The following passage is from:
Beck, John. 2001. "Without Form and Void: The American desert as trope and terrain." Nepantla: Views from South 2 (1):63-83.
"These days, mention of the American desert is equally likely to prompt speculation about crashed spacecraft, secret scientific experiments, government cover-ups, occult Indian ceremonies, and drug smuggling and other varieties of organized criminal activity. The stories have changed, but the perceived otherworldliness of the arid zone has remained. The trope of the desert as without form and void enables the proliferation of all other tropes; the desert becomes the place of infinite metaphorical multiplicity."
The desert's perceived emptiness is what makes it ideologically malleable.