Conspiracy theories have long been popular in this country, and likely existed long before Joe McCarthy went on his witch hunt in the 1950's.
The latest group to spout conspiracy theories is QAnon, and they were heavily influenced by an Arizona man named Milton William Cooper, who was killed in 1991.
When authorities killed William Cooper in a burst of gunfire outside his hilltop home in eastern Arizona, he was an author and radio host who had attracted a rabid following among UFO buffs, prisoners and the militia movement.
For them, his book, “Behold a Pale Horse,” and nightly shortwave radio show lifted the veil on how the world actually works.
Nearly 30 years after its publication, “Behold a Pale Horse” remains a bestseller, finding new audiences for whom Cooper’s warnings — of a cashless society, a socialist order that devalues work, the confiscation of weapons, global leadership usurping the sovereignty of the United States — still resonate.
Cooper’s work describes a conspiracy that is timeless: Nearly all that has been told to you is illusion. If you think shadowy forces are pulling the strings, it is because they are. Don’t trust anybody and be on guard. Citizens must soon fight for what they hold dear.
Even though many have never heard of Cooper, his dark, conspiratorial thinking has endured and been amplified. He was a forerunner to the conspiracy theorists of today such as Alex Jones — with whom Cooper feuded.
One audience that found “Behold a Pale Horse” is the Patriot wing of the Republican Party. In an invitation-only Facebook group, some members of Patriot Movement AZ, a group of far-right Republicans, traded their thoughts on conspiracy theories and their hatred of Muslims and immigrants. Members of the group have also become influential in the Arizona Republican Party.
The book has also attracted followers of the conspiracy theory known as QAnon, which falsely casts Democrats as doing the bidding of globalists in order to shield their perversions, including devouring babies for their nourishing blood.
(When our friends in Minnesota converted to the Baha'i religion in the early 1970's, my very Catholic mother-in-law accused the Baha'i religion of eating babies at their service) .
QAnon adherents believe an anonymous figure inside government is sporadically posting cryptic clues to corruption and the perpetrators of child-sex crimes using various online bulletin boards — the shortwave radio of modern times. The anonymous source of the information is “Q,” named for the level of top secret clearance he’s purported to have.
One adherent, Jake Angeli, has intentionally made a spectacle of himself by appearing at Arizona protests wearing a fur hat topped with horns and carrying a weathered sign that reads, “Q sent me.” Angeli said he has researched the secretive groups he believes control the world — Illuminati, Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg group, among others — and felt validated by finding Cooper mentioned them in his book.
Angeli said that the government needed to kill Cooper to silence him.
“When you really do enough research, it all ties together,” he said.
Another tie: In “Behold a Pale Horse,” Cooper claimed to have Q-level security clearance.
Among fans of Cooper’s shortwave show was a man from Kingman named Timothy McVeigh. According to the FBI, McVeigh owned a videotape about the botched federal raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, called, “Waco, The Big Lie," that Cooper had promoted. An agent noted that McVeigh's copy had a Show Low, Arizona, address on it, indicating McVeigh ordered it from Cooper.
In June 2001, Cooper would make a prediction that would earn him the legacy as the man who predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Cooper pulled on historical threads of tragic events and tied them to what he saw as the government and media colluding to make a boogeyman out of Osama bin Laden. Cooper predicted an awful event would soon occur in the United States and that the country’s leaders would blame it on bin Laden.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the day his prophecy was realized, Cooper stayed on air for 10 hours. According to audio archived on the Cooper tribute website, BeholdAMessenger, in the initial hours after the attack, Cooper theorized the towers of the World Trade Center came down by controlled demolition.
That theory would become the center of future conspiracies suggesting the 9/11 terrorism attacks were an inside job by the U.S. government.
Cooper’s death at the hands of police brought more credibility to his message, said Sexton, the author. “That spoke to people,” Sexton said. “He believes. He wasn’t just putting these things out there, but lived the life.”
Sexton said he sees Cooper’s ideas bubbling up in the Patriot wing of the Republican Party. He heard them from people he interviewed at Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign.
Years ago, I read "Catcher in the Rye", but until the 1997 film, "Conspiracy Theory", I had no idea that it was tied to conspiracy theories.