Walmart is finding out it can’t simply close five stores nationwide for six months out of the blue and not expect the conspiracy theories to roll in.
But sure enough, when the superstore giant shuttered two stores in Texas—along with locations in California, Florida and Oklahoma—talks of the outlets being appropriated as government military training bases exploded across the web. We expect nothing less of you, Internet.
The most pervasive theory in Texas seems to be that the store closures are part of the government’s plan to enact martial law this summer under the front of military training operation Jade Helm. After a document leaked from the military training operation, theorists have been connecting their own dots between so-called hostile regions and the areas in which stores have closed (not accounting for the fact that neither Florida nor Oklahoma are considered hostile for the purposes of the operation).
This hysteria is in line with a larger Internet-driven fear of the operation, a paranoia so palpable that Governor Greg Abbott felt the need to announce yesterday that he is going to have the Texas State Guard monitor the operation to ensure that Texas citizens’ “safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”
I’ve ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 to safeguard Texans’ constitutional rights, private property & civil liberties
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 28, 2015
To be completely fair to the whims of the wild imaginations of alt-news publications from every nook and cranny of the web, Walmart’s reason for closing the stores does not seem to make any sense. Here’s the statement they gave to KHOU regarding the closing in Livingston:
“As part of an effort to ensure all of our stores are fully serving the needs of our customers we regularly assess the conditions of our stores. Due to ongoing plumbing issues that will require extensive repairs we are temporarily closing the Livingston store. We will immediately begin the process to address these issues and intend to reopen the store as soon as all of the plumbing issues are resolved. Deciding to close a store is not a decision we make lightly, but after careful consideration, we felt it was necessary to make these repairs so we can better serve our customers and the community in the long run.”
Plumbing issues? In five isolated stores across the country? Doing their reporting homework, local news networks asked their respective cities if any permits had been sought, the kind you would need to do the kind of plumbing overhaul that would take six months. Nothing. However, the plumbing explanation at this point seems to be the most plausible.
The abrupt closures have also left thousands without jobs. Walmart told news outlets some employees would be eligible for severance and others for transfer to other store locations. But if you’re a Walmart worker in Livingston, Texas, the nearest store is about thirty miles away.
Theories surrounding the store closure in California have people believing it’s the corporation’s retaliation against employees who have previously protested workers’ conditions. This location has been a hotbed for political activism in the past; the Midland location, not so much. But the Pico Rivera workers in California are convinced the closings are retaliatory, and have filed claim with the National Labor Relations Board.
Stories have been running so wild that Snopes, reputed Internet rumor debunker, has compiled an exhaustive list of circulating explanations. Walmart also responded to the Jade Helm theory, telling Business Insider: “There’s no truth to the rumors.” But the corporation has yet to explain why these particular random locations need plumbing repairs, and why it’s going to take six months. So while the government probably isn’t conspiring to use the store buildings as human processing facilities this summer during a state of martial law, we have yet to hear the whole story on what exactly Walmart is up to.