Like pornographers, social junkies and gamers, extremist groups and conspiracy theorists have found their home on the World Wide Web. They enjoy a level of anonymity unheard of within the mediums they use to promote themselves, but can hardly be described as masterminds if their spelling is anything to go by – unless it is but another layer of their smoke screen. I had always presumed the self proclaimed freedom fighters had currency only within a minority subclass of the disillusioned; and while this is true in a sense, conspiracy theories, and particularly theories endorsed by fringe ideology can carry surprising weight.
I was drawn into the world of the conspiracy theorists as the U.S presidential campaign was in its final stages. While perusing my way through Youtube I found my number one, favourite conspiracy theory of all time – Obama. The OFFICIAL ‘Antichrist’. It’s had almost 90,000 views on Youtube, and typing ‘Obama Antichrist’ into google will get you 938,000 hits. There are a plethora of similar videos on youtube, each pushing the boundaries of sanity in a slightly different way with tens of thousand of views in their own right.
The Obama Antichrist theory will have been floating around in the ether for far longer than it seems possible, but Obama’s infernal qualities really came into question in the light of a McCain campaign ad, which looked to portray Obama as a deluded messiah. The ad, entitled ‘The One,’ would probably have simply been glossed over by most voters and analysts, but it’s emotive religious rhetoric and imagery, mostly borrowed from the ‘Left Behind Series,’ particularly familiar to many American evangelicals, seems to have been a nod to Christian conspiracy theorists to unleash hell.
Like all conspiracy theories, the Obama Antichrist theory is based upon what its supporters call irrefutable fact. What of course makes the Obama Antichrist theory a conspiracy theory is that it is based upon refutable fact, or in this case what most would consider issues of faith – fairly cowboy interpretations of Christian doctrine. The theorists sight one or more of the apocalyptic visions found in the book of Daniel, and most of the book of Revelation. Some of the Obama Antichrist theories go for typical fire and brimstone, others for the creation of a new world order in which man proclaims himself God, and others claim Obama is just the tip of the iceberg, the first in a long succession of devils.
It’s not surprising that stuff like this can be found on the Internet; I imagine most celebrities have been called the antichrist by the American Religious Right, but what makes the Obama case so unsettling is the amount of mainstream media coverage that the theory, purveyed by a fringe minority, has received. All the major American networks covered the piece, and further information on the issue can be found on sites for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and The Independent. The antichrist theory’s reliance on faith does probably mean it will never become as prevalent as other more infamous theories, but it is not the issue of its longevity which is worrying.
Increasingly, the incredibly popular right-wing media in the US is discrediting their critics by labelling them conspiracy theorists; using the weighted term to implicitly link those claiming Obama is the antichrist, and conspiracy theorists like them with legitimate critics. The most prominent example of such a denunciation occurred in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, on the O’Reilly Factor — which incidentally covered more than its fair share of the Obama Antichrist story — Fox’s monumentally popular, but equally controversial flagship political show. Bill O’Reilly, the outspoken conservative host, interviewed Jeremy Glick, the son of a victim of the attacks on The World Trade Centre, who claimed the American government was partly to blame for his father’s death because they trained and sponsored the mujahidin in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghani war. The following day, O’Reilly defamed Glick as an unpatriotic conspiracy theorist. Shows like the O’Reilly Factor have continued to target their opponents with emotive slander – last month accusing the American Civil Liberties Union of supporting terrorism. Bill O’Reilly, and right-wing media pundits like him, are more and more frequently using excessive rhetoric with heavily weighted negative connotations to knowingly misinform an audience which watches their news coverage exclusively.
With the U.S presidential election over, and American politics slowly crawling back into its dark and dusty corner, if this has done nothing for you, at least check out the stuff on Youtube — O’Reilly really is a psychopath.