Heidi Beedle Mug

Heidi Beedle, Staff Reporter 

I can’t help but notice how many former military intelligence officers are involved in the efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and I’m not the only one.

Reuters identified four key figures — all former military intelligence officers — involved in the “Stop the Steal” movement: Michael Flynn, Ivan Raiklin, Phil Waldron and Seth Keshel. Stop the Steal has contributed to the the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, the push for “forensic audits” and recent efforts related to voter canvassing.

There are growing number of people who have pointed out that this election fraud movement, along with QAnon, have the hallmarks of a psychological operation, or psyop. According to the Army, psyops are “are planned operations that convey selected information and indicators to foreign target audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately, the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of all PSYOP is to create in neutral, friendly, or hostile foreign groups the emotions, attitudes, or desired  behavior that support the achievement of U.S. national objectives and the military mission. In doing so, PSYOP influence not only policy and decisions, but also the ability to govern, the ability to command, the will to fight, the will to obey, and the will to support.”

Of course, a psyop is only as successful as its ability to reach its target audience. It’s likely not a coincidence that since 2016, the right-wing media ecosystem has kicked into overdrive. Newsmax and One American News Network have become the new Fox News for many, and podcasts like Joe Oltmann’s Conservative Daily, Anne Vandersteel’s Steel Truth, and Steve Bannon’s War Room have become a regular source of “news” for many. The Army’s Pysop manual notes that, “Dissemination involves the delivery of PSYOP products directly to the desired [Target Audience]. PSYOP forces must leverage as many different media and dissemination means as possible to ensure access to the targeted foreign population.” 

So it’s no surprise that Waldron and Keshel were both guests on Oltmann’s podcast. While Flynn himself has never made an appearance, his brother Joseph certainly has. Not only has Oltmann hosted them on his platform, but Oltmann and others have appeared at events hosted by Clay Clark, whose ReAwaken America Tour is a fever-dream melange of election fraud, anti-vaxx, COVID conspiracy theories and revival tent-style evangelical Christianity, often prominently featuring Flynn.

Arguably, the messaging of election fraud conspiracy theorists would not have gained the ground that it has without right-wing media influencers amplifying the message. That message, arguably, would not have been nearly as effective if the head of the last presidential administration hadn’t popularized the term “fake news,” demonizing the class of people whose whole job it is to prevent the American people from being susceptible to psyops.

Wake up, sheeple.

— Staff notes originally run in our daily email newsletter, Indy Now, along with news updates, photos of the day, a weekly poll and more. Sign up below.

News Reporter

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.

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