You're WorldNetDaily. You've made your name (and a fair bit of money) by throwing every bit of mud you can find at President Obama, telling lies and beyond. You've even repeatedly depicted him as a Nazi. What do you do for an encore?
Well, you reach for the trump card that resonates most deeply with your far-right, evangelical Christian audience: You liken Obama to the Antichrist.
This latest attempt by WND to denigrate and dehumanize the president of the United States appears to have its genesis in a spam email circulating in early 2008 citing the Book of Revelation purportedly describing an Obama-like figure as the Antichrist. As urban legend-debunking website Snopes.com pointed out, Revelation makes no such direct claim.
WND latched onto the meme through an August 2008 column by Hal Lindsey, who wrote of "a messiah-like figure, charismatic and glib and seemingly holding all the answers to all the world's questions," adding:
It won't be Barack Obama, but Obama's world tour provided a foretaste of the reception he can expect to receive.
He will probably also stand in some European capital, addressing the people of the world and telling them that he is the one that they have been waiting for. And he can expect as wildly enthusiastic a greeting as Obama got in Berlin.
The Bible calls that leader the Antichrist. And it seems apparent that the world is now ready to make his acquaintance.
The time for WND to resurrect the idea came on July 30, with a article by Joe Kovacs touting an anonymous YouTube video claiming that the Bible depicts Barack Obama as the Antichrist. Kovacs interviewed the anonymous video-maker, who said he mashed up a sentence from the Book of Isaiah with a sentence from the Gospel of Luke, pulled out the Hebrew equivalents of the words "lightning" and "heaven" and determined, in words of the video voice-over: "If spoken by a Jewish rabbi today, influenced by the poetry of Isaiah, he would say these words in Hebrew ... 'I saw Satan as Baraq Ubamah.'"
Kovacs offered no critique of the scholarship of the video's conclusion, even though he purports to be a Bible scholar who has written a book (WND-published, natch) claiming to offer "a fresh, amazing look at what's actually found in the pages of the greatest book of all time."
Meanwhile, religious blogger Richard Bartholomew offered a more likely explanation:
The "U" slips in as a Hebrew "vav" construction, supposedly to link "lightning" and "heaven" to together.
Of course, this is yet another farrago of nonsense; as with Walid Shoebat's crackpot exegesis of the Book of Revelation, this kind of re-interpretation is not warranted by any problem in the text, and it does violence to the context -- Jesus in Luke 10:17-20 is clearly celebrating Satan's fall in response to his disciples' reports of their successes as exorcists.
In fact, the Greek word used in the verse from Luke translated as "Heaven" is "ouranos" (or "ouranou", to keep the correct case ending). If one wanted to render this into Hebrew or Aramaic (which is not, by the way, "the most ancient form of Hebrew"), it would be more appropriate to use "shamayim" than "bamah", notwithstanding Isaiah 14:14 (where the context has Satan rising to somewhere beyond the "bamah", anyway). Another difficulty is that the verb "fall" has been dropped from ppsimmon's final version: it's obvious that Satan is being compared metaphorically to the physical phenomenon of lightning, as Satan supposedly falls from the sky. Or did Jesus mean to say "I saw Satan fall like Barack Obama"? What would that mean? As for the "vav" construction, those are attached to certain verbs rather than nouns, and they are not used to indicate the preposition "from".
WND followed up this smear with an Aug. 5 column by Joel Richardson -- who, in a previous WND-published book, featured the factually challenged story of self-proclaimed former terrorist Walid Shoebat -- carrying the headline, "What Obama and the Antichrist have in common." Richardson tries to be too clever by half, asserting that "Before I continue, I want to make it very clear that in no way do I believe that President Obama is the Antichrist" -- then outlining all the ways that Obama is like the Antichrist.
Richardson also worked in the theme of his new WND-published book "The Islamic Antichrist," in which he claims that, yes, the Antichrist is Islamic -- specifically, the messianic figure known as the Mahdi. But as Bartholomew has detailed, this view relies on "voodoo scholarship" by reading contemporary events into the Bible's Book of Daniel when "it was written with a contemporary audience [the 2nd Century BCE] in mind; it does not contain secrets that make sense only thousands of years later."
