They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

The Pentagon has no plans to stage a military takeover of the Lone Star state. There are no tunnels covertly being constructed under West Texas' shuttered Wal-Mart stores.

So why are the fringes of the Internet still abuzz with rumors that the U.S. military is on the cusp of imposing martial law in "hostile" Texas under the guise of a training exercise dubbed "Jade Helm 15"?

Representatives of the military and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), whose state is expected to host part of the planned training exercise, have sought to tamp down speculation that "Jade Helm 15" is anything other than a standard training exercise.

But a slew of other influential figures in conservative circles have either deliberately or inadvertently given credence to those who buy into the wild conspiracy theories surrounding the upcoming exercise.

Here's a look at who's been stoking the fire:

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A trio of notorious anti-Muslim extremists were behind the provocative "Muhammad art exhibit and cartoon contest" where two gunmen opened fire Sunday in Garland, Texas.

The event, which featured Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders as its keynote speaker, was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization with the stated objective of combating "capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism" amid all levels of government and the mainstream media. The AFDI is led by president Pamela Geller and vice president Robert Spencer, who've been at the forefront of the anti-Islamic fringe for years, and the group has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Anti-Defamation League also noted that Geller and Spencer's secondary anti-Islam group, Stop Islamization of America, seeks to "rouse public fears about a vast Islamic conspiracy to destroy American values."

"After the Charlie Hebdo massacre – and after the violent Muhammad cartoon riots a few years ago – there should have been Cartoon Exhibits all over the free world, to show the jihadists and their stealth allies in groups that are doing all they can to intimidate the West into abandoning the freedom of speech) that we will not kowtow to violent intimidation," Geller wrote in a blog post announcing the event. "But there were no such exhibits. The free world was ready to submit. But we aren’t."

Matt Duss, who tracked Geller and Spencer for years at the Center for American Progress and now serves as the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, told TPM in a phone interview Monday that such antics have made Spencer and Geller somewhat pariahs on the right.

“Even among people here in Washington that promulgate these ridiculous claims about the insidious Muslim menace in America, Spencer and Geller are seen as kind of an embarrassment," Duss said.

But Spencer and Geller have found success with grassroots-level events like the Mohammad cartoon contest, he pointed out.

"In Garland, theres a large Muslim-American community that’s been building an Islamic center," Duss explained. "In Geller and Spencer’s telling, Muslim-Americans simply practicing their faith non-violently is part of this mass plot to eventually take over the institutions of the United States."

Here's what you need to know about Geller, Spencer and Wilders' history of anti-Muslim activism.

Pamela Geller

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Twenty months after sending what has to be the most infamous email in New Jersey history -- "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" -- a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie (R), Bridget Anne Kelly, is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark on conspiracy and fraud charges in the BridgeGate scandal.

Kelly, who served as Christie's deputy chief of staff until he fired her for "lying" to him about her involvement in lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify for or hand over any documents to a state legislative panel investigating the bridge affair. She remained silent until Friday, when she came out swinging against the federal charges and her former colleagues.

"I will no longer allow the lies that have been told about me in the George Washington Bridge issue to go unchallenged," Kelly said in a news conference with her attorney that proved she is the character to watch in the ongoing legal drama.

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Texas residents were up in arms this week over a planned U.S. military training exercise that's been portrayed in right-wing conspiracy theory circles as everything from a ploy to confiscate Americans' guns to an excuse to abduct political dissidents.

The speculation reached such a fever pitch that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday asked the State Guard to monitor the exercise so that "that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed."

Residents' fears can be traced back to a "leaked" slideshow presentation that outlined the operation's goals and logistics and made the rounds on the fringe of the conservative blogosphere. The document was posted by the conspiracy theory website All News Pipeline to the document sharing site Scribd in March under the headline "Jade Helm Martial Law WW3 Prep Document 1." As of Thursday, it had been viewed more than 2.1 million times.

The document contained a map that labelled certain states, including Texas and Utah, as "hostile." So it comes as no surprise that rumors about a possible military takeover would run rampant among anti-federalists and conspiracy theorists.

