Watchdogs or wingnuts? Conspiracy theorists distrust U.N.
This isn’t your father’s conspiracy theory.
The idea that the United Nations wants to create a world government is no longer some obscure conspiracy shared by a few John Birch Society members.
In recent years the concern has grown, affecting politics and proposed legislation in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation in a variety of ways. Those who believe it say it isn’t a matter of if, but when.
Their proof that the pending new world order is coming is outlined in a 1992 U.N. document called Agenda 21, which was adopted by 178 governments, including the United States, at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
Instead of being seen as a plan to encourage sustainable development and protect the environment, some believe it to be a long-term scheme to take private property, herd people into population centers, destroy religion and indoctrinate children into believing that a world government under a socialist ideology is a good thing.
Just ask Delta County resident Barbara Hulet, who makes a point of saying she isn’t a lunatic, but someone with the facts.
“How in the world are they going to take United Nations mandates and bring them into our nation and shut our nation down?” Hulet said she’s often asked. “Well, we use agencies. We use the Forest Service, we use the BLM, and we use foundations.”
The evidence is there for all to see, she said.
Those agencies, particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have increasingly tried to impose their will in the name of Agenda 21 though burdensome regulations, she said, many of which are designed to shut down development, discourage certain industries such as mining and logging, and use eminent domain to take private property.
30 PEOPLE ON LIST
Hulet’s views have become so well-known in her community that she’s made Delta County’s “wingnut” list.
That list, provided to The Daily Sentinel by a source who asked not to be identified, includes a variety of people, all of whom allegedly have disrupted government operations in one way or another with anti-government ideas.
Whenever one of the 30 people on the list shows up at a government office or meeting, county workers are encouraged to notify the Sheriff’s Department, the source said.
That came as a surprise to Delta County Sheriff Fred Mc-Kee, who said he’s never heard of the list, but was familiar with many of the names on it.
As a law enforcement officer, McKee said he felt it important to understand the Agenda 21 theorists and other anti-government movements because some have led to the shooting deaths of law enforcement officers elsewhere in the nation.
McKee said it behooves law enforcement agencies to be aware of who they are and what they believe.
“I think these people are kind of like watchdogs,” McKee said. “They’re very persistent about watching trends and reading material. I don’t have any fear about Agenda 21, but I think it’s good that we have people who are watching things.”
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey expressed similar concerns about overzealous, anti-government followers, but quickly added that the intentions of most of them don’t seem prone to violence.
Still, their views can cause them legal troubles in other ways, particularly those who believe they don’t have to pay taxes, get driver’s licences or pay mortgages, he said.
“We’re in a world where people get their information from different places, and there’s far more places out there that have wrong information,” Hilkey said. “What ends up happening is people ... see something that fits into their pattern of thinking, then they start to believe it and find themselves in a terrifically bad sideways position with the law.”
The sheriff laughs when he hears conspiracy theories about the federal government.
“A lot of those folks believe that a federal government exists that is really, really, really super-sophisticated and super-organized and super-sneaky,” he said. “The federal government that I work with, the FBI, can’t even figure out how to get voicemail on their phone.”
Though it may seem unlikely that such beliefs can impact lawmakers and their decisions, they have in recent years.
In 2010, then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes made headlines when he criticized a Denver bicycle-sharing program because he believed it would turn the city into a U.N. community.
Last year, Democratic President Barack Obama was highly criticized on some right-wing media outlets as following the precepts of Agenda 21 when he signed an executive order creating the White House Rural Council, which was designed to spur economic development in rural communities.
And delegates at the National Republican Convention in Tampa voted an anti-Agenda 21 stance to be part of the party’s official platform, calling it a “global U.N. tax” that is aimed at taking away private property rights.
In May, a Republican lawmaker in the Colorado House killed his own bill to create the Office of Early Childhood, whose mission was to coordinate state and local early childhood programs and improve their effectiveness.
Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, never got a chance to tout the bill’s merits because a small group of Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists from Colorado Springs inundated members of a House committee with their objections, saying it was part of a U.N. plot.
“We probably could have tried to move the bill, but we didn’t want to let the anti-folks vet all their reasons that weren’t based on facts,” Massey said.
“The facts got so distorted. When you start talking about a state plan, people thought that meant we were going to take over the rearing of their children.”
Massey said members of his own party, which controls the House, didn’t want to upset the Agenda 21 folks because of fears it might hurt them in this year’s elections.
That’s part of the problem, said Michael McLachlan, the Democratic candidate running for House District 59 in Durango.
Some lawmakers, particularly on the right, give life to such conspiracies when they let it affect their decisions, he said.
A former La Plata County attorney, McLachlan first ran into U.N. conspiracy theorists years ago when it came to land-use planning in the county.
McLachlan believes their numbers have grown in recent years because of a more vitriolic political atmosphere and a down economy.
“When there’s a lot of economic uncertainty like we have now, then the fearmongers feed on that and generate a lot of anxiety,” he said. “There is more appetite for this fringe political thought. I’m running on the idea that the fringe groups should not control the process, either left or right.”
Hulet said it’s that kind of blind thinking that will allow the U.N. conspirators to win. She said most people are unaware of the plot, and that it can appear in places they wouldn’t expect.
Groups like the Telluride Foundation, Club 20 and any chamber of commerce are part of it even if they don’t know it, she said.
HELPING RURAL TOWNS
Earlier this year, the towns of Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford accepted a $100,000 grant from the Orton Family Foundation, a Vermont-based nonprofit that helps rural communities plan to retain their historic character.
To Hulet, however, the group’s “Heart and Soul” program is part of the U.N. plot.
“When you read about Heart and Soul, look at the great thing it’s doing. Oh, it’s that warm and fuzzy thing,” she said. “But what you don’t know are the regulations that are coming through when you buy into that. All of a sudden you see smart growth coming in. Smart growth was invented through the United Nations and the meeting at Rio de Janeiro.”
Foundation spokesman John Barstow said his group has been helping rural communities with long-range planning issues for years, but only recently has it seen opposition from U.N. conspiracy theorists.
It’s gotten so bad, he wanted proof he was talking with a reporter when contacted by The Daily Sentinel, saying the theorists sometimes pretend to be reporters asking for information.
“Everything we do is designed to bridge divides in towns and get people to see what they can agree on instead of what they disagree on, and try to build a good future with a lot of broad buy-in,” he said.
“We’re trying to remain positive and proactive, but it’s a challenge. We have a lot of challenges in our work, and this is a big one.”
Skeptics of the U.N. plot have said in numerous newspaper and magazine articles on the subject that it’s actually the Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists who are being manipulated. They say deep-pocketed corporations such as Koch Industries and other big oil companies want to discredit sustainable development as a way of keeping Americans driving cars and burning fossil fuels.
Hulet, however, says it’s the free market that’s the true target here, and she hopes to educate more people on how to identify hidden aspects of the conspiracy when it appears in their area.
She’s organizing a “Sustainable Development Awareness Conference” at the Delta Performing Arts Center on Sept. 22.
She said three nationally known experts on the subject will be there to show attendees that Agenda 21 is real, and that the U.N. plot dates back decades before Agenda 21 came onto the scene.
“When you have a full understanding of it, you will start seeing how it is affecting our county, our cities and our state, and why it is as big as it is,” Hulet said. “This has been in the works way prior to (Agenda 21), but they couldn’t get it to move. Once they approved Agenda 21, it went like wildfire.”