Richardson then ties it all together by making the long-discredited suggestion that Obama is a secret Muslim:
We have just watched as a man lacking virtually any proper qualifications rose to become the most powerful man in the world, almost solely on his charisma and his shallow appeal to class envy. Today, throughout the Islamic world, the masses are yearning for and longing for a populist messiah figure known as the Mahdi who, according to their very own prophecies, will employ precisely the same methods as Obama.
Despite what Richardson disingenuously claims, he is in fact linking Obama to the Antichrist.
WND liked Richardson's smear so much, it was promoted in an Aug. 10 email to its readers. The message includes the disingenuous disclaimer that "Richardson is quick to point out he does not believe Obama is that future global leader," but it makes sure to add that Obama's "messianic appeal and some of his policies do foreshadow the dreaded 'man of sin,' says Richardson."
WND even managed to work in oblique Nazi references into its Obama birth certificate coverage. A July 9 WND article by Joe Kovacs declared that "Federal law regarding the release of health records is so restrictive and intimidating, U.S. hospitals could conceivably refuse to confirm or deny if Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler were born in their facility."
WND has also continued to display hypocritical outrage when prominent conservatives are compared to Nazis. In an April 20 article, Chelsea Schilling stated: "While CNN reporter Susan Roesgen became obviously upset when a Tax Day tea partier compared President Obama to Hitler, she showed no such concern when a protester did the same to President Bush in 2006."
Despite such purported outrage when conservatives are depicted as Nazis, WND hypocritically defends its own depictions of Obama as a Nazi.
In his Aug. 17 column, WND editor Joseph Farah asserted that "national socialism ... was then and remains today, despite the denials of historical revisionists, a 'left-wing' idea. All socialism is, by definition, a left-wing notion." Which, given the Nazis' hatred of leftists and communists, cannot be true.
Farah then asserted that "Obama seeks to use his power to impose policies that have, like it or not, a striking resemblance to those Hitler promoted in the 1930s," followed by a laundry list of unsubstantiated claims such as "Infanticide" and "Unfair treatment of Jews, in Obama's case, with regard to Middle East conflict." Farah then complained that is "acceptable for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to say American citizens attending congressional town halls are swastika-carrying thugs," even though some of those protesters were indeed carrying swastikas and engaging in thuggish behavior.
Farah concludes by denying that he's unfairly likening Obama to Nazis: "Am I calling Obama a little Hitler, a Nazi or a fascist? I am saying American liberty faces very serious challenges from the country's own leadership -- not from citizens who dissent against those policies. That's what happened in Weimar, Germany, too."
What Farah doesn't mention, of course, is the striking resemblence of WND's anti-Obama rhetoric to that of the Nazis against the Jews.
Fredric J. Baumgartner wrote in his book "Longing for the End: A History of Millennialism in Western Civilization":
The great enemy the Germans had to destroy to achieve their golden age was not Antichrist but the Jews. Yet Nazi rhetoric against the Jews was remarkably similar to that about Antichrist. The Nazis looked for the marks to identify a Jew as thoroughly and eagerly as any premillennialist did for Antichrist.
By employing this same style of rhetoric against Obama, Farah and WND are indeed acting like the Nazis -- just as self-proclaimed former Nazi (and WND columnist) Hilmar von Campe, who nevertheless employs similar Nazi-esque smears against Obama.
Likening Obama to Hitler is not only utterly natural for Farah and his WND to do, they've apparently gotten bored with it -- hence the move to Antichrist imagery, despite the fact that doing so emulates those they claim to despise.
Yet, all of this was foreseen by The Daily Show. A February 2009 segment features correspondent Jason Jones interviewing activists alternately likening Obama to Hitler and the Antichrist. This ultimately drives Jones into a conspiratorial frenzy, wandering the streets with a bullhorn and a sandwich board reading "Obama Is The Antichrist And/Or Hitler!"
So what happens when WND gets bored with with the Antichrist smear? What new monstrous figure will Joseph Farah and Co. liken Obama to then? We'll find out soon enough -- just keep watching The Daily Show.
(An expanded version of this article appears at ConWebWatch.)