It's worth noting that Brazos Valley, Texas radio station WFAW actually posted the U.S. Army's slideshow presentation back in February when county commissioners approved the military's request to conduct the training exercise. The document posted by WFAW varies slightly in content and length from the slideshow cited by conspiracy websites.

The training exercise is scheduled to last from July 15 to Sept. 15 in Texas and six other states, according to a release from the U.S. Army.

"The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas," the release read. "The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise. There will also be economic gain: an increase in the local economy, in fuel and food purchases and hotel lodging."

The military's official statements on "Jade Helm 15" have done little to quiet anti-government fear-mongering, though. Here are the wildest rumors about the training exercise that are floating around the fringes of the Internet.

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The white freakout over college students grappling with "the problem of whiteness” has just found a new target.

TPM previously reported on an Arizona State University course about "the problem of whiteness" that rose to national attention in January, prompting neo-Nazi types and white supremacists to threaten the professor teaching it.

The course also angered a white nationalist group, which put up flyers in the professor’s neighborhood labeling him as “Anti-White" and protested on campus to demand that the university administration fire him. Now that group, the National Youth Front, has turned its attention to a bulletin board campaign mentioning "white privilege" at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.

The bulletin board aimed to get passing students to reflect on whether they benefit from white, male, class, Christian, cisgender, heterosexual or able-bodied privilege. Strikingly, news of the bulletin board bubbled up through the conservative blogosphere and made its way to Fox News before it came across the National Youth Front's radar. The group set its sights on the "problem of whiteness" class after conservative media shined a spotlight on it, too.

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The white Oklahoma reserve sheriff's deputy charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man has received threats and been harassed by the media in recent weeks, according to one of his attorneys.

Corbin Brewster, a member of the defense team representing Tulsa County Sheriff's Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, spoke about the threats and other details of the case in a phone interview Friday with TPM.

Brewster (whose father, attorney Clark Brewster, is pictured above with Bates) told TPM that both Bates and his lawyers have received threats referencing the man Bates killed, Eric Harris.

"Random anonymous phone calls which are, I’ll be honest, quite frightening in light of Mr. Harris -- I mean on his Facebook he claims gang affiliation with the Crips," he said. "So when you receive an anonymous threat involving reference to Mr. Harris, I think it’s particularly alarming."

Daniel Smolen, an attorney representing the Harris family, did not immediately respond on Friday afternoon to a request for comment from TPM about the allegations of gang affiliation. Bates told investigators after the shooting that on the day of the undercover operation, Harris was described to him as a convicted felon and a "bad son of a bitch" who had gang affiliations. News reports and statements from the sheriff's office have not identified Harris as a gang member or mentioned any affiliation with a gang.

Brewster also addressed questions about Bates' training that have surfaced in the Tulsa World newspaper. The paper reported, based on anonymous sources, that sheriff's office supervisors had falsified records for firearms and other training for Bates.

What follows is a partial transcript of TPM's conversation with Brewster that has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

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Oh what hell the Bundy Ranch hath wrought.

A dispute between the Bureau of Land Management and gold miners in Southwestern Oregon drew immediate comparisons to the 2014 standoff at Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch as word of the fresh conflict wound its way through the blogosphere this week.

Many of the ingredients were the same: a disagreement over property rights, a remote locale and a band of armed activists committed to protecting the land owner's rights under the Constitution.

There's one key difference, though. In interviews with TPM and local news outlets, the players involved in the mining dispute have been adamant about preventing the situation in Oregon from escalating the way the standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada did. Despite their best intentions, the allure of an armed conflict with federal agents has still proved irresistible to self-styled militia members who flocked to the area from across the country to stir up trouble.

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Week after week, racist posts appear on Thee Rant, a blog for current or former New York City police officers: African Americans are called "apes;" a retired officer says one of the blessings of retirement is not having to work the Puerto Rican Day parade, with its "old obese tatted up women stuffed into outfits that they purchased or shoplifted at the local Kmart store; a Middle Eastern cab driver berated by an officer is termed a "third worlder" who should have his "head split open."

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