Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tim LaHaye hears McCain's dog whistle

As I mentioned before, I've been reading (and am now a few pages short of finishing) Tim LaHaye's first Left Behind novel. The most impressive thing about the book is that the quality of writing gets progressively worse, page by page.

My having read the Left Behind book is one of the reasons I could state with confidence after watching McCain's ad depicting Obama as Antchrist that "there will be many a Tim LaHaye reading 'liberal' hating Christian Nationalist who sees this commercial and will have the circuitry in his brain light up to say: Danger, AntiChrist coming!" If you've read the book, the way the ad draws upon the characterization of Carpathia (the Antichrist) to characterize Obama is obvious.

Well, Slactivist - who has been doing truly excellent and informative page by page analysis of the Left Behind series* - points out that Tim LaHaye noticed the ad borrowing from his books, too.

That steaming pile of spin from Brian Rogers is quoted in a Wall Street Journal article that also includes commentary from Tim LaHaye himself:

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.
Let me repeat the key part of that:

"LaHaye ... recognized allusions to his work in the ad."

LaHaye recognized those allusions in the ad because those allusions are in the ad. They were put in the ad.
The whole post is worth reading, but this part will help makes sense of something else I wrote in my previous post:

LaHaye is talking about what we have repeatedly seen as a recurring, emphatic theme in Left Behind and throughout the entire premillennial dispensationalist sect: Those who seek peace and pursue it might be the Antichrist; those who speak of love, peace, unity and brotherhood might be the Antichrist.

So beware the peacemakers, recoil in horror from Middle East peace talks, fear the United Nations, wet the bed over nightmares of a One World Government and keep a terrified, watchful eye on anyone who suggests that international relations might consist of anything other than hot and cold war.
With that in mind, it's also fairly obvious why Gerard Baker's satire about Obama touring Europe and the Middle East, magically bringing peace as he goes, is a dog whistle. Indeed, I consider it to be a more effective whistle than the McCain ad, which Slactivist says is:

It's a very clumsy kind of dogwhistle, though. When torture-apologist Michael Gerson inserted evangelicalisms into President Bush's speeches he did so seamlessly. The intended evangelical audience understood the dogwhistle message, but it was embedded within a coherent message addressed to the larger audience. McCain's ad works as a dogwhistle, but there's no larger message for the larger audience. The Left Behind readers will understand his coded message, but the larger audience will just see him standing there, growing red-faced from blowing into a whistle that appears not to work.
The Baker piece, however, will make sense to a secular audience, who will get it as using a Biblical tone to mock expectations of what Obama presidency will accomplish; and yet it is also less obviously an appeal to the Left Behind novels.

Update: Time magazine explores the Left Behind evoking appearance of the ad. (h/t Framing Science)

Update II:
RedState is now selling this t-shirt as a "joke."

*If you have or haven't read the books, his archives on it are a fantastic resource. I plan on using them in several future posts, as I've already done in this post and this post.

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