Friday, October 13, 2023

#2692: Patrick Colbeck

Patrick Colbeck is an absolutely batshit insane Michigan-based conspiracy theorist and denialist, who nevertheless (or more likely: therefore) managed to get himself elected to the the Michigan Senate for a northwestern part of Wayne County, representing the Tea Party, where he served from 2011 to 2019. He later tried unsuccessfully to run for governor, and has published two books about his experiences – at least their titles nicely encapsulate Colbeck’s political positions: Wrestling Gators: An Outsider’s Guide to Draining the Swamp and The 2020 Coup: What happened? What we can do?.


Election fraud conspiracy theories

After leaving the state Senate, Colbeck has been a major proponent of unsubstantiated 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories. Already in November 2020, he appeared before several Board of Canvassers to spew unsubstantiated and barely coherent conspiracy theories about election fraud, and for instance filed an affidavit claiming that the computers used by election officials were connected to the Internet, which “opens the door” to vote manipulation. He did not produce a single piece of relevant evidence for his claims, of course, beyond prefacing them with I’m telling you. He also insisted that only fraud could explain how a wonderful guy and magnificent politician like Trump could get only 5% of the vote in Democratic-stronghold Detroit, despite that number being, in fact, an increase compared to the 2016 election.


Colbeck subsequently teamed up with Mike Lindell to produce the wild-eyed documentary Absolute Proof (a corollary of this), which asserted that Chinese cyber hacking was largely responsible for the Biden 2020 victory based on discredited testimony and incoherent speculation; even OAN was apparently hesitant about promoting its claims. Colbeck, however, went on to promote the documentary on Rick Wiles’s show and Kenneth Copeland’s Victory Channel (which don’t maintain the editorial standards of OAN), insisting that the documentary stuck to “100% objective facts” and not “conjecture” because he says so.


In 2021, at a rally in Lansing, Colbeck again called for an audit of Michigan’s 2020 election, describing the effort as a spiritual battle and comparing the 2020 election to the persecution of Jesus Christ. “When are we going to start prosecuting people for these violations?asked Colbeck, who is more than ready to move beyond the stage of trying to provide even a shred of indication that any crime has taken place to punishing the alleged perpetrators.


Anti-vaccine views

Colbeck was antivaccine before it became the mainstream wingnut position during COVID, and was, together with Jeff Noble, the leading antivaxx activist in the Michigan legislature for a while. Already in 2015, Colbeck was palling around with antivaccine activists and promoting the Robert Kennedy jr.-endorsed movie Trace Amounts; Colbeck encouraged people to join him at a screening because “the responsible exercise of freedom depends upon an informed citizenry” because words mean what Colbeck wants them to mean: The last thing someone like Colbeck wants is of course citizens who are actually informed, and early exposure to denialist propaganda might as such be helpful to ensure that they remain uninformed. Similarly, when Colbeck champions health freedom, choice and “an individual’s/parent’s right to informed consent” with regard to vaccination, he doesn’t mean informed.


In addition to Orwellian Newspeak (“informed”), Colbeck has also been caught using a range of antivaccine dogwhistles. He has for instance expressed his support for “independent basic scientific research on the link between vaccination and chronic disease”. Sounds reasonable? Well, an important thing to remember is that such research is already plentiful (e.g. these) – it just doesn’t give the answers antivaxxers would like to have, so they want to keep trying until they, by chance, get an outlier with a different result that they can tout as absolute proof. Colbeck also endorsed the thoroughly debunked antivaccine flick Vaxxed.



It’s important to emphasize, though, that Colbeck didn’t just express anti-vaccine proclivities to appease his delusional voter based; he also fought hard to rescind Michigan’s requirement that parents needed to consult with a doctor before claiming non-medical exemptions to vaccine mandates. The requirement, Colbeck realized in 2017, made it harder for parents to neglect their children’s health and made measles outbreaks less likely, and he promptly introduced bills (with Jeff Noble) to strip the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’s power to put in place such measures. In the process, Colbeck both accepted antivaccine activists’ claims about “adverse effects of vaccines and invoked the aborted fetal cells gambit (the latter was also the basis for Bill No. 1055, sponsored by Colbeck, Tonya Schuitmaker, Mike Kowall, Judy Emmons, Joe Hune, and Mike Shirkey), as well as misinformation about the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.


More pseudoscience and conspiracy theories

Colbeck is, of course, a climate change denialist. Instead of climate change, Colbeck believes that the #1 environmental issue of our day is wireless technology. In December 2018, he even hosted a forum in Lansing to disseminate wifi woo and, as he saw it, discuss the benefits and risks of wireless technology such as smart meters, cell phones and 5G networks – there was, of course, no discussion of benefits, and not of any real risks either – and he introduced legislation that he claimed would empower consumers with increased choice as to the source of their electricity.


Yes, Colbeck is pushing electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) nonsense. According to Colbeck, wireless internet threatens “the health of many of our citizens most notably children babies in the womb and even adults who suffer from hyper sensitivity to wireless transitions”, and he has been spamming people with conspiratorial rants and pseudoscience from various EHS activist websites, such as Bioinitiative 2012 (whose schtick is to claim evidence for a link between wireless technology and an impressive range of conditions based on extreme cherry picking – no really, Bioinitiative’s employment of cherry-picking is somewhat legendary).


And just in case you should ever doubt his commitment to denialism and pseudoscience, Colbeck also expresses “doubt” about the theory of evolution and supports teaching intelligent design creationism in public schools.



Colbeck’s state senate tenure (and other activities) have been characterized also by conspiracy-fueled bigotry.


He got some national attention for his claim that one of his Democratic opponents in the 2018 gubernatorial election had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and (unfounded, of course) was part of an Muslim plot to engage in “civilization jihad” that is attempting to take over the country, based on nothing whatsoever but his opponent’s religious background and skin color. “This is scary stuff”, said Colbeck. It is, though not in the way Colbeck thinks. According to Colbeck, however, “[t]here’s a lot of pressure being applied in our society right now. You’re seeing Muslim legislators in the state legislature. And you’re seeing also a push at the local level at city councils;” these are part of what Colbeck calls “Civilization Jihad Techniques”, and that means that his opponent in question, a Muslim, might be secretly trying to take over Michigan for ISIS. Colbeck’s position was endorsed by various wingnut hate groups like United West. Colbeck’s claims were relatively widely criticized. He responded to criticism by accusing his critics of trying to “silence” him.


Colbeck’s run for governor was endorsed by e.g. David Barton. Colbeck had previously been on Barton’s program to claim that the passage Michigan’s anti-union “right to work” legislation, primarily pushed by him and the aforementioned Mike Shirkey, could be attributed to “divine providence”; God, for some reason, hates unions.


Diagnosis: State legislatures tend to attract nonsense, but Colbeck is deranged even by state legislature batshit wingnut standards. In a reasonable age, people like him would be relegated to basement conspiracy blogging and pity; these are not reasonable times.

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor-Greene haven't asked Colbeck to be Speaker of the House.