Heidi Beedle Mug

Heidi Beedle, Staff Reporter 

I’ve been covering election fraud claims a lot lately. Some members of what I call “the Heidi Beedle Fan Club” have let me know how biased and uninformed my coverage is, and even sent me videos from Rumble (it’s like Youtube for people who think horse dewormer will kill COVID) of Mike Lindell as proof.

I want to be very clear that my coverage of the bizarre antics of Colorado Republicans does not stem from any kind of political bias, they just happen to be really good at providing plenty of “dog bites man” headlines. Personally, I think there is very little difference between the parties. They are both wings of the same bird, a bird which seems to be thrashing and suffocating in its death throes. I mean, ask the migrant children living in filthy detention centers whether they prefer Trump’s immigration policies over Biden’s, or if the Afghan people preferred Bush’s drone strikes to Obama’s. For all practical purposes the three branches of government may as well be banking, defense contracting and oil and gas production.

 So why does it seem like I’m picking on the Republicans lately? One reason is I’m infinitely fascinated with conspiracy theories, and the Republican party is staking some serious political capital on some really whacky stuff these days. From COVID-19 to the 2020 election, Republicans across the country are making some bizarre claims and disastrous decisions, and it has its roots in some interesting places.

 I’ve been studying conspiracy theories since I got into researching UFOs and unexplained phenomena — a field where conspiracy theories abound. To put it simply, conspiracy theories are a kind of language virus. Studies have shown that people who believe in conspiracy theories have lower levels of critical thinking, but rate themselves highly as critical thinkers. That is because conspiracy thinking feels like critical thinking. It relies on vague evidence and possible connections between people, places or things to uncover some kind of secret meaning. Conspiracy theories flourish in the UFO community because there is such a dearth of official explanation. People experience something strange and want an explanation. Speculation becomes accepted as truth, and then grows with each retelling. The same thing has happened with the 2020 election.

 In the UFO scene, there grew up a kind of conspiracy-industrial complex, a bizarre micro-community of researchers, writers and often outright grifters who would write books, appear at conventions, and schedule speaking tours across the country peddling wild tales of human abductions, secret underground bases, and government cover ups. After spending some time researching this stuff I was dismayed to learn the plot of the X-Files was basically just rehashing the work of Bill Moore, John Lear and Bill Cooper, among others.

Cooper is an interesting guy, because after his tall-tales became too much for UFO enthusiasts to believe he basically laid the groundwork for the modern day patriot movement. He was Alex Jones before Alex Jones was a thing. His book Behold a Pale Horse is basically the blueprint for QAnon, which is of course underpinning today’s election fraud conspiracies.

 The problem with conspiracy theories is that, while they may seem like just a bit of kooky fun, they lead to some pretty terrible stuff. Cooper’s radio program was popular with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and Cooper himself was killed in a shootout with Apache County sheriff's deputies in Arizona. Sherry Shriner’s bizarre reptile alien cult has been tied to a murder and a suicide. Recently a QAnon adherent murdered his children. Don’t forget the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

So, obviously, when Rep. Ron Hanks (R-HD60), Rep. Dave Williams (R-HD15), Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, and other political influencers in Colorado become involved in these kinds of conspiracy theories, it’s a bit of a red flag. What people aren’t paying attention to is the fact that these (widely believed) claims of election fraud will be used to justify another Jan. 6. Williams told the crowd at his July 17 town hall when asked what people should do about the widespread election fraud, “I will say this, if it’s [election fraud] so in your face in Colorado and they don’t do anything then we’re going to have a huge problem on our hands and what I suggest is that we exhaust all legal, nonviolent means at our disposal before it gets too far.”

Other members of the right-wing mediasphere are not nearly so subtle. After months of hyping up the “evidence” of election fraud, with Ashley Babbit as a martyr and members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oathkeepers cast as “political prisoners,” the country right now is a tinderbox. The folks who are profiting off of podcast appearances, books, movies and speaking events have no plans to put the genie back in the bottle, and reasoned arguments, facts and logic aren’t doing anything to dissuade people that China conspired with Dominion Voting Systems, antifa and the Biden administration to rig the 2020 election.

Lucky for me, I’m in the business of writing about crazy people, and business is booming.

— 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.