Agents of Intolerance? More on McCain's Left Behind Advertising Strategy

Straight talk express? McCain with Jerry Falwell.

Last week, I noted McCain's not-so-subtle attempt in a new Web advertisement to draw comparisons between Obama and the anti-Christ with the ad using imagery taken directly from the immensely popular Left Behind series of books.

Now Time magazine reports that the Web spot's creator has close ties to Christian Coalition guru Ralph Reed. Moreover, for the past two years, allegations that Obama is the anti-Christ have been bubbling up at far right Christian sites, fears that reached a crescendo after Obama's speech at Berlin two weeks ago. The ad appears clearly designed to play on and amplify these false perceptions.

Funny that McCain, who had previously criticized "agents of intolerance" such as Jerry Falwell, now uses strategies directly from their playbook.

Key excerpts from Time magazine below:

The ad was the creation of Fred Davis, one of McCain's top media gurus as well as a close friend of former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and the nephew of conservative Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe. It first caught the attention of Democrats familiar with the Left Behind series, a fictionalized account of the end-time that debuted in the 1990s and has sold nearly 70 million books worldwide. "The language in there is so similar to the language in the Left Behind books," says Tony Campolo, a leading progressive Evangelical speaker and author.

As the ad begins, the words "It should be known that in 2008 the world shall be blessed. They will call him The One" flash across the screen. The Antichrist of the Left Behind books is a charismatic young political leader named Nicolae Carpathia who founds the One World religion (slogan: "We Are God") and promises to heal the world after a time of deep division. One of several Obama clips in the ad features the Senator saying, "A nation healed, a world repaired. We are the ones that we've been waiting for."

The visual images in the ad, which Davis says has been viewed even more than McCain's "Celeb" ad linking Obama to the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, also seem to evoke the cover art of several Left Behind books. But they're not the cartoonish images of clouds parting and shining light upon Obama that might be expected in an ad spoofing him as a messiah. Instead, the screen displays a sinister orange light surrounded by darkness and later the faint image of a staircase leading up to heaven.

Perhaps the most puzzling scene in the ad is an altered segment from The 10 Commandments that appears near the end. A Moses-playing Charlton Heston parts the animated waters of the Red Sea, out of which rises the quasi-presidential seal the Obama campaign used for a brief time earlier this summer before being mocked into retiring it. The seal, which features an eagle with wings spread, is not recognizable like the campaign's red-white-and-blue "O" logo. That confused Democratic consultant Eric Sapp until he went to his Bible and remembered that in the apocalyptic Book of Daniel, the Antichrist is described as rising from the sea as a creature with wings like an eagle.

Sapp knows that the phrasing and images could just be dismissed as a peculiar coincidence. After all, it was Oprah Winfrey who told an Iowa crowd that Obama was "the one!" But, he insists, "the frequency of these images and references don't make any sense unless you're trying to send the message that Obama could be the Antichrist."...

...The speculation reached a fever pitch after Obama's European trip and the Berlin speech in which he called for global unity. Conservative Christian author Hal Lindsey declared in an essay on WorldNetDaily, "Obama is correct in saying that the world is ready for someone like him -- a messiah-like figure, charismatic and glib ... The Bible calls that leader the Antichrist. And it seems apparent that the world is now ready to make his acquaintance." The conservative website now sells mugs and T shirts that sport a large "O" with horns and the words "The Anti-Christ" underneath.

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That ad says so much about the dirty tactics of the McCain campaign... and so much about the "other worldly" preoccupations of some of his supporters, it makes me a little ill...

...on slightly off topic note, I'm hosting a survey on my blog to collect data about people's use of religious labels -- and I'd really sure appreciate your input! Thanks in advance.…

Fred Clark at Slacktivist - who has been doing page by page analysis of the Left Behind books - caught this bit in the Wall Street Journal.

The End Times, a New Testament reference to the period surrounding the return of Christ, were popularized in recent years by the "Left Behind" series of books that sold more than 63 million copies. The Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the series, said in an interview that he recognized allusions to his work in the ad but comparisons between Sen. Obama and the Antichrist are incorrect.

"The Antichrist isn't going to be an American, so it can't possibly be Obama. The Bible makes it clear he will be from an obscure place, like Romania," the 82-year-old author said.

By Hume's Ghost (not verified) on 09 Aug 2008 #permalink

I would think this tactic would backfire, actually.

Aren't all the good Christians supposed to get Raptured up to heaven when the Antichrist comes to town? So if they can speed up the Rapture Countdown by voting for Obama, why should they vote for McCain?

I thought that was the whole point of Falwell et al. being very much in favor of supporting Israel and expanding the settlements there, even though they've made anti-Semitic statements in the past, was that they figure all the Jewish people must be back in Israel for the Rapture/Second Coming/whatever to happen. That they figured they could manipulate politics until Yahweh decided they were cool enough to hang with.


I think your fans are well aware that you are a secularist, and I count myself among your fans. You are also famous for stating that we need to keep our secularism out of many of the battles that secularists have a great interest in, like getting the public to support and accept science.

But if a major political candidate is fanning the flames of such a blatant fantasy, and a significant sector of the public is buying it, wouldn't this be a time for secularists' gloves to come off?