that come from? Why?
Why are there people who are grasping onto this? Is
there like a military idea that there is some sort
of shadow general, shadow leader? Like what? What? What? What

draws people to this other than the inability to let
go of the idea that Trump is still president? Well,
I think it would come I think primarily you look
back to the Q and on conspiracy of of you know,
the there there's this big you know, massive underground you know,

lizard galaxy of of uh, you know, democrats and celebrities,
you know, stealing children and and doing all kinds of stuff.
And that all came from h a person calling himself
himself q uh. You know, many people became convinced by this,

this whole idea of getting really highly classified information inside
the government. And the idea was at that time was
q Q was was inside you know, it was supportive
of the Trump administration and fighting back against the so
called deep state, uh, that is that is trying to

thwart his agenda. And so you know, if you if
you think that, if you can believe that that there's
some you know, person inside the government who's not only
sharing all this really highly classified information with the public
on a message board. Uh. I don't see much separation.

I don't see how you you know, how we go
from that too, believing that Trump is still president. That's
not that wacky when you think about it. You know,
I think what always, what always makes me laugh within it, though,
is the the belief in the fun parts, the wearing
of the uniform and the stars and the power, but
none of the accountability of what has happened. You know.

We discuss the critical things that people are critical of
the Afghanistan withdrawal, and the person that I talked to
very clearly was like, no, no, he had nothing to
do with that. It's almost as if you know, in
military parliance, you have a dress uniform. Correct. I'm not
somebody who was in the military, but I've definitely watched
films that are about the military, and I have to

understand that you have a dress uniform and you also
as an infant treatment you're in Marines, correct, correct, Yes,
you also have something you might wear functionally to go
do dirtier, more applicable things. Right, camouflage, Yes, camo I
knew it, Camo. I've done all the research, and it's
as if believing in this theory is a belief that
you only get to wear your dress whites and that

there is no secondary part to it all, which is
sort of emblematic of the whole American thought process. Um,
I think you you actually you bring up a really
good point, which is a lot of these conspiracy theories
they hinge on people's ignorance of the military. You know,
less than less than one percent of the of Americans

serve in the military. Like it's a very small number.
During World War Two, we had about ten percent of
of the of Americans in the in in the military.
Of course we're fighting a gigantic war, and that makes sense,
but that, um, that number is is so much smaller
now out and so what we what I've found from um,

you know, just reporting on these issues for the past decade,
being in the Marine Corps before that, most people have
no idea how the military works, you know, I think, um,
a lot of people think that we just you know,
march around, we salute and and then you know, they
like press a button, break glass and you go to war,

and like there's a black box in there, nobody really
understands what it's actually like. And and you know, the
thing is that most of it's really boring. You know,
we're just sitting around waiting, waiting to do things. Um,
we're doing maintenance or other kinds of stuff. But those
are less sexy parts of the military that the military
itself doesn't really share all that much with the public. Um.

And you know that ignorance really feeds these ideas. You
know that the military is you know, doing nefarious things
and you know they're up to no good. And and also, um,
also the the idea that the military can do these
amazing things with ease, you know, like uh like like
the Benghazi attack could have just been stopped just just

easily by by you know, the military just swooping in
there with jets from Italy and stuff like that. Um,
it takes more planning and and actually you know, diving
in and figuring out how to actually do things. Uh.
It's it's like it's it's almost like a comic book

caricature of the military. Is what what you get from
from a lot of Americans who just you know, don't
really know any better. You're telling me even if you've
played Call of Duty, that's not enough information to fully
understand how the military works. I mean, the call of
call of duty is realistic for combat experience. I know,
enough said, enough said, enough said. I I much like

if you watched Wag the Dog, you understand American politics
as well. That and maybe half of American president. You
get it. You know how this thing works. Now you
should talk about it and fear the institutions and of themselves.
If call of duty was more realistic, there would be
soldiers sitting around really bored, you know, smoking cigarettes, uh,

you know, really you know, bitching about their chain of
command and complaining about um, complaining about you know, going
out on patrol that day. Like that's that's the more
realistic version of combat operations. The joke is, like, the
joke is like, you know, combat is is ninety or

one percent sheer, terror and boredom, and that that usually
is is pretty accurate. Yeah, so, like bitching and moaning
is a part of the military. So play a call
of duty, but then make sure you watch a good
season of curb your enthusiasm to get the full understanding. Right,
I knew it, I knew it. U I want to

actually fill out this. We're talking about the military here,
but sort of our conversation today is going to fold
in also the worlds of UH militias and citizen militians.
So so I want to bring amy in amy. A
lot of these conspiracy theories, they become incoherent the further
you look into them. But I want to talk about
what you've studied citizen militia's. Can you define for our

audience what is a militia compared to what being in
the military is. And also, as somebody who studied who's
talked about militias, I'm curious if you have a militia
code name, because I do and it's cold Brew and
it got me a lot of cred with the Georgia
State militia. Does everybody here get a cool nickname? Yes, sir?
If you don't have one, will help get one for you.

Could I be cold Brew or if that's taken a
French price, cold Brew works better? I think you like that, Yes, sir,
feels very bold yet smooth. Finished. Well to start with
your first question, US domestic militias are civilian militias. They
are intended to exist outside the military, outside the National Guard.

And their members are people who really see it as
their personal civic duty to kind of act in concert
in some ways with the military, to be almost a
civilian line of defense against potentially invasion, potentially natural disasters,
anything in between. A lot of the members actually have

military training. Among the groups I studied, about two thirds
of the leaders and about one third of the other
members had some service experience, and many of the others
who did not kind of felt like they had missed out.
They had wanted to be in the service but didn't
qualify medically or for some of the reason didn't get

that service, and this was almost like a surrogate for them. Um.
Their experiences were really about trying to, in their view,
stand up for their country, defend the constitution, um in
the American way of life in terms of how they
specifically defined it. And as to a code name, do
you have a code name? Some of them actually did

call me renegade because I would study them at a
time when it was not really popular for liberal academics
to be dealing with more conservative topics. Well, I will
say this, I was talking with Amy offline a little
bit about this, but uh, I read Amy's dissertation years
ago because I am fascinating about militia's. I'm from Michigan,

which if you're into militia's, Michigan is a great place
to be. We got some o G militia action happening there, um,
and I think what's fascinating about it is, Uh, there's
a lot of talk about the effects of militia's and
extremist groups uh recently, but you've been doing this for
quite some time right now, when a lot of people
I don't think look into is what is appealing about militia's,

the process of militia's and the average militia go er.
I think what I noticed with some of the time
that I spent with a few militia members. I spent
some time with some oathkeepers recently, uh, just hanging out,
having fun, watching mail boxes, trying to save the election.
And I hung out with some folks in Georgia way
back when. And I think the military side of it
is fascinating because there are some of those people, oathkeepers

in particular, who are ex military folks, ex cops, who
see it as an extension of their service. They made
an oath to this country into the Constitution and this
is their extension of it. There are other folks too
who feel like uh just uh day players who wanted
to be in the military, and perhaps some had very

interesting stories about um an inability to get into the military. Uh,
like you had an astigmatism, So now you wanna be
in the militia. It's good enough? Okay, fine, I get it.
Seeing a lot of cars playing here, there's military here,
and then there's a lot of these people who are
pretending to be military here. You know how you know,

because they don't have badges, They just have notes from
their life that says you can go for the weekend
and hang out with your friends, but be back on time.
But there's this funny balance of people wanting to serve
people pretending to serve. And I guess I'm curious too
of how you see that aligned with their relationships to
the to to actual military forces. Did you find is

do you often see it as in concert with the
American uh military system, or is oftentimes some of these
militias looking to act in case the military in and
of itself is something that turns on the American people. Yeah,
the relationship that militias have with the military is frankly
quite complicated. It's something that they tend to like in

the abstract, in theory at least, because they believe that
military and national defense are kind of the primary functions
of what the federal government is supposed to do. It's
one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government
from their perspective. But they think that in practice the
military is prone to corruption or other problems that they

see as being kind of endemic to the government as
a whole. So it tends to be the case, and
there there can be variation across units or even across
sometimes individual militia members, but it tends to be the
case that they really honor and revere veterans and service
members themselves, but have a lot of distrust for the
military as an institution, have a lot of distrust for

military leadership. Paul, Does that go both ways? You know,
the military world and those circles. What is the feeling
for those in service when they look at the modern
militia movement. There's military people in the militias, but also
there are those people who are kind of uh, you know,
we kind of call it stolen valor. If you're trying

to kind of um, you know, represent yourself as as
part of the military, you know, and you know, like
some people will do it a whole lot, you know,
throwing medals on their chest and stuff like that. Others
will just kind of pretend and where the gear and
you know there's like there's air software's and stuff that
where all the gear. They look very military and represent

themselves as if you know, like hey, I get yourr
thank you for your service, free meal at Denny's or something. Um.
But I I think I think, you know, military members
probably looking at the militia, they think they're a bunch
of geeks. You know, like you know, get a job
like get do do uh you know, if you want

to join the military, then join the military. It just
looks like this kind of pretend defense thing and it
really ignores the reality of of military operations and what
the U. S. Military is capable of. You know, if
you're looking at a militia, if you're in a militia
and uh you're you're there, you know you're training to

uh defend the constitution whatever that that that idea they
think they are doing. Um. But you know, bottom line
is is they're also thinking about potentially going up against
the U. S. Military. Um, and that's not a winning battle,
you know, like, uh, guys with guys with small arms

aren't going to really do much against an army with
you know, drones and and missiles and all kinds of stuff. Uh.
And so it's it, it seems a little bit lopsided. UM.
But I think I think also they tap into the
military legitimacy of of wearing a uniform and and looking

like you're organized, um, and you know, following some sort
of chain of command. These are these are military concepts,
and they they make you look you know, more professional. Um.
And that's the reason why they seek out military members
and veterans, because hows that lends them credibility and legitimacy

among um, among their their followers and supporters. You know,
even even if you're even if you're you know, if
you're a uh you know, some nerd who could never
could never get into the military, Well you can at
least join the militia and be close to you know,
former military members and kind of it kind of brushes
off on you, Um, you are spilling that t spilling

that tia that militia. Well, also I do think it
also plays off of also the public perspective of the military.
There's as as a civilian, I think there is a
general misunderstanding of the ranks and the difficulties and the
world of the military, and so somebody purporting to be
a militia member who wears the outfit to talk to

the talk um in a public setting is almost treated
as a person with law enforcement bona fides or has
has put in the time. It's it's like you, if
you buy an ugh T shirts with flags on them
and you have good enough posture than liberal elites like
myself are going to let you get on a plane

before them and they're not gonna say anything about it.
So you can you can steal enough valor to get
you in certain positions. Um, It's it's interesting. I'm curious. Amy.
We talked about some of the perhaps with the goofier
sides of that UH and the desire to be more
legitimate like the military. But you look at something like

January six and you have militia members, oathkeepers, proud boys,
people who are storming the capital with a legitimate fear
that the military in and of itself could be utilized
against them. The one thing you couldn't help but notice
was just how many people look like they were preparing
for battle. From the tactical vest to the pitchforks, this

rally felt charged. You can tell these people really love
America by the number of weapons they brought to hurt
other Americans. Where where where does a theory like that
come from? And how do they get to that point? Well,
you know, I think I can come from a few
different places, but among some of the specific groups that
I have spent time with, it's come in part from

an interesting dynamic where everything that Paul just described as
true that there are these folks who really want to
attach on to the military sort of aura, if you will,
and try to kind of claim some of that legitimacy.
But also there are veterans who actively seek out something
like a militia to join, and that can be for

one of two reasons. Um One reason is that they
kind of miss the camaraderie of the military. They've been
honorably discharged, and they want to find a space where
people are trying to look up to them and learn
from some of their experiences. On the other hand, I've
encountered some folks who really did not enjoy their military

experience to say the least. Um, they really felt like
there is no legitimate purpose to some of the conflicts
that were involved in. One man in particular, for example,
really believes um that Desert Storm was truly all about
experimentation on service members, that there was no other legitimate
purpose for it. He came back incredibly angry and told

me that he wanted to join something like a militia
as a way to figure out how to fight back
against the government, to take a proactive stand against the government.
So I think some of that kind of my mentality
kind of seeps in there where even some people who
have direct military experience kind of feed those narratives that
the military might be the enemy. And usually that narrative

is not about the rank and file, but again about
the leadership or about the government, and then they're misleading
the rank and file, and they're they're doing all this
nefarious stuff that most military service members may not even
be aware is happening. So they feel like it's their
job to raise awareness of that to fight back against it.
In some ways, that's the logic that kind of undergirds

the Oathkeepers as an organization as a whole, because their
their whole purpose was supposedly to remind military and law
enforcement about the oaths that they took to serve the
people as opposed to serving the government. I want to
talk a little bit about that distrust there, Paul. You've
written and you've been very critical of some of the
conspiracy theories that have been perpetrated by Donald Trump. You've

called him America's crazy uncle because of these conspiracies that
he has spread, including one that claims Joe Biden killed
Seal Team six to cover up the reality that Osama
bin Laden was never shot and it was a body double,
which is wild, but it was something that he pushed
out there. What what what is the story behind that one?

So this one is very very strange and weird, and
it's it's worth noting right away that Rob O'Neil, the
the Seal Team six member who who who claimed to
have shot Bin Laden, he's credited with killing Bin Laden
on that raid. He was and he's also a big

fan of Donald Trump. But even he was like, whoa bro,
can you kind of back this off a little bit?
And and and pushed back on this theory. It goes
back to the Seal Team sixth raid an Osama bin Laden.
This happened in the seals went into Pakistan, they raided
bin Laden's house, they killed him um and they they

took his body back. They got a ton of intelligence
for it. It was a very successful operation by by
all kinds of measures. Uh. Soon after that, I'd say,
you know, maybe within months or so, there was a
helicopter crash in Afghanistan, um and a large number unfortunately

of of of Navy seals were in that crash. And
this this helicopter call sign was Extortion seventeen. And the
theory of Extortion seventeen going down was that these were
seals that were involved in the Bin Laden raid and
in order to you know, keep them silent, to make

sure that you know, and nothing nothing about the bin
Laden raid that the government didn't want getting out, Obama
killed them, made the made that made the helicopter crash somehow,
and that it was a cover up of the of
the bin Laden raid. And now we see that this
is sort of refashioned into well, actually no, it was

the Vice president at the time, Joe Biden, and he
was the one who set down this helicopter for some reason. Um.
And it it just it just doesn't make any sense. Um.
And it also it also makes very little sense if

if the government is trying to you know, suppress seals
from you know, revealing the truth. And why is why
is Rob O'Neil still alive? Why is Matt Bissonette, who
wrote a book about the entire rade. Two seals have
revealed details of this um and yet the government wanted

to you know, take down take down a helicopter and
and and you know, bring down the truth. It's it's
totally ludicrous, um and and really really unfortunate. The thing
about this, these conspiracy theories that people forget is that
there are these were seals that went down in a
helicopter crash. There's a pilot, their pilots in this in

this crash, army pilots. They all have families, you know,
they have they have friends, and there they they are.
Now I'm sure affected by this conspiracy theory nonsense. Um.
And you know, whenever there's some kind of new article
coming out about the extortion seventeen cover up, um, it's

you know, it's if that were if that were my
loved one that that was lost I'd be pretty piste
off by by this stuff. And it just continues and
kind of snowballs and and you know, one conspiracy theorist
cites the other conspiracy theorist, and it kind of, you know,
goes on and on. Trump was challenged on this one
by Savannah Guthrie during the election at a town hall.

Just this week, you retweeted to your eight seven million
followers a conspiracy theory that Joe Biden orchestrated to have
Seal Team six, the Navy Seal To six, killed to
cover up the fake death of Bin Lauden. Now, why
would you send a retweet that was a retweet that
was an opinion of somebody, But that was a retweet.

I'll put it out there. People can decide for them side.
How do you think members of the military react when
they see a conspiracy theory like this? Probably like what
the what the Like? Why are people believing this craft?
Like that's that? That would be my initial reaction, like

can we can we teach some more critical thinking skills
in school? I look at these kinds of things and
I think, like we are, uh, we are a society
with a whole lot of people that are fooled by uh, misinformation, disinformation,

And what I fear is is nation states using that
to their advantage. And I'm talking about China and Russia.
That is not a conspiracy theory that these these nations
do this. They have substantial intelligence apparatus. Is they have
information warfare specialists just as we do. And they have

budgets that support this stuff. And so if you have
a society that's already you know, not even not even
able to discern fact from fiction, because you have a
former American president, you know, throwing fuel on that fire, Um,
that's gonna be uh, that's gonna be used to the

advantage of China and Russia. UM. And it's not it's
not propaganda. That's like, you know, like so obvious that
it's you know, it's like suddenly you're, uh, you're gonna
see some message that says, like, you know, Vladimir Putin
is the greatest leader of all time. It's it's more

about egging these things on and and sort of adding
more fuel to the fire and more b s to
actually expand the amount of people who are or confused
about what the truth is um or just questioning, questioning
complete you know, reality of what's going on, and you know,

there's examples of this stuff, and like like jade Helm.
There was an operation in Texas, uh, this training exercise
in which a huge number of conspiracy theorists you know,
started talking about jade Helm um as you know, some
kind of government take over, the military was going to

take over the entire United States, and this training exercise
was some kind of cover. Of course it was bogus
and ludicrous, but you know that that's that's like our
internal conspiracy stuff. And just imagine if if you know
that that expands, that goes out, and you have China
sharing this stuff that actually happened with jade Helm, right

is it? Jade jade Helm specifically didn't Governor Abbott in
Texas put troops activated groups because of that conspiracy, and
China activated bots to gin up more chaos around it
because they saw that as a weakness. Right it was.
What you're describing is our our susceptibility to conspiracies is
a legitimate vulnerability to our own national security. I want

to pause right there. I want to talk a little
bit more about jade Helm after the break. We'll be
right back, Paul. We were talking a little bit about
jade Helm. Technically, what is it jade Helm fifteen, Um,
I don't know, I don't know what number we're on
of of the times that jade Helm has led to

the collapse of the government. Say, I know, sometimes they
throw a number on there. It sounds so much of
these conspiracies they have to sound somewhere between a born
Identity movie and um an exotic dancer. And if you
can get that right right there in the middle, then
it's gonna catch fire. And jade Helm was one of
those corre. The thing is that that's that's crazy about

the jade Helm conspiracy is that you had a whole
lot of people who are thinking that this was some
kind of government takeover. The military was you know, planning
some kind of coup, and you know, the governor of
Texas actually had troops from the National Guard, you know,
activated and and and kind of keeping an eye on

jade Helm activities, which is it's just wild to think
about that you have straight up b s actually affecting
policy makers and moving them to action. Uh, this is
this is I mean, you know, part of it is
is probably you know, i'd imagine there's some kind of

politics at play where the governor is trying to kind
of pretend like he's you know, he's, uh, he's doing
something about this this problem. But I would really hope
instead that you would say, hey, this is this is nutty,
this makes no sense, and this isn't happening, and I
don't actually waste National Guardsman's time sending them out to

to take care of this um. But it's not like
outside the realm of possibility to to think about these
types of conspiracies or or just simple misinformation disinformation. The
people that are making national security decisions, policy decisions, uh,

movements in the military, they're susceptible to this this information
just like anybody else. And you know, some of them
have training on these types of things. Some are are
you know, understand counterintelligence and information warfare UM. But a
lot of them, a lot of them, don't, you know.
They they're just like they're just like every other American

you know, and they you know, so if you know
where where you come from in America, that's that's your
your neighbors are. Some of them are in the military,
and they're still getting the same information that you're doing
on Facebook. You know, they're still looking at it too.
Oh no, don't say it. Don't say that. I mean, yeah,
you're saying our susceptibility to conspiracies is a vulnerability at

a national security level, especially when people in positions of
power buy into this ship? Right? Do we are we
handing out stars too easily? In the military? I look
at I mean General Flynn. I don't know. General seems
like a pretty big position. And General Flynn, now he
believes in all the Q and on nonsense. He believes

the Democratic Party is all demonic Satan worshippers. This man
was a general and from all the movies I've watched,
that's like tip top if I recall. So, what's what's
going on there? Are we not vetting our generals enough?
Or is this just what an American general looks like
right now? Batshit crazy? Well, to be fair, he is

not the first batshit crazy general that the U. S.
Military has ever had. Uh if you look, well, is
that a problem? I guess you know what? Is that
a problem too? Because I think that brings up a
larger question. Right, the military in and of itself, we
we put the military and a pedestal, and rightfully so
they protect our country and and keep us safe. Uh.

And yet there's this American ideal of the wild general
who goes on in their custer with all of his
crazy dogs and what have you. From the beginning, there's
stories of generals who's who let reality be damned and
that makes them heroes. But is that a myth that
is starting to erode and hurt us in modern day warfare. Well,

I think it's it's always a it's just generally a
mistake to put uh put people, uh you know, high
up military leaders, military members in general, on a pedestal.
You know, they the we should we should we should
respect and honor the U S military and service members

who you know, I swear an oath to the Constitution
and raise their raise their right hand to do so.
That is something that most people don't do. And they
they the vast majority of of of of them do
do so honorably. Then there's people like Michael Flynn who
rise up in the ranks and and and and and

go go places up there. And the thing about Flynn
is that he was he was a very widely respected
uh intel guy. Um he he he's credited with with
really sort of transforming the intelligence world and you know,
on that sort of reputation, he moved up the ranks

and he was he was eventually part of the leader
of the Defense Intelligence Agency. It's like the military's version
of the c I a UM and they deal with, uh,
you know, gathering intelligence on foreign militaries. And you know,
at that point there's a there's a there's a really

famous Washington Post article about Flynn's time at d i
A and after, and one of the quotes that I
found really fascinating is is some some of the some
of his subordinates started talking about his sharing of what
we're called Flynn facts, which were basically ideas, crazy sounding

ideas that he would put out there and try to
get the intelligence to sort of molding to his idea. So,
for example, he would say something like like like you know,
there's definitely like an Iraqi correct connection to this thing,
or you know the Iranians are behind this or something,

and it's like, that's not actually how you're supposed to
start with intelligence. You're supposed to like, like you don't
want to find the bad guy, like you're telling me
this one of the architects of the Iraq War, like
the idea of oh, there's weapons of mess destruction over here,
let's go invade this country. That's not a good starting

point for a good clean intel. You actually want to
have a starting point of of being open to being wrong.
And but the military doesn't create that, right does Does
the military create those types of people? It seems like
that is a vulnerability in a modern uh modern military?

Right you were a soldier? Were there any classes on
with any improv classes about being wrong and saying yes
and to any other idea yes and no? I? Um I?
You know the thing about that, well, the thing about
that article that you know, it really sticks out to
me is that you don't rise to this position without

other people seeing warning signs on the way. And the
thing about the military, um, you know, it's it's it's
sometimes it is easier to pass the problem off to
someone else than deal with it right now, you know,
it's the federal government. And so it's hard to fire somebody,

especially hard to get rid of somebody out of the military.
And how do you get rid of somebody from the
military who's you know, a little like saying some weird
stuff like what is how do you put that in
the performance review and justify it, you know, and so
he he uh he and others have have sort of
moved up into higher up ranks and and now we're

kind of seeing the consequences of that where uh, you know,
it's not Michael Flynn anymore. You know, it's General Flynn.
It's all over his Twitter, it's you know, he introduced
himself so much as General Flynn. And and yeah, I
get it. You know, if you're retired general, sure, you
want to you want to maintain their you know, the

respect and you know kind of the dignity of that rank.
But I'm not walking around, you know, telling everybody I'm
Sergeant Zoldra, you know, like it's it's a it's a
way to uh, you know, get more legitimacy to your ideas.
And it's it's people here a lieutenant general, a former

lieutenant general, or a former colonel um there. You know,
there's there's lieutenant colonels out there that are sharing conspiracies
that I've found and and people hear these because and
they believe it because he's a general. Why would a
general lie to me? You know, generals are very honorable

and they they tell us the truth and they they've
been there he's been in for a really long time,
and so of course he's telling us the truth of
out the the you know, the krack in being released
and you know the uh the you know, the colonel
telling us that the Green Berets have found mail in
ballots at some secret facility in Europe that should have

gone to Trump. You know, of course that's true because
they're a colonel. I think there's there's a there's a
secondary level of stolen valor that exists with folks like
like Trump, who takes somebody like a General Flynn and
they use his title as a way to bolster their
own bs in a way that gives them credibility just

because they're hiding behind the shield of somebody with the
title like that. That that's but that's a whole that's
a whole different. That's editorial I'm working on. I want
to talk about some of these real life examples of
theories and ideas that could put into action. I want
to talk about the Wolverine Watchman. Uh, there's splinter group
of the Michigan Liberty Militia and they're the guys who

wanted to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer. I want to know a
little bit about the story behind uh them and how
they plotted to do exactly that. Yeah, I mean, I
think the main thing to know with them is that
they have been stirred up by this broader milieu that
we've been talking about, where conspiracism about a variety of things,

but especially about COVID nineteam was kind of at the
forefront of their motivation. UM. For them, it seems that
they really believed that the lockdown efforts in Michigan and
perhaps some that were being discussed nationally, we're really interpreted
as government tyranny. They felt like it was going to
slip into further tyranny, that that was just kind of

the beginning of telling citizens what they could and could
not do, and seemed to believe that it was their
personal responsibility to do something about that. UM. And I
think to Paul's earlier point, part of the reason this
kind of conspiratorial thinking is damaging to our national security
is not just what it can potentially open up internationally,

but how it creates divisive content even among Americans. It's
been really interesting to observe the militia movement over a
long period of time because folks that I was watching
in two thousand and eight, two thousand nine, two thousand ten,
who were very skeptical of some conspiracy theories, who openly
laughed at some of them that people kind of assumed

were part and parcel of the militia movement. UM got
turned on to more and more of them, especially during
Trump's administration, especially as Q and on theories sort of
spread across the Internet and especially on places like Facebook.
And so I think that the idea that that some
people have special knowledge or special insights into the way

the world really works is a major variable creating some
of this divisiveness and potentially creating the ability for some
people to get so wrapped up in it that they
feel like they have to commit violence to do something
to course correct our culture here. I think that's that's
a that's a great point. There's something special about feeling
like you have that secret information UM, and that's something

you can sort of build an identity around. It makes
you feel like you have a sense of purpose. I
guess the time that you spent with militia's talking to
militia members, what is something that people don't understand about it?
The modern militia movement that that you noticed. I think
probably the major thing is that most militia members are
average people. Like they They're really not social outliers. They

have families, they have jobs. Militia activity is something that
they care very much about, but they're not necessarily just
centering their entire life around it in the way that
we sort of stereotypically portray. And I think we have
ignored that at our peril because something that I've been
trying to get people to understand for a long time

is that much of what they believe politically, ideologically in
other ways too, is very similar to what a lot
of Middle America believes, at least a lot of white
Middle America. And I think that I kind of anticipated
where we would go with the Trump election campaign and
be on in ways that took a lot of people
by surprise, because we we sort of dismiss militia ideology

as fringe when actually they've just been a little bit
louder and more comfortable with it in terms of sort
of test owning it really when it's been something that's
been shared among the a broader swath of the population
really forever. But what do you say to somebody who
here's militia and they're like, oh, those are white nationalists, Uh,
far right extremists. How do you respond to how how

far off are they with that assessment? You know, those
elements do overlap, But I think that that's overly simplistic
in a way that makes us downplay what real white
nationalism is, makes us kind of miss opportunities for intervention
potentially with people who aren't that extreme, people who could
potentially be talked out of in some ways at least

their conspiratorial thinking and some of that divisiveness as well.
If we sort of paint them all with one brush,
it is more of a blik picture than I think
what we really have. We're gonna take a short break
and we come back. We'll talk about what's next for
military extremism here in the United States. Amy groups like

the Oathkeepers have been emboldened by extremists of the Republican
Party supporting them, but also hit with the realities of
court sentences because of their role in January six. What's
next for groups like the Oathkeepers? Yeah, I think probably
with the Oathkeepers specifically, that they are done as we
know them. Um, it's kind of interesting because the Oathkeepers

have always had a bit of a mixed reputation within
the broader militia world. Some people sort of appreciated what
Stuart Rhodes and some of the other members were trying
to do in terms of prioritizing oaths to civilians basically
um whereas others thought that Rhodes was too big for
his riches and speaking beyond what he was really able

to do so based off of his own experiences and
based off of how he kind of excluded some other
long standing militia organizations when when he was first starting.
So personally, I think that the trials and everything that's
going to follow from that is going to be pretty
devastating to the Oathkeepers as we have known them, But
that doesn't mean that the underlying ideology has gone away.

Many groups that have previously affiliated as oath Keepers have
just changed their name or taken down their Facebook pages
or their other websites, and they still very much believe
that the election was stolen that it is their personal
responsibility to do something to prevent the next presidential election
from being stolen. So I think headed into we're going

to have to be incredibly cautious and keep an eye
on the narratives that develop that as Trump continues his
next campaign, as other people sort of try to out
trump him. Um, we may see other figures even rise
to the forefront in terms of their ability to appealed
to these groups, to make them feel like their fears
are legitimate. Paul, Um, I'm curious how we talked to

people in the military, people in citizen militias. You served
in the military, You served with white supremacists who had
Nazi tattoos. Uh, how do you talk to someone like
that about about their beliefs. I wish I had a
good answer for this, Um, but it's UM, It's it's

terribly difficult. UM. I can you know, you know, you
brought up a point about the you know, Nazi tattoo.
I was. I joined the Marine Corps in in you know,
after nine eleven, and you know, got to my first unit,
and UM, you know, one of my one of my
senior senior marines, uh, you know, was a little bit

higher in rank than than me, and he, you know,
they were in charge, and I was the junior guy,
and UM, I didn't know what it was at the time,
but he had some he had some kind of like
high all Hitler kind of coated tattoo um on his arm.
And and it's you know, having a person like that

in your unit, UM is incredibly dangerous. Uh. First and
foremost that you know, can so discord among a close unit.
You know the thing in the Marine Corps that we
we talk about is is is a spree to cor
this this sense of you know, working together. Um, and

you're very very close and so uh and we're also
we're also serving with uh you know black black you know,
I got black grunts in my platoon. I've got you know,
people from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic and you know Mexico.
Like it's all every it's it's just everybody. It's just

a it's a mixed bag. It's all of America. And
you have one one person who you know basically hates
a portion of your platoon. UM. It kind of like
makes you wonder, like what are they gonna Are they
gonna do the right thing in combat? Will they will?
They will they do? You know, will they will they

protect the people that are you know they don't like um.
You know it's there, there's that fear but but also
it's it's it's the fear of of stealing weapons, stealing ammunition,
and militias have UH done this many times in the past.

There's there's plenty of examples of of of using military
members who are parts of of militias or parts of
UH you know, these kind of extremist groups and they
basically use their military access to supply them with with
guns and ammunition. It's also really concerning from an inteli

standpoint to have have someone like that who who's you know,
loyalty is maybe not with a hundred percent with the
unit and with the military. When you have this dual
loyalty to a militia group or or some you know,
extremist group outside of the military, it's right for the

Defense Department to wonder, you know, what are what are
these what are these people doing? And um, it's it's
a it's a real it's a real problem because once
you're in inside, you're largely trusted. You know, you've made
it through the basic training. You maybe have gone through

some kind of security clearance or you know, but you're
you're trusted. People aren't you know, skeptical of you or
pushing back on you as much as they would a civilian.
You know, that's outside of this military sphere. And and
it's um, you know, it's it's the it's the supposed
it's it's called an insider threat, and the military takes that,

takes that very seriously. When it comes to like cybersecurity,
there's insider threat uh, you know, software and things like that. Um,
But there's not a lot to do for the insider
threat for you know, the the guy like me who's
joining the platoon and like this is my senior marine.
I couldn't you know if I knew what that tattoo
was at the time, Like how do I report that?

What am I supposed to tell? People? Like? It shouldn't
be a hard or difficult decision to get rid of
you know what I think is a scumbag um um.
You know, Like, but that's it's not always that easy.
Is the military ripe for a conspiratorial thinking? UH? An

institution that UH relies on loyalty but also blind faith
can be hijacked by charisma and power to have people follow.
I think the stand was something like of the folks
charged on January six, Um, we're a part of the
military at some point, does that number surprise you? Not?

Not really, UM. I think it goes back to it
goes back to what I said before, which is the
military is a reflection of society. They're the people in
the military. UM, They're they're not, you know, better or
worse than the rest of America. UM. There just have

all the guns. They have all the guns, and they
should be better, shouldn't they shouldn't that be the goal.
The people with the tanks and the guns should be
better than all of us. They should be smarter, they
should have the research for discipline, more loyal. Dear God,
I hope that people with the tanks are better than me.
They must be, they have to be. Look, look, Jordan,

you're a dirt bag. So I'm sure they're better. Thank you.
That makes me feel better, thank you, But for for Seriously,
I think it's it's they're just like you and I, UM,
and they're just as susceptible to this stuff. And and
I I still I mean, just the other day I
had a friend of mine, UM, you know, sharing something

on on Instagram, like something about um funding for for
the Ukraine war, um, and how it's way too much,
you know, the the Biden administration is wasting all our
money and sending nine billion dollars to this war and
he could be spending it elsewhere. And you know, he
was sharing it in like a positive manner, like, oh

my god, this is crazy, and I it totally makes
sense if you see that, like, oh, that's that's screwed up.
And I looked at it. It's it's one of those things.
And this happens a lot. It's like it's too good
to check, and a lot of these things are just
too good to check. And I looked, and I check
because I care about this, this person as I served with,

and I looked it up. It took me like basically
five seconds to find the Congressional Research Service report, which
is a nonpartisan outlet, and looking up Ukraine funding and
it's right around nineteen billion. It's like a rounding error
on the Department Defense budget. It's it's like the bang
for our buck that we're getting in in security, in

in um in US security and protecting Americans from our
our competitor of ours, Russia, who's that has been a
competitor of ours for a very long time and will
be a competitor competitor of ours for a very long
time that that that's spending is so small, and but

but looking it up, you know, I'm like, I'm like, hey,
here's here's the actual thing. And he's like, oh, thank you.
You know, like some people, some people I've done that too,
and they get pissed at me, you know, they they're
really mad that I'm not buying into the conspiracy theory.
And it's like, it's it's hard to it's really hard

to to push back on on on something like this
when um, it's you've bought in so much to the
idea that there's some kind of nefarious thing, you're closing
off your mind to alternatives and and it's, um, it's

just people. It's it almost becomes sign of kind of
religious I think you should host some sort of Facebook
class because that may be the only positive experience of
people pushing back with an alternative point of view that
was greeted with a thank you. Any kind of social
media media this was. It was in the d m S.

So I think, you know, we're nicer in the d
M S if it's on the comments. You know, I
gave you that's what this is. Slide into the d
M S and give facts. That's what people need to do.
It's about time. I actually, I actually do think that
that is something we need to do. Um and more
people should do that. You know. It's it's really, it

really is like it is a bit um. It's it's
it's it's a bit of a bummer to see, you know,
like just these conspiracies flourish and then there's nobody that's
like saying, like, here's the actual reality, you know, and
I I will try my best if I think I

might have a shot at at you know, correcting the
record for at least one other person. Um. And and
really that's that's the that's the point for me. You know,
it's like it's like, yeah, you're not going to impact
the entire world. You're not going to push back on
on this this conspiracy mindset, um, and you know, just

this the crazy amount of misinformation. No one person is
going to be able to to to stop that all
but one person can have impact on one other person,
you know, like, and that's that's that's worthwhile. I was
gonna say that I agree with that too. I Mean
there's this academic research that talks about this backlash effect
where if we factually correct conspiracy theories, people just kind

of dig further into them. And I think that can
be true in some circumstances, although I think it's just
a little bit too pessimistic for me to believe that
must be true always across the board. But if nothing else,
especially in sort of those more public forums, when we
say no, here's factual information, here's why the logic of
this is wrong. I think at the very least it

can prevent other people from slipping into that kind of
thinking as well, that it might be a backstop too.
You might not save that person, leave that man behind.
That's a military concept, right, that's the laws, cause that
person too bad. But maybe you can throw something down
and they won't come rushing back in um amy. I
want to ask, finally, what you expect to happen over

the next few years with the citizen militia movement. Yeah,
you know, I always say I wish I had a
crystal ball, because there are so many variables right now
that it's difficult to know for sure what's going to happen.
But I expect it's likely that we will have a
resurgence once more, not just of militias, but of those
groups that we tend to label right wing across the

board headed into cycle because I think that there are
multiple political actors who now have learned how to play
into the fears of these groups in an instrumental kind
of way, and who see them as something that they
can weaponize for their own benefits. So I I expect
that we will see um pockets of resistance. I don't

think we'll see another January six. I think this is
going to continue to be more about school boards and
supposedly like culture war right type issues, but it's really
about sort of who has a voice in culture, who
has a voice in politics in a way that will
absolutely show up in many of our campaign speeches, and

what that election cycle is at least framed to be about,
which I believe they're going to frame it to be
more about sort of like the soul of America in
a way that's going to be very appealing to a
lot of these groups and galvanizing them into action. You
hear that America the weapon of the future. It's us.
We are being weaponized. Our susceptibilities are free thinking, we

are being we are being weaponized. Uh well, thank you, guys,
thank you to Paul, Thank you to Amy for joining
us here. Today you're listening to Jordan Clapper Figures the Conspiracy.
We'll see you next week. Listen to Jordan Clapper Fingers
the Conspiracy from the Daily Show on Apple Podcast, the